Date of Degree


Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name



Digital Humanities


Lev Manovich

Subject Categories

Communication Technology and New Media | Cultural Resource Management and Policy Analysis | Digital Humanities | Interactive Arts | International and Intercultural Communication | Other Arts and Humanities


Data Analysis and Visualization, Interactive Visuals, Tableau, Carto


I have always been fascinated by how ideas are spread. Often, ideas are chosen to serve an immediate purpose, and there is an expectation that the choice will matter only insofar as it serves to achieve the desired goal. However, once an idea takes off, it becomes sufficient in itself to disseminate its message. When I first heard about the rubric “Ideas Worth Spreading” in connection with Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) conferences, I had an emotional response because I was always trying to get involved in those three categories. My fascination with the question of what makes some ideas attractive to a wide range of people motivated me to investigate the world of TED and particularly local TEDx events.

The goal of this project is to visualize, measure, and analyze the growth and dispersal of selected aspects of TEDx events between 2008 and 2019. A TEDx event is a local gathering where live TED-style talks and performances are shared with the community. TEDx events are fully planned, unique, and independently coordinated; but all of them have features in common. Their diverse topics reference multiple issues from a variety of disciplines. Just like TED events, TEDx events lack any religious, commercial, or political content and do not focus solely on entrepreneurship, technology, or business, although their main topics come from those categories.

The project was inspired by a huge data-analysis initiative pioneered by Cultural Analytics Lab called Elsewhere, which maintains numerous datasets of contemporary global cultural activities that were collected and measured by various practitioners (Manovich, 2018).

TED Conferences LLC, a nonprofit company dedicated to hosting short (around eighteen-minute) talks, began by organizing conferences that focused mostly on technology, entertainment, and design. As TED grew, its range of topics expanded to encompass innovation, science, business, global issues, the arts, and more, bringing together audiences and speakers from every walk of life and cultural origin who seek a deeper understanding of contemporary culture.

Between 2009 (the year TED was founded) and 2018, TEDx events were as diverse as the cities that hosted them. They came to form a rich catalog of contemporary cultural trends whose analysis can inform a wide variety of queries about the world we live in. Drawn to the wealth of data that surfaces in an examination of archived and live TEDx events, I began wading through their affordances, looking for patterns and visualizing similarities and differences in TEDx variables specific to different cities from 2009 to 2018. Approaching these variables through data visualization allowed me not only to trace relationships between articulation of ideas and their reception but also to represent the interconnections of these relationships in a graphical interface.

The visualizations I created thus explore how the phenomenon of TEDx events bring together thousands of thinkers to share their experiences and opinions about the themes, factor that shape our world today and sometimes pointing to the world of tomorrow. (45458 kB)