May 27, 2004

WILL interview archives forever 

When I started this blog I vowed to focus on great stuff in the public broadcasting online world...and every once in a while throw in something embarassing. Today's feature is both: great content, but simply awful presentation. I mean it's just bad web design, more embarassing still because I set it up, long ago when I knew even less. Keeping myself humble, as if that were a challenge... Focus 580 online audio archives stretch back to 2000. Ah, the 20th Century, seems so long ago. On this big ugly mile-long page you can find interviews from 2000 on GMOs in agriculture, before they were everywhere and there was still a debate. Interviews with Orson Scott Card and Allan Gurganus. A brilliant interview with Benjamin Barber on Globalization and Terrorism, along with all the immediate post-9/11 stuff we did on Focus 580. An interview with Bob McChesney back when a dozen media corporations owned everything instead of today's five. I can't tell you what a pain it was to encode all those RealAudio files, before we figured out automation. But that was nothing compared to the effort of actually producing the show, now in it's 23rd year. Someday we'll recover all the shows still on cassette tape and put them on the web...but we'll have a better design. Which brings up why I rediscovered these audio files today. We're creating a digital archive of everything we've ever done that's still recoverable. We might even get the Library of Congress to help fund this, and rope some other smart people into designing the technology to do it right. Here's hoping we can pull it off. And here's the reason. Local public radio and TV stations like WILL have been covering issues and people in local communities with the purpose promoting citizenship, community, and the entire set of good things we associate with civilization. If you put the best things we ever produced together in one pile, you could find some pretty great stuff. If you could effectively search and hyperlink it, you might even gain things like insight and historical understanding. If you could compile all the work from all the public TV and radio stations, put it in one online space, and make it findable down to the last jpeg, you'd have a mighty powerful tool for thought, as Howard Rheingold might put it. Can we help ourselves become better balanced in our perspective as a species, possibly more intelligent and humane? What could we do with these tools? We'd dearly like to find out.

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