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More on mediation….

And speaking of mediation….

Ken Burns was the guest on last night’s The Daily Show, and while the exchange with Jon Stewart was hardly funny it was interesting — especially Burn’s comments related to what he and other documentarians are accomplishing. Up until now, he argued, the stories and lesson of World War Two (and the Civil War and other subjects of his production company) have been “unmediated” — a wonderful use of the concept central to De Zengotita book. It also provides an possible example of why De Zengotita turned away from his Luddite inclinations, for there is much to be gained from mediating our past and present lives.

Along those lines, I have started to read Howard Becker’s Telling About Society — part methodology book, part observation about the role that representation (mostly “mediation”) plays in our lives. Perhaps more on that later….

September 28th, 2007 Posted by | Daily Show, De Zengotita, documentaries, Howard Becker, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, media, mediation, representation, The War (documentary) | no comments


Mediated by Thomas De Zengotita can only be described as one of the more interesting and bizarre books I’ve read in quite awhile. The only way to describe it is to say that in places it was like reading a Lewis Black rant — although he doesn’t quite have Black’s comedic presentation skills when he does take the stage.

The book and his work are hyped as picking up where Marshall McLuhan left off, and he does bow in the direction of McLuhan as well as others. (Although he avoids citations or other scholarly trappings, he does note how much he owes to McLuhan “Ong, Lasch, Boorstin, Postman, Harvey, Sennett, Lapham, Gitlin, Rifkin, Rushkof, Gabler…” et al.). He clearly comes to the project with many misgivings about the postmodern “mediation” process that we are all subject to — and he hints at times that in earlier forms the book was pure Luddite “rage against the [mediating] machine”. But as it stands, the book emerges as observational, insightful and filled with resignation — this is the way it is, he implies, and in some respects it is bad but in some respects it is okay….

September 26th, 2007 Posted by | Marshall McLuhan, media, media studies, postmodernism, Thomas De Zengotita | 2 comments

Unshelving Steven Johnson….

The Wikipedia entry for Steven Berlin Johnson labels him an “American popular science author,” but anyone who has read or heard him thinks of his domain as the emerging “interface culture” — a term he applied to the title of his 1999 book which was my first introduction to his writing.

At the time I read that book I was contemplating taking my civic education theme on “educating nomads” to the next level (see here); as a result I was diving into any book on cyber-culture I could get my hands on. Interface Culture was among the best of that group, and I waited for the next work to follow through. It was at that point that the prolific Johnson took the turn to “popular science” writing with the publication of Emergence and then Mind Wide Open. I found these interesting enough to “dip” into, but at the time they did not hold my attention — I suspect because I was looking for an explicit sequal to the earlier work. I was too dense to realize that they were indeed what I was looking for.

The more explicit follow up did come with Everything Bad Is Good For You, but it remained unopened on my shelf for the past couple of years.

Recently I came across the Ghost Map, his latest work (see here), and although the topic was interesting (a work in the tradition of James Burke’s “Connections” that traces a good deal of social change to the cholera epidemics that struck London in the 19th century) I decided it was not of immediate interest….

But I am now taking those unread items off the shelf and diving in as a result of watching a May, 2007 lecture Johnson gave to the Long Now society. The lecture is worth viewing and reinforces my initial belief that Johnson is among the most interesting popular writers who seems to “get it” when it comes to the real impacts and implications of the emerging culture. His talk — on the Long Zoom — will no doubt result in a very interesting book, but for now I am taking Johnson off the shelf and digging deeper into both Mind Wide Open and Everything Bad for You….

July 28th, 2007 Posted by | books, civic education, culture theory, cyber-culture, games, interface culture, learning, Marshall McLuhan, media | no comments

Saving Radio OpenSource….

I seem to do a good deal of complaining about Christopher Lydon at WGBH‘s Radio OpenSource, but it is clear that I find the show interesting and the debates lively. They do a decent job on a range of topics that would not otherwise make it on the air (e.g., the shows on Arendt, Weinberger’s miscellany, etc.). For that reason alone I think it would be a shame if it went off the air — something that can happen unless folks respond to the S.O.S. issued by Lydon the other day.

May 28th, 2007 Posted by | media, reflections | no comments

Sitting at the infosnack bar….

I don’t know how I missed it for so long, but until I ran across the term “infosnacking” in a Frontline documentary several weeks ago I had never heard the word. But as it turns out, it was the Webster Dictionary’s “Word of the Year” for 2005 — a not uncontroversial choice in light of the emergence of “podcasting” that same year. As the story goes, infosnacking did make it into the dictionary right away, but the editor’s like it. Perhaps its time is coming….

Curiously, while the word has gained some traction, it has yet to earn a Wikipedia entry (do search here; btw, podcast has one). This is surprising for two reasons — first, it seems like the perfect word to describe what many younger Wikipedia users do at the site and, second, it is a more pervasive practice among net-geners than we might think.

May 28th, 2007 Posted by | books, media, nomads | no comments