Beyond Broadcast (and Harvard)

It’s lunch time at the Beyond Broadcast conference here at the home of the elites, Harvard University. The set‐up here is, as I suppose you’d expect, the best. For conference presenters, the issues are always an easy way to connect the old laptop to the projector for PowerPoint slides and audio (something often overlooked or terribly inadequate). These guys have it down to a science. Everybody on the panel has their own audio cable and serial connector for the projector, which run through a router that’s control from the table. Nice.

The weather’s bloody awful here. Gloomy, rainy and cold. Brrr. The usual suspects are here, but there are a lot of new faces for me, and that’s always fun. A lot of people have said very nice things, including offering condolences about Allie. She was going to come to this conference with me, because she just wanted to walk around the Harvard campus. I’ll have to do that for her.

This is the 3rd conference on public broadcasting and new media that I’ve attended in the past year. They have a long way to go to fully embrace the personal media revolution, but there are some people doing some really cool things. Bill Buzenburg of Minnesota Public Radio showed some marvelous examples of how a broadcaster can involve the audience in their work. They’ve created an interesting Wiki that I’m going to try and duplicate somewhere.

I still find, however, that this institution — perhaps even more than its commercial counterpart — approaches this new media thing with caution and skepticism. Their mission involves that loaded phrase “serving the public interest,” and we all know the minefield that can be. I told one fellow that I thought commercial broadcasting had a better chance of “getting there” sooner than public broadcasting, because profit is a considerable motivator. And this public interest thing can be such a barrier when you presume you know what it means, because “public” interest often proves to be only the interest of the purveyor.

As you’d expect, issues of the “digital divide” and lack of minority voices was raised. As I told the group, we all have a responsibility here, including the groups apparently under‐represented. I say apparently, because as was pointed out by an audience member, most of the Web isn’t American and doesn’t speak English. Political correctness may work here, but not in Japan, Korea, China and the rest of the world.

Who knew?


  1. Why would you tie this off with a snarky comment about political correctness? The term is a boundary signifier, used as a pejorative, and so your usage strongly implies a lack of respect for those whose sense of community and human values transcends market economics.

    I could be wrong.

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