Category Archives: Radio Open Source

Individualism, Freedom, and Food

A surprisingly superficial podcast episode on what could have been a very deep subject.

Open Source » Blog Archive » The End of Free Will?

start a conversation about manipulation, persuasion and freedom from choice

To summarize the main issue of that episode: is marketing and "upselling" by restaurant chains undermining the individual freedom to choose quality food? Apparently simple a question, but billed as much more than that.

Maybe they refrained from delving deeper into any of those issues because philosophical discussions, perhaps aesthetic ones especially, are off limits in "polite company" in U.S. media. Too bad.

Actually, I’m genuinely disappointed. Not necessarily because restaurant chains are very important an issue for me (in Montreal, they don’t seem to have the exact same type of impact and I love to cook). But because the show’s participants all came very close to saying very important things about individualism, food, and freedom. The first two are too rarely discussed, IMHO, and the third could have been the "hook" to discuss the other two.

Ah, well…

If you want to know more about my thoughts on this podcast episode, check out some of the tags below.

The Word

Speaking of language change and digital life, Radio Open Source is preparing a show about "Language Evolution in the Digital Age." Unfortunately, they seem to focus on lexicography and use an awkward notion of "evolution," but it’s quite representative of the language ideology of North American English-speakers.

Let’s hope they  grok the deeper implications of the fact that young people are in fact writing a lot. William Labov and Penny Eckert would be ideal people to talk about language change in this context.

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"You Should Expand Your Reading Base"

Open Source » Blog Archive » Chomsky: My Dinner with Hassan
Thank you, Thomas Ricks!

Actually, his attitude through most of that conversation is quite refreshing. Humble yet assertive, honest yet tactful, insightful yet unafraid of obvious facts. Just shows that there’s life outside the New York Times groupthink, even within the United States media-obsessed world…

NYT Mindset, Nationalism, Wars

On a recent episode of his Radio Open Source podcast, Christopher Lydon admits that the fact that the recent Israeli attack came between issues of the New York Times had an impact on his ability to reflect on the issue.

The episode itself, especially near the end, linked “normalcy” in Israeli society with a culture of consumerism with strong “Western” influences, the notion of a “Free State” (in this case, a free Jewish state), and being too boring for U.S. media. Fascinating. But quite specific. Many people do think through these notions and many of them either read the New York Times themselves or listen intently to those who do.

The notion of sovereignty came regularly in that podcast episode. Israel is a “sovereign state” and is allowed to defend this sovereignty. Interestingly enough, the notion of sovereignty has been a major part of the nationalist discourse in Quebec for a while. In fact, that version of sovereignty is less linked with protecting borders than with building a society on its own terms. Self-determination. Many Quebec sovereignists hope, in fact, for a world without national borders. Hearing comments on Radio Open Source, it seems like many people are still clinging to the existence of “Democratic Nation-States.” Hence the attitude that wars can be won by one of the countries involved.

Ah, well…

Christopher Lydon Doesn't Care About Blog People

Not really trying to be controversial. Just thought it was interesting.

From a recent show of "Radio Open Source," which the host, Christopher Lydon, calls "a show infused with the political energy of the Internet" (0'58").

Open Source / Blog Archive / Justice Miers: A Blogosphere Scorned

Christopher Lydon is defending his title as a blog-lover:

(20'32")CL: Don't mistake me. As a fan of the blogosphere, and I am one and I'm a blogger…

But this defense came a while after Lydon emphasized the perceived inequalities of that same "blogosphere":

(7'32")Randy Barnett, you're a blogger but you're a grown-up, shall we say, among bloggers, a law professor too, I'm just wondering…

To which Barnett replied:

(7'52")RB: First of all, I don't want to distance myself from the rest of the blogosphere… I learn a lot on the blogosphere even though they may not be law professors…this is the premise of your whole show and I think that we law professors have a lot to learn. I always learn from the bloggers.

Lydon sees himself as a blogger and tends to have a very specific perspective on blogging. That perspective can be seen in parallel with the more individualistic dimensions of online communication. For one thing, the rule is for first-person singular pronouns on this specific "blogosphere." Which, in itself, is quite interesting.
Another interesting aspect of Lydon's perspective of blogging is to see pre-Internet communication as blogging:

Thomas Paine was a blogger without the software. So was the weekly mail pamphleteer I. F. Stone, our anti-war hero of the 1960s and 70s and the only certifiable genius I ever encountered in journalism. Ralph Waldo Emerson, a fount of sturdy values (father of “the American religion,” says Harold Bloom) was a proto-blogger. And Emerson’s magazine The Dial in the 1840s, with Thoreau, Fuller, Alcott among the Concord co-conspirators, was the original group blog.

But still, the point about differentiating blogging law professors from other bloggers. There seems to be a tendency about "Old Media" people to over-emphasize prestige at every turn. Sure, it's a common trend in many dimensions of life and many parts of the world. What's strange, though, is how dissonant that emphasis is with the philosophy of democratic communication that those "Old Media" types preach once they get online. Guess equality is just unevenly distributed.

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Deep Change in the Media? (Truth and Trust, Information, Knowledge)

Open Source> Blog Archive> Craigslist and Information as News
[Disclaimer: I personally think credentials and authority hinder any quest for knowledge.]

A podcast of a radio show about the aftermath of Katrina giving a jolt to deep changes in journalism and the media.
Journalism might be changing but Christopher Lydon still says, perhaps jokingly, that those who read the New York Times "are the best informed people of the whole bloody universe"…
Some major points were made during the discussion which tags on previous discussions (and associated buzzwords) of "hyperlocal" and "citizen" journalism.
Was mostly interested in comments about trust. From an academic point of view, information cannot be trusted, no matter the source. One always needs to maintain a critical perspective on information. Even a source known to be the most "trustworthy" (say, a world famous leading expert on a specific issue) will make mistakes. Academics also define data as different from fact.
In this radio show and on multiple other occasions, a very populist notion of truth and trust emerges. Information comes from the people and people are in charge of checking information. This notion is very powerful in challenging journalistic notions. It also puts information in a sociological frame. Both Marxian and American.
Comments during this specific show alluded more to a journalistic version of Linus' Law: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." This "law" does relate to peer review and might even represent a stronger form of peer review in which peers are judged for results and not necessarily based on their credentials.
In both cases, the more sociological dimension and the review by peers, the notion of truth and trust coming out of groups of people may curb the cult of personality evidenced by other attitudes towards truth and trust. There might even be a struggle between the personality-based attitude toward authority ("it must be true because so-and-so said it") and the value of "distributed computing" of information and knowledge. ("Distributed" was used in that sense during the radio show and implies decentralization.)
Those very same issues on trust and truth are debated in comparing Wikipedia to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Yes, really, Information Wants To Be Free (as in Speech).