Micah Saul: Oh my God, it’s me.

Aengus Anderson: Oh my God, it’s you. And even cra­zier, it’s an inter­sti­tial episode.

Saul: Oh my God. We haven’t done one of those in…

Anderson: How long has it been?

Saul: Uh, the elec­tion?

Anderson: Wow. That’s an inter­mis­sion. I guess that’s prob­a­bly mer­ci­ful for every­one else, but if you’ve made it half a year with­out us sub­ject­ing you to one of these, it’s about time. If you’re a new lis­ten­er to the project, now you can hear us talk about some of the work­ings that go on behind the scenes. But before we pro­ceed we should just say that you and Neil real­ly aren’t the same per­son. He’s just busy right now.

Saul: Yes. It’s kind of hilar­i­ous that I think we’ve suc­ceed­ed in the three of us all being available…twice…since we added him?

Anderson: It’s sort of like an amaz­ing align­ment of plan­ets or some­thing like that.

Saul: Yeah, exactly.

Anderson: So, with­out Neil we will go ahead and talk about some of the struc­tur­al things that have been on our minds late­ly. And poten­tial dare I say futures? for the project?

Saul: Ooh hoo hoo. Before we get into the futures, though, I kin­da want to talk about the past real quick. Because I just real­ized May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. We are over one year old.

Anderson: Good God. Somehow we did make it through a year. I’m still post­ing episodes record­ed in 2012 and will prob­a­bly be doing that for a cou­ple more weeks. If you’ve been lis­ten­ing close­ly, fol­low­ing episodes as they go up, you’ve noticed that I’ve slowed the pace a lit­tle bit. That’s because I’ve been doing a lot of stuff behind the scenes. 

Saul: Yes. You wan­na talk about some of those things?

Anderson: Basically, we financed the project. You and I did. And with some real­ly gen­er­ous help from our lis­ten­ers. So we ran it a full year out of pock­et. We think it’s a cool project and we want to keep doing it. But to do that, we need to get fund­ing. And we feel that in order to get fund­ing we need to raise our visibility.

So a lot of what I’ve been doing behind the scenes—invisibly, ironically—is try­ing to raise our vis­i­bil­i­ty. Writing lots of arti­cles… I had a piece in Boing Boing recent­ly talk­ing about dig­i­tal lib­er­ties and how they don’t con­nect to oth­er parts of the Conversation. So I wrote a chal­lenge to the dig­i­tal lib­er­ties com­mu­ni­ty and said you’ve got all these sym­pa­thet­ic peo­ple out there, can you frame your issue in a way that would appeal to all of these oth­er groups? You know, that’s some­thing that we talk about and that we see a lot in The Conversation, peo­ple fram­ing things in that way. And it’s curi­ous that through­out this project we real­ly haven’t seen that with dig­i­tal lib­er­ty. So that’s an exam­ple of the sort of work that I’ve been doing behind the scenes to try to raise aware­ness of the project.

Saul: Have you got­ten much response from that yet?

Anderson: Gotten you know, kind of the ini­tial spike of respons­es. And beyond that it’s been real­ly real­ly hard to get this project any vis­i­bil­i­ty. And so I’m still work­ing on it. 

Saul: And this is the part of the pod­cast, which if you lis­ten to pod­casts you know you get all the time, where we ask, Hey tell your friends. And if you get a free moment, if you’re lis­ten­ing through iTunes go write a review. That stuff actu­al­ly real­ly helps.” So if you think this is a cool thing, want to see it last, want to see it get more vis­i­bil­i­ty, give it a try. Please. Thank you. That would be awesome.

Anderson: You know, we have no mar­ket­ing bud­get, right. And there’s only a finite amount of time of the day. And a lot of that time for me has got to go to edit­ing and to oth­er mon­ey­mak­ing activ­i­ties to try to pro­pel this thing a lit­tle fur­ther. And so with all of that, we do need you guys to pros­e­ly­tize for us if you can. And if you like the project. And we hope you do.

