Help Kickstart the future of Radiotopia (plus a visit from ToE’s Chris)

ToE is a founding member of Radiotopia, the world’s best podcast network, and we just launched our first Kickstarter campaign. We want to raise as much money as possible so we can create a future for amazing audio (they used to call it radio, now we call it podcasting)

I’ve been waiting for this to happen for a long long LONG time. Over the past 15 years I’ve worked at a bunch of big Public Radio Institutions and while there are some great people at these places, I learned that the future just isn’t going to be created there. Perhaps it is just too hard to change an institution. That is why we are creating a new one: RADIOTOPIA. In this episode I talk about why Radiotopia is so important to me and I get our ringleader Roman Mars to clear up a few things as well. Plus we get a surprise visit from ToE’s special corespondent Chris.

Help us build out our vision.

Enchanting By Numbers

When I was in Beijing last summer I dropped by the Microsoft research campus to talk with  Dr. Yu Zheng. He studies the air pollution in his city, and the noise pollution in mine. Using algorithms he is able to predict what kinds of noises New Yorkers are most likely to hear in their neighborhoods, take a look at his Citynoise map. His algorithms could one day help city planners curb air pollution and noise or as Christian Sandvig notes they could be used by the GPS apps on our mobile devices to keep us from walking through neighborhoods perceived to have loud people hanging around outside.

Christian Sandvig studies algorithms which is hard to do, most companies like Facebook and Google don’t make their algorithms public. In a recent study he asked Facebook users to explain how they imagine the Edgerank algorithm works (this is the algorithm that powers Facebook’s news feed). Sandvig discovered that most of his subjects had no idea there even was an algorithm at work. When they learned the truth, it was like a moment out of the Matrix. But none of the participants remained angry for long. Six months later they mostly reported satisfaction with the algorithms that determine what the can and can’t see. Sandvig finds this problematic, because our needs and desires often don’t match with the needs and desires of the companies who build the algorithms.

“Ada’s Algorithm” is the title of James Essinger’s new book. It tells the remarkable story about Ada Lovelace the woman who wrote the first computer program (or as James puts it – Algorithm)  in 1843. He believes Ada’s insights came from her “poetical” scientific brain. Suw Charman-Anderson, the founder of Ada Lovelace day, tells us more about this remarkable woman.


It will always be hard

When the photographer Garry Winogrand died in 1984 he left behind hundreds of thousands of unpublished negatives and undeveloped rolls of film and a few out of print books that are still treasured by connoisseurs and photo book collectors today. It’s always bothered Leo Rubinfien that his friend Garry’s legacy is bound up with these hard to find books, for leo a much better way to appreciate the genius of Garry Winogrand is through his slideshows. Recently Leo Rubinfien got an opportunity to show the world the Garry Winogrand he knew and loved, SFMOMA invited him to guest curate a Winogrand show. The exhibit  took years to put together, and at the outset SFMOMA’s assistant curator of photography Erin O’toole was nervous, but she tells us why she is now in the cult of Winogrand too.  While your host was in Australia this summer he met up with one of his new favorite artists, the cartoonist Simon Hanselmann. Simon is one of the most compelling voices of his generation, but while his characters are all sex, drugs, and rock and roll Simon just works. Also we reminisce about the early days of the web with ToE regular Peter Choyce who believes he had one of the first ten blogs. Three reminders that being an artist will always be hard.




Man Without a Country (3 of 3)

What happens when you curse your own country? In this version of the classic Americana tale your host is sentenced to live out the rest of his days in a hot air balloon.  Our story concludes(?) when your host attempts to turn bread into wine. Plus learn about the origins of the tale of the Man without a Country and the various versions that have been produced over the last hundred years.


Man Without a Country (2 of 3)

What happens when you curse your own country? In this version of the classic Americana tale your host is sentenced to live out the rest of his days in a hot air balloon.  In part two of the story your host has his first human interaction in ten years. Plus radio host Glynn Washington tells us what it was like to grow up black in a white-supremacist Christian cult.


Man Without a Country (1 of 3)

What happens when you curse your own country? In this version of the classic Americana tale your host is sentenced to live out the rest of his days in a hot air balloon.  In part one we hear the story of what happened when he fought the “three strikes you are out forever” law and lost. Plus Howard Zinn on the myth of American Exceptionalism.


Recent, Relevant, Random

We don’t have metrics to measure what happens when we read something that changes our life. So this episode is an attempt to deal with that.  We begin with writer Rob Walker who tells us about his “New Old Thing,”  a regular feature he produces for Yahoo Tech. Rob is one of the most thoughtful writers I know and if anyone can wean us from our addiction to the now it will be him. I also get to talk to one of my heros this week: Edwin Frank who is the editor in chief of the NYRB classics imprint. About 10 years ago I read a collection of Platonov stories, a book that definitely changed my life, and I became a life-long devotee of the series. I have always wanted to ask Edwin about his editorial sensibilities and what exactly binds all the books with the well designed multi-coloured spines together. Phyllis Rose is the author of The Shelf.  She “randomly” chose a shelf at the library near her house and read every book on it – then she wrote about the experience. It is a deep funny philosophical treatise on the act of reading itself. I will be gifting this book to my friends for years.


Guided By Voices

 Philosopher Daniel Heller-Roazen tells us the story of Pythagoras and the fifth hammer and how Kant and Kepler both tried (and failed) to record the universal harmonies Pythagoras once heard. Your host sets out to make some money doing experimental medical testing, and gets the chance to record the voice in his head.toe20image


Stages on Life’s Way

A few years ago your host took a pilgrimage to Copenhagen to walk the streets the great Dane Søren Kierkegaard once walked. He wanted to understand  the meaning of Kierkegaard’s religious stage so he decided to ask the experts at the Kierkegaard research center. Also Photographer Dina Litovksy tells us about the history and some of the secrets of the modern bachelorette party. And Michael Holmes tells us about life’s final stage – death.

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A Better Tomorrow

This week we examine the legacy of The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility by Walter Benjamin.  Media Theorist and Benjamin scholar (and translator) Thomas Levin explains why this essay resonates today and what Benjamin has to tell us about the utopian power of new media. Also Russell Meyer tells us about the Wu-Tang clan’s plan to release a sole copy of their new album and why he has turned to Kickstarter so he can buy it and release it to the world. And your host shares an imaginary story about Hitler and Goebbels encountering Benjamin’s essay during their final days in the bunker.

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