TEDx Hamburg – City 2.0

It’s been a few days since I attended the event, I got a bit side tracked since. Nevertheless, I do want to put my thoughts about it into words and reflect upon the experience. As the talks were in English my thoughts about it are in English and thus this post also will be.

I had already heard about TED Talks quite some time ago, probably a few years back.  Since then I have watched many videos with a variety of topics covered most of which I had not considered to be of much interest to me beforehand. However, I have found the majority of them to be inspiring, good food for thought and definitely interesting. So when I heard about the event in Hamburg I was eager to find out more and see whether I could attend. When I saw the price it was out of question for me, but I was lucky and won a ticket through a little quiz Maximilian Buddenbohm posted on his blog. (Thanks again!)

That it was a TEDx and not TED event I had not really noticed at that point although in hindsight for me personally that had no impact. I was looking forward to the day, not expecting something specific but anticipating something interesting.

Arriving well in time I bumped into Maximilian in front of the Laiszhalle, a surely beautiful though entirely inappropriate venue as we learnt quickly not far into the first session gasping for oxygen. We got our passes quickly and waited for some others outside. By the way, printing the schedule on the back of the passes was a very simple yet helpful idea, I noticed that at several moments during the day.

More people joined us, Isabel Bogdan who I already knew, Kiki Thaerigen and Markus Trapp whose blogs I read before and was really happy to finally meet and some others whose names unfortunately I did not catch. It was really nice to be able to go in with a group of people and spend the day more or less all together, thanks to you all for that!

Although I have taken notes, a habit stuck with me from University times, I am writing this without looking at them. There is no need for me attempting a summary of the talks, this has already been done very aptly by Kiki, and also Maximilian and Isa have written posts definitely worth reading. All three of them, proper and therefore much better writers than me anyway, have captured such a variety of intelligent observations, it is impressive. A lot of things I surely must have also noticed during the day but I only really consciously processed while reading their posts. So thanks for that! Additionally, the videos will be online at some stage, you can watch them yourself then.

So why am I writing this? If I had written this the day after it would have been of quite another sentiment. Today, five days later and with a lot of altogether very different impressions freshly on my mind, the question to myself is: what exactly do I remember from Tuesday? What is stuck on my mind? What has impressed me enough, positively or negatively, so I can still remember it?

Parallel to all the talks Mathias Weitbrecht from Integral Information Architecture “took notes”, only he does it in a really cool way: he draws what is important. And he also does this for ‘normal meetings’ as far as I understood, which is cool: no one ever reads meeting minutes but a quick look at those drawings sums up well what’s been talked about.

Acting entirely against my inner sorting-and-proper-order-Monk, who (or which? 😉 ) really wants to go through the schedule as it took place, here goes:

Raul Krauthausen, the only name that meant something to me before the event, talked about “The accessible city”. He introduced his projects wheelmap.org and Thousand and One Ramp (Tausendundeine Rampe). Having known about Raul before I had already read about wheelmap but the other one was new to me and I liked his presentation which aimed mainly at raising awareness. I found him easy to listen to and of all the talks to me this was the most approachable topic. Probably because it’s closest to home and I can relate to the reality of the “problem around the corner” more easily than to situations in slums in South America or Africa. Which of course does not mean that I consider the other topics discussed not to be important, there is no classifying, but for this I feel I personally can actually contribute something. Have a look at this site to find a lot more information about the ‘social heroes’ organising all those projects : Sozialhelden.


Next thought that pops up is about a video shown on Guerilla Gardening, a talk at another TED event. It was funny, interesting, well presented and simply worth watching. If you want to know how to “plant your shit”, ah well, even if you don’t, click here. Promise, it’s well invested minutes.

Another old TED talk video was shown at some stage, however, without my notes or the programme I cannot remember at all what it was about, only that while we were watching it I thought it was brilliant. So here’s the link to it. [Edit: I peeked into my notes now. It was about very clever space-saving solutions in flats like foldable beds, movable walls, all kind of multifunctional things. Just watch it, it’s cool.]

