TED Talks on International Development: Science Communication, ‘Digital Solutionism’, and Social Change

34 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2014

See all articles by Daniel E. Esser

Daniel E. Esser

American University - School of International Service

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Despite their global popularity and relevance to Communication for Development (C4D), TED talks have not yet been systematically examined from the vantage point of C4D. We offer the first theoretical and empirical investigation of both the content and structure of talks on international development by leveraging definitions of C4D as well as literature on mediatization, rituals in international relations, and online activism. Our analysis suggests that TED talks succeed in disseminating ideas and sparking public interest. At the same time, they reflect institutionalized, corporatized modes of mass communication rooted in elitist discourses and practices. Contrary to popular perceptions, we therefore conclude that while TED talks are an effective vehicle for information dissemination, they are an unlikely catalyst for social change.

Suggested Citation

Esser, Daniel E., TED Talks on International Development: Science Communication, ‘Digital Solutionism’, and Social Change (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2451898

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