Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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31 October 2005

I just finished watching a documentary about the rise and fall of the BBC’s Third Programme, an ambitious attempt to make an unashamedly ‘high culture’ music and speech programme on the radio after WWII. The documentary interestingly put it into a wider cultural context – it was part of a general feeling among politicians and cultural elites at the time that during and after the war the public needed access to the opportunity to ‘improve itself’ through appreciation and consumption of the best of what the arts could offer.

It’s a rather outmoded idea now but I can’t help admiring the idealism of those times. The programme argues that the Third Programme was killed off by both hostility towards elitism in the 50s and the general availability of more and more competing cultural products. This sounds to me reminiscent of what happened to high-minded dissident authors in Eastern Europe when their art was no longer suppressed and they found, ironically, their market and popular support collapsed.

The wheel seems to have come full circle here in the UK with the launch of BBC 4, a digital TV station with some of the same “no compromise” ethos. It has faced similar criticism because of its high budget per viewer but it has been generally agreed that in a massively multichannel world there is once again room for an island of highbrow-ness to exist.

P.S. I seem to be getting the Wikipedia habit – I found a halfway useful Wikipedia entry on the Third Programme (linked above) and couldn’t resist spending a half hour or so correcting it and adding the details I could…

P.P.S. In my search for web stuff relating to the Third Programme (there was disappointingly little) I came across this Third Programme magazine – an online site about broadcasting put out by the rather interesting Transdiffusion Broadcasting System, “a not-for-profit historical society dedicated to documenting and preserving broadcasting history” (which alas doesn’t seem to have an article dedicated to the Third Programme itself).

Filed under:Academia,E-democracy,Weblogs at12:05 am

If you are or have been a long-term resident of the US or of China, please visit this survey by a student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. It “focuses on different uses of weblogs in mainland China and the United States and is a first step to investigating the increasing political influences of the weblogs in Chinese civic lives.”

29 October 2005
Filed under:Interesting facts,London at1:40 pm

Twice in two days I had an odd reminder of the way international travel and the Internet can shake things loose from their geographical locations. Yesterday I found myself listening to Cory Doctorow’s new podcast which I read about on BoingBoing (San Francisco) but linked me to Cory’s story which was set in Toronto but dictated by Cory somewhere in East London – and I was cycling towards East London at the time I heard it.

And today I realised that Nathaniel Daw (whose funny story I just told you about) had his story, written when he was at Columbia (New York), posted up on a web server at MIT (Boston), where years later it could be found by Boing Boing (San Francisco) and read by me (London)… and I just found out he now lives just over 5 miles from me.

Dunno what it all means (I don’t have time to wrangle these idle musings into an academic paper!) but I thought I’d share it.

Filed under:Humour & Entertainment,Weblogs at11:21 am

I’m not a big believer in the way blogs are supposed to enable the voice of the little guy to be heard but in this case I have to say the blogosphere has come up trumps. It’s taken 11 years for this superb comic mix of Reservoir Dogs and Greek philosophy by Nathaniel Daw to be once more unearthed. Brad DeLong found it but I heard it from BoingBoing via Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. And now you’re hearing about it from me (though I imagine a lot of you read BoingBoing anyway). To read an excerpt, click on “page 2” (hidden because of hilarious but copious bad language).

28 October 2005

I have been involved with many discussions about rules for participation in virtual communities – Speaking to Me: Terms and Conditions does a great job of making fun of the kinds of “community rules” documents that result.

On a slightly serious note it does suggest some of the actual issues that may arise when increasing numbers of people blog their daily lives – eg:

6. By speaking to Tom Peyer, you grant the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, unrestricted worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display the material (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, including in any parallel universes.

25 October 2005
Filed under:Computer Games,Personal at1:53 pm

“Teh Newbian Institute for Madder Skillz” or to translate to non-gamer-speak “The Institute for Novice Game Players teaching Improved Skills”.

I love games but I am basically crap at playing them (I guess because I am 25 years away from my ‘peak’ gaming age)

Penny arcade cartoon

From Penny Arcade

22 October 2005
Filed under:Arts Reviews at11:11 am

If like me you are turning into a Lost addict you may enjoy reading a transcript of an online chat with the producer of Lost. He reveals that Vincent the dog will get a flashback episode wherein we discover “before the crash he was a wanted fugitive paraplegic FEMALE hound but the island has CHANGED him.”

If you want to join fellow obsessives there’s a good unofficial fan site.

21 October 2005
Filed under:Gadgets,Mobile phone and PDA at12:26 pm

I just discovered that I can’t use my iPod to transfer files between my Mac and a PC – the Nano has to be formatted as a Mac disk to work on my Mac (though Macs can normally work just fine with PC disks). I am a little surprised I didn’t read anything about this before I bought it. Oh well – it works OK to do everything else…

P.S. I am very annoyed that any mention of the iPod or Nano seems to attract people trying to get you to join their pyramid schemes to get a free Nano. If you were thinking of posting such a message to my comments just forget it now – such messages are deleted…

17 October 2005

I just came across this political screed by a middle class American white guy imprisoned for having drugs in which I read:

Laws prohibiting ex-felons from associating with other ex-felons and gang members, such as the Illinois Street Gang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act, or those preventing ex-offenders from being in areas designated as ‘high crime’� or where ‘controlled substances are illegally sold, used, distributed, or administered’ means that many ex-offenders are in violation of their parole simply by going home.

Sounds like a system that will more or less guarantee the police can choose to prosecute any ex-cons they please in areas with those laws. Scary stuff.

12 October 2005
Filed under:Travel at3:43 pm

I had never been there and I was pleasantly surprised at the rich cultural life of the city (I knew it would be good but didn’t realise how good). I took plenty of pictures (you might have noticed them in the new Flickr picture box at R) – “Toastwife” (!) who was also at the conference took some good ones too

Also see this short video clip uploaded via Vimeo of a flick of Segway users who rolled past me near the Aquarium…

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