Open Access Control - A TEDxCT introspection

 TEDxCT open access control logo

Open Access Control

The balance between freedom and control is a constant tug of war. In all areas of our lives - personal and professional, spiritual and practical, as individuals and as groups - we experience an ongoing tussle regarding whether and where boundaries should be drawn. In 2015, TEDxCapeTown brought speakers and audience members together to explore the paradox 'Open Access Control' in different contexts.

2015 marks the 5th year of TEDxCapeTown, which for the team and the community highlights five years of a fascinating journey. We have navigated our way through ups and downs and with retrospection have uncovered common threads that embody our journey, and TEDx as a movement. We have embraced the challenge that putting TEDxCapeTown together each year brings, almost as strongly as we have embraced the community that supports it. We too have experienced the daily dichotomies between openness, access and control that creep in when being part of any endeavour. Sometimes, we work within the parameters and sometimes we challenge them.

Is there a fine line between openness, access and control? Do constraints provide us with a safe and free society in which to thrive, or do they hinder our existence? We tackled these difficult questions at TEDxCapeTown 2015.

Open Access Control sparking off key questions and conversations

It’s been 5 years since we held our first TEDxCapeTown. Anyone remember TEDxCT 2011? Was more of a rock concert with some epic talks and an IMAX screen!

As we chart the next half of the decade, we want to remind ourselves why we put sooo much energy into TEDx and our community and inform our audience about key questions that the theme hoped to explore. The theme prompted the team to ask questions about our own experiences as TEDx organisers, with Open Access Control concepts.

This questioning led us to unpacking key facets of TED/TEDx, the amazing community we dedicate so much to.

It’s Openness.

The Accessibility of the talks and content shared.

The Control we experience from TED through their stringent rules/guidelines.

Within the internal discussions of our team, we soon realised there is a difference in understanding of TED/TEDx for those who are new to the team compared to those who have been involved in a few events and have a deeper understanding of the mechanics at work.

TED, as a brand is synonymous with radical openness and sharing valuable talks online for FREE.

But this openness is juxtaposed by stringent rules and event guidelines that all TEDx events must obey, with absolute compliance!\u0026nbsp;This is not to say it’s bad, in fact, I strongly believe that it is this control over the brand that has resulted in such successful reach of TEDx events around the globe -allowing the ethos of TED to transcend borders and cultures. This makes one consider: with more openness does one need more control?

Here are some of the thoughts and questions the theme sparked for us, and we hope they sparked interesting thoughts of your own, in your personal life and work environment.

How Open and Accessible is our content?

In order to access the ideas shared, you need to understand English (unless you’re fortunate & have the talk translated into your your language as subtitles). If that is the case, you still need to be literate.

The talks are free online, but you need to have access to the internet, and then sufficient bandwidth for streaming of the talks.

How Open and Accessible is our team, can everyone participate?

TEDxCapeTown is made up of a passionate team of volunteers. But not all can be part of the team. Beyond our screening process, the real constraint is from our expectations and needs from team members. We are volunteers and cannot pay any team members (TED rule). Which means that you must be in the financial position where you can afford to volunteer a considerable amount of your time, can afford to pay for transport to get to the team meetings and where you have access to internet, telephone and computer, to effectively work on your assigned portfolio.

Every year we aim to broaden the diversity of our team, and every year we attract amazing individuals who join, but lack the above mentioned privileges and end up leaving, unable to fully participate.

Openness and Control of the team

We have seen our team double in size from last year to 2015. With a key change in structure being implemented and adding in hierarchy. This year we had individuals leading key portfolios (core team). Anyone could speak to and engage with anyone else, but the accountability of the portfolio rested on that portfolio lead. We certainly achieved more with this structure than we did without it. And we continue to ask, what is the optimal level of control? Should there be more as we move on to 2016?

How Open and transparent are we, to you our audience?

We also rattle our brains on what we are open and transparent about with you, our audience. If we gave you more insight into the behind the scenes work that our amazing team is doing, and share some of our challenges (and sometime crises). Would that result in you empathising with some of the stresses and strains going on around the event and therefore offering to assist? Or would it result in some hesitation to buy a ticket, knowing that not every detail has been taken care of yet?

These are just a select few questions and conversations this theme sparked for us on the TEDxCapeTown team. We would love to hear if they sparked any interesting thoughts for you?

- Justin Beswick, Curator