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A needed time of fallow

Humanity is audacious. We have the audacity to believe the we are capable of exponential growth in perpetuity. And yet, humanity cannot sustain forever. We must stop periodically and rest: to sleep, to eat, to heal. Humanity cannot manage exponential, our bodies are more designed like natural fallow systems. Rest is not a choice but biologically mandatory. Yet our expectations today run in contradiction. Our media is full of hope that we can advance quicker than the truth: 2001 a space odyssey was long ago, back to the future part two came and went, blade runners are not hunting for androids

Not only do we stop, sometimes we stop catastrophically, and perhaps after stints like these. There’s several periods in history where we backslide. Each time our superiority becomes plump and full of arrogance stating it’s impossible to fail. Yet the empire falls and fades. The insurmountable libraries of Rome, the mystic and architectural knowledge of the Mayans and Egyptians, the religious supremacy of England.

Late antiquity they call it. That awkward phase into the darkness. A few struggling to remember while the rest didn’t know they should care. A Barbarian ruler was finally the emperor of Rome and choose to divide it and in turn Romans started to forget. Of course it was much more complicated than that, but it feels relevant.

If this period of time didn’t happen – to give humanity the reprieve from change it needed, the fallow time it needed to re-energize for the next phase, would the Renaissance have happened?

Patterns in history should be not ignored. These cycles continuously happen again and again regardless of wether we are audacious and arrogant enough to believe that our miraculous century is special. Patterns of history, life and our universe, are there to see, and learn from. While we may be special to this galaxy, to believe that we are so special to have the amazing power to leap frog against such a process, is as simple as getting into our flying car and driving to your home on the moon.

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What is Orality?

If you hadn’t noticed, I say the word Orality a lot. But I’ve come to realize, my use it’s academically correct. And that I should take a moment and clarify. I mean…

“the quality of being oral or orally communicated”

That’s it.

It’s a word that has baggage that I throw away, and I’d like you to as well.

There seems to be some religious baggage. Looking over Twitter’s #Orality,  from what I can tell, some use it when referring to the artform of a sermon and preaching, and some use it when discussing bringing the bible to the illiterate.  While there could be overlap with religion – I do not mean anything religious when I use the word.

There seems to be some academic baggage. A few of the “big wigs” (Harold Innis, Eric Havelock, Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong) had definitions floating around opposing Orality and Literacy. These words where exclusive. You lost your orality the moment you became literate. This also, is not what I mean. You can be both.

What’s nice – is in later years there have been more arguments supporting my current use and belief of Orality.

“orality is not what is spoken, but what allows one to speak.”

The same could be said that literacy is not what is written, but what allows one to read.

It’s a skill. Perhaps, once learned, it become more than that.

And there’s the big HINT HINT, WINK WINK.

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News Determinants: What is News?

A Thought Exercise Revisiting the Basic Criteria of News

Over the small history of news, editors and journalists have come up with determinants 1 2 3 4 5 that define “newsworthiness”. Check off more than 1 and bam… it’s “News”. The more check marks, the hotter it is.

  • Proximity: The closer to you the better
  • Prominence: Famous and well-known people
  • Timeliness: “This just in…”
  • Impact, a.k.a. Consequence, a.k.a. Significance: How many people are affected
  • Human Interest: Think of these like stories which can be broken down into the same things that make any good story
    • Oddity: The WTF Factor
    • Conflict: Good vs Evil – a classic
    • Emotion: A good tear jerker.

At first glance, these mostly seem right. However society has been changing drastically and with Infotainmnet becoming more informational that our traditional news sources, maybe we should at least take another look?


The Rules

Thought exercises need some form of rules. Let’s compare the past and future. Then, look for the gaps.

For the future, because McLuhan seems to be hitting things on the nose, we’ll imagine what his Global Village could become and use that imagined place.


Let’s Begin

Proximity

Historically, proximity was the ultimate indicator. Pre-telegraph, information was only as fast as the courier, and that was only as fast as the latest transportation. So of course the best, most accurate, most available, most intriguing, was what was happening around the city – your city.

In the Global Village, geographic proximity is all but irrelevant. Proximity is in the content, context, and culture of the individual/village. These could be deep-seeded villages based on genetics, heritage, sexuality, religion, or they could also be superficial self-elected communities like Craft Beer Lovers, Mountain Climbers, Political Advocates.

The Difference is instead of physical proximity it’s cultural.

How does one easily find and decide? Stop targeting demographics and target psycho-graphics. Or even better, be a part of the village you’re reporting on.

Prominence

Historically, how many famous people were there? The Mayor, The King, maybe a few Lawyers? If one of the small handful were involved it was a no brainer to call it worthy.

In the Global Village, everyone has a moment or more of fame.
Sabrina Pasterski, is just as famous, if not more in some villages, than Elon Musk.

Those important to all villages are important not because of who they are, but what they do.

The Difference is Prominence and fame are decoupled.

If that’s the case then perhaps Prominence could be taken out completely? Prominence is the person – Impact is the increasing and continued significance of a person’s actions. This doesn’t remove Actors and other celebrities. Just shifts focus from the Actors who only act – to those who make movies that make a difference, who use their name and status to impact people’s lives.

