How Context Shapes Content: Rodney Mullen's TED Talk About Skateboarding, Hacking and Open Source

I'm fiendishly organized. But I'm also like one of those museum curators that has too much content for their exhibit space so a lot of the really kewl stuff is sitting in locked storage rooms, behind the scenes and you have to wait until it comes into rotation in order to catch a glimpse of it. And I curate a lot of content. So much, in fact, that I can forget for weeks to go through the articles and videos that I have bookmarked for later. Which is how I lost track of this.

Rodney Mullen at TEDxUSC (Still from video)
Back in December, I bookmarked this fantastic and unexpected TED Talk by pro skateboarder Rodney Mullen on How Context Shapes Content. It's incredible and definitely worth the entire 18 minute investment. Here are some highlights:
  • The opening sequence is a bit long but take it all in. He's showing you a number of tricks from the basic to the complex. 
  • The first 12 minutes introduce the content side of things: how he started skateboarding, how the landscaped changed over time, how he had to innovate to stay relevant. (Sound familiar? Mullen's message is so applicable to careers and the workplace.)
  • He's completely charming and seemingly laid back and yet some of his descriptions of the mechanics behind skateboarding are fantastic. My favourite being: "...all of these tricks are made of sub-movements, executive motor functions, more granular to the degree to which I can't quite tell you, but one thing I do know is, every trick is made of combining two or three or four or five movements."
  • The last 8 minutes take a surprising turn into hacking and startups. He ties the skateboarding and digital worlds together by discussing similarities such as:
    • collaboration and contributing back into the larger community (like open source);
    • the balance between individuality and the collective;
    • the creativity, innovation;
    • the borderline (and sometimes not so borderline) illegality of their activities.
  • The funniest part is probably when he gushes about being on stage at TEDxUSC considering he's been escorted off campus so many times for skating on the grounds. ;)
Great messages wrapped in an unexpected context. Pretty much the recipe for a stellar TED Talk. I apologize for having held onto it so long before sharing it with you. Enjoy!



(Source: 37 Signals)