Sunday, March 8, 2009

Juan Cole - Media Matters podcast review

The news podcast Media Matters, with Bob McChesney had as a guest historian Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, who is a specialist in the Middle-East. One can directly read Juan Cole's updates in his thoughts about the region if one follows his website which has the simple form of public emails containing assorted remarks. Aside from more breadth, much more depth is to be found there than in the podcast.

In the podcast, McChesney tried to get Professor Cole to explain the Middle-East to the average American. Relatively much time was dedicated to Iraq and Afghanistan. While the assessment is certainly worth listening to, Cole necessarily, because of the time constraints is forced to paint with crude brush strokes. It results in inapt representation of facts, for example sorting the Iraqi populace into categories Shii, Sunni and Kurd - mixing religious denomination with ethnic. Maybe it works for all practical purposes, but adds as much as it takes away from ignorance.

When there are a mere six minutes left in the show (it is, after all broadcast on radio) Israel and Palestine are rushed through the ether. How much can one say to inform the public in six minutes about a complicated issue? I had a feeling Cole got wasted on an effort to discuss too much in too diluted a way. Still a worthwhile show, but really this should be an initial step towards more investigation to get the records straight and some real insight in.

Previously about Media Matters:
The Crisis.

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The brain and tech-nurture - SRR podcast review

There is a recurring theme in Shrink Rap Radio the psychology interview podcast: modern technology and the brain. This is not just about AI, robotics, the extension of our brains into our PCs, but also the implications of new insights in neuroscience, pharmacy and genetics about the brain.

In social science in general and necessarily also in psychology there is the age-old dichotomy of nature and nurture. With the latest developments in neuroscience, pharmacy and genetics we know so much more of the brain, this sort of automatically, almost implicitly, moves us towards the nature side of the divide. Technology also plays a part in that and basically, a nature stance, will also allow more for a fixed view of the brain and leave more room for theories of AI and artificial extensions of the brain. Yet, in the interview with Gary Small about technology and the brain the conversation takes a nurture perspective: how does a modern technologically designated environment affect the brains of human beings?

Small makes in this context a difference between digital natives, the younger generation that grows up with the modern technology and the digital immigrants, the older generation that has had to acquire access to the cyberworld. Small and Van Nuys discuss the way in which the brain starts functioning differently and different people with different psyches emerge in this internet age. Apart from being a fascinating conversation by itself, it also shows how in a more technological world, where I thought the idea of human beings became more nature-oriented new reasons for taking the nurture side of factors that make us come into relevance.

More Shrink Rap Radio:
Nova Spivack,
Relationships and the brain,
Psychologist writer,
Dana Houck, Prison Psychologist,
The humane working place.

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