Timeliness

Historically, making any form of publication or media took time. A lot of time. It made sense that scooping a story right before production deadlines made it a hot commodity. Maybe another newspaper couldn’t get the edits in before starting up the presses, meaning you were the only media channel in town to have it. That meant people flocking to you for the info.

In The Global Village all is instant, to everyone. There are no physical barriers to hit “publish.” Meaning like when the telegraph started destroying space, time to is irrelevant.

The Difference here is that it no longer becomes a journalistic decision.

Time becomes a commodity to charge for: immediacy, journalistic effort and history 6.

  • Pay more for by the second; pay a little less for once a day, and free whenever a blogger reposts ( which also come with the risk of being false )
  • Pay more for a full-page expose; a little less for a half-page; and free for a tweet.
  • Pay more to access the last 100 years or related articles; a little less for the last 5 years, free without anything related – you can go to the library of congress right?

Impact

Historically you could go around the room and simply count heads. An explosion? How many people in and around it? How many people travel by it. Multiply it by 4 or 5 and maybe you get the number of family members related. Headcount. The more involved or tied – the easier the decision.

In the Global Village the rules still apply. However, journalistic institutes need to take more effort to uncover the villages that apply. They work to give context and educate the importance or impact.

The Difference is as society fragments, the full impact on a village may be overlooked. Work, effort, tribal knowledge is more important to uncover the real impact of events.

Human Interest

Historically these stories are the filler. When nothing is really going on find something odd, emotional, or conflicting to grab attention. Non-Fiction.

In the Global Village, everything is human interest. Yes, it has proximity, impact & prominence – each moment can spin out a multitude of varying human interest stories – and they do. It’s no longer just a car accident on the corner causing morning traffic. It’s the struggles and emotion of the person driving that distracted them for just a moment. The system that forced them to have to go to work in such an emotional state.

The Difference is that Human Interest is the perspective and details. It’s the flavor of each community.

I think somewhere in the monolithic systems we’ve built around “new” we’ve forgotten that Human Interest is not a determinant, it is “the determinant” that makes a real difference. It’s the root of why we ask who, what, where, when, and why.

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5% Focus on Increasing the Quality of Journalism

In a decade of the Knight news challenges: investing in innovators to advances news, media, and information — here’s the goal breakdown.

5% is no longer enough.

  • Do we have more access and data collections? Check. But, Is it quality data?
  • Do we have more engagement and stronger communities? I think so. But, should a community advocating a flat Earth have as much weight?

Continue down the list, and each project goal has seen great changes in society over the years. In many ways it’s good and we have benefited.

But in each goal there is the dark side – a small flaw in that it assumes the “journalism” has quality: is ethical, true, for the betterment of society.

Let’s make quality 100%

To The Knight Foundation and all those working to solve our issues in Journalism, please ensure that all projects include some level of quality and journalistic ethics in them. If not – any advancement in understanding can be used against the noble goals.

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Breaking Books: Print my name

The following, I think, is a plausible story around the invention of the printing press.1 2 3 4 Media has a darker business side. Perhaps it always has.

The Gutenberg printing press was made to sell bible knock-offs. It was the ultimate as seen on TV product.

The year was roughly 1450 and Gutenberg had a brilliant idea.

Why have monks pray in silence hand copying a book that could take months, when this “device” could knock out hundreds in the same time and sell ’em for cheaper.

Most of the schmucks buying these things can’t even read ’em. It’s latin! And those who can, are rich folks who want to keep their money. Who cares if the thing doesn’t have gold flaked pictures.

It’s the deal of the century.

But how will he pay? Easy. Borrow it.

If Gutenberg had the gift of the gab to convince someone to pay him to learn how to polish gems, he can surely convince someone to give him money for this.

After all, it’s like printing money!

He found a nice shylock, sorry, “rich financier”, Johann Fust, who was kind enough to lend him 800 guilders.

Although he had most of the machine figured out the additional equipment and tools where a bit harder to get right. By roughly 1452, he had run the clock out and it was time to pay his debts.

Now, Gutenberg was probably crapping his pants a bit by now. You don’t owe money. You know that Shakespeare’s “pound of flesh” thing? That was a real thing!

It was a real shame, because he had figured out the kinks, but hadn’t printed any books yet to sell.

He shows the potential results to his financier praying not to be skinned and thrown into Debtors’ prison. Fust, decides not to break anything, gives Gutenberg a few extra guilders, and oh, one more thing, takes a cut of the score.

In the end it works. Making the bibles is going great, but this is where the Breaking Bad like story really starts.

Gutenberg brings in an apprentice to learn how to “cook” the books, a guy named Peter Schoeffer.

A few years later, roughly 1455, Fust, finally makes his play. Schoeffer wasn’t as talented, but who cares. It’s letters on a page what does quality matter.

Fust probably offers Schoeffer a whack less. But by now Gutenberg thinks he’s the Walter White of making books.

