The Creation of the Media

by Eszter Hargittai on June 11, 2004

I have been meaning to blog about this forever, but have not found the kind of time a post about this deserves. Since there will be a CSPAN2 airing of a related talk tomorrow, I thought I would pass on the longer serious post and just mention the book and speech so people have the opportunity to take advantage of the broadcast.

A new book that should be of interest to many readers of CT is Paul Starr’s The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications. I should say up front that Paul was one of my advisors in graduate school so I am not a completely objective observer here. In fact, Paul has influenced my thinking about IT quite a bit. First, he is great at conveying the idea that studying communication media without a historical context is extremely problematic. Ignoring history is the best way to make unrealistically optimistic or pessimistic assumptions about the potential implications of a new technology. Second, he convincingly argues – as he lays out in great detail in his book – that ignoring the role of political decisions in the evolution of a communication medium misses a major part of the picture. There was a review of the book in The New York Times Book Review last weekend and the New Yorker had a piece a few weeks ago as well.

Paul Starr gave this year’s Van Zelst Lecture at the School of Communication at Northwestern last month. His talk will be aired on CPAN2 tomorrow, June 12th at 10:59am (EST). Paul is a great speaker and extremely careful and engaged scholar so viewers are in for a treat. I highly recommend catching the broadcast and reading the book!

Bradford result

by Chris Bertram on June 11, 2004

My friend Alan Carling, “whose campaign”: I “blogged about”: a few days ago, managed to secure “342 votes in Bradford’s Heaton ward”: . I hope his campaign has more impact on local debate than it had on votes, since “elsewhere in Bradford”: the extreme right-wing BNP had four councillors elected. Generally, the local elections look like “a disaster for Tony Blair”: (I ended up voting LD in the Euros) and I imagine that nervous backbenchers are sharpening their knives already.

More CT travel

by Eszter Hargittai on June 11, 2004

Since hopping across continents seems to be the CT way of life these days, I thought I’d join in on the fun. Next week I will be in London giving a talk at a conference at LSE on how people search for jobs online (the daylong workshop is on online recruitment in general). A few days later I will move on to Paris to meet Maria in person, finally! We already have tickets to the P.J. Harvey concert thanks to a friend of mine who is much more on top of these things than I am. I will give a seminar talk in an R&D group at France Télécom, but otherwise this will be my summer vacation.

Question: for someone who has pretty much seen all the touristy musts in London and Paris, what are less obvious things not to be missed? I realize entire book collections must exist on this, but I thought I’d throw it out there anyway.

In Paris in particular, there is a museum I visited years ago that I am having a hard time locating again. It is not one of the really famous ones. It featured contemporary art at the time and I think that is its theme in general. I recall that it was on a corner and possibly close to the river, although I am not sure (this was waaay too many years ago). If any of this rings a bell to anyone, please advise, although I realize my description is too vague to be of much help.

Right Said Fred

by Harry on June 11, 2004

I’ve only ever had one proper job. For about 6 months in 1985 I worked for Pipkins Removals. My acquisition of the job is a classic case of being plugged into the right network; I was oddly friendly with the boss’s daughters (and still am: I say oddly because they were 9 and 11 at the time). I was the most casual of the three employees, taken on because they won the contract to move the Oxford courts into the (then new) Combined Court Center in St. Aldates. I was also, surprisingly, good at the job, compensating for my initial lack of physical strength with a good eye for space, which is a vital labour-saving asset in that line of work. Despite my remarkable lack of homosociality I also got along well with the other employees, whom I respected and whom, I imagine, knew that.
What was striking about moving office (as opposed to home) furniture was the bizarre combination of incompetence and self-importance displayed by almost every office manager we worked with. They were paying for our time, but when we arrived they would frequently have no idea where they wanted anything (the courts, and the Dole office, were both exceptions). We moved every desk in one large office three times in the same day — the manager had basically paid us for the pleasure of ordering us about, as the final arrangement differed barely at all from the original arrangement. But they certainly got pleasure ordering us about and I, as the youngest and scruffiest of the men, was a particular target. They assumed, almost to a person, that I was on a YOPS scheme, or something like it, and treated me with extreme contempt, which never bothered me (I knew it was temporary); and my colleagues (who treated me with unmerited respect) took great delight in it.
Every day was punctuated with frequent, and strong, cups of tea. We had one before getting going, had another at 10.30, a third at lunch, and a fourth at 3. We worked bloody hard, and the tea was an essential accompaniment to the brief breaks.
Where is this going? An advertisement, of sorts. I have just acquired the newly released Very Best of Bernard Cribbins which contains the two brilliant songs Right Said Fred (which is about furniture moving) and Hole in the Ground (self-important officials). They sound as fresh as the day they were first recorded to me, and between them sum up my only experience of proper work. The CD contains numerous other gems from the talented man — his When I’m 64 is better than Paul McCartney’s. It’s readily available in the US too.

