Thorium nuclear power: Let’s do this

It never ceases to amaze me how our political systems and the power of giant corporations consistently holds us back as a species.

Watch this fast-moving video to learn more about thorium-based nuclear power. It’s safe to operate, has a small environmental footprint, could be cheaply developed at large or small scales (including transportation platforms), and we could use it for millions of years at current energy consumption rates.

Imagine: all-electric transportation vehicles and systems driven by battery and/or hydrogen storage + fuel cells, with the power for hydrogen separation or battery recharges coming from thorium-based nuclear plants setup in highly distributed smart grids. Imagine a world without coal-fired power plants.

A final quote from the video:

In conclusion, this gives us options for inherently safe, proliferation-resistant, economic nuclear power that can last thousands if not millions of years. This really could be the silver bullet that enables us to power our industrial society. And this also offers real options for solving the long-term issues surrounding our existing spent nuclear fuel and ultimately preventing the formation of new transuranic waste.

Pew Research on Millennials – Wed, Feb 24

“Tune in” to a special Pew Research Center conference on the Millennial generation starting at 9:00am Eastern on Wednesday, February 24.

I’ll be on the road, driving 4,000 miles from Anchorage to St. Louis, unable to watch. But if I were at a computer with a live web connection, I’d totally watch.

Public media companies and leaders need to understand how younger generations view the world. Others, like Jacobs Media, have done a good job with profiling younger folks. But we seem to forget these lessons.

So check out the webcast here.

MUST SEE: Future of gaming, future of society?

Om Malik posted the following video by Jesse Schell and raved about it over on Giga Om. And rightly so. It’s a 30-minute roller coaster ride of ideas about the “experience economy,” authenticity, gaming psychology, Facebook, and the future of social media and possibly even society.

I still need some time to wrap my head around this. It’s such a new way of thinking for public service media, yet it’s so crucial we start thinking about media as an “experience,” not just something to be passively consumed. If we’re serious about creating positive outcomes for people and communities, immersive and “authentic” experiences will be much better suited to reaching our goals than simply giving people information and suggesting they consider changing their behaviors.

In my particular case, I’m wondering what kind of “gaming” elements can be added for readers of the St. Louis Beacon to keep them more engaged, get them more informed and connect them to each other and positive outcomes for the community. Or how might we offer “points” for participants in upcoming public service media projects we’re going to do at KETC?

In any case, this is a MUST SEE VIDEO. Take the time. It’s well worth it.

FINAL CUT: The Future is Public Service Media

Here’s the final cut of my recent presentation for WOSU Public Media in Columbus. This time I’ve got a video I created myself plus a complete set of slides and links back to all the original material.

In this case, the video is a revised presentation deck with a brand new voiceover track. This way, if you couldn’t see or hear the presentation clearly in the video shot at WOSU, now you can get the slides and the talk directly.

First, the video, then I’ll follow up with a final collection of links.

Final Cut Presentation Material

Additional Material

Additional links from WOSU presentation

In prepping my presentation for WOSU Public Media last week, I spent a lot of time reviewing other people’s recent presentations, stories, blogs, data and so on. Really, I read stuff every day related to digital media, so tracking it all back down is kind of hard. But I wanted to make sure I gathered a list of links and other resources folks could review if they wanted to dig deeper than my presentation alone allowed. So here they are, in no particular order…

From Broadcast to Broadband: Redesigning public media for the 21st Century
Discusses how public media must change to meet the challenges of a 21st century media universe. Jake Shapiro, PRX and Ellen Goodman, Rutgers; presented at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Note: The pie chart showing CPB expenditures is incorrect. There’s an extra $71M included in the TV programming slice that shouldn’t be there.

The Future of News
This was a conference held at MPR in St. Paul, MN in November 2009 bringing together journalism leaders and pundits from public and commercial media in all formats. Lots of video and other resources. Props to Julia Shrenkler for tons of work on this one.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Michael Rosenblum offers a critique of the folks that appeared at The Future of News, as linked above.

A Collection of Social Network Stats for 2009 (Jeremiah Owyang)
A frequently-updated list of social media statistics, including links, for all the major services.

The Chaos Scenario (video)
The Chaos Scenario (blog / book)
Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR’s “On the Media,” has written a book and built a wide-ranging presentation on how current media companies are faced with a chaotic world that’s changing the fundamental models of media economics. It’s a long video, but a good one.