So that’s sort of where we’re at in terms of right now. And where we’re look­ing as if we can boost our lis­ten­er­ship, we would love to get one or two arti­cles writ­ten about The Conversation some­where. And then we want to start approach­ing peo­ple who could help finance us maybe through anoth­er year of pro­duc­tion. Or if we could turn it into a longer-term project. We’ve been exam­in­ing every idea that we can, think­ing you know could we part­ner with an aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tion? Could we turn it into more of an oral his­to­ry thing, real­ly make it a time cap­sule? Could we col­lab­o­rate with pub­lic media? And if we had to do some­thing like that, how would we have to change our for­mat? Can we find a wealthy bene­fac­tor some­where? Can we crowd­source? There are a lot of ques­tions that we’re sort of going through.

Saul: Yeah. And if you guys have any thoughts, we’d love to hear em. For both of us the impor­tant thing is that we keep this going. Because as I’ve said before we would­n’t be doing this if we did­n’t think it was an impor­tant project in some small way. Richard Saul Wurman calls us out and says you know, we’re not gonna change a god­damn thing. I don’t know. Maybe let’s try and prove him wrong.

Anderson: And that’s as good of a use of our time as any. 

Saul: Yes. So, if we do con­tin­ue it on, what that means is more con­ver­sa­tions. And towards that, Aengus is com­ing back up to San Francisco in a cou­ple months, or in a month.

Anderson: Right. Because we also feel that if we want to estab­lish this project more, obvi­ous­ly we need to keep going. So I’ve raised enough mon­ey just on my own to get up to San Francisco and hope­ful­ly maybe get ten more inter­views between SF, and then I’m going to go down to LA and try to pick up some more there. 

Saul: the oth­er thing is if you hap­pen to be in San Francisco or near­by… Aengus just did this down in Tucson and we’re going to give it a try in San Francisco as well, hope­ful­ly, which was a live lis­ten­ing event. Cut our blath­er out, played an episode…

Anderson: Put your blath­er in!

Saul: Yeah, so cut our usu­al blath­er­ing before and after out, play just the actu­al con­ver­sa­tion, and then had a long dis­cus­sion after­wards. We don’t know what time, we don’t know a place yet. We’re still just start­ing to think about it. But if that sounds like it might be inter­est­ing, stay tuned. We’ll have more infor­ma­tion soon. It will be some­time in the first maybe two weeks of June.

Anderson: We’ll make noise on Twitter and Facebook and we’ll announce it in one of the pod­casts. So let’s draw the line there and let’s move on to some oth­er things we’ve seen over the past six months. We’ve got so many new con­ver­sa­tions. The project is real­ly involved in a lot of ways. You know, we talk all the time about con­nec­tions we’re see­ing. And we want to talk now about con­nec­tions that we’re not seeing.

Saul: Yeah. We real­ly noticed it most espe­cial­ly with with James Bamford. But also I mean, since our last inter­sti­tial, we’ve launched the new web­site. And you can look at that map and you can see where there are things that are a lit­tle spars­er. Everybody talks about the envi­ron­ment. Everybody talks about the econ­o­my. Community, tech­nol­o­gy, that’s…everybody’s talk­ing about those things.

But when you get to some­thing like say, dig­i­tal lib­er­ties, which isn’t even on the con­cept map because only one per­son has talked about it. Or art and music. We’ve had artists and musi­cians, but nobody out­side of those fields are talk­ing about it. So you wan­na just jump in on one of these and start like, try­ing to fig­ure out what that’s all about?

Anderson: Yeah. And I mean the dig­i­tal lib­er­ties one… Let’s just take that for starters for peo­ple aren’t famil­iar with what dig­i­tal lib­er­ties even are. Because I think a lot of us aren’t talk­ing about Internet pri­va­cy, talk­ing about sur­veil­lance, talk­ing about…it brings in a lot of things like copy­right. You know, who con­trols the Internet? These are a lot of things that are being real­ly active­ly fought over in Congress, and yet they real­ly are invis­i­ble elsewhere.

I mean, The Conversation may not be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of what Americans are think­ing about. But it is a cross-section of real­ly smart peo­ple who are engaged and care. And the fact that on mul­ti­ple occa­sions I’ve talked to peo­ple about the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is a group that is real­ly active in fight­ing for dig­i­tal lib­er­ties, a lot of caus­es that I think both you and I sup­port personally—

Saul: Absolutely. I’m donat­ing mon­ey to them every time the Giants win a base­ball game this season.

