photo credit for this post: Surian Soosay
For over a year, I enjoyed the amazing podcast TLDR on WNYC, which featured long-form and insightful stories about the net. Then the show co-hosts joined the new podcast company Gimlet Media. I spoke with PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, tracked down their former producer at WNYC, and talked to Jeff Jarvis, a media expert and professor. Here’s an excerpt from my article ReplyAll and the Battle for Storytelling About the Net in Huffington Post.
Even if you love the internet, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by its scale. The sheer volume of content can give you anxiety, while headlines about the latest online craze are quickly surpassed by breaking news about the next superfast whirly gizmo. One hundred hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single minute. Listicles on Gawker and Buzzfeed can of course provide some succor, but it’s as ephemeral as a shot of cane sugar. That’s why author Joshua Ferris called the net “a hall of mirrors with diminishing returns.”
I was thrilled, then, to discover the podcast TLDR on New York’s WNYC last year. On TLDR (short for “Too long; didn’t read”) co-hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman provided thoughtful and tightly produced stories about the internet. The first piece that struck me was about a security guard named Sean Smith who worked as an IT manager at the U.S. embassy in Bengazi, Libya. That’s right the Bengazi. Smith was one of the four staff members killed in the embassy in September 2012 but his personal story had largely gone unreported. In his free time, he played a multiple massive online role playing game called Eve Online and he acted as chief diplomat of its largest star alliance. It was an extraordinary tale. In the piece on TLDR, the realpolitik of the Arab spring collided, in some respects, with the imagined politik of the online world. Republicans and Democrats were tussling over who was at fault for the attack on the embassy, while TLDR cut through the bluster to reveal a touching relationship between one of the victims and his online friends.