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TED2008: Reconcilliation

A bit of TED history – the TED conference was held for the first time in 1984, hosted by Richard Saul Wurman. In 2002, the conference was taken over by Chris Anderson, who’s taken it in some very different directions. There’s been a great deal of tension between the two men, and some disappointment from older TEDsters about how the conference has changed. On the other hand, many more people are involved with the conference these days, and it has a much broader reach.

Wurman takes the stage at the end of the last morning session on Thursday to a standing ovation. He and Chris Anderson hug, and they sit down for a discussion. Wurman tells us that the relationship between truth and beauty means that he’s going to be truthful. “I’ll tell the truth. We had an acromonious relationship for the last four years, but we don’t now.” He goes on to explain his thinking about the conference – that it was a dinner party for his benefit, where he wanted to hear people he was fascinated by. He admits that he thought Chris’s statement that he was a “curator” was pretentious… but he’s now accepted that curation is precisely what makes the event happen.

Wurman talks briefly about his new project – 19.20.21, which I’ve written about previously. He tells us that he began thinking about cities because he doesn’t understand them. Cities help transcend borders, he believes – “the UN is all about borders. And borders are where we build walls and shoot people.” Cities are where we make connections – “There are sister cities, no sister countries.” And he observes that Thomas Krens puts his museums in cities.

I haven’t seen Wurman on stage before – his reputation for crankiness and bluntness is legendary, and he lives up to that reputation. But it’s clear that this is a very emotional moment for Wurman and for Anderson, a reconciliation that’s been a long time coming.