Gore and the TV

by Kieran Healy on May 31, 2007

Rich Byrne writes on Al Gore’s new book critiquing newsertainment and Gore’s own history facilitating the current state of affairs:

Gore’s book rehearses the well-known factors in the decline of TV news: runaway conglomeration, slashed news budgets and sharp profit incentives for news divisions to drown out the serious with titillation and slapstick.

But how precisely did it get this way? It’s been a long slow slide, to be sure, but the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – in which Gore was a key player as Bill Clinton’s vice president – has accelerated the very problems Gore bemoans in _The Assault on Reason_.

… it’s an inconvenient truth for Gore that this overhaul of US media law narrowed consumer news choices and curbed the public accountability of broadcasters. In a review of the legislation’s fallout in 2005, the advocacy group Common Cause noted that the law created “more media concentration, less diversity and higher prices”. …

… The new law increased the license period granted to broadcasters from five years to eight years and it significantly raised the bar required to successfully challenge license renewals. This double whammy effectively blunted one of the only tools available to ordinary citizens to hold media accountable.

The effects are already there to see. Recent studies have shown that local broadcast coverage of politics has been largely obliterated, with many broadcast news stations virtually ignoring regional congressional elections. … So it’s no surprise that Gore prefers to ping the soft target of celebrity. Nor is it surprising that his critics in the media prefer to keep the discussion on Gore v Britney.

Keeping track of friends’ whereabouts

by Eszter Hargittai on May 31, 2007

Not long ago I was going to post about the challenge of keeping relevant people posted of one’s travels. That is, the challenge of knowing who among one’s friends may be in the same location at the same time. It’s one thing to remember who lives at a particular destination, it’s another to try to guess who may be travelling there at the same time you are.

Fortunately, just as I was about to post on this, I came across Dopplr, which is a site that addresses this precise issue. Once you sign up, you can let the system know about upcoming trips. You also link up with other people to share your itineraries and the system tells you when you’ll overlap. It’s in closed beta, but if you can think of a friend who has an account, you can ask him/her for an invitation.

Obviously, the value of such a service increases by the number of relevant contacts that join and keep their accounts up-to-date. I wonder if they will be adding the option of distinguishing among contacts. You may want certain people to know about a trip, but not others. And of course, if you prefer that people not know about a certain trip at all, you can exclude it from your list altogether.

I’m excited about this service, but the usual challenge remains: getting enough of my non-geeky friends to join and update their travel info.

A liberating exit

by Ingrid Robeyns on May 31, 2007

“Henry’s post”:https://crookedtimber.org/2007/05/30/hip-orthodoxy/ reminds me of a time in my recent past that the struggles of heterodox economics were taking up a good deal of my energy. In 2001, I was one of the three Cambridge University PhD students who wrote a little piece called “Opening up economics”:http://www.paecon.net/PAEtexts/Cambridge27.htm, which was originally signed by 27 economic, business economics and development economics PhD students to call for an ‘opening up’ of the economics discipline. In fact, originally we were four writing the proposal, but one dropped out since she became too worried that writing this piece might jeopardize her chances of getting her degree. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that many of us were scared, and some fellow PhD students didn’t want to sign because they worried about how their supervisors would react. So far for the notion of a free market of ideas.
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Upcoming CT book event: Higher Ground

by Eszter Hargittai on May 31, 2007

In the near future, CT will be hosting another book event. I thought it would be helpful to alert our readers ahead of time so people can read the book and thereby participate in the discussions more actively and in a more informed manner.

The book is “Higher Ground: New Hope for the Working Poor and Their Children” by Greg J. Duncan, Aletha C. Huston, and Thomas S. Weisner.

During the 1990s, growing demands to end chronic welfare dependency culminated in the 1996 federal “welfare-to-work” reforms. But regardless of welfare reform, the United States has always been home to a large population of working poor— people who remain poor even when they work and do not receive welfare. In a concentrated effort to address the problems of the working poor, a coalition of community activists and business leaders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched New Hope, an experimental program that boosted employment among the city’s poor while reducing poverty and improving children’s lives. [The authors] provide a compelling look at how New Hope can serve as a model for national anti-poverty policies. [source]

You can either buy the book directly from its publisher, the Russell Sage Foundation, or get it at Amazon. Chapter 1 [pdf] is available online for free.

In addition to Timberite contributions, we’ll have comments by Nancy Folbre and Kimberly Morgan plus a response by Greg Duncan.

Amusing street scenes wanted

by Eszter Hargittai on May 31, 2007

Time sink!

Soon there will be a Web site just for this – if there isn’t one already -, but until then, let’s see what we can collect here.

Yesterday, Google announced a new feature of its Maps service: Street View for select urban areas in the U.S. plus Google’s backyard. We’ve seen this before on services like A9 (which discontinued the feature), and Microsoft’s Live Maps, but this seems more user-friendly.

Boing Boing has a thread with links to some interesting finds. Oh, the temptation to go hunting for more! Spot any embarrassing situations or funny captures? There is potential here for hours of amusement!

I’m off to Trader Joe’s.