Rather than just whacking him – he takes everything from him, legally. Partners with Schoeffer and the press keeps printing.

It took 10 years for Gutenberg to be recognised as the inventor. He was 67. Died at 70.

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How can we “trust” News again?

Recently, The Knight Foundation has jumped on board the “fake news” bandwagon to assemble a commission 1 to look at the challenges faced with the News today 2. They are putting up a whopping $2.5 million. Combine that with other initiatives and you’re looking at roughly $4.5 million 3.

How ’bout – if I come up with a solution, I get the money?

Here’s my 4 part plan ( 3, with part 2 as an I & II ):

Protect the word “News”

There’s loads of words and symbols in organizations and companies that have meaning.

  • Corporation, Inc., LLC.
  • Trademarks ™, Registered Trademarks ®, Copyright ©, Prescriptions ℞

You can’t willy-nilly throw them around. If you do, there could be consequences.

“News” should be recognized as one of them.

Legislate protections of the word. Create symbology.

I am not a news organization. I am a blogger and pretty much anything I write about here is personal and editorial [enf_note]In public, and still subject to laws, at least in Canada[/efn_note]. I don’t pretend to be News

Calling yourself “news” should have meaning.

Stop the Greed Part I: No public trading

I believe that publicly traded companies kill specific industries. The striving for a +% at any costs kills long term vision and makes companies do pretty dumb things.

i.e. Last year company A did $2 Billion, but because of trading, it’s only if they make $2.1 Billion that they are a success. if they make $1.9 Billion, then they fail, and people start selling and loosing fail. When really, they made $1.9 Billion!!!

Media Companies, and more specifically News organizations can’t be subject to any of that.

Stop the Greed Part II: No buy or sell

This blog uses Ghost, and over and above the platform and software they’ve built – the organization is non-profit, open and transparent. Additionally one of the interesting legalese they’ve embedded is that it cannot be bought or sold.

That doesn’t mean people don’t get paid well. That doesn’t mean it can’t grow to be a massive organization.

It just means Ghost will remain Ghost. If it fails, and I’m hopeful it won’t, if a new organization takes the mantel, it still won’t be Ghost.

Perhaps clauses like these, similar to various corporate clauses, is what would define these new News organizations.

A Journalistic Bar

Lawyers have a very interesting structure, I think could be looked at.

The first hurtle is to be called to the bar. Here in Canada you get called up once you pass law school. In the States, there’s more nuance, but ultimately pass the Bar exam, and join the bar association, your in. You could skip to the end without school, but good luck.

After that there are several incentives to keep you going. Money through ownership and billable hours. Status through high profile cases. Satisfaction saving people ( on either side ). Career growth by becoming a judge and moving up the circuits. There are several more, but the diversity of motivation is my point.

  • Post graduate education
  • Certified Peer Group
  • Diverse Motivation

Combine ’em all

If you were to combine all of these you would have a structure to nurture, grow, educate and incentivise journalists to stay true to their ethics and convictions. And sure, just like lawyers there are some who may stray a tad from the ethical line – there is still a watchdog “bar” making sure they don’t step out too far.

Then after indoctrinated into the Journalistic scribe, you end up in a system that helps you nurture the future without the compromise or desire to sway the ethics or push/tow the line you other media properties are, so that hopefully you could sell and make the big bucks.

Dear Knight Foundation:
Please make the cheque out to Nicholas Kempinski

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Connecting continents

There’s something humbling that as we advance in technology, we still need big fat cables under the ocean.

Recently, Facebook & Microsoft droped their’s, though it won’t be running till early 2018

Last year, Google & NEC turned on theirs.

Gatekeepers to the pipeline

If you don’t like Google, Facebook & Microsoft and still need to get your digital signal hardlined to europ, fear not – I was amazed at the sive of the List of international submarine communications cables

Is hardware making a comeback

With physical devices like honking cables under the ocean; balloons and drones connecting wifi hubs; alexa, google home, apple home; anything Elon Musk does – are we getting back to the hardware1?

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Will my invention change the way we poop?

And other important questions that aren’t being asked.

There is no question the iPhone changed every owners washroom regiment. We don’t need that pile of readers digests anymore.

But did anyone see that happening?

Probably not, no one can see it all. But did anyone think about the interaction like that?

As the Internet of Things (IoT) advances and we put internet in things like blinds, and make new crazy things that never existed before, who is stopping to ask, or to teach to ask, what are the ecological ramifications?

I’m sure they are asking what are some of the ramifications, after all every VC pitch needs to know “why” and even the risks. But I’m not 100% sure we’re looking at the whole picture of risks.

Typer in Spelling Bee
  • Spelling Bee contestants are typing as the spell. Their brains are being hardwired to know the alphebet in 2 dimensions.
  • Kids are touching every glass like surface wondering why the pictures aren’t moving.
  • We are now talking to our computers like people: “Siri”, “OK Google”, “Hey Alexa”

What else is being rewired?

How we interact with our technology shapes us. Sure the technology itself is cool – but I honestly don’t know who’s really thinking about our future generations and how they will be shapped by these things.