On Technological Ch-Che-Change…

Connecting the Dots
by Glynn Wilson

There is no accounting for taste, or for how people learn and use new technology.

While I am an avid student of how people use the Internet, especially, I hate to be called a preacher or even a teacher. Although I’ve been called both – sometimes as a compliment; sometimes not.

But I’ve been thinking lately that it would not be a bad idea to start one’s own church in the good old US of A, considering the penchant on the part of the masses to search out someone else with the aura of authority to tell them what to think and how to live – and considering the tax laws.

Present company excluded, of course, since I suspect most of the readers lurking here are more likely to search out a great watering hole than a church. But there are several points worth considering for even the most intelligent audience in what I am about to say.

One of the smartest guys to ever walk the earth, Albert Einstein, once said: “Technological change is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”

There is a lot of technological change going on. Some for good; some for bad. And there are some attempts being made to explain it, but you have to search them out – or find a journalist or blogger to find them for you and provide a free and easy summary you can get to on your computer screen.

That is my job, in a way. So here goes.

Let’s start with technological changes going on with the most popular technology of them all, television. We’ll get around to explaining some things about the Web Press in the end.

There is a technological war going on and it WILL effect how you live and work in the future, whether you know it or like it or not.

And it is hard to find anyone who can explain it in a meaningful way. I’m not even sure I can do it yet, so the conversation will have to continue in an ongoing way that can only be accomplished today on a blog.

Due to some recent technological failures around the home front, namely the demise of a six-year-old, 32-inch RCA television, we’ve had to face up to some changes in TV Land.

In about three years, the corporate network TV business will abandon the public analogue spectrum available over the free, public airwaves – available with an antennae. All the television you get at that point – from cable or satellite – will be in High Definition format.

Even today, if you go into any store that sells TVs, you will see all the HD TVs for sale. They are still relatively expensive and not available to the working poor, so most people will have to wait three years to make the shift when prices will presumably come down.

But even if you buy a new digital TV that is not HD, you have to make a decision on how to receive your TV programming.

Since it appears to me that the cable companies are winning the wars over the satellite companies on the quality of the signal, and beating the phone companies on the strength of the high speed Internet stream, we hook up via Charter.Net. That’s why my e-mail address is what it is.

Going through a laborious investigation into the best deal on a device to record shows, we rejected TiVo and went with the cable DVR box, which required an upgrade to digital cable.

While at first it is a more complicated system to learn than the old fashioned surfing model, there are also rewards. For only a few dollars more we now get more movie channels.

Which in part explains why I’ve not been blogging as much over the past few days. I’ve been watching movies I’ve never seen before, and not just frivolous choices.

Last night, for example, I watched both Of Mice and Men, the movie based on John Steinbeck’s novel on what it was like to live during the Great Depression in the 1930s, and Bound For Glory, the story of Woody Guthrie’s life during the depression.

While this may seem strange to some, both of these movies are apropos of the times we live in now. If you have a good job and some savings and own your own home, you may not be feeling this yet. You may one of the haves, not the have nots.

I’ve already seen enough of the have nots – in New Orleans and Washington, D.C. and around Alabama – to know they are out there, and that their numbers are growing.

When I turned to the Web to look up some information about the Woody Guthrie Foundation, I found the lyrics to this song, which also says something about our times.

I’m gonna tell you fascists
You may be surprised
The people in this world
Are getting organized
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose

All You Fascists

It is hard today to be as optimistic about the situation as Guthrie was, and god knows how, during his hobo days – after the Dust Bowl hit his home state of Oklahoma and he made his way to the fruit pickers camps in California.

But it is not that hard to relate to this pro-union creative type, played by David Carradine, who walked out on a steady paycheck at a radio station in Los Angeles because the corporate owner wanted a non-controversial set list so as not to offend the “sponsors.”

And that, dear diary readers, is still a problem with media today – and why some veteran journalists are leaving mainstream news media outlets to blog.

Perhaps I should have posted this discussion sooner, but there is an interesting experiment going on in this newfangled journalism you can learn about from reading the Press Think blog.

This story holds particular interest for me due to my time in New Orleans and experience as a so-called environmental journalist.

Check this out.

“Reluctantly, I gave up on the newspaper industry as a possible employer,” Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter John McQuaid says. He recently left the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, and explains why in an interview with New York University professor Jay Rosen, and why he’s become a contributing editor for NewAssignment.Net.

He collaborated on a book called Path of Destruction about what Hurricane Katrina did to the Gulf and why, and was in on a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1997 for a series called “Oceans of Trouble” about the decline of global fisheries. He was also in on a series called “Washing Away,” a 2002 series on Hurricane preparations, which predicted the floods and failures of 2005.

I also wrote about those issues and my experience with environmental journalism goes back about as far as McQuaid’s, to the 1980s on the Gulf Coast.

For economic reasons after Katrina, he says “My investigative job was eliminated, and I was told that the focus was on everybody pulling his or her weight to put out the daily paper.”

He left the newspaper world with a new ambition: “Find a way to do investigative and explanatory journalism via the web.” This in turn led him to NewAssignment.Net. It’s part of his determination to re-invent himself, After Newspapers.

Read the entire two part interview here:

Top Pro Thinks Pro-Am Reporting Has Promise

John McQuaid Interview, Part Two

That is what I am doing as well, although in my own way and without corporate funding. We will see if it pays off – either in the short or long term.

While I was not able to make the Net Freedom conference in Memphis this past weekend, in part due to budgetary reasons and also because I was doing some paying work in Tuscaloosa, we did post some stories from the conference on the news page and the blog.

I did not see any coverage, however, that satisfied my own curiosity on several subjects related to corporate control of the Internet – and copyright rights for the Web Press. So I am gearing up to offer some more in-depth coverage of those issues in the coming days.

Meanwhile for your entertainment and edification, here are a few more quotes on “change” that I find relevant to this discussion. Of course I would love to hear your views, if you are not too shy to share them.

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.”
– Abraham Lincoln

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
– Charles Darwin

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
– Leo Tolstoy

I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
– Pablo Picasso

Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.
– Rachel Carson

Change/Growth Quotations