Welcome to the December edition of The Miaaw Monthly which tells you what to expect this month, and provides a few pointers to things you might like to explore.
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Today’s podcast, the final one for November, will count as Episode 22 of the Common Practice series. It features Sophie Hope in conversation with Ana Laura López de la Torre, from the University of the Republic in Uraguay, talking about the specific role and function of ‘extensión’ at the university and its relationship to cultural democracy.
Every Friday a podcast appears at 12:34 UTC. Sometimes we get so eager that they appear an hour or two early to allow for any lag across the internet. Mostly they arrive on time. With that in mind, here are the podcasts that will drop in December.
Approximate Projections: François Matarasso presents an audio essay suggesting that, as an area of conscious policy, culture has never been more important to democratic states than it is today. He argues that its importance grew throughout the 20th century as rapidly growing and changing mass media pushed governments to control or restrain its influence. In the past, patronage and repression had been crude but sufficient mechanisms for rulers to extend cultural influence. But in large, democratic, industrial societies, the complexity of cultural activity demanded more sophisticated responses.
Owen Kelly and Ken Worpole follow their discussion about the ways in which experiments with ways of living consistently occur and then reoccur. In this month’s episode they look at cults: at how we can define these, why they grow and spread, and what this means for cultural democracy.
This month François Matarasso and Arlene Goldbard talk about Arlene’s newly published book In The Camp of Angels of Freedom which asks “what does it mean to be educated”? The book contains a series of essays about people who have played an important part in her life and her work, each illustrated by one of Arlene’s paintings.
This month’s Common Practice episode occurs one or two days before the annual Christmas celebrations, depending on where you live. Sophie has some very interesting conversations and interviews coming up in the next few months, but we worried about whether people would have the time and energy to listen to one while preparing the holiday season. After much discussion we decided to put out a lighter festive podcast featuring Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes investigating The Night Before Christmas. Interesting and entertaining in its own right, it also serves as an old-fashioned festive greeting from everyone at Miaaw.
Whenever we find a fifth Friday in the month we add an extra episode that takes a sideways look at issues of culture, cultural democracy and the commons. This year we have looked at the world as shown through the lens of vintage radio shows, which might go some way to explaining the interjection from Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce last week. We finish the year with a Friday Number 5 episode by one of the most famous and long lasting radio shows in history: Dragnet. In this episode we hear a story with an explicit, albeit paternalistic, moral (still sadly applicable) from December 1949, A Twenty Two Rifle for Christmas.
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You can also listen to them at the miaaw.net website where you will find additional links, notes, and references accompanying each episode. You will also find a full archive of all the previous podcasts there.
The Vivaldi web browser for desktop computers, phones and tablets has existed for many years, although it has never broken into mainstream use. Based on Chromium, the open source code that powers Google Chrome, it focuses on customisation and privacy. This month it launched its own Mastodon instance and has hinted that it could build support for the alternative social network into its web browser. Mastodon, in case you don’t know, acts as an alternative, decentralised federation of social networks, and has grown rapidly since the recent kerfuffle at Twitter. To join Mastodon you join an “instance” through which you can then link to most or all other instances. If you want to explore this somewhat chaotic new world you can start the process here: https://instances.social
You can find Owen Kelly there at @OwenKelly@scholar.social if you want to!
Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner says Mastodon is a perfect match for Vivaldi’s values. “The idea of having a more open system, based on open standards, is very enticing,” he said. “We’ve known about the technology for years, but we decided okay, it’s time we jump on this and we’ll see if we can contribute.”
Von Tetzchner says the absence of advertising and trending content makes Mastodon a far cleaner experience. “Just the fact that you don’t have algorithms that are automatically taking out the worst content and putting it in your feed, that’s helpful,” he said.
“For you, as a user, what you’re following is the people that you engage with, you’re not getting content from a lot of other people, unless your friends boost that content. You’re not going to see the crazy person in the corner that’s posting something.”
We came across this at Forbes.
Based in Bangalore Project Defy runs nooks in different states in India, and they have appeared on several podcasts at Miaaw. They have strident opinions about the education system in India (and the rest of the world) and you can find out more at The Deccan Chronicle.
You can find their website at https://projectdefy.org
LM Sacasas writes a regular newsletter called the Convivial Society, about the relationships between morality, technology and culture.
You can find it at Substack in a variety of flavours from free to paid.
François brought it to our attention and highly recommends it.
On a different but similar note Bob Leggitt also posts all over the web about similar matters: primarily at Popzazzle. His latest post looks at “How Long Can Mastodon Resist Centralisation?”
According to The New Village Press, “Through her evocative paintings and narrative, author Arlene Goldbard has portrayed eleven people whose work most influenced her—what she calls a camp of angels. She sees each as a brave messenger of love and freedom for a society that badly needs “uncolonized minds.”
Goldbard describes how the learning from each changed the course of her life in essays that offer generative moments of a life in art and social change. She also reveals ways a dominant society tried to put a first-generation American from a socially marginal family in her place—and failed. Readers will learn about the author’s own self education, issues of formal higher education and its discontents, and the damage done by a society that prizes profits over people. Goldbard asks readers to consider the impact of credentialism on U.S. society and what we can do to set it right.”
You can find out more about the book, and order a copy from New Village Press.
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