Episode 36: Ethan Zuckerman

Episode 36: Ethan Zuckerman

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Ethan Zuckerman is the Director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media, a former fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, and co-founder of Global Voices, a hub of international news written by bloggers. We spoke about the need for global awareness, the relationship between information and empathy, and the challenge homophily presents to thinking about the public good (homophily is the fancy sociologist’s way of saying “birds of a feather flock together”). This conversation takes us through the the media’s power to set the public agenda, three current media paradigms, and Ethan’s suggestion for a new, forth paradigm based on the serendipitous discovery of information about the broader world. And that’s just where our conversation begins.

Connections? Here’s one: Jenny Lee’s conversation focused heavily on local media and its power to address local components of national and global problems. Ethan approaches the same issue from the opposite direction, looking first at global awareness and moving from there to its positive local implications. Jenny also mentioned the problem of excess information and her reliance on social networking as a filter, an issue that Ethan responds to (and remedies?) with his serendipity paradigm.

Lawrence Torcello’s discussion of liberalism and comprehensive doctrines will be on your mind as Ethan shares a story about a series of conversations he had with a college roommate. Unsurprisingly, Micah and I conclude the episode by getting caught (again) in the traffic jam of conversation with fundamentalists, chair throwing, and the difference between rationality and reason.

Finally, an apology for the sound quality of Ethan’s recording. My microphone cable failed a few minutes after I’d checked levels and removed my headphones… which is why Aesop told every radio producer to always wear headphones. The sound you will hear was captured off-axist from my microphone, amplified, and run through a noise filter. It’s perfectly audible but has all the aesthetic charm of a Skype connection.

Artwork by Eleanor Davis.