Bill Clinton Leads the Royal Albert Hall

I’ve just booked my ticket for Bill Clinton’s leadership seminar next Tuesday. Although my politics don’t align that well with his, I’ve nevertheless long thought he’s an intelligent man, and look forward to hearing what he has to say. David Millward from the Telegraph has also written about this.

Media Consumption Control

Media, and methods for consuming them, could be divided into three categories, according to the degree that they allow control over the rate of flow of information into your brain:

Allow No Control

  • Theatre

  • Cinema

  • Live Radio

  • Live TV

Allow Some Control (Pauseable, Restartable)

  • Watching a film at home (VHS, DVD)

  • Podcast

  • Radio over Internet

  • TV over Internet

Allow Flexible Control

  • Reading - books, the web, etc.

The list is hardly comprehensive, I’ve just listed some of those with which I’m more familiar. There is of course some wiggle room. For example, some DVD players allow films to be slowed down/speeded up, although dramatically changing the speed ruins the experience. Also, of course, you can record TV programmes for later viewing.

However, the point of this exercise isn’t to dwell on the exact media themselves: the point I’m trying to make is, despite many years of technical progression, reading still allows for far more flexible control over the flow of information into the brain that any other type of media - it can be rewound, restarted, paused, sped up, slowed down, almost entirely at will.

Is this useful? Is the lack of control over media such as the theatre one of things that make it useful for certain types of productions? You certainly can’t avoid a shocking or gory scene by skipping past it in the theatre. Is reading still the only effective way to receive certain types of information? I would contend that the useful information density/second is probably higher with reading than any other form of media consumption, certainly for an above average reading speed and good quality prose. If so, why do we watch documentaries? Is it the sensory stimulation?

I’m sure some serious, yet readable, academic research has probably been done in this area, but my sketchy Google search didn’t turn up any.

Christiane F

Another day, another film about heroin. But Christiane F is no Trainspotting. This film is the true story of Christiane, a 14-year girl in Berlin in the mid-70s, who turns to prostitution to fund her growing ‘H’ habit. Gritty and dirty, the film portrays 70s Berlin as one might expect - as an environment drenched with drugs and dotted with VW Beetles. The blunt effects and the realism of the cinematography support the story well. David Bowie provides an excellent soundtrack for the movie, including a German-language version of Heroes.

Christiane F isn’t the remotest bit fun, nothing like the black humour of Trainspotting, but is worth watching for a strong depiction of the tragedy of addiction and the drugs scene of Zoo Garden.

Friedman and Roads

I’m currently podcast-less, due to the continued incompetence of PlusNet, and so am reading Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom (at Richard’s suggestion). So far it’s an excellent book, and everything I expected.

It’s interesting how the power of the market might surprise even Friedman himself, however - given that the book was originally written in 1962. On page 30 Friedman discusses the use of tolls on roads, and how they are ineffective in the general case, because of the high costs of administering them on most roads. This is an example of a ‘neighborhood effect’, one of only two types of market failure he identifies. From this, the implication is that a petrol tax is an effective solution.

However, it seems obvious that a technological solution to this problem is not too far away, despite probably being unforeseeable in 1962: it will soon be possible to track people’s exact road usage for a reasonable cost, probably using some radio-based system. Such systems already exist in some restricted areas.

This still doesn’t overcome the local monopoly problem that Friedman also identifies (what happens when there is only one reasonable route from A to B?), but it could certainly shift the balance in favour of some road-use charging, which interestingly even the sluggish UK goverment is investigating.

euroGel 2007 Discount

After euroGel 2006, which was truly a ‘good’ experience for me, Mark Hurst has announced that euroGel is coming back to Copenhagen in 2007. I’ve just booked my ticket, and as a previous attendee, I’ve got a 20% discount, so the price was only USD $480. I’m allowed to share this discount (which is only valid until this Friday, 22nd September) with friends and colleagues, so if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send you the link. You can sign up at the regular price here.

I’m already looking forward to this conference, and it’s almost a year away.

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