TEDx Ljubljana 2012

17.12.2012 22:38

Yesterday I attended TEDx Ljubljana, the local, independent incarnation of the famous TED conference. Apparently this was already the 12th Slovenian TEDx event. I attended the first one in 2009 at Jožef Stefan Institute and one in fall 2010 and had quite a good time at both of them. I wanted to check how the event has evolved since then, so I set a reminder and managed to get a ticket in the first minute or so before they ran out.

The event took place in Ljubljana's opera house and was professionally organized. You got a free ticket for Ljubljana's public transportation (which got me two strange looks from the bus driver) and the registration went surprisingly smoothly. For a moment after I arrived I even had a feeling they had more staff to help you find a place than actual visitors.

TEDx Ljubljana 2012 in Ljubljana opera house.

Of course, that was not the case. Apparently they filled the opera house to the brim with 600 visitors, which certainly shows that these events are getting quite a lot of attention. Not to mention that the talks were streamed live on the national television's web site.

While I can't complain about organization (OK, perhaps the hour long break bringing 600 people into the lobby at once was a bit of a mistake), the content of the conference left me quite disappointed. I see TED talks as a balanced mixture of science, technology and arts and I think the two previous events I attended managed to hit that balance pretty well.

This event however lacked the technological and scientific component almost completely.

I can't really complain about people talking about their views on life and how it changed after this or that traumatic experience. I guess listening to one such story every once in a while can remind you of shortness of life and the importance of enjoying it. But listening to such stories one after another just leaves you with the impression that no matter how much the speaker manages to engage the audience, his experience is his own and unlikely to change anyone other's life.

There was also a talk from Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies and I have a special bone to pick with those people. Dragging 60 years of history through the mud because it has no cultural value in their opinion just shows how little they understand what motivates scientists and why we do research in the first place. If they won't allow you an interpretative dance routine aboard the International Space station that doesn't mean that basic sciences contribute nothing above raw data. If you dismiss that some people can find beauty and meaning in good engineering you just lost all credibility in my eyes. Not that much of it was left after the shallow interpretation of history of space travel.

I also hold a grudge against them for taking Slovenian space travel pioneer Herman Potočnik as their own in all their public appearances and interpreting his work as an art statement. A few years back they even went as far as ruining a reprint of his book by underlying his nice original engineering drawings with ugly, red purposeless graphics and then even had the audacity of publishing it under a No-Derivatives Creative Common license. But I digress.

Really the only talk with a scientific background was by Miha Krofel of the SloWolf project and the thunderous applause he got from the audience in the end did manage somewhat to correct the bad feeling from the previous talks.

I was also a bit confused as to the international aspect of this TEDx. I was under the impression that these are intended to be local events. While I can certainly understand inviting a speaker from abroad, I'm confused as to why native Slovenian speakers were giving talks in English.

In the end, I was left wondering where were all Slovenian scientists and engineers. I'm quite certain there are plenty of them that can engage and inspire audience like this. As the motto was turning a new page and the topic was predominantly life, it should be shown that science can give it as much meaning as arts, entrepreneurship and sports. And that contributing to human knowledge can be as rewarding as donating food for the hungry.

Posted by Tomaž | Categories: Life


“Every nation has the government it deserves.” I guess it also holds true for TEDx. What you describe seems to reflect the state and mindset in our (slo) society quite well. We are the nation of social sciences (because future is* in public sector of course :P)

I haven't been to any tedx-es, but if a lot of talks in slo version are about "traumatic experience", I'm sure mazzini could have an interesting theory on that.


For crying out loud, I wish people would stop disparaging talk about social sciences. Just because you don't understand what they do and are for, doesn't mean they are useless.

Same goes for dissing public sector. Where do you think IJS belongs? Or universities? Kindergartens? Are all useless crap? Or do they become valuable only when you directly pay for them out of your own pocket?

There are people who do their work well and those who don't. Some who have opportunity to do what they love and many who don't. But it is very unlikely that your particular work makes you somehow morally superior to others.

(This comment is obviously a reply to Janko, not to Tomaž)

I think I didn't use any disparaging words or tones for social sciences up there (btw: my wife is a social worker, my sister founded a 3rd so.p. in Slovenia, and I respect and help them both as I can. I also respect doctors, teachers, kindergarten teachers,... a lot (which doesn't mean I can't think critically about them at time, as with anything else))

I do think that all things (good or bad) need to have their balance, and I DID say that I think that in Slo we are unbalanced in this regard.

Marko, I think we are roughly on the same "side", so I don't know how I manage to piss you off each time :P. You did teach me a new word again: "disparaging", last time when you unfollowed me 1-2 years ago it was "condescending", I still remember that word :). Maybe my communication style just totally sucks, most of people from LJ that I think are doing good things (in public interest) seem to think relatively similar. So be it.

Good article and thanks for coming to the event.
Thank you for sharing the views. Far better than only bitching to friends over a beer. :)

Tech&Science part missing - spot on. We'll mix more of that next time.
And yes, we do have tons of Tech&Science speakers on our speaker candidate list.

On language issue, two questions for you (lightly provocative):
Why are you writing in English about a local TEDx event? :)
What do you think would be language of choice of Chief of defence of any given country on a local TEDx event?
Check this one: http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_van_uhm_why_i_chose_a_gun.html

We would love to have you contribute more to our next events.

Matej, I'm writing in English because this blog has an international audience and I don't write often about local topics, hence I don't see a need for a separate Slovenian blog (which would be more suitable in this case).

I was under the impression that TEDx events are primarily addressing the local audience and that's the reason for my surprise. If you want to have a broader reach, that's fine and certainly I'm happy that the talk you linked is in a language I can understand. But for Sunday's talks I can't help but think that many would be better in the speaker's native language.

Posted by Tomaž

Aside from the KSEVT part (kudos for selecting that), I generally have to agree with Tomaž re language and arts/science/society mix.

Some speakers (and certainly the audience) would be better off, if they would speak Slovene. While Peter van Uhm has distinct accent, his English is at least understandable and clear. Not to mention, that his presentation dramaturgy is polished...much more polished than some of the speakers on last TedxLj. Not sure how much organiser CAN influence presentation style, but in some cases it certainly should; otherwise TedX will become just another big name, that nobody will know anymore, what the buzz is all about.

Posted by Marko

Tomaz, if I would have a chance to do it again I would definitely do it in Slovenian language. And without a love story :), but would still keep the robots :). I know that my message would be better communicated to the audience in Opera. Unfortunately when you prepare for the talk, you fear other stuff: that you will not entertain enough, that you will talk about the same stuff and in the same way as you usually do, especially if the talk is not about personal life, additionally organizers present the advantage of potential bigger exposure if the talk is in English. ... And so it turns as it turns. I am far from satisfied. But we make mistakes and hopefully try to be better next time elsewhere.

Posted by Maja

Dear Maja, for those who listened, your message came out perfectly!
Happy holidays to everybody reading this and keep on listening with the intention to undrestand, not the intention to reply! ;)


Posted by Ana

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