Complex Answers

by bicyclemark 6 Comments

Berlin, 2010“You want it to be one way…” as the character Marlo Stanfield once put it. When we look out at the world or when we look to our various sources of information about what is happening to ourselves and to others, we seek explanations.  Explanations into how and why, into who wronged who, and to what is a solution if there is a solution. Some like the long detailed explanations, while more seem to want summaries, short versions, and just the latest info.  Often times, the more complex an issue is, the harder it is for us to grasp, and the lower the desire to take the time and energy to understand it.

From there come the simple labels, the us versus them, the quest to find who to blame, and the practice visualizing what side we want to be on. Liberals and conservatives; pro-life and anti-abortion; pro-war and anti-war; socialist and capitalist; hippy and yuppy; the list is far longer and spans the globe.  Rare is the individual who can resist finding themselves in such a group, even more rare is one who can avoid being placed in such a group by others.

Why does this happen? The quest to simplify it all perhaps. The need to take a complicated issue and break it into basic parts in order to decide what we believe is to be done about it.  This simplification is sometimes done after extensive or ongoing research, and sometimes it is done based on un-empirical influences.  Whatever side you take, whatever facts you choose to use, in the end you can look at a conflict and say “this is where I am on this.”  From there you can either sleep soundly, or spend your waking hours fighting like hell to communicate and bring to fruition the resolution you wish to see.

I thought of this phenomenon alot while I was in Afghanistan. But I think of it anytime I visit the US or even right here in the Netherlands as I watch socio-political debates on TV.  Some Afghans will tell you they don’t want any foreign military in their country, but if you keep talking to them they will tell you they do want foreign military assistance.  Some Americans who have read through the proposed new healthcare plan will tell you they don’t want this plan but they do want a universal healthcare plan.  An experienced Dutch journalist working in Afghanistan can tell you she is in favor of the Dutch sending people to help with keeping and improving peace in Afghanistan but she will also tell you she’s not in favor of just any kind of Dutch involvement.

Yet it is more common, or perhaps just more visible in today’s massive public sphere, for people to tell you it is one way or the other in any of the situations listed above.  Take most any conflict in any country these days, you’ll find a loud group of people saying it is one way, and a loud group of people saying it is the other.  Anyone who points out the complexity and tries to explain it is somehow considered not as legitimate, perhaps because they’re often not waving a banner in front of governments or standing in front of a camera on prime time television.

One of the great dangers of our time, as I have seen in my short life and extensive travels, is this push to simplify everything so that it all fits in a box or a category and we don’t have to learn and appreciate the complexity of what is happening around us.

ctrp361 Flattering the Internets

by bicyclemark 8 Comments

Berlin, last day of 2010It wouldn’t be the proper start to a new year if there weren’t a podcast featuring Tim Pritlove on  Recording from Berlin on the last night of 2010, Tim and I sit back and dig into the issue of supporting content you appreciate and want to see continue.  More specifically we explain what Flattr is.  This little button that appears more and more throughout the internet and gives people the option to “flattr” content that they enjoy. What is it? How does it work? And why is this a growing service in some parts of the world?

Whether you produce content for the internet, or you enjoy things people are doing on the internet, I highly recommend listening. Plus, I believe Tim is one guest you’ll truly enjoy.

ctrp323 Other than that Mrs. Lincoln…

by bicyclemark 4 Comments

John Aravosis is annoyed. For him and millions of Obama supporters who believed in the campaign that swept the current president into office, there is a great feeling of disgust with what has happened over the past year.  What happened? On issue after issue, causes that were very clearly indentified as goals once Obama got into office, the white house has backed down.  As John breaks it down, they don’t even back down, they simply do not fight, despite having said they would.
I spent several days with John as I manage to do almost once a year for the last few years and he is always one of my most favorite interviews. In this recording we get into why those that most supported Obama are now very upset with his actions. From DOMA, to Health Care, to Foreign Policy, the list of issues that they’ve done an about-face on continues to grow. And with each of these broken promises, the anger and the speaking out gets louder.

Argentine Media Law

by bicyclemark 3 Comments

The Argentine parliament passed a new media reform law last week that caused alot of controversy throughout the country and is also of interest for national media policy throughout the world.

The stated purpose and provisions of the law are not altogether unfamiliar ones, though in this era of dying newspapers and hyper consolidation of media companies, we don’t see them get put into effect very often. What am I talking about? Let me list the guts of the law, as I’ve understood it from both Argentine and international media channels, blogs, and tweets:

  1. This new media law is meant to replace the existing one adopted during the military dictatorship of the 70’s and 80’s.
  2. Two-Thirds of the Radio and TV spectrum will be reserved for non-commercial stations.
  3. Establishes 7 member commission to oversee licensing, made up of 2 designated by the executive branch, three by congress, and 2 by a Federal body representing provincial governments.
  4. Requires TV companies to carry channels operated by universities, union, indigenous groups and other non-governmental organizations.
  5. Requires more frequent licensing approvals
  6. 70 percent of radio and 60 percent of tv content must be produced in Argentina.

This list is what I’ve compiled and understood as a non-native Spanish speaker who has never set foot in Argentina, though I have observed the political and social situation via the internet for the past decade.  No doubt Argentines and critical observers on both sides will have different interpretations and details about the situation.

That said, putting aside the surrounding debate, the stated purpose and many of the provisions of the media law are interesting for anyone concerned about issues such as media consolidation, diversity, representation, non-profit journalism and culture.  Such issues have long been debated within institutions like the European Parliament as well as national governments throughout the world. Many of the details within the text of this law were no doubt inspired by several European provisions that seek to nurture a diverse and dynamic public media sector.

On the other side there is concern about how this will be carried out in Argentina. The fear that this will empower the government in a dangerous manner and benefit only those with money who happen to be close to the executive branch. Others simply believe that the market should determine what happens to Argentine media, where for example the media corporation Clarin owns 44% of the media market share (more than 250 newspapers, radio stations, tv channels, cable stations). In their eyes this law is not only dangerous but it would severely damage their very successful and prestigious communication business.

While continuing to read and follow this issue, I will get in touch with some interesting people on the ground in Argentina who could join me for a podcast in an effort to learn more about what is happening with the world of media in that country.