Episode 158: "In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything..."

‘Today everything exists to end in a photograph,’ Susan Sontag wrote in her seminal 1977 book ‘On Photography.’ This was something I thought about when I recently read that Google was making its one-hundred-and-forty-nine-dollar photo-editing suite, the Google Nik Collection, free.
— Om Malik of The New Yorker on April 4, 2016
‘The definition of photography is changing, too, and becoming more of a language,’ the Brooklyn-based artist and professional photographer Joshua Allen Harris told me. ‘We’re attaching imagery to tweets or text messages, almost like a period at the end of a sentence. It’s enhancing our communication in a whole new way.’ As a result, photos are less markers of memories than they are Web-browser bookmarks for our lives...Today we think of something, and then we Google it. Photos are evolving along the same path as well.
— Om Malik of The New Yorker on April 4, 2016

With the proliferation of cameras in modern smartphones, tablets, laptops and more, digital photography has entered the cultural mainstream. Many of us reflexively take selfies during travel and pose for memorable moments with loved ones. In 2016, Om Malik of The New Yorker wrote an article entitled "In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything and Look At Nothing," examining at our photographic tendencies and how the abundance of imagery has altered our relationship to it and to our memories. How do photographs become placeholders for memory? Why do we rely so heavily on imagery to capture and enrich narrative? How might we be missing out on lived experiences because of the cultural capital placed upon pictures?

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Episode 157: Radiance, Darkness and The Atomic Bomb

Most Americans have been taught that using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was justified because the bombings ended the war in the Pacific, thereby averting a costly U.S. invasion of Japan. This erroneous contention finds its way into high school history texts still today. More dangerously, it shapes the thinking of government officials and military planners working in a world that still contains more than 15,000 nuclear weapons.
— Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The L.A. Times, May 26, 2016.

As one of the most pivotal moments in history, the construction and deployment of the atomic bomb is worthy of many discussions. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki are responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese (primarily civilians) and changing the face of modern warfare and international politics forever. This week we welcome Richard Pera to explore the moment in history, what choices and factors preceded it and what we can take away from the decision in the context of the 21st century. How might this devastating power be connected to later peace? What are the ethical entanglements surrounding the issue? How does the use of nuclear weaponry reflect deeper elements of human nature?

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Episode 156: "Counting the Herd"

The bonds of friendship are central to the human experience. Friends help us as we grow through childhood, weather the storms of adolescence and explore the larger world beyond. But when do people shift focus from the quality of friendships to their quantity? This week, we welcome Michael Duffy to explore the phenomenon of quantifying friendship. How does it diminish our appreciation for the quiet and subtle moments between friends? How might a quantitative perspective alter our approaches to new friends? What societal and cultural institutions encourage an attitude of quantifying friendship?

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Episode 155: A Linguistic Examination of Emoji

Emoji was crowned as this year’s top-trending word by the Global Language Monitor, and it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary (funny, because it’s a word that describes the concept of not actually using words). There is now a blog, Emojinalysis, that purports to psychoanalyze users’ most frequently used emoji.
— Jessica Bennett of the New York Times, July 25, 2014.
Emoji translation is itself an emerging field – but one dominated to date by software, which is often insensitive to the many cultural differences in usage and interpretation. We are therefore seeking an exceptional individual to provide the human touch needed where translation software is inadequate.
— From a London advertisement for Today Translations

Language and imagery have intermingled for millennia of human communication and expression. In many cases, pictographs seem to capture nuance that words alone might miss. But how do Emoji function as a form of language? How have they evolved to reflect their users and what types of communication does their flexibility permit. This week we welcome Morgan Jaffe to explore the linguistic impact Emoji have had on our culture. They present numerous, tangible examples with regard to the law, political issues and creative thinking. How do they reflect a human tendency to identify with and cultivate a visual alphabet? What can our use (or lack thereof) of Emoji teach us about our emotional vocabulary and cultural lexicon?

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Episode 154: Cowspiracy

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
— Martin Luther King Jr.
You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products. Period.
— Howard Lyman, former cattle rancher, author, Mad Cowboy

In the past two decades, climate change (previously described as global warming) has been a polarizing and central topic in discussions both political and personal. Some look to governments and organizations to facilitate recycling, curb emissions and reduce waste byproducts. Others invest in individual contributions, like residential solar panels, composting and eco-friendly materials. But rarely do we think about the impact of food production on the environment. In 2014, documentary filmmaker Kip Anderson set out to explore the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. This week we sit down to discuss his film with Leland Holcomb. How have carnivorous habits been internalized on a cultural level? Could we, as a global community, alter our agricultural course for a more sustainable option?

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