Continue reading “Additional links from WOSU presentation”

Presentation: The Future is Public Service Media

UPDATE: In the comments, Tom White from the CPB noted that the math for TV production and operations noted in the presentation — stating that 84% of CPB’s annual appropriation goes to TV — is incorrect. In fact, for both FY2009 and FY2010 it’s about 67% of the total, not 84%. I based my 84% figure on the presentation slides offered by Jake Shapiro and Ellen Goodman in their November 3 talk. The figures in their presentation — on slide 15/32 — miscalculated CPB’s allocations by more than $70,000,000. I apologize for the error and will attempt to update my slides soon. In the mean time, keep in mind that 84% figure is wrong.

Last week I gave a presentation at WOSU Public Media in Columbus, Ohio, sharing with them some of the trends in media generally, talking about the economic pressures of a changing media landscape and sharing some ideas of how the station might change to meet the needs of the community in ways that transcend mere broadcasting.

WOSU was kind enough to gather a great group of people from across the company, plus one visitor from ThinkTV in Dayton and one from WYSO in Yellow Springs. (I’m not listing names here because I didn’t get permission to mention anyone specifically.) I’m hopeful some of the elements in the presentation were at least thought-provoking. One person told me afterward that he came away with three new ideas. Awesome!

I’m posting a ton of presentation links here so anyone can view and download the materials as desired. As I mentioned to a former colleague of mine, the materials are free for the taking, remixing and so forth under a Creative Commons license.

If WOSU posts a YouTube video of the live presentation itself, I’ll embed it here later. And I may just do another version of the presentation in voice-over style anyway.

I’ll start off with the embeddable SlideShare presentation, then include more links below.


Presentation Downloads

The Future is Public Service Media – Keynote (Mac) format (242MB zip)
This is the complete presentation in its native format, including all embedded videos, graphics, transitions and so on. Playback requires iWork ’09 on a Mac.

The Future is Public Service Media – QuickTime format (638MB mov)
Complete presentation in a clickable “movie” format (click to advance, click links to get to the web) that includes the complete video files inside the presentation. Playable on any Mac or any PC with QuickTime installed.

The Future is Public Service Media – JPEG images (8MB zip)
This is all the slides from the presentation as individual JPEG images.

The Future is Public Service Media – PDF (6MB PDF)
This is all the slides from the presentation in a single PDF document, readable on all computers with Adobe Reader or another PDF application.

The Future of Public Media

foggy highwayIn a little over a week, I’m supposed to appear at WOSU Public Media in Columbus and tell them what the future of public media will be.

Ha! Okay, that’s not going to happen — I can’t really tell the future, especially when it comes to public media.

But I am thinking deeply about it, and a recent post I wrote has me thinking more broadly about the future, with respect to public broadcasting / public media / nonprofit media / what have you. And that post ended with a simple question:

Are public media’s best days behind it or are they yet to come?

Like so many things in life, the answer to the question is driven by your personal history with and perspective on “public media.” But it seems to me the future is either what we make it, or we simply agree to take whatever happens to us.

That’s what I’m thinking I’ll explore with the group at WOSU: are we going to take the future, or make the future?

The Media Inflection Point You Can’t Avoid

We’re in the midst of the biggest media reshuffling in history. Literally. There are more people on the planet today than at any time in Earth’s past. And almost all those billions of people have contact with some form of media every day — print, radio, TV, Internet, and all the forms therein. The 20th century witnessed the mass adoption of electronic media (telephone, radio, TV, Internet), ending with the mass popularization of the web in the industrialized world.

Not since the adoption of the printing press and its mass-produced written material has human society been faced with such an expansion of media to the point of ubiquity. Distribution of the written word fundamentally changed how humans think, gather information, communicate, organize, share, learn and so much more.

Similarly, radio and TV have had a huge impact on human society. But they’ve simply continued the mass distribution (broadcast) phenomenon of print, in which a cloistered few control what media is produced and distributed and how it’s experienced.

In contrast, the web — with its many-to-many decentralized and self-organizing design, coupled with a capacity for storing and delivering video, audio, text, photos, and structured data — changes the fundamental ways in which we use media. Indeed, all our older forms of media are maneuvering to either combat or leverage the power of the web for themselves.

By the way, let’s remember we’ve only just begun this transformation, we’re only now starting to see possibilities of what this will do to us or for us. Today we’re raising the world’s first generation of children who will never live without the web and its capabilities. For them, instant ubiquitous communication, sharing, and participation is a birth right.

In short, the world is undergoing tremendous change because media — a force in all our lives — is fundamentally changing. The future of media is being created right now, much more so than 10, 20 or even 100 years ago.

Given these changes, do you let the future happen, or do you find a way to make the future?

(Oh, and bad news: you can’t avoid making this choice, consciously or unconsciously.)

The Future: Taking It

Public broadcasting has largely been waiting as this media revolution takes root. Waiting to see the patterns emerge. Waiting to see what commercial media companies do. Waiting to see what the audience wants. Waiting to see the “business model.” Waiting for the CPB to fund this plan or that plan or give instructions. Waiting for NPR or PBS to make it all better.