Also stuck with me is the talk about the “Yellofier“, an App with which, for lack of better words, you can turn noise into music. The notion was that all the noise we have around us, such as screeching train brakes and the likes, is annoying, so why not turn it into music. This topic stood out for me from the others as it was a more light-hearted one. [Boris Blank and Håkan Lidbo]


A gentleman with a lovely British accent that made me feel right at home took apart the far too complicated system in which aid money, well let’s say it, gets wasted. His message was so incredibly simple – ask the ones who need the money what they are planning and what they need it for and let them do it rather than dictate what they might need – that it is a shame and frankly frustrating to see how much is done ineffectively and how much money is spent along the way presumably unnecessarily. There is a lot more to say about this complex topic than I am able to deliver, a lot to think about and understand. This is a talk I will watch again when the video is online, it struck a chord with me, and I cannot quite yet put my finger on it what exactly it was that made this stick, but it was one of those talks inspiring me to explore more on the content. Plus, he was very easy to listen to and I could follow his thoughts without any problems. [Edit: The proper topic was “How to ensure that aid really does empower urban poor groups.” and was talked about by David Satterthwaite.]

Also interesting was the talk about predictions (“Foresight in Hindsight” by Reinier de Graaf), I know I was curious about the topic during the talk itself, but I found the presentation style a bit challenging. Too much information in too small print on the screen, which is probably the reason why I find it hard to recall more than the fact that I liked the topic. Guess I will watch that one again as well.


Politics always gets it wrong.
(Second row: many red dots=wrong predictions)

What I remember about the rest of the talks is that although I liked most of the topics and found them interesting while listening, afterwards not much else stuck with me, hardly any details, just some questions, thoughts or feelings. They were:

“Trash is the gold of tomorrow” [Katell Gélébart] – Cool idea but who is wearing those clothes? I like the re-use of plastic bags to make new bags. Non-clothing articles make more sense to me in that context.


“The revolution of position data” [Thomas Jelle] – Hm, re-inventing the wheel? Maybe I didn’t get it.

“Crowdsourcing” [Julian Petrin]- Poor you, last speaker of the day, I need to stay awake, I need oxygen… Sorry, I will watch you later on video. Can only remember the heart at the end:


“Clevercityparking” [Thomas Hohenacker] – Yes, I hate searching for a parking spot, but I do not want to be monitored like that.


“DIY City” [Robert Neuwirth] – Interesting approach, but I get the feeling you are simplifying too much and are ignoring some details like fair production conditions.

“Upgrade your slum” [Fabienne Hoelzel] – Yeah! Finally a woman! Entrepreneurial actions in favelas. Please speak a bit louder, you have something important and interesting to say. Will have to re-watch this to do the message justice.

“Gaming 3.0 – user-created cities” [Micha Becker] – Sounds like it could be cool if you’re into gaming. I simply did not understand how this should work or already worked.

“Experiencing Cities” [Sam Hill] – What the heck is he talking about, no red thread, horribly fast speaker (despite a nice accent), I honestly do not have a clue what he meant to bring across.

“How technology transforms urban systems” [Steffen Braun] – Apologies, I am tired, it’s hot and if you carry on to speak this monotonously I am unable to zzz…

Some of these admittedly harsh sounding comments can be attributed to the venue with its high temperature and lack of oxygen, but some of the speakers still had some room for improvement on their presentation skills. Both in combination was deadly for my concentration how ever much unfair that might be. I know from experience how hard it is to speak in front of several hundred people, but there are always some tricks you can apply and practice in order to improve.

Ah, I nearly forgot: there also were two performances, for the E in TED. Not my cup of tea. Let’s leave it at that.

Despite some aspects that sounded a bit negative, it was a great day! I am very glad I got to go and it has given me some inspiration, mainly in unexpected ways, which I like a lot. More good food for thought equals success for me, I hoped for that and I got it, perfect.

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