Anderson: Now our dona­tions have been pub­licly dis­closed, because I don’t have any mon­ey to give to any­one. But any­how. So the EFF, they’re doing incred­i­ble work. And I’ve men­tioned them mul­ti­ple times to dif­fer­ent peo­ple in this project. And nobody knows who they are. And that is inter­est­ing to me.

Saul: Because they’re not some fly-by-night orga­ni­za­tion, either. They’ve been around for a long time. So to have them just be com­plete­ly unknown…I don’t know, I guess out­side of the bub­ble I live in, is sort of sur­pris­ing to me. And con­cern­ing.

Anderson: And we have to ask why is it invis­i­ble? You know, we talk a lot about lan­guage in this project. Is it the lan­guage of that? Does the idea of dig­i­tal lib­er­ty seem to abstract? Does it seem too techy?

Saul: Is it too new? Have we just not inter­nal­ized that yet? I mean, I think that’s prob­a­bly a part of it.

Anderson: Right. And that I think part of the big con­cern as well. That when will we inter­nal­ize it? Like, how much ground are we going to have to lose while peo­ple are not pay­ing atten­tion to the issue, to make peo­ple pay atten­tion to the issue? 

Saul: It’s an incred­i­bly daunt­ing task, right. I mean, how do you get peo­ple to care as much about their pri­va­cy online as they do about their pri­va­cy in their home? 

Anderson: Right, and it feels like part of the case you got to make is that look, that mat­ters. That con­nects to every­thing you do. It con­nects to are you an envi­ron­men­tal activist? Are you con­cerned about car­bon emis­sions? At some point, you will want to be out there mak­ing noise in the streets, maybe. Or you’ll want to be lob­by­ing for some kind of change. And if you want to do those things, you don’t want to be surveilled.

Saul: I’m think­ing about the sub­poe­na to Twitter to get Twitter mes­sages of Occupy protesters. 

Anderson: And a lot of this stuff, it’s real­ly con­tentious about whether it’s legal or not. Like, we don’t know; it’s grey. And so the laws are being fought over right now. So, there’s just one exam­ple of a con­nec­tion that we haven’t seen, and ways that it mat­ters and ways that it maybe could be seen.

You know, anoth­er one that’s been real­ly absent, sur­pris­ing­ly so, or maybe unsur­pris­ing­ly so, race and gen­der. You know, at the begin­ning of the project we talked a lot about class. And I real­ly did­n’t expect it to start pop­ping up with the fre­quen­cy it did. It seemed like it took us a long time before we sort of hit that. And maybe that was our own kind of chang­ing of the guests, in a way. Maybe we pushed in that direc­tion. But maybe it’s also the result of Occupy real­ly rais­ing class as an issue. 

Race and gen­der are used rhetor­i­cal­ly in a lot of dif­fer­ent con­ver­sa­tions. You know, we’ve heard peo­ple… You know, Robert Zubrin talked about race and envi­ron­ment in a way that was…you know, I think real­ly enriched his con­ver­sa­tion. But it was­n’t the main thrust of it.

Saul: Right.

Anderson: And so we’ve had a few where that’s been the main thing. You know, Roberta Francis with the ERA. Very recent­ly Scott Douglas. Earlier, Henry Louis Taylor. But it seems like the con­ver­sa­tions that focus on that as a cen­tral issue focus on that, you know.

Saul: Right. And it’s also, I mean…com­i­cal, if it was­n’t so depress­ing that the main con­ver­sa­tion about gen­der was with a woman. And the two main con­ver­sa­tions about race were with black men.

Anderson: Right.

Saul: When those are the main thrust of a con­ver­sa­tion it’s because there’s actu­al­ly a stake in it. And the white males that make up the bulk of the peo­ple we’re talk­ing to, well…turns out they don’t really…care, much.

Anderson: Or they care, but they see oth­er issues as—

Saul: Or they see oth­er issues as [crosstalk] more urgent. 