Philosophy Blogs

by Brian on June 11, 2004

As “Kieran noted yesterday”: I’ve been gallavanting around the world (most recently into St Andrews) so I haven’t had time to promote the latest round of philosophy blogs. Actually there have been two big group blogs launched since the Arizona blog Kieran linked to. I was going to try and make a systematic list, but that’s hard work away from one’s home computer, so I’ll just link to David Chalmers’s very good “list of philosophy blogs”: instead.

Unlike CT, most of these blogs are geographically based. The contributors to group blogs are usually from the same time zone, and frequently from the same zip code. I prefer CT’s cosmopolitan flavour, but that isn’t looking like becoming the dominant form of blogging. That’s a pity, because the real attraction of the medium, to me anyway, is that it helps overcome the tyrannies of distance. Hopefully active comment boards and crosslinks can do that even if the blogs themselves are spatially centralised.

Intelligence reports

by Chris Bertram on June 11, 2004

I caught about five minutes of some retrospective on Reagan last night. One of the talking heads — a US protagonist whom I didn’t recognize — said something like the following:

bq. Of course, we now know that the Soviet Union was incredibly weak, falling apart in fact, and that it probably wouldn’t have survived even without the pressure we were putting on. But you have to remember that, _at the time_ , all the intelligence reports (and the media) stressed how _strong_ the Soviets were. On the basis of the intelligence we were getting, we’d never have guessed the reality.

Deja vu?

Operation Bagration

by Chris Bertram on June 11, 2004

Mike Davis, “writing in the Guardian”:,3604,1236209,00.html , puts D-Day in perspective.

bq. But what American has ever heard of Operation Bagration? June 1944 signifies Omaha Beach, not the crossing of the Dvina River. Yet the Soviet summer offensive was several times larger than Operation Overlord (the invasion of Normandy), both in the scale of forces engaged and the direct cost to the Germans.

bq. By the end of summer, the Red army had reached the gates of Warsaw as well as the Carpathian passes commanding the entrance to central Europe. Soviet tanks had caught Army Group Centre in steel pincers and destroyed it. The Germans would lose more than 300,000 men in Belorussia alone. Another huge German army had been encircled and would be annihilated along the Baltic coast. The road to Berlin had been opened.

bq. Thank Ivan. It does not disparage the brave men who died in the North African desert or the cold forests around Bastogne to recall that 70% of the Wehrmacht is buried not in French fields but on the Russian steppes. In the struggle against Nazism, approximately 40 “Ivans” died for every “Private Ryan”. Scholars now believe that as many as 27 million Soviet soldiers and citizens perished in the second world war.

Riemann hypothesis proved ?

by John Quiggin on June 11, 2004

According to this report, Louis De Branges claims to have proved the Riemann Hypothesis. If correct, it’s very significant – much more so than the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem by Wiles.

It is also, I think, the last of the big and well-known unsolved problems in mathematics, and it would be nice to see the search ending in success. Some of the other big problems have been closed, rather than solved. The classic problems of the Greeks such as squaring the circle were shown to be insoluble in the 19th century, and the Hilbert program of formalisation was shown by Godel to be infeasible. And the four-colour problem (not a really important problem, but a big one because it was easily described, interesting and very tough) was dealt with by a brute-force computer enumeration.

Almost instant update Commenter Eric on my blog points to Mathworld which says “Much ado about nothing”. On the other hand, the same page reports a proof of the infinitude of twin primes which has been an open question for a long time, though not a problem in the same league as those mentioned above.

It’s my party and I’ll φ if I want to

by Kieran Healy on June 11, 2004

Seeing as “Brian”: is off gallivanting somewhere, let me point you towards “Desert Landscapes”:, a new blog brought to you by some of the faculty and graduate students of the “Philosophy Department”: at the “University of Arizona”: You can see them all there, inside the Social Sciences building in the right foreground of “this live view of the campus”:[1] They live on the ground floor philosophically underlaboring for the “Political Science people”: department in the middle and the “Sociology department”:, appropriately located on the top floor.

fn1. Unless it’s the night time, obviously, in which case you can “look here instead”: