The CBC defended

A reader writes:

I understand you dislike CBC.  Well that is fine for you, but for those of us who don’t want to listen to the local shows made up of canned music and dubious prattle, the CBC treats their listeners as intelligent human beings. Just don’t listen if you dislike the station.

Point taken. I feel odd defending myself against the proposition that I dislike the CBC, but given recent posts (here and here), I suppose it’s an understandable assumption. As an immigrant who came to Canada after my schooling had ended, I learned most of what I know about Canada from CBC Radio. It was an institution I treasured. I got used to holding it to a high standard, and lately, I’m disappointed a lot. I used to listen all the time. Now I listen much less, and when I do, it’s often via podcasts (with Spark topping the list), perhaps as a way of avoiding the stuff that propels me to toss off snarky posts.

Google Street View fear and loathing

Robert Creighton writes:

As happens in most places when Street View goes live, I predict the local media will run around the streets trying to find locals who are outraged at the “invasion of privacy” introduced by this technology. I will be watching Tom Murphy on CBC News as they try to stir up yet another “controversy.”

Worth noting that the cameras used in UK seem to be much higher resolution than used here.

red road-csNo idea what Tom will do, but in recent weeks, CBC has been conspicuously indulging the hoary tradition whereby old media condemn the moral decay promoted by attractive new-media competitors. See Nora Young’s Spark interview with Viktor Mayer-Schönberger (here and here) deploring Google’s search feature, Ideas’ recent hand-wringing about teen sexual depravity caused by social marketing websites (a variant of which can be seen on CBC Newsworld), and the Globe and Mail‘s shocking discovery that people in the entertainment industry sometimes have sex with each other, even when they are not precisely equal in age or employment status.

I’m less sanguine about the British comparison. Police authorities in Britain really do conduct a staggering amount of real-time surveillance of private citizens, not a great thing imnsho.

Moral panic: computer memory is bad for you! – rebuttal

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, whose interview on Spark was the subject of a somewhat testy post on Contrarian yesterday, has returned fire.

I saw your blog entry on my interview with CBC and my book “Delete”. From your entry it is obvious that you have not read the book. [True.] That’s perfectly fine – except that you then move to render a flawed judgment on the book.

Viktor Mayer-SchönbergerTo start with, the example that I used in the interview is not about photographic memory, but about a biological condition of a very small number of people who cannot forget – or at least remember a great deal more than average humans. Photographic memory is very different – and susceptible to Dan Schacter’s “seven sins of memory”.

Contrary to what you seem to insinuate I have not blamed Google for Andrew Feldmar’s difficulties; rather I used his case to highlight the fact that with the help of the digital tools that surround us institutions and organizations can now – at very low cost – store and retrieve massive amounts of information about others. In the informational privacy literature this has been well described as potentially leading to power imbalances, which it is argued ought to worry us.

However, in my book – as well as in the interview! – I make clear that my major concern has to do with how humans perceive time, and place information in a temporal context; it is this central element, linked to research of cognitive psychologists that your blog entry misses.

Thus, your judgment that I am guilty of category error is simply incorrect – especially since the central message of the book is emphatically not that technology is to blame, or could provide a simple solution, but that changes in human behavior facilitated by information economics and technological change have made us forget remembering, and that it will take us humans to reset this balance.

In the spirit of fact-based discussion, perhaps you might be even interested in reading the book?

It’s true that I did not read the book, nor did I purport to have done so. My post explicitly responded to the interview, and mentioned the book only by way of introductory credentials.

I hope people will listen to the interview or download it; encouraging readers to do so was one purpose of the post. They can judge for themselves. To my ear, on two careful listenings, there was a clear tone of alarmed hand-wringing about a technological process that has got out of control. It strikes me as a subtle variant of the “Internet pedophiles will ensnare your kids” stories so favored by newspapers.

The ever tactful Nora Young also responded:

Nora Yound 1 s ccI think new technologies of communication do change the way we think, remember, and relate to one another.  I suppose I’m a McLuhanite in that sense.  I would say the same about the move from oral to written communication, for instance, so I don’t think it’s really uncharacteristic for Spark, or indeed, part of a moral panic.  More than that, though, what I love about Spark is that it’s an opportunity to air provocative ideas about technology, and hopefully inspire debate and dialogue, of which your post is an excellent example.

Moral panic: computer memory is bad for you!

