Have you met TED?

TEDxOxford, one of the University’s newest student organisations, has officially stepped into the public sphere.

Although the group was founded early in Michaelmas, it has been operating largely under the radar. The event’s chief organiser, Keblite Chris Toumazis, seems intentionally to have sought to create a degree of mystery. By crafting an enigmatic yet chic marketing campaign, he has attempted to foster more lasting and genuine student interest.

With the unveiling of TEDxOxford’s promotional video, it has become clear that the new organisation is responsible for a number of recent and puzzling occurrences. Among them is the balloon phenomenon that provoked such discussion late last month. Attached to hundreds of red balloons, which were massed around the Radcliffe Camera and Blackwell’s bookshop, among other locations, were business cards labeled with a large ‘X’. The letter seems to reference TED’s subsidiary organisation, TEDx, which is responsible for its independently organized events.

Then, just over one week ago, thousands of students began to notice nuggets of inspiration left in their pidges. Typed in an art deco font and alternating between black and deep-red ink, these notes contained quotations on one side and a Web address on the other. One such quotation, by Kelly Cutrone, reads: ‘I named my company People’s Revolution not because I’m a Communist – a popular misconception – but because I happen to believe the world will change only when we change ourselves’. Ms. Cutrone, a well-known fashion publicist, is among the ten speakers who have already committed to the TEDxOxford event.

In an attempt to proliferate TED’s message to the country’s students, a demographic that is underrepresented at most TED conferences, all 100 of TEDxOxford’s delegates will be student aged, although not necessarily enrolled in an academic institution. All youth aged 16-25 years are encouraged to apply, and will have an equal chance of being selected for the event; TEDxOxford has announced that it will be choosing its delegates at random from amongst the application pool. The price of the event, held in Merton College’s TS Eliot Theatre on 26 September, is left to each delegate to decide, as they are encouraged to pay whatever they think the event is worth.

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Although TEDxOxford must be feverishly anticipating the arrival of its first conference, the group stresses that it is equally committed to living TED’s message on a daily basis. When asked about the organisation’s mission, Chris Toumazis emphasized ‘promoting TED, as well as the messages that it invokes, as a way of life’. He continued: ‘We don’t have to wait for an annual event in order to begin broadening our curiosity, cultivating our passions and learning new things. We can start doing that today’.