Home » Blog » TED2009 » Up Wake, Zero… and Twitter

Up Wake, Zero… and Twitter

This post is part of a series from the TED 2009 conference held in Long Beach, California from February 4-8th. You can read other posts in the series here, and the TED site will release video from the talk in the coming weeks or months. Because I’m putting these posts together very quickly, I will get things wrong, will misspell names and bungle details. Please feel free to use the comments thread on this post to offer corrections. You may also want to follow the conference via Twitter or through other blogs tagged as on Technorati.

Natasha Tsakos takes the TED stage wearing a coat, telling us that she’s never felt so naked. Chris Anderson tells us that he got a strange inquiry letter from a Swiss woman with a Greek name, who wanted to perform her one woman show on the TED stage. It’s not the right space or duration to show her piece, he tells us, but he wanted to give her a chance to show her unique vision of theatre as “a place here people would sit for an hour with people from all places, colors and walks of life.”

As her coat falls from her shoulder, she’s in a business suit with a teal tie, on stage as “Zero”, the main character from her hour-long one woman show, Up Wake. She uses projections on three walls of the stage and the floor to give her a set of three-dimensional animations which she interacts and dances with. Up Wake is the story of a businessman, living his life in a suitcase, dancing with empty suits, taming his computer mouse and djaying turntables that represent metaphor and reality.

It’s the collaborative work of 19 artists who’ve designed the projections on three walls and the floor and the soundtrack.”It’s not about taking theatre out of the box, but putting more things into the box.”

Tsakos clearly relishes playing Zero, a character that doesn’t speak and is beyond male/female or human/inhuman. She explains, “being slightly inhuman gives people permission to interact, to be who they are around you,” and seems to drive children to seek her out when she performs.

Chris Anderson thanks her, saying, “You know that guiding muse that Liz Gilbert spoke about? Yours is really crazy…”

Evan Williams, the CEO of Twitter, is an unannounced speaker, trying to explain the explosion of his “side project”.
Twitter began a side project to Odeo, a digital media search engine and directory. Twitter was a simple tool to let people send status updates to friends. It’s become much bigger, of course, but Williams is used to this, as Blogger was a side project to an earlier effort, and he’s learned to trust the directions side projects go into.

His first slide quotes Bruce Barton: “”Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things… I am tempted to think… there are no little things.”

Twitter is a little thing, but it’s been used for very big things, like tracking the Santiago blaze in Orange county through citizen reports… and which was also used by town and county governments to provide information on the fire. 47 members of Congress are tweeting, as is the President… though he’s been less active lately, and John McCain more so. But so is a hugely popular Korean BBQ truck.

The tool is powerful, he tells us, because it’s so expandable. An API has let plants twitter when they need water, or a baby twitter when it kicks in a mother’s belly. The same API let Summize build a powerful search engine for Twitter, so powerful that Twitter purchased it.

He closes with a story of people in Atlanta using Twitter to share gas prices during a gas shortage. The power of the system comes from people helping each other.