Anderson: —more urgent. 

Saul: And I think actu­al­ly, going back to our last inter­sti­tial, you and I do the same thing. 

Anderson: Absolutely.

Saul: Right? I mean, we were talk­ing about the out­come of the elec­tion and how there were race and gen­der issues there. But we were more con­cerned about what we called the broad­er issues.

Anderson: Mm hm.

Saul: And that… I mean, that right there. We are just as guilty of sort of dis­miss­ing the race and gen­der ques­tion. Because…well, because we’re com­fort­able white men.

Anderson: And the oth­er thing is, I think of all the things to talk about, those two are the scari­est. Especially for white men. That can feel like treach­er­ous ter­rain. Not only are they less like­ly to see it than oth­er peo­ple, but I think they’re a lot more hes­i­tant to go on record and talk about it. I was going to men­tion that we do have one per­son who real­ly was an excep­tion to talk­ing about that, Gary Francione.

Saul: Yes.

Anderson: He talks about non­vi­o­lence in a very big way. And for him, race and gen­der are a huge part of that. And I did­n’t use all of it in the final edit. But for him, those are real­ly inte­grat­ed into a whole plat­form of thought.

Saul: Right.

Anderson: Which I thought was some­thing very cool. But yes, oth­er­wise I think that I agree with that gen­er­al­iza­tion. At the same time, though, I think there’s some­thing that we need to look into or at least put on the table, is that we’re look­ing at all of these dif­fer­ent issues and there’s sort of an apples and oranges qual­i­ty to them. And so for a lot of peo­ple who you sit down and you say what is the cri­sis of the present?” If you’re think­ing about cli­mate, I think you can make an argu­ment in a lot of ways that that could be, or maybe is, and prob­a­bly will be, more urgent than the race issue.

I don’t know if I believe this, but let me just run with it for a sec­ond because I think there’s an argu­ment to be made there, in that it is an exis­ten­tial threat. If you ruin the cli­mate, so many peo­ple are affect­ed that you sort of can’t even deal with things like the race issue. So I think it’s real­ly tough because we have dif­fer­ent frames of ref­er­ence for peo­ple, and what is exis­ten­tial for one group… You know, if you’re in a group that’s being dis­crim­i­nat­ed against, race is in many ways an exis­ten­tial issue. Whereas if you’re not, then you might see the exis­ten­tial issue as being cli­mate or an eco­nom­ic col­lapse that leads to a famine. And it’s…I mean, God I don’t want to get into com­par­ing those things.

Saul: It’s dan­ger­ous territory.

Anderson: I feel uncom­fort­able putting this on the record.

Saul: I…yeah. So…moving on?

Anderson: Oh, what a pass the buck moment.

Saul: And I think that exact­ly sums up what I was just say­ing. Of accus­ing us of being just as guilty. Like, it is hard to talk about these things, espe­cial­ly com­ing from a posi­tion of privilege.

Anderson: Yeah. And that’s some­thing that we were talk­ing about and gave us real dif­fi­cul­ty when we were work­ing with Oliver Porter’s episode.

Saul: Mm hm.

Anderson: And I’ve got­ten feed­back from dif­fer­ent lis­ten­ers who’ve react­ed very dif­fer­ent­ly to it. As we would’ve expected.

Saul: Yeah.

Anderson: And I think wanted.

Saul: Mm hm. No, absolutely.

Anderson: But def­i­nite­ly a reminder that there’s so much con­text to what issues appear and what issues don’t appear with­in this project, and how peo­ple choose to con­nect them, or choose to ignore them.

Saul: Moving to less con­tro­ver­sial sin­gle­tons in our list of con­nec­tions that don’t exist. We talk about big sys­tems all the time, right. And how inter­re­lat­ed they are. And one of those big sys­tems that again only a cou­ple peo­ple have brought up is agri­cul­ture and food sup­ply. Obviously we get that huge from Wes Jackson.

Anderson: Yep. It crops up pret­ty ear­ly with Jan Lundberg.

Saul: That’s what it was, yes. Jan Lundberg men­tions it as of those inter­con­nect­ed systems.

