Saturday, November 17, 2007

Good Public Radio News

The Open Source conversation is reborn at the Watson Institute at Brown University.
Please check in on what we've been up to at .
Thomas Watson of IBM fame, who'd been Jimmy Carter's ambassador to Moscow, founded the Institute in 1981 to address the most urgent global risks of that day: nuclear hazards of the Cold War. Today the mission of the Watson Institute encompasses poverty, hunger, war and culture. My fellowship here commits me to keep exploring and innovating in the interactive new media - at the intersection of pod- and broad- casting where the new discourse of a global age is taking shape.
Brown and Watson overflow with blessings for Open Source, starting with the brilliant Rafael Vinoly building that both nestles and goads us to think anew. Nikita Khrushchev's son Sergei is upstairs writing, as is the exiled Zimbabwean novelist Chenjeria Hove, and former presidents Ricardo Lagos Escobar of Chile and Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil. Geoffrey Kirkman of the Watson Institute was right when he told me years ago: the same swath of visiting stars that pass through New York and Harvard come also to Brown, but here they stay longer and they talk more. Brown students keep knocking on my door - this new rainbow generation of "millennials," most of them with digital media skills and native confidence in the expanding universe of the Web.
Not least, my Watson fellowship and the combination of avid Brown students and first-class recording facilities have let us cut radically into the "nut" cost of producing Open Source. So, not for the first time in human history, adversity has forced us into a precious opportunity to get lean, cheap and experimental again.
"An American conversation with global attitude" could be the motto of the revived Open Source. As always, we need your partnership here to locate the topics, guests and angles that will keep it richly distinctive. All we want to be, as we keep growing up, is - as many of you suggested, and producer Mary McGrath distilled the message - "the best damn podcast" on your computer or your Nano. But how long should the conversation run? And how often? What new features do you want on the site? How do we keep it making it more interactive with "the people formerly known as the audience" and with the world beyond our shores?
What we learned in two years on the last round is that "open source" works as well for public conversation as well as it works for advancing software. We announced a "conspiracy of the curious," and people joined it - with an unending flow of show suggestions and witty, critical, often impassioned extensions of the on-air conversation.
We learned also that podcasting works. The proto-blogger Dave Winer and I claim together to have done the first podcast in human history just a little more than four years ago. Between us, at Harvard's Berkman Center, we were the Neil Armstrong of the podcast moon, and now everyone's going there. For good reason. Podcasting is the cheap, democratic, speedy, listener-friendly universal means of sharing and archiving original sound files of every kind. Can we keep it new, or newish?
To begin, we've fired up the podcast feed of our summer gab which went from the Oscar Wao novelist Junot Diaz to the late John Coltrane, from the cyber prophet William Gibson to the unheeded prophets of our quagmire in Iraq. And there is tasty talk ahead with another of the "global" novelists, Ha Jin, on his first fiction set in America - with "The War" documentarian Ken Burns, and with the canonical critic Harold Bloom at Yale, among many others.
Let us end by saying again: Thank you. We couldn't and wouldn't be embarking in these Open Source conversations without the community of you -- that is, without the yeasty, resilient, generous, hungry, faithful, world-wide community that built and sustained Open Source from the beginning.
As always, coming and going, Emerson speaks to a great deal of what we're feeling. This comes from the end of his marvelous essay "Circles."
"Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. No love can be bound by oath or covenant to secure it against a higher love. No truth so sublime but it may be trivial to-morrow in the light of new thoughts. People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them."
Thank you for passionate, engaged, listenership and commentary these last two years. Now let us all together keep this "community of the curious" alive and growing.
So send us your news, your dreams and expectations, please, for the next ride on Open Source and reload your podcast here: . Are you aware that you can subscribe (free) to the Open Source Podcast at the iTunes store? Go to iTunes, then the store, enter "open source podcast" in the search box, and then click on the Open Source icon and "subscribe" to get every episode.
In the spirit of Emerson: Onward, ever onward!
Christopher Lydon and Mary McGrath

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