TED Conversations

Ricky Thompson

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Let's crowd-source design a new exciting academic GRAPHIC interface that encourages a playful approach to building scholarly discussions?

After watching the Ted talk by Jonathan Harris in which he shows his ‘I Feel Fine’ project it got me thinking...

Imagine a graphic interface that looks something like a video game. Your avatar would walk through a landscape (say, a garden).

The landscape would feature different trees, plants, etc. Some trees would bear oranges, some apples, some pears, etc. Each fruit would represent a different subject that is being discussed (chemistry, society, physics, social media etc).

New discussions/ideas in each area would appear as baby fruit. As more people contribute to each discussion each fruit/discussion would grow and ripen. After a set amount of time each fruit would fall to the ground to indicate the age of the discussion. If and when contributions to any discussion start to tail off the fruit would start to rot.

The avatar could be switched between first person POV and a wider RPG view of the whole landscape. Players/students would be able to see the avatars of other player/students who are online and the fruit/discussions they are looking at.

As more and more people contributed the garden would become richer and deeper.

As well as the fruit/discussions there would be other features in the garden – reference library points, classic arguments/schools of thought through history etc. These would also be represented by some sort of novel visualisation.
There would also be gardeners (editors) and the seasons would also serve a function.

So, I hope that gives a general feel for the idea. I have lots more expansive ideas for how it would work but would be interested to hear what the Ted community thinks/can brings.

I’m thinking it would be aimed at high school students initially and perhaps if it worked well could be rolled out to a wider audience.

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    Jun 3 2012: I simply like this idea. How about this: Think of an entire social network based off this idea. TED has made an attempt at a idea sharing social network as we see now. However, this interactive world has massive potential. By creating an entire world on the internet for today's biggest thinkers to gather, even greater ideas will be conceived.

    The potential is there, but it must be based around two themes: One, it must be on the internet and easily accessible. Two, it must be free. Relying on these two central themes you move on to the next step. Find a programmer and pitch the idea to TED. They appreciate good ideas, and this is one! Don't just talk about this idea act on it. See where it goes.

    If you decide to act on this idea post another topic about it. I would love to see where this idea goes.
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    Jun 1 2012: Games outside of the first-person shooters are much better for the active brain.
    Confidence building and memory training are essential in the development of an intelligent mind.
    While video games are good, can they do better? Any true gamer knows that games that are too easy are boring! So will we begin to see an advent in new games like Portal? When long until games become accredited sources of education, a game that gives you a degree when it is completed. Will videogames provide a new resource for education in the future?

    In the last two decades videogames have become a billion-dollar industry.

    Each year a new genre, theme, or idea is depicted through videogame.
    As of this moment the two largest and most popular game consoles are PlayStation three and Xbox 360.

    Nintendo Wii runs a close third and with its innovative game play videogames have gone from being a purely entertaining activity which only stimulated the mind to activity which will also stimulate the body.

    When will a game, perhaps produced by Pearson, be accredited and implemented as an educational tool. Games which are not only educational but fun.
    While many games have tried to do this through a younger audience no one has yet attempted to create a game which uses calculus, trigonometry, or even philosophy.
    The use of the game for this type of learning would open new doors into this field of virtual experiences.

    Yes, some videogames will make you smarter but when will it be recognized?

    When will a videogame be able to give you a degree to practice law?

    When will a game allow you to become a recognized member of the academic society. How
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      Jun 1 2012: People have definitely tried to construct concrete versions of Hesse's Glass Bead Game from the book by that name. The Glass Bead Game is integrative of areas of thought including philosophy.
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        Jun 1 2012: I was also thinking of Enders Game but in a more practical and time specific reality. I question the ability of making an actual game which would teach without being a teacher. It is easier to teach when the student doesn't know they are being taught.

        A technology is transparent until it becomes visible. Do words begin to look strange sometimes as though they are misspelled or just shapes? This is the action of your mind making technology visible. Could a game be made to be invisible (transparent) and yet still effective?