This approach assumes the future is knowable, and that it’s more knowable the longer you wait. Public media companies using this strategy are betting if they sit back and let the future happen, they can re-engage once everything “settles down” and “success” can be achieved by following an established plan.

The flip side is that if the current business model collapses (as the elderly population supporting public broadcasting dies) but the magical solution hasn’t been delivered yet, then you go out of business. “Oh, well. All good things come to an end. It was inevitable. Nothing I could do.”

The “taking it” approach also presumes a good future is achieved by repeating past success. This is music to the ears of folks that built their careers shooting big TV shows, or built NPR from the ground up, surviving lean times to reach the “safe” place they’re in today. If we just keep pumping out TV shows, we’ll get viewers and advertisers and money, right? If we just keep playing good music or running national news programs that people like, we’ll get enough money to make it and that’s fine.

Finally, using the wait-and-see approach is less messy, more predictable. Sure, as your public broadcasting company shrinks, some people will lose their jobs, but that will be a slow bleed, and you can just hold on longer than anyone else, right? Talk to someone that worked at a newspaper recently — they’ll draw the roadmap for you.

NOTE: This is the strategy in play in Alaska right now: consolidate the community-based stations into a statewide entity to save operating cash and hope by the time the reorganization dust settles a business model will be “blessed” by CPB or “proven” at other stations. It’s the classic wait-out-the-storm strategy. Only this storm will rage for a generation.

When it comes to the future of public media, “taking it” has its charms — most notably predictability and an unquestioned reverence for past success. But it’s an inevitable failure for you, for the company and for the community the public media company ostensibly serves.

The Future: Making It

Where “taking it” passively hopes for a brighter future (despite indications to the contrary), “making it” meets the ambiguous future head-on and searches for ways forward that still fulfill your purpose. Making the future, in such a time of change, also presumes the search for the “best way to do things” won’t end in our lifetimes — an acceptable approach today may not be appropriate tomorrow.

When choosing to make the future, you’ll have to accept some assumptions:

  • you cannot know or predict the future with any degree of accuracy
  • though you can’t predict the future, you must, however, clearly know your mission and purpose as a public service media firm — that’s what gives you certainty in ambiguous circumstances
  • the present and future are significantly different from the past, so repeating past success does not guarantee future success; proposals to repeat past successes must be evaluated as if they’d never been done before
  • waiting for a perfect model of the future means you’ll miss opportunities to learn and/or succeed in the present
  • unpredictability of the future is scary, but guaranteed failure is scarier
  • failure is fine; failure is a teacher; failure is a universal experience and can bring people together
  • courage is sexier than cowardice; courage will generate more and better support via collaboration, funding and mindshare; people are drawn to ambitious projects and people

If you’ve opted to “make the future,” it also means accepting the fact that you are not an expert in what you’re doing. That might be the hardest pill to swallow for public broadcasting veterans. “Not an expert? Then why do it?” Here’s why: You can’t be an expert on the never-done-before. No one can. But you can be smart, experimental and you can ask for help. Bonus: Humility builds community respect, which leads to support.

The Best Days of Public Media

Are public media’s best days behind it or are they yet to come?

If you think public media = public broadcasting, then the best days are behind you. Broadcasting, while not worthless, is worth less — it commands less attention and loyalty and gathers less money, while the cost of operation (especially for TV) grows and broadcast loses political power to broadband. There’s a place for broadcasting, to be sure, but it’s not at the leading edge of a public media company that’s making the future. What company puts a weakening, shrinking and economically tired division at the forefront of corporate strategy? Put in the team with new ideas, courage, and a hunger for dynamic growth in the driver’s seat!

If you think public media can only succeed in a calm, cool, collected, neatly organized and predictable organization, then the best days are behind you — because the future, like the present, is messy and unknown. A public media company waiting for the future can only decline while a public media firm exploring new media horizons and new relationships will have to take risks.

But if you think we’re living in an age where public service media can achieve more than in any prior time in history, then the best days are ahead of you. Costs for media creation, distribution and collaboration are falling rapidly, and many are effectively zero. It’s easier to maintain deeper relationships over extended space and time and gather masses of niche interests for public good. There are things you can organize and do today that would have been impossible 20 years ago, and public media firms — if they choose to make the future — can create and enable tremendous value using network effects and a blended influence of broadcasting, digital media, social media and community relationships.

We stand at the edge of an ocean of opportunity — and risk — for ourselves, our companies and especially our communities. The ocean’s waters are rising as the mediated world grows. We can stand firm as the waters rise, or we can try our hand at swimming.

If we swim, we might die. But if we stand firm, we’ll die for sure.