July 2009


This is something I wrote back in May (this version dates from 21st) that hasn’t received a public airing.  Interested in your thoughts.  I wrote it in Word and have just pasted it in below… forgive the crappy formatting.

Community Broadcasting and Public Sphere 2.0

ALP Senator Kate Lundy announced on 29th April 2009, via her website, that she was involved in the creation of an online public sphere. In her post she said that the aim of the exercise was too “facilitate regular topics of interest to both the general public and to the government. This way people from all around Australia can participate online.” (more…)

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First of all, the disclaimers:

  1. I am legally blind
  2. I use a Cane and Miniguide as mobility aids
  3. I consume services from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT
  4. I have once required the assistance of Guide Dogs Queensland, and was most dissatisfied. (Their release)
  5. I subscribed to the paper The Chaser in the early part of the decade
  6. I don’t find The Chaser’s War on Everything particularly funny, and I don’t generally watch the program.
  7. Having seen the ABC News Online article yesterday, I have now seen the skit in question on YouTube.

So, what do I think?  I think Guide Dogs Queensland is totally overreacting.  The only basis for complaint would be if the dog were a real working Guide Dog.  Somehow I don’t think that would get through the production processes at the ABC, do you?

Honestly, I’ve done pretty much the same joke myself. Usually when intoxicated, I’ve been known to offer my cane to others when they show suitble signs of intoxication.  It’s a lame joke, and not one I tend to find funny when sober, but it’s certainly not offensive.

I’m wondering whether we’d have seen as much attention on this without the reputation that The Chaser has been earning for itself.  Certainly since the APEC stunt, they’ve been riding high on publivity and much of that is negative. That doesn’t mean people won’t watch.  But given what one can learn about the program in the popular press, don’t you think some people would learn that they might be offended by the show?

Here’s a hint: if you think you might be offended by somthing on TV or radio, don’t watch it!  Really, it’s quite simple.

It’s not the job of broadcasters to censor content beyond classification.  It’s up to viewers to choose what they watch. It’s up the parents to monitor their children’s media consumption.

As I’ve said above I don’t watch The Chaser’s War on Everything, I don’t particularly like the program, but if this kind of knee-jerk over-sensative reaction were to lead to cancellation, then I think we’d live in a very poor society.

And BTW, if you’re considering a charitable donation, I’d highly reccomend dontating to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

Pharaoh, oh Pharaoh, my sparrow is an onion

Architecture in Helsinki – Love is Evil (the Prequal)

There are days when events just don’t make quite as much sense as they should.  Sometimes there’s so much going on, things happening left and right, that I can’t actually focus on anything.  Issue follows issue, and some how I fill a day without appearing to achieve anything specific.

While I don’t mind those days, what I find more irritating is when the sequence of events peeters out at around 3pm, leaving me with needing to find some legitimate work, but without the ability to concerntrate on anything in particular.

Today is one of those days.

I’ve tried to get a coherent train of thought into a blog post in the hope of making something useful of my time, but I can’t even seem to do that.  So here we have a post of pointlessness.

Such is life sometimes.

Oh, and I’ve got a migraine starting.

Soundtrack:
Architecture in Helsinki – Love is Evil (the Prequal)
Architecture in Helsinki – Wishbone
Architecture in Helsinki – Maybe You Can Owe Me
Architecture in Helsinki – In Case We Die (Parts 1-4)

[Or: Dammit!]

I don’t think I’ve made much of a secret of the fact my vision has been getting worse over the past couple of months.  If this is a shock to you, then I apologise.

Having finally seen my latest field of vision test (under CCTV magnifier at Vision Australia) on Friday, I was a little surprised at how small my visual field actually is.  It’s not like there’s “black” around what I see… what I see is simply as wide as … well, what I see.  It’s hard to notice that change, though rapid changes become a little more obvious.  Beyond that, the quality of my vision across what I can see has dropped fairly significantly (and most particularly on my left eye, which used to be significantly better than my right).

So I find myself moving again through a bunch of processes that I’ve been through before.  Interestingly it seems that my new Ophthalmologist thinks my previous diagnosis is worthy of revision, though this is hardly likely to result in any restoration of vision (optic nerves aren’t fixable).  I am worried that it will become something that’s treatable to at least slow any future loss… I think finding out that there were things that could have been done, but weren’t done, will be worse than the “nothing we can do” scenario.

Overall I what I find more frustrating is realising I’m not doing stuff that I was previously because some subconcious part of my brain has decided that I can’t do it any more.  For example, I’ve switched desks at work, and subsiquently I’ve got a different phone. I’ve only realised today that I’ve been avoiding answering the main line because I don’t actually know which button to press.  I’ve been sitting here for a week and a half.