        This relates heavily to the research of Dr. Maria Calivito and Dr. Nicolas De Thomas and the Bioculture Paradigm.

        Source of theory: www.biocultural.org
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    May 31 2012: It sounds pretty, but my bias would be to attract young people to the beauty of the ideas themselves and to avoid fancy packaging or special effects. The ideas can be their own sell if they are presented in an engaging way.
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      Jun 1 2012: I agree with you that the intrinsic beauty of ideas is astounding. But otherwise I would have to disagree with you.

      Design is an important element in how people access ideas (have a look at Jonathan Harris's Ted talk and wonderful 'I Feel Fine' project as an example) - design is a form of presentation, after all.

      Also, we have to recognize that people engage with ideas in a variety of different ways - some of us are more readily conceptual, some more visual, some more aural, etc. All of these ways of engagement are valid and, most importantly, real.

      Sadly, (new) ideas often don't sell themselves, people don't buy into them as ideas are unproven and people doubt their own judgement. Whereas success tends to sell itself without effort as people find it a no-brainer to identify with success.

      And if we talk about knowledge... well, that doesn't always sell itself easily either, as its acquisition can be complex.

      We live in a wonderful digital/internet age where new possibilities for interactive learning and communication are revealing themselves to us on a nearly daily basis and transforming the world...check out Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) as an example of that. The purpose of my idea is to explore a graphic approach to rhizomatic learning and to enable community as curriculum (for more info on these two things check out Dave Cormier's blog site).

      So even though it may sound pretty (which would be very nice in my opinion!) it has its roots in practicality and utility. Would you say that things like this( http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/mike_matas.html ) are just redundant fancy packaging?

      A dose of scepticism is often healthy, and I commend you for that, but I must say that I'd love you to get on board and just throw a few ideas in and enjoy brainstorming something up! I've got plenty more ideas to give, as well as a more detailed explanation of what I've sketched out above, but I've held those back in order to leave plenty of room for contribution.
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        Jun 1 2012: My issue is a different one and is unrelated to skepticism. I think we sometimes assume we cannot get young people interested in complex content and ideas without the devices to which they have become accustomed in their entertainment lives.
        I did not mean to say that specific ideas will or should be understood or accepted automatically, regardless of the form in which they are presented. I meant that discussing ideas can be fun even if it is just people talking about them and bringing their own ideas, words, and images to the table. It's a fun activity from an intrinsic standpoint.
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          Jun 1 2012: Ah, I couldn't agree with you more when you say that discussing ideas can be immensely rewarding!

          If you knew my friends you would know that I drive them mad with my constant advocacy of people just talking and sharing ideas, thoughts, and emotions! I think that there is a serious deficit of communication in the way most of us live our everyday lives.

          I think it is vitally important that people learn and maintain effective real-world communication skills, and learn to feel unafraid to exchange ideas - in some sense we are all both teachers and students to and of each other at different times.

          One of the things I would love is if there were physical spaces outside of (and in addition to) educational institutions where true discussion was 'legitimate'.

          But, back to what you've said, I think that it isn't a zero-sum game - more traditional methods can live side by side with alternative methods of learning. My schooling was very 'old-fashioned' and I thrived in it (until I went off the rails, at least... but that's another story!) so I would never dismiss the human aspect of the teacher/pupil relationship.

          And I would agree that we shouldn't pander, talk down to, or sell young people short by constantly trying to be 'hip' or 'new' or whatever. But, in all honesty, I proposed that my idea be aimed at youth initially because they are more responsive to alternative approaches than people my age, and thus they often act as pathfinders. I envision web-based academic graphic interfaces as a useful information navigational tool for people of all ages.
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          Jun 1 2012: So, yes, if we assume that we have to use the devices that young people are accustomed to in order to communicate with them or educate them then we are making a well-meaning but fatal mistake.

          But, by the same token, there is no reason not to use these devices as part of the tool-kit either.