Fresh Eyes, Ancient Place

Photo by Fin

We are a little over two weeks from the beginning of the North Africa/ Middle East journey lovingly titled “Arab Artists in a Revolution.” As with any great journey, the preparation also raises questions about how to approach our conversations and media creations in the best way possible.  The term “best way” is particularly tricky in an era where it’s difficult to capture and retain the attention of any audience, though Im pleased to be starting off with you my listeners and readers, not to mention the Radio Open Source audience who have clearly shown their desire to see this project become a reality.

But here’s another aspect that makes missions like this one a special challenge. My history as an independent, make-it-up-as-I-go-along blogger turned journalist turned media producer or whatever I’m defined as these days. I’ve been working on topics that interest me (and hopefully sometimes you) for more than 10 years now, and throughout my tenure I’ve only occasionally stopped to look around and ask – what do the people want? That was, for me, the major point of being a personal media- citizen journalist type, I don’t just try to entertain or capture your attention, I first follow my heart and learn about topics, people, and places that capture my attention.  With any luck my interests intersect with yours, that’s when it feels extra special.

This particular journey begins with a unique partnership, two guys from different generations with different experience, setting off for a land they have -until now- only read and talked about. A region the entire everyone seems to have an opinion about after it re-captured the world’s attention last year. So the question I have for myself is, how do I make sure this one is not only a pleasure for me, but exciting for you as well? To what extent should I be listening to the opinion and experience of others, as opposed to doing what Ive always done, following my nose and relying on my global network to guide me to the fantastic stories of real life?  How do you keep your mind and your heart open when you’ve done something one way for so long?

One thing I realize beyond any of these questions, is that it is good to try something new and challenge my own traditions. Thankfully I set off next month with someone who’s work and friendship have taught me a lot about what is possible and what I’m capable of.  And of course, I set off with all of you along for the ride, via this daily noise machine known as the internet. So all in all, the fundamentals are in place. Everything else, as always in life, we will figure out and make it great.

The Daily Show, South Park and Society

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The Daily Show, South Park and Society

photo courtesy of the Berghs School of Communication

The Daily Show and South Park, along with The Colbert Report, are the 1-2 (3) punch of socio-political satire in America and have been for well over a decade. Some dismiss them as childish clowns with limited significance while in fact, they are among the most trusted sources of news and entertainment wielding tremendous power from the reputation they have built as uncompromising provacateurs.

Brian Dunphy is a lecturer at Brooklyn College, a citizen of the world, and a keen observer of satire in all its forms in the United States.  He starts each day with a bowl of cereal and Jon Stewart, and his in-depth research and analysis reveals that there is a lot more happening here than just a bunch of funny impressions and the occasional fart joke.  There is real speaking of truth to power and challenging people to think and look carefully at the actions of the powerful decision makers of this world.  Today on the podcast, Brian gives us a taste of this topic that he has been bringing to audiences in North America and Northern Europe over the past year.

Walking the Tight Rope of the Caucasus

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Walking the Tight Rope of the Caucasus

OlafKIf you search for adventures in the Caucasus, it is his picture that should pop up first. From the loud taverns of Tblisi, to the shiny new streets of Gonzy and eventually to the  future Olympic village of Sochi, he has seen it all and shared many of his adventures with anyone that cares to know.  Now he has taken his greatest hits from the Caucasus and assembled them in book form (in Dutch).  The result is a hilarious, insightful, and often exciting journey in a region with so much diversity and such a rich history.

On today’s podcast I’m joined by none other than Olaf Koens, as we sit along the Amstel river in a windy afternoon, we talk about some of those adventures in that magical region of the world.

His book, (.nl) Koorddansen in de Kaukasus

Value Can Be Found Beyond the Blue Boxes

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Photo by Vik407 /flickr

If you’re involved in any kind of project these days chances are you make use of Facebook in some way or another. If you don’t, a few clicks on the internet or a few pages in your local newspaper, and you’ll probably get hit with an article about how “you should” in order to reach “the people”.  In the publishing world it is the same story multiplied by 1000, as the world’s largest social network site is considered the be all end all of doing anything online. If you’re not making full use of facebook, you’re somehow a failure or a fool.  Why? Because in the publishing world it is all about the numbers, and if there’s one thing we’re told over and over again, facebook has the numbers.

But what real value do these numbers have? The truth that few want to admit, is that we don’t know. What proof is there that all those likes, and all the times your post gets shared on facebook, that these things amount to anything beyond a brief 2 sentences that are constantly being buried under the feeds of the insatiable scrolling machines we have all become.  Companies pay a full time staff to control their social media presence, to keep an eye on the social networks and make sure they’re “talking about us.”  Somewhere along the line of all of us going online, “talking about” something stopped meaning real conversations of any substance, and became the act of copy pasting without having to read or remember anything.  Entire books and traveling guru’s (even more irritating versions of me) are dedicated and revered because they give institutions advice as to what they “should” be doing if they really want to be down with the social media thing.

We have lost and are now at risk of losing even more when it comes to real content, genuine thought, and meaningful understanding. When it is more important that you have a facebook page than it is to actually researching and writing articles; when its more important you go viral than actually capture the war criminal your video was about; when its more of a priority that your facebook page have lots of likes instead of real debate and discussion; that is the point where the world of journalism and media is proudly wrapped in a fog of stupidity.  One where trends and expert tips are given way more credence than they deserve, and where original content  is left in the dust.  Somewhere along the line we stopped being original and authentic, and we became apostles of that iconic blue masthead that says “this is what matters, not your hard work or your unique individual creations, but your ability to do exactly as we say you should. Why? Because we have the numbers. And in today’s publishing/business world, numbers trump humanity. Over and over again.

(yes I realize you’re likely reading this from within facebook, but I look forward to after the rebellion, when even less of us will)