A Conversation With Richard Saul Wurman

From: Chris Rasch (crasch@openknowledge.org)
Date: Sat Feb 03 2001 - 01:12:14 MST

Some interesting articles....

A Conversation With Richard Saul Wurman

Fox: You've stated that your life's
                   passion is making information
                   understandable. In your experience,
  why does information tend to be so incomprehensible?

  Wurman: It's because understanding is so hard. To
  understand something, in the real biblical sense, or to tell a
  literate 12-year-old what you're talking about or your mother,
  and to have them understand you - that is not just a gift. It's a
  very difficult thing to achieve.

  Our systems of learning are not based on systems of
  understanding. Instead, it is based on a system of
  memorization. For most people, schooling was the
  memorization of facts that they weren't particularly interested
  in - bulimically put on a piece of paper called a test and then
  quickly forgotten. And that has nothing to do with

  For example, if I ask you how big an acre is, and you happen to
  remember from junior high school that it's 43,560 square feet,
  I still don't think that you necessarily understand what an acre
  is or that you can communicate it to another human being.
  I'm interested in the communication of understandable

Robert Fulford's column about TED (the Technology, Entertainment, Design
(The National Post, February 25, 2000)

Monterey, Calif.

When Rebecca Dixon went to her first TED conference, it changed her
life. That's how she puts it, unashamedly, making it sound like the
laying on of hands by Billy Graham himself: "It changed my life." She
knows that may sound naive and childlike, but she says it with certainty
and passion. She and a colleague went to a TED conference (it stands for
Technology, Entertainment, Design) and came away transformed. She became
a believer. She's back this week at TEDX, looking for further
enlightenment and more ways to apply it to her work. She manages the
design of the Web site for the American Association of Retired Persons
in Washington, which, with its 33 million members, is the most powerful
lobby in the U.S., capable of striking terror in the hearts of Congress.
AARP paid $3,000 (US), plus transportation and hotel, to have Rebecca
come here for three days, and sent several of her colleagues as well.

At that earlier conference, something happened to her when she heard a
specialist in computer animation speak of the future of digital
technology. "This is fire!" he said, and she was stirred. He was saying
that digital technology is not just an improved means of communication
or a way of making work easier. Like the harnessing of fire, it's a
fundamental change in the way humans live -- a familiar idea to some,
but revolutionary to Rebecca. She and her colleague went back to their
office in Washington and soon found they were talking of little else but
what they had learned or intuited at TED.

"See, I wanted to be an artist," she said the other day, "but when I was
growing up in North Carolina I imagined that all the great art had been
done. And now at TED I was getting the idea that perhaps this world that
was being invented by these people, the people talking at TED, was like
the Renaissance, where you had all those marvellously creative people
and everything was coming together."


"TED is a phenomenon among conventions. It's a for-profit enterprise
that grosses more than two million a year and (though it doesn't
advertise, except on its Web page) always sells out.

In fact, most of the places have already been sold for the TED
conference at Monterey in February, 2001. People who attended range from
theme-park creators to MIT professors, and from furniture designers to
health care executives. Venture capital people are usually among the
early sign-ups. Ross Mayot, vice-president for development of Canadian
Learning Television, has noticed their presence at several TEDs: "They
love it. They swim through it like sharks, eating up ideas that will
soon [they hope] be start-ups."

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