Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rives controls the Internet

By Stephen M.

John Rives is a poet often featured on HBO's Def Poetry Jam and a large TED contributor. In this poem he describes the changes that would be made if he controlled the Internet and how these are possible if desired. Following a summary of this piece I will provide an overview on the speaking tools used by Rives and my own opinion of the talk.

John commences his poem by telling the audience of his inspiration for it:
"I wrote this poem after hearing a pretty well-known actress tell a very well-known interviewer on television, 'I'm really getting into the Internet lately. I just wish it were more organized.'" He goes on to tell us about how one could sell a broken heart on e-bay and use the proceeds to purchase a foreign phonebook on Amazon. Rives then connects the real world to the computerized one with another unrealistic fantasy "If I were in charge of the Internet, you could Mapquest your lover's mood swings." His magical Internet would allow Monster, Friendster and Napster to coexist as one site "That way you could listen to cool music while you pretend to look for a job and you're really just chatting with your pals." Delving even further into the improbable Rives begins his next subject "Heck, if I ran the web, you could email dead people." He says that you wouldn't receive an email back, but would get a reply saying "I miss you". After several other unrealistic topics including the Emperor of Oranges, .moms and .dads along with his deity like Internet presence he reaches the purpose of the talk. This is summed up in two sentences " It is not a question of if you can. It's, do ya? We can interfere with the interface." All of the before stated implausibilities can be achieved if we want them to be. To fulfill the presentation he conjures the final image of his Internet bliss " We can make "You've got Hallelujah" the national anthem of cyberspace every lucky time we log on."

The message that John is giving us is that we can make the Internet whatever we want it to be. His poem is about how he would like the Internet but at the concluding statements he uses "we" and not "I" to tell us that it isn't just him who wants to change the "it." Throughout the talk Rives demonstrates impressive public speaking ability to the audience. He never relies on either a teleprompter or cue cards and speaks with changes in tone and dynamics throughout the talk along with excellent gestures. He has good eye contact and keeps the audience entertained with both humorous and ridiculous propositions. Overall, the public speaking skills he employs are superb.

The audience in the room loved the poem and Rives received a standing ovation from them. The comments on the TED site are similar and praise his ability to make the Internet seem so friendly and not like the complex and depersonalized image we ourselves conceptualize. My own reaction was not, in fact one of amazement. Though he spoke well, used gestures and vocal expression I did not find it enjoyable to watch. This is due entirely to the fact that my interests do not include poetry. As a TED performance I would give this an 9 out of 10 based solely on the speaking skills.

I would recommend this video to anyone interested in humorous poetry or any kind for that matter. If you have no interest in poetry like myself, this is not for you. I can say that on the basis of a presentation it was very good.

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