The excellent CBC Radio show, blog, and podcast known as Spark has just posted host Nora Young’s  long interview with Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, author of Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Mayer-Schönberger believes cheap digital storage has encouraged us, often unwittingly, to store more information than is good for us. In the interview, he offers two examples:

  • Some people with photographic memory have trouble making decisions, because memories of bad outcomes from previous decisions paralyze them.
  • A Canadian psychotherapist, Andrew Feldmar, was permanently barred from entering the United States because a US border guard, using Google, discovered a 10-year-old article he had written describing his LSD use 30 years earlier.

Mayer-Schönberger follows a hoary tradition of moral panic that seems to greet every new communications technology. Carolyn Marvyn has documented the dire forecasts of moral depravity that followed the invention of the telephone. Prophesies of moral decay are often embraced by traditional media that feel (and probably are) threatened by the new technology, so I guess you could say that in interviewing Mayer-Schönberger, Spark is, at least in this perhaps uncharacteristic instance, fitting into this tradition as well.

Mayer-Schönberger is guilty of category error. He conflates memory with storage. Substitute the word “library” for “Internet,” and by his logic, we would soon start burning books. People with photographic memories may indeed have a problem with indecision, but that is a problem of human psychology, not library or Internet storage.

Dr. Feldmar’s story is a terrible one, but the problem lies in witless application of over-broad US immigration rules, not Google. It makes no more sense to condemn Google for this episode than it would to condemn the telephone or the newspaper, had they served as conduits for the guard’s information.

I think the idea of automatically deleting information (including photographs, articles, emails, etc.) because thier reappearance someday might harm us in ways we cannot foresee is chilling.

Spark will air an abbreviated version of Young’s interview with Mayer-Schönberger Sunday at 1.

Local lapses in CBC Radio’s iPhone app explained

sScreenshot - iconsThis month, Apple approved a free CBC Radio app that offers yet another reason to own an iPhone. It will prove a boon to radio listeners not tied to their radios all day.

The CBC Radio app will give iPhone or iPod users live audio streams from of Radio 1, 2, and 3 (the corp’s net-based, indy-oriented network). It will let users listen in any time zone, so when Atlantic Canadians miss a national program, they have four chances to catch up.

sScreenshot - network menuWant to listen to a local show in real time? Pick it off the station menu (below left), our use the “find-your-location” feature.

It also offers archived episodes of many CBC Radio shows. Miss an episode of Spark (currently contrarian‘s favorite CBC program)? It’s there on your phone, on demand, whenever you want it.

You can do most of these things on the CBC website, too, but the iPhone app interface is so much cleaner and easier to navigate than the website, many listeners will reach for the phone.

sScreenshot - station menuAs initially released, the program has a few startling lapses. There are no Maritime locations listed on the Radio One station menu, and the find-your-location function directs Nova Scotiams to Ottawa or Goose Bay, of all places.

It turns out that CBC is in the process of converting all its streaming audio feeds from Windows Media to MP3 format. (That’s a good thing; the CBC’s streaming audio files have tended to be balky.)

Jonathan Carrigan, the CBC’s  Product Development Manager for Digital Programming & Business Development, says the missing stations will be added as soon as their streams are converted to MP3. This will require one ore more upgrades to the app, and these will be coming “very soon,” he says. Once the audio stream conversions are complete, Carrigan promises more upgrades, and more features.

Bloggers put media’s copycon coverage to shame

CopyCon Ministers - cropped

Why is Canada’s news media doing such a shoddy job covering the copyright consultations now taking place in select cities across part of Canada?

At the heart of the consultations on planned changes Canada’s copyright law lies a fundamental question: Should the law protect authors of creative work, or corporate intermediaries who traditionally profited from the massive effort formerly required to reproduce and distribute them?

Thanks to digital technology, the cost of copying and distributing works is rapidly approaching zero. Naturally, those who once profited from copying and distributing creative works are frantically trying to stem the flow of creative works, advocating ever-lengthening copyright protection,  and mandatory enforcement of consumer-hostile technologies that prevent all copying, legal or otherwise. In many cases, they have co-opted creator organizations to their cause.

Not surprisingly, news organizations tend to view this question through the lens of corporate intermediaries. With exceptions, they frame the debate in terms University of Ottawa law professor Jeremy De Beer describes as, “the caricature of toiling creators vs. freeloading pirates.”

Continue reading Bloggers put media’s copycon coverage to shame