TED meets The Wicker Man for “the worst TEDx in history”
So, like, what if you mashed up TEDx with The Wicker Man and topped it all with a heaping helping of The Blair Witch Project? Forget the fact that this sounds like an utterly bizarre hypothetical scenario, perhaps one that makes you expect someone to start singing “One of these things is not like the others,” and consider the following:
TEDxSummerisle appeared on Twitter last week, alongside a Tumblr account promoting the Summerisle TED conference. Since Summerisle is the imaginary Scottish island depicted in 1973 horror movie The Wicker Man, it’s not entirely surprising that it doesn’t appear on the official TED website. . . . At first, the TEDxSummerisle Twitter and Tumblr accounts seemed like a charmingly weird one-shot parody of TED culture. Both accounts were mostly inactive until March 15, at which point they began promoting the conference taking place on March 20—the spring equinox, as celebrated by the “real” inhabitants of Summerisle in The Wicker Man. TEDxSummerisle’s Tumblr even posted a worryingly real-sounding conference schedule, including talks such as “Historian Rose MacGreagor will reveal The Secret Science of the Ancients.”
But on March 20, all bets were off. Whoever created these parody accounts must have done some serious planning, because if Twitter is anything to go by, TEDxSummerisle is actually real. The official Twitter account gave every impression of livetweeting from an actual event, including photos of slides from the various talks. Not only that, but people on the #TEDxSummerisle tag were commenting on the talks as they happened.
— Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, “TEDx Summerisle sounds real but isn‘t,” Daily Dot, March 21, 2013
What emerged out of this heady electronic brew was a social media-fied explosion of cultish madness and mayhem in the form of a “Performative Group Horror Fiction” (as Technoccult has called it). Thus:
There was, yes, ritual murder and much running through the woods:
And the whole thing culminated in a mass sacrificial death inside a giant, burning wicker man.
The people who threw the virtual event/story/party issued a public thanks afterward:
Thank you everyone who volunteered their time and labour to create this strange event, the worst TEDx in history. To be clear: this was a piece of experimental horror fiction. No TED attendees were harmed in the making of this event and we aren’t associated with either TED or either of the Wicker Man films.
— TEDxSummerisle, March 20, 2013
You can read the entire saga, told as a sequentially archived list of tweets, at the TEDxSummerisle site linked above or at Storify. And I must admit: although I don’t usually go for this type of thing myself — as in this type of experimental fiction using the very form of Internet communication to flashy effect — I’ll be damned if the TEDxSummerisle shtick didn’t bowl me over. And yes, as I’m ashamed to admit, I thought it was real for the first, oh, fifty or so tweets that I read. I encourage all interested Teeming Brainers to check it out.