Anderson: I talked about it a lit­tle bit with Francis Whitehead. We talk about slow food and scarci­ty and things like that. But it’s a major component. 

Saul: Oh, we’re leav­ing out a huge one. We’re leav­ing out a huge one. Patrick Crouch.

Anderson: Oh, yeah. This is where you can tell we’ve done a lot of inter­views at this point.

Saul: Yeah, exactly.

Anderson: But be that as it may, that’s real­ly a small number.

Saul: Remarkably small, actu­al­ly. Like, for being such a mas­sive sys­tem and such an impor­tant system.

Anderson: You know, with food I won­der is it—or agriculture—is it just sub­sidiary to the envi­ron­ment as an issue? Where when peo­ple talk about the envi­ron­ment it’s almost implic­it that they’re talk­ing about agri­cul­ture? And so maybe it’s less of a sur­prise that we’re not see­ing it that often?

Saul: Mmm, see I don’t know that it’s nec­es­sar­i­ly implied. They’re very relat­ed, of course, but I think they are…they’re dif­fer­ent issues.

Anderson: Mm hm.

Saul: Wes Jackson does a great job of show­ing how they’re con­nect­ed. But I think Patrick Crouch does a great job show­ing how food is its own sep­a­rate concern.

Anderson: And while we’re talk­ing about food we need to talk about anoth­er ele­phant in the room, water. No one’s talked about water. 

Saul: No one has talked about water. And that’s…remarkable. That’s dis­turb­ing, actually.

Anderson: Yeah, I think that’s one that we’re gonna rem­e­dy real soon.

Saul: Yeah, I think we need to.

Anderson: I think there’s a lot that we can get out of a con­ver­sa­tion about water. And there may be no bet­ter place to do it than the desert southwest.

So there you have a lot of things that we’ve been think­ing about behind the scenes in terms of con­nec­tions and a lack of connections. 

Saul: Are there any oth­ers? Like, I’d be inter­est­ed to hear what the lis­ten­ers have to say. If they can come up with any things that just are glar­ing absences or things that seem so obvi­ous that every­body should be con­cerned about but nobody actu­al­ly appears to be…

Anderson: Right. These are things that could be sit­ting under our very noses and we would­n’t’ve even seen them.

Saul: Right. Race and gen­der are so large that of course we notice those.

Anderson: Right.

Saul: But, what are the oth­er ones we’re miss­ing. I mean, here. Hell, there’s one that just jumped out imme­di­ate­ly: sexuality.

Anderson: Why haven’t we talked about that yet?

Saul: I have no idea.

Anderson: And what would be the right place to start talk­ing about that issue? What is the cutting-edge ques­tion there? And that’s anoth­er one it would be great to get com­ments from people.

Saul: Yeah. So how’s that for a list of calls to action for all you guys? 

Anderson: Basically we want you to write to us. And we want to thank the peo­ple who have.

Saul: Yeah.

Anderson: There’ve been a lot of you. I espe­cial­ly want to give a shout out to Andreas Lloyd. I’m not sure if I’m pro­nounc­ing your first name right, man. But thank you for writ­ing us some real­ly thought­ful, inter­est­ing emails, and for being such a con­tem­pla­tive, cool lis­ten­er of The Conversation. We real­ly enjoy your stuff and we look for­ward to hear­ing from you more. And from all of the oth­er folks who’ve writ­ten in, too.

Saul: Yes. One year it, it’s been a hell of a fun ride. Let’s keep this going as long as we pos­si­bly can.

Anderson: I don’t think I could say it any bet­ter. So we’ll sign off here and we will keep on march­ing for­ward. Shoot us notes. You know where to find us. And we will be unleash­ing some new con­ver­sa­tions soon.

Saul: This is The Conversation. You can find us on Twitter at @aengusanderson and on the web at find​the​con​ver​sa​tion​.com.

Anderson: So thanks for lis­ten­ing I’m Angus Anderson.

Saul: And I’m Micah Saul.

Further Reference

This episode at the Conversation web site, with project notes, com­ments, and tax­o­nom­ic orga­ni­za­tion spe­cif­ic to The Conversation.