About Ben

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Bio

Schooled in both visual communications and engineering, Ben Thoma is a visual problem solver. Before advertising, he experienced working as a home repair supervisor, a collegiate mascot, a grassroots political organizer, and a Mac Genius. As an advertising creative, Ben had developed marketing, direct mail, and promotional campaigns before finding a natural fit within interactive advertising. His clients have been as varied as his experience, including: AXE, Frank's RedHot Sauce, Dos Equis, U.S. Air Force, John Deere and Volvo. He's also designed a cover for TIME magazine's TIME 100 issue, attended OFFF & SXSW, and taught at Pratt Institute. He now resides in Austin, TX with his wife, son and dog where he leads a small team organizing the local chapter of CreativeMornings.

Languages

English

TED Conference

TED2009

Areas of Expertise

Advertising, Interactive Advertising, Mascoting, Branding, Craft Beer

An idea worth spreading

We need to change the language we use when talking about ideas. -- "I have an idea." -- "My idea is…" -- We are trained to use language that indicates ownership of ideas, but no one owns ideas. We can create executions & solutions & ways to communicate ideas, but we cannot own them. This type of possessive language increases divisiveness, implies ownership, and prevents cooperation. We find ideas… we seek them out… we use them as the basis for creation, but we cannot own them. So, I urge us to try a slightly different use of language that represents a much more accurate depiction of ideas. "I found an idea." -- "I'm looking for an idea." -- "My execution is based on this idea." My hope is that this approach will increase a better understanding of the difference between ideas and the countless executions that they inspire. It's a small, significant step towards encouraging more people to feel that they too have the ability to access ideas.

I'm passionate about

advertising, creativity, teaching, the web, social justice, academia, letterpress, (American) football

Universities

University of Delaware

Talk to me about

interactive advertising, general advertising, college mascots, Appalachia, Apple, craft beer

My TED story

My first TED conference experience took place at Palm Springs in 2009. One of my favorite personal moments took place when Evan Williams, founder of twitter, gave a short talk in Long Beach. I had been writing a short, summary tweets for all the talks, and so when Chris Anderson surprised Evan by doing a live search for 'Evan Williams' after his talk what was the first tweet to show up? My comments on his talk—my own 15 characters of fame! You can follow me too @StrictlyCircus

Favorite talks

Comments & conversations

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Ben Thoma
Posted over 1 year ago
Do you see value in the idea of "Digital Teleportation?"
I don't think that's it. To go back to an analogy, imagine a piano in the middle of nowhere. It is able to play a song without anyone touching the keys (think player piano: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Player_piano ), but the song that it plays is based on the requests of people hundreds, if not thousands of miles away, who submit their requests via Twitter. In this way, the user who makes a request by tweet is virtually "teleporting" their presence to the location of the piano. Make sense?
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Ben Thoma
Posted over 1 year ago
Do you see value in the idea of "Digital Teleportation?"
Not really. A fax machine takes something physical, specifically a sheet of paper, and replicates it somewhere else in the world. Yes, this can be initiated online instead of physically, but it still only repeats something. I could imagine that a fax machine *could* be programmed for this purpose. For example, if I wanted to have an art installation where a subject was forced to do only those things that a fax machine told him to do, and those faxes could be initiated by people using a hash tag online—from anywhere in the world—well, that would be a sort of digital teleportation. User's interaction would serve to change the experience or outcome somewhere else in the world.
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Ben Thoma
Posted over 1 year ago
Do you see value in the idea of "Digital Teleportation?"
"Digital Teleportation" is a term I'm using to describe when an action on the web (a tweet, a click, any user input) controls or affects something in the real world. For instance, tweeting a music request to a player piano, which then plays that music for you. See other examples at http://digital-teleportaion.posterous.com
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Ben Thoma
Posted over 3 years ago
Seth Godin: This is broken
4 years after this talk, Microsoft solves the battery issue described around 8:09… http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouseandkeyboard/licensing/instaloadoverview.mspx …but still can't inject good design into their terrific technology solutions. Is it still broken?
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Ben Thoma
Posted about 5 years ago
David Merrill: Toy tiles that talk to each other
This is a very nice idea, and a good set of implementations to prove it's capabilities. TED did a great job editing this. The live presentation certainly didn't move this smooth when it was live, but that was no fault of David. He had a terrific talk put together.
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Ben Thoma
Posted about 5 years ago
Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius
This was one of the most important talks from the 2009 TED Conference. Thanks to TED for making it available to the world so quickly. What is truly fantastic about this talk is that it engages the creative mind of any and all disciplines. Elizabeth Gilberts questions and insights are relevant for all of us. Please share this talk with as many people as you can.