Or another example, walking from Redfern station to the office, I’ve switched a navigation point to smell. I only discovered this because the cafe concerned has taken to shutting its doors in the cooler winter mornings.

At the moment it feels a bit like pointlessly wandering in circles.

Still, slowly my brain will move to adapt.  It’s not like getting anything back, but you learn to cope with less and use it better, or else work around it.

Please don’t feel like I’m saying I want to give up.  Yes, I do have moments of wanting to crawl into a hole and wish the world would leave me alone and you have no idea how much I wish this wasn’t happening.  But there are plenty of people who’ve been through similar things and survived.  There are plenty of people worse off than I am.

But there’s support for me around the place – at work, home, friends, family and my always fabulouse and supportive wife.  Without all of these people, life would be considerably different.  Thanks to you all.

Soundtrack:
The Living End – In The End
Addiction 64 – Learn to Dance
Area 7 – Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again
Save Ferris – I’m Not Crying For You
The Living End – The Room
The Living End – Mr Business Man
Neveready – 3 Chord
The Wallflowers – I Started a Joke

[Or: Arts, Government and the Health of our Community]

But you know she would walk to the beat of your drum
If you knew just how much you’d managed to do wrong

78 SAAB – Beat of Your Drum

For those of you who are paying attention, you’ll have noticed the ongoing moves in Australia towards more open and transpartent government.  Certainly there is a particular push from minor parties, notably the Greens in the Senate and the NSW Legislative Council (and no doubt in other states) to increase the transparency of government.

In general we’re calling this “Open Government”. One of the most logical ways to do this is to use the newer Web 2.0 technologies, and this is what’s referred to as Gov 2.0.  Personally I’m not fond of either Web 2.0 or Gov 2.0 as terms, but no one consulted me at the time.

But as we move forward with these movements, how can we tell that they’re actaully having a posative impact upon society?  How can we, to use a cliche, take the pulse of our communities?

One way that people often don’t think about is through the arts.  Given my personal and professional history, the art I’d be most inclined to use is music.  This is by no means exclusive, and this is a principle that you can try with any art that contains any currency.

The point of Art, in general, is to hold a mirror up to our society and ourselves.  If we don’t like the picture with which we are presented, then odds are we’re not happy with our society.

Musically, lets look at the 1970’s.  We saw the birth of Punk.  Looking at Brisbane as a specific example, the actions of the National’s government in that state had a major impact in the music scene of the city.  I’m not going to re-hash the stories, they’re suitable outlined by Andrew Stafford in his book Pig City (ISBN: 0702233609).  Also look at the Australian music of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, how does that demonstrate the effect of Howard’s rule?

So as we move onwards as communities, as a society, lets keep and eye on the Arts (and indeed support the Arts) as one way of looking at ourselves.

Soundtrack:
78 Saab – Beat of Your Drum
Sodastream – A Drum
Sodastream – Devil On My Shoulder
Addiction 64 – Learn to Dance
Ruck Rover – Chat Room
The Ang Fang Quartet – Anonymity

There’s been a bit of blog attention to Stilgherrian’s project TOTO, and while some people, such as @kcarruthers, have blogged about it, @SilkCharm has pointed out that coverage by Australian bloggers has been a little poor.

This brings me to make a point, and yes I’m pushing my own adgenda here too, lets be clear there.

In Australia we’ve had a robust Community Broadcasting sector since 1975 (and some station’s pre-dating that).  In many respects we can consider the similarities between Community and Social Media, and others have done this before, so I won’t rehash that.

But Australia has the oldest and probably the broadest Communtiy Broadcasting in the world.  In other areas there’s considrably more cross-over with the Public Broadcasting modle, and in the UK fully-licenced Community Broadcasting is still surprisingly new.

Community Media has driven social changes around the world over the past 30 years.  While its not necessarily clear in Australia today, Community Radio has had considerable impact in the past, and no doubt it will continue to do so however it evolves over the next few years.  And it can work that way anywhere.

There are considerable overheads in establishing broadcasting services, and while these exist even in poorer countries (including Tanzania), they’re limited to geographic coverage – whilst it’s participatory media, it’s also heritage media, limited by geography.  Blogs and new Social media are important because of the lower setup costs (though the cost of receivers is probably higher).  We have already seen the way blogs can impact society in the Western world.

The power of what Stil’s done with project TOTO and ActionAid is just in it infancy.  It’s not about communicating for people.  It’s about people communicating with the rest of the world themselves.  There’s considerable power in participatory media, it’s a driver of openness and democracy and provides an exchange of ideas which isn’t available elsewhere.

Get along and read the first of the blogs.  And well done to all involved in the project.

I hope we can all see these blogs have a impact, for the bloggers, for Tanzinia and for us as Westerners.  Here’s to learning more about our fellow humans.