Aengus Anderson This is The Conversation, a project by Aengus Anderson and Micah Saul.
Micah Saul: Oh my God, we are swamped right now.
Anderson Yeah, we are swamped. We had these starry‐eyed notions of being able to turn two of these things around a week. That’s just not realistic. I wrote a blog post about that, if you’re curious to read more of the sort of logistical stuff. But the long and short is I spend a lot of time editing and a lot of time traveling, and I just don’t have enough time to edit. So, we’ve got five interviews stacked up in front of us now. By the time, honestly, I get the next one posted, which is going to be Laura Musikanski from The Happiness Initiative, we’ll probably be seven or eight deep in interviews.
So we’ve been talking a little bit about this, about how the hell do we address this problem, and we only have one solution.
Saul: This project needs to take longer than we originally intended. We need to sort of increase the time frame. Aengus was planning on being in New York by September. At this point, it’s looking like early October is the earliest that’s possibly going to happen.
Anderson Basically, we do need to sort of slow down the pace. Realistically I can probably edit about one of these a week. And to really get all the voices that we want in the project, we’ve already cut out so many that we want. People who’d just incredible and who have agreed to talk to us. So the only way to do that is with more time.
That aside, we have been having a discussion amongst ourselves about elitism and to the sort of voices that we’re hearing in a project like this. And one of the tricks of talking to people about the future is that often you get people who have a lot of time to think about the future. And there is sort of a class background that enables that, and Cameron Whitten pointed that out.
Saul: I was gonna say I think Cameron Whitten said it best. He was the first person to really bring class into the conversation, and he did it in a way that just… I don’t know, kinda punched me in the face. The people we’re talking to are doing pretty okay. And so that really did raise the question like, is this an elitist project? Are we…are the people we are talking to fundamentally removed from the troubles of the normal person in such a way that actually what they’re saying can’t even talk to them?
Anderson It’s also something where we wonder about our research bias, right? We find a lot of these people through recommendations. We ask every person we know who is a specialist in some kind of field to recommend people. We also spent a lot of time digging around online. But in both of those cases we tend to find people who are pretty visible. And often the people who are pretty visible are pretty affluent. I don’t know where we find amazing thinkers who you can’t learn about online. Or who aren’t published.
Saul: Certain people we’ve had conversations with so far through the project would actually be criticizing us on the bias inherent in our overuse of technology for for this research.
Anderson This is where I’m going to plead the John Zerzan and say, you know what we just can’t opt out.
Saul: Right. Let’s give an example. I mean, we really wanted to find more people in the center of the country. We really wanted to find people outside of the cities. We didn’t really know how to do that. You’ve got the coastal poles, with a few exceptions, big cities in the center of the country, the North center of the country. There’s only a few people we’ve found outside of the cities.
Anderson Actually, I think this ties back into the thing we started our episode here with. As the project has gone along, we’ve learned about more people in the middle. We’ve learned about more people who are in smaller places. And now we almost need to extend the length of the project so I can circle back and get them.
Anderson But there are some other things to think about when we’re thinking about elitism. One is, do we have enough interaction between listeners and interviewees?
Anderson No. We don’t. And we feel bad about that. It makes us really sad. Because look, we don’t want to be elitist, right. It’s really easy to have a passive radio project, and if you think about The Conversation as a radio project, it’s probably a lot easier to just sort of tune into the podcast feed go, “Oh, these are interesting ideas being put out there. That’s an entertaining episode. Or Aengus is really incompetent, I wish he’d stop asking questions like that.” But, we really want you to talk back. Not in a sort of chat room way, but in a real like, write to us. Write to the interviewees. I will carry those comments into the actual conversations.
Anderson If that doesn’t happen, then ultimately we’re just giving these people a platform, which is what we didn’t want to do. I mean, it’s cool to give them a platform, but it’s a lot cooler to not have a platform and just have them sitting across from you at a table.
Saul: Exactly. This is suppose to be a conversation. The published thinkers, they’re not the only ones in control of our future. We all are. Until we are all in conversation, this project is not doing what we think it should. We need to figure out a way to get more people involved online.
Anderson And we know you’re out there.
Saul: We do. I think we just want to throw some questions at you. Is this an elitist project? If it is, how do we change that? What are we doing right, what are we doing wrong? This is the best time now for you to really critique us on the structure. Or on our hypotheses in general. Let us know. We want to hear this.
Anderson The project’s developed enough now that I think we we can see it falling into a certain rhythm. We know more less how some of it’s going to sound, but there’s still a lot of wiggle room. We’ve got a lot of interviews lined up. But if we make the project longer, then we still have the ability to bring in a lot of new ideas.
One thing I’m especially curious about is what themes would you want to see us pursue more? We got a comment earlier today mentioning advertising. Advertising and media are ones that we’ve…I mean, they’ve barely come up even within the interviews we’ve had thus far. We’re going to do some conversations coming up which will focus solely on media. Gender is something that hasn’t come up at all. Race, in a serious way, has not come up at all.
Saul: Class only recently reared its head, and I think there’s a hell of a lot more to talk about there.
Anderson Yes. And because now we’re sort of clairvoyant, we can see five episodes down the road that you can’t hear yet. Class is going to come up in a really big way in the next two.
Saul: But what voices have we just not noticed yet? We can’t have a democratic process when it’s just the two of us.
Anderson But you know, we are here to question fundamental assumptions, so I think democracy is something that we may have to question.
Anderson Maybe we should just be telling people about the future and they should be passively listening to our genius.
Saul: See, that would work if either of us were geniuses.
Anderson Oh, shit. We would really prefer it didn’t happen like that. So write to us. And you know what, without let’s just shut up because we’ve been talking way too long.
Saul: That sounds good.
This interview at the Conversation web site, with project notes, comments, and taxonomic organization specific to The Conversation.