Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Big Media Pays the Bills


I wanted to jump on this item quickly, as it's from a podcast recently done by Jesse Brown at Canadaland wherein he regularly talks about Canadian writing, bloging and mainstream journalism.

As television news dies, the value of their weatherbeaten icons soars, kind of like the maidenhead on a sinking ship where you look for anything that floats.  Murphy's bleats about Neil Young's responsibility have turned out to be poorly mirrored in the CBC's approach to the ethics in this case. Incredibly, Canadaland reports that CBC even refused to acknowledge that Murphy works on The National.

Google this to find out some facts about the lack of mainstream coverage and kudos to Canadaland for this piece of citizen journalism.

Share and discuss.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Moral Case for Participation in Government

I'm taking a break from discussing philosophers, media theorists and other societal therapists to call attention to Canada's participation in the Open Data Partnership.  Specifically, Canada's participation in the ODP seems to be headed towards providing "the" public with killer apps, rather than access and participation.

Teresa Scassa blogs that ...

The review, carried out by Carleton University Professor Mary Francoli, does note, however, that a number of the government’s other commitments are less ambitious and less directly relevant to the goals of the OGP. This does not mean that they are not worth doing, just that they are less impactful. One issue, therefore, would seem to be whether the government’s plan has struck the right balance between ambitious and significant goals and low hanging fruit.
A further concern is that the broad commitment to open government has been channelled primarily into developments around open data. While open data is important, and while developments in this area have been meaningful, open access and open participation are crucial components of open government and are essential to realizing its objectives. Indeed, one of the recommendations in the review document relates to the need for the government to broaden its focus so as to give more attention to open access and participation.

This topic seems so cold and academic at times, but after reading Christie Blatchford's recent column questioning the utility of inquests this week, I was reminded of the inquest as an audit of government's failure to help people.   Here is a list of inquests scheduled for the Province of Ontario.  So many lives lost.  I went from that list to a list of past inquests , wondering the whole time whether there's any way to follow-up on the recommendations.

So, picking an inquest randomly off the list, I Googled the inquest on the death of Jordan Heikamp.  Were these recommendations followed ?  The search results produced many pages of media and academic discussion, but I only found one official page in the top 3 pages of Google searches - a response from the City of Toronto Medical Officer of Health. 

So - ARE such recommendations followed up ?  Is there a way for us to look into what the operations are, and whether changes have been made and how they're impacting the welfare of those who use the services ?  There may be, but Ontario doesn't make it easy for a public to access and participate in the recommendations about our social services.

If there isn't a way for us to monitor these things directly, are we supposed to rely on the press to notify a fickle and bored mass of people what is happening ? If we as a public don't care, then who will ?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

In These * Times

On this blog I've been advocating for MetaDiscussion - ie. talking about talking about things - as a way for us to move forward, based on an assumption that we're in a period of extreme change, with attendant feelings of confusion, fear, indirection and so on.  

But it occurred to me today that I haven't fully validated my starting position on this path, so I thought I'd try to use Google as a social thermometer by searching for the words: "In these * times".  (The * is what is called a "wild card". Google will return anything that matches the other words around the asterisk exactly, allowing any word to appear the middle of that phrase.)

What I found in the top 10 Google results where an interim word was added was this:

Tough (2)
Hard (2)
Uncertain (2)

(Methodology: I did a Google Search for 'In These * Times'  and removed 'cold' from my results, which appeared in the results from a maple syrup ad.  (I live in Canada.)) 

If Google is to be believed, then we do indeed have troubles on us today.  I've been blogging about our need for societal therapists, so I wondered if Google could help with that too.

I searched "Source of wisdom" and the results of the search were telling: many pages of religious offerings, and a brand of jeans (?).  I was doubtful that God or new pants could help our troubles, so I paged forward through the results until I found this gem: 

What the dead lack in currency they make up for in depth. Accessing their work is an automatic exercise in editing: for it to have survived at all, beyond the championing of their living energies, it must have been unusually robust. 
The hot metal of their ideas will have been tempered into the steel of their finished intellectual constructs by the force of sustained peer critique and exacting editorial standards. 
Certainly, re-reading the closely-argued theories of, say, Erving Goffman or Denis Diderot feels qualitatively different from browsing the inchoate ideas that pour forth from even strong thinkers in a world forever in Beta. 


A world forever in Beta !  What a great diagnosis of our current mental state by Helen Edwards, who is ... let's see... I assume she is a philosopher and a social theorist... no wait.. let's see here...

"Helen Edwards has a PhD in marketing, an MBA from London Business School and is a partner at Passionbrand. "

Discouraging.  Not to disparage Ms. Edwards' career choices too much, it seems to me that despite our clear need for societal therapy in these * times, there's so little demand for wisdom that we are redeploying our talented thinkers and social commentators as marketers.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Finding A Good Therapist

I talked about MetaDiscussion in my last blog, and about why I think that "we", ie. our world, needs some therapy, or at least a bracing jolt of wisdom to wake us up from the current neurotic sleepwalk.

Who, though, are the wise ones to help us ? Elvis Costello asked that: Where are the strong ?  Who are the trusted ?  Where is the harmony ?  We are in times of deep and unfathomable change now, so we need to tap into essential wisdoms to help us understand and help talk us through what is happening.  

But pure wisdom on its own isn't enough either: it's not social.  There always have been vaults of philosophical thought out there describing how societies and publics function.  As we learned from the online Climate Science wars, professorial wisdom often suffers outside the domain of the university lecture and the old bearded wizard.  If the message isn't sociable, then it won't spread off campus.

Wouldn't it be swell if there were relevant and appealing thought leaders who could speak to the circumstances of today using the media of today and - AND - with an understanding of history and philosophy.  How would that look ?  And would you share it on Facebook ?  Click to share !

That is: please comment here with links any such people: social theorists, philosophers, even bloggers.  I'm finding these sites one by one, such as...  Ribbonfarm.  It was started by Venkatesh Rao in 2007.


"The name ribbonfarm refers to the ribbon farms of 18th century Detroit — strips of lands 2-3 miles long, each with 2-300 yards along the Detroit river waterfront — that the then French governor used to resolve water disputes. I thought it was a great metaphor for a blog trying to get its thin slice of attention from the great river of eyeballs that is the Web. "

It's replete with philosophy, reflection, wisdom, Metadiscussion.  Like the latest, an interesting article on how the West vs the East look at organisms, government and society:  


Thought leaders such as these will be our collective therapists; we need to share their wisdom on Facebook and elsewhere.  It's on us to start building new publics - new audiences that will entertain broader views, deeper reflection and more wholesome dialogue.

Next blog, we'll keep looking for therapists and thought leaders to guide us through the MetaDiscussion.