Category Archives: Current Affairs

Change Congress

Gas is over $4 a gallon, the planet’s getting warmer, we’re fighting a war in Iraq, we live in the era of “No Child Left Behind,” and we leave children behind. The old trope is that “people get the government they deserve.” We don’t. According to Larry Lessig, the founder of Change Congress, we must and can do better. Our problem: we the people, get interested in politics every four years. The solution: a congress–the people’s house working in our interests everyday instead of the interests of lobbyists. You can help by taking the pledge at Change Congress and then checking on your legislator to see how he or she acts on key reform issues. Now, I agree, “Yes We Can” but we also need the persistence to sustain the movement–and that comes from a Congress that is truly of, by and FOR the people.
For reference, here’s Lessig’s presentation about Change Congress. If you haven’t seen him present, you must watch–he’s got an amazing gift–he informs, entertains and insprires.

What do you think of Change Congress? Are you happy with the representation you get in Washington? Locally, or are you tuned out?

The Five Phases of Facebook

If you thought Facebook was a time-drain before, now they’ve gone and added Chat.   Their stock price notwithstanding, these clever folks are taking notice of how annoying Facebook’s become.  Between their choice of Billy Joel’s "We didn’t start the fire,"  for the melody, and replacing it with "we’re getting sick of facebook," LLP81’s video critique is one of the funniest things I’ve seen online in a while.  What are your thoughts on Facebook?

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Here Comes Everybody (I’m here too!)

Clay Shirky’s latest book, Here Comes Everybody:
The Power of Organizing Without Organizations
,
discusses how light-weight web-based
technologies like blogging, twittering and photo sharing sites like
Flickr result in real world actions.  Shirky talked about the book
at the Markle
Foundation
on April 10.  I’m going to highlight
a new of Clay’s examples and then reflect on what I think his ideas
mean for traditional organizations. 

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Innocents Do Good

Robert Strauss, a former Peace Corps Country Director recently opined in the New York Times that “For the Peace Corps, the number of volunteers has always trumped the quality of their work, perhaps because the agency fears that an objective assessment of its impact would reveal that while volunteers generate good will for the United States, they do little or nothing to actually aid development in poor countries. The agency has no comprehensive system for self-evaluation, but rather relies heavily on personal anecdote to demonstrate its worth.” He argued that the Peace Corps sends too many recent college grads who lack the skills to do their jobs. I disagree with Strauss and wrote the following response. Other letters both agreed and disagreed with his assessment. Perhaps it’s not fair to generalize from one’s own experience–which goes for Strauss and me.

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A Blogging Manifesto

Why bother keeping a blog? Everyone’s doing it, but I struggle with this humble blog–whether or not to post, what to post, analyzing my analytics, and questioning the worthiness of the endeavor. Why bother with posting your thoughts and reflections in public? Given all of the other things that we could be doing, why blog? I am at war with my old media self, that’s quite content to keep a journal that’s for my eyes only and new media self, who wants to embrace this not-so-new medium with more gusto. Given that context, here’s the argument in favor of blogging I’m working on:

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Continuous Partial Attention? Hey you, listen!!!

I was blown away by the ideas in Linda Stone’s talk at O’Reilly’s e-tech conference, summarized on Radar.  In a nutshell, she talks about the limits of "continuous partial attention" and urges that we use employ "quality of life" as the benchmark for adopting new technologies.  It reminded me of an idea expounded by Frank Moretti at the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning in his History of Communications class.   In sum, modern, web connected society may herald a return to pre-literate, oral cultures–where the notion of the self was something that existed outside of us–where we responded like a chorus and pinned our actions on the furies.  Does continuous partial attention really mean that we’re not paying attention to what’s important to us?  Or is it just adaptatation to new tools?  Like Stone, I’m inclined to agree about smarter technologies really being able to help us manage what’s important and what’s not.  Just being able to create a master feed on Bloglines is a massive improvement on surfing from one site to another–of course, it means that one can consume even more, which brings me back to her question:  how is this technology improving my quality of life?

The Real Glass Ceiling is at Home

It’s worth reading Linda Hirschman’s article "Homeward Bound."  She argues that the real glass ceiling isn’t in the executive suite, but the home.  Hirschman surveyed high-powered brides and grooms from the New York Times wedding section and tracked their career choices over time.  Almost all chose to stay home.  She argues that these well-educated, high powered women would lead richer lives if couples made choices that enabled women to stay in the workplace full time to pursue careers and if society were better at supporting those choices by providing child care.  Hirschman offers different provocative yet constructive take that what Maureen Dowd’s been writing about in the Times and in her new book.

The Gates and a 15 K

orange gate in central parkFor the last few weeks the New York Road Runners have been saying that the race routes may be altered to accomodate Christo and Jean-Claude’s "Gates" project.  I’ve been watching the pieces be put into place over the last few weeks, but today, the Gates and their saffron banners waved at runners all along the 9.3 mile race route.  The Gates made me realize just how many miles of path there are in the park; the saffron banners were just low enough so that I could jump and touch them. Gorgeous!

Simple Science Could Have Saved Thousands

"Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die." — U2, Crumbs From Your Table

" The astounding tragedy in the Indian Ocean is not just a human disaster of unbearable magnitude. Nor is it a matter of fate. It is the consequence of years of underinvestment in the scientific and technical infrastructure needed to reduce the vulnerability of developing countries to natural and environmental calamity."  From an editorial by Art Lerner-Lam and Leonardo  Seeber, seismologists with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University and Robert Chen, a geographer with the Center for International  Earth Science Information Network. Maxx Dilley, Deborah Balk, and Klaus Jacob also contributed to this essay.  Full editorial at the Los Angeles Times (registration required.)

Give to the Red Cross courtesy of Amazon.