TED Talks on International Development: Trans-Hegemonic Promise and Ritualistic Constraints

Denskus, Tobias / Daniel E. Esser
External Publications (2015)

in: Communication Theory 25 (2), 166–187

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/comt.12066

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 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.

About the author

Esser, Daniel

Development Studies, Human Geography


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