Podcasts of the Week: August 26-September 8

This (two) weeks in podcasts.

All Songs Considered: All Songs +1: The Weird World Of ‘Feature’ Credits

Ever wondered what has lead to the great increase in songs with a “feat.” artist in the title over the past couple of decades? Or why the featured artists appears in the song title rather than the performer? Or what the difference between “feat.” and “with” or even “x” and “vs” all means?  Apparently, it’s all about metadata.

HUB History: Perambulating the Bounds

Local law requires Boston City Councilors or their designees to walk the boundaries of the city every five years, a practice that was often a boozy ceremony in the past, but has been ignored since the 1980s.  If the city is looking for citizens to take up perambulating the bounds again, I put my foot forward.

99% Invisible: The Age of the Algorithm

How algorithms, purportedly designed to replace subjective judgments with objective measurements, have been used as a cover for discrimination and  marketed for purposes they’re not designed for.

Have You HeardEducation Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can?

The history of the most misguided myth about education, that it will resolve poverty with no other interventions required, and how it has set up schools to fail.

Finally, there are two podcasts that actually replayed episodes made by another podcast this week:

Code Switch: An Advertising Revolution: “Black People Are Not Dark-Skinned White People”  originally from Planet Money

An interesting story of the first African-American advertisement executive who showed how supposed free market capitalists were losing out on money due to white supremacy.

99% Invisible: Notes on an Imagined Plaque originally from The Memory Place

Nate Dimeo’s thoughts on what should be placed on a plaque on a Memphis statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest to mark the reasons why the statue exists.


Book Review: unSpun by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation (2007) by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson is a short guide to finding the facts when confronted by “mixed messages, half-truths, misleading statements, and out-and-out fabrications masquerading as facts” in advertising and politics.  A lot of their advice initially seems obvious (“No duh we should verify our sources”), but upon further reflection it’s very easy to be taken in.  I’m reminded of a bar I went to with some friends that served their own special beer on draft for a low price.  We were impressed that we were getting such a good deal on a tasty home-brew.  My friend later discovered that bar was actually selling Pabst’s Blue Ribbon under another name.  I don’t know if thinking it was a home-brew somehow made PBR taste better, or if PBR’s reputation as a cheap commercial beer makes it taste worse?

The scariest thing about disinformation is how it plays upon our natural human tendency for self-deception.  Politically speaking I’m pretty sure I’m guilty of accepting “facts” that support my political belief without evaluating them although I would really wish that I didn’t.  In addition to tips on how to evaluate and test information for factual accuracy, the authors provide a number of internet sites that are useful in finding the facts.  FactCheck.org is of course an obvious start since that’s the organization behind this book.  Snopes.com is a personal favorite of mine for debunking internet hoaxes and rumors.

Other resources include:

This is a good little book to check out if you want to learn how to avoid deception.

Author Jackson, Brooks.
Title UnSpun : finding facts in a world of disinformation / Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson.
Publication Info. New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, c2007.
Description xii, 195 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.