Occupy Wall Street is not “Birth of Venus”

Probably like most people, I’ve been hearing about the Occupy movement through media, both news coverage and social media. I won’t pretend to understand it, I haven’t been following closely. But it has bugged me how I keep hearing that the movement lacks clarity and focus.

Yesterday I listened to an excellent Radio Open Source podcast episode. Christopher Lydon interviewed Mark Blyth, a political economist at Brown University, about what he’s been learning about the Occupy movement by talking to protestors in Boston — and putting it into a global economic, social, and historic context that I found sobering.

So give it a listen:

Mark Blyth (6): Going to school on “Occupy Wall St.”

One point Blyth made that particularly struck me — and that I especially wish every journalist would take to heart — is this: The labor movement didn’t come out of nowhere. It didn’t spring into being fully formed with collective bargaining and arbitration procedures. It coalesced gradually, in fits and starts, from a society struggling with the “volatility constraint” that comes with rampant inequality.

Birth is messy. Infants aren’t born talking in complete sentences. So don’t look at the Occupy movement expecting this:

Boticelli's "Birth of Venus"

After listening to all the context Blyth offered, I suspect we’re watching the earliest phases of a different kind of labor movement: the labor pangs that precedes the birth of something that might eventually walk and talk. Something that probably won’t go by the name “Occupy.”

I only hope the world can collectively raise this baby right.

FDA approves prescription Placebo (Onion Radio News)

A recurring theme in my thoughts and work lately is psychological resistance to demonstrable facts. (See: Why facts will never be enough to make people believe). Sometimes that’s due to cognitive dissonance, emotional reasoning, or herd reinforcement. But sometimes it’s due to a plain lack of understanding of what science is and how it functions.

So this recent episode from The Onion Radio News reduced me to helpless giggles. Enjoy!

UPDATE: On a related note, science journalist Christie Aschwanden alerted me to this 2008 NYT story: Experts Question Placebo Pill for Children. Thanks! Brilliant! You just can’t make this shit up!

The intersection of science and science fiction: Future Tense podcast

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. produces an excellent weekly science podcast, called Future Tense.

I just listened to today’s episode, Future Sci-Fi, which is about the intersection of science and science fiction — how they’ve influenced each other. I’ve heard most of these anecdotes before, but nice to have them pulled together into a well-crafted narrative.

Worth a listen.

Why everything is “technology”

A couple of podcasts I listened to recently reminded me that, in a sense, everything is technology. Including your house. Including your eyes.

Give these a listen and you’ll see what I mean:

It’s 2010: Where are you writing and reading?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed my personal patterns of writing and reading have changed significantly. Some of this has been in response to the changing technology of communication — the rise of social media, in particular. But some of it has also been about where I am in my life and my work.

Here’s a quick rundown of my own changes, and contributing reasons for them. I’d be curious to hear about other people’s personal media evolutions, too. Please share your own experiences in the comments below…

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Kindle Text-to-Speech: “Robotic NPR”

Photography imported on the site Flickr.com by...
NPR’s next hire? (Image via Wikipedia)

I’ve made a discovery about Amazon’s Kindle e-reader: It’s a pretty good “news radio.” That is, its text-to-speech function does a surprisingly decent job of reading news content aloud.

I currently subscribe to the Wall St. Journal on my Kindle, and I’ve gotten in the habit of letting it read me some interesting articles as I go through my morning routine. I like it. The automated text-to-speech reader is a bit flat for fiction, narrative, and essays that require significant emotional or rhetorical inflection — but it’s great for news. I’ve starting considering it my “robotic NPR.”

(Ducking the reflexive outcry from all my friends at NPR…)

Of course, my point isn’t only about the Kindle. It’s about how any text-to-speech service or tool can interact with text-based news and information content — and why creators of text-based news content should start to take that into consideration. Because you never know exactly how people will experience your content…

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Dale Willman on radio in Indonesia

Dale Willman
Borobudur, a Buddhist temple on the island of Java.

For a change of pace, here’s an audio podcast. My good friend and environmental journalism colleague Dale Willman just got back from a three-week trip to Indonesia where he was training radio journalists there how to do an environmental radio show — and just how to do radio production, period.

Yesterday Dale and I had a fun conversation about his trip, the state of media in Indonesia, and why text messaging is so popular there.

Listen now! (Or right-click to download)

Dale Willman
In the studio: One of the Indonesian radio journalists Dale helped to train.

Get my favorite news headline podcasts via MediaFly

My Mediafly profile currently contains these news headline podcasts.

Yesterday I offered some tips about making news podcasts smart. Today, Contentious reader Carson commented, “You should create a public profile on Mediafly.com to allow people easy access to those feeds. Or, take their public RSS aggregated feed and put it on your blog, then people just need to sign up for one feed instead of all of them.”

Great idea, Carson! Thanks!

I hadn’t known about MediaFly, so I just checked it out. It is indeed a really useful tool for sharing podcasts. (Yet another example of my community collectively being much smarter and better connected than I am — perhaps my main motivation for blogging.)

So I just created a public profile on MediaFly and moved all my news headline podcast subscriptions over there. It seems to work well with my iTunes.

Anyway, here’s the feed for my collection of favorite news headline podcasts, if you want to check them out: feed://mediafly.com/RSS/Users/agahran/MyQueue/news

That’s probably the easiest way to get them all at once. Keep in mind that I try out new podcasts periodically, so the shows in that feed will vary somewhat over time.

Whadya think? Does this work for you?