The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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Time to Write a Few Prob-Eds

Julian Sanchez, “The Perils of Pop Philosophy“:

The function of the ordinary pop-science/social science/philosophy piece is to give the reader a sort of thumbnail-sketch of the findings or results of a particular sphere of study, while op-eds and radio talkers make the thumbnail case for a policy position. The latter are routinely criticised for their shrill content, but the really toxic message of contemporary opinion writing and radio is the meta-message, the implicit message contained in the form, more than any particular substantive claim. In an ordinary op-ed, the formal message is that 800 or 1000 words is adequate to establish the correct position on any question of interest…

What might be more helpful, at least in some instances, is an article that spends the same amount of space setting up the problem, and getting across exactly why it


“This touches on an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while — doing a Radio Lab-style podcast or report on current research in the humanities and social sciences.”

Do it!

(Except… don’t make it 45 mins. Or, at least make it “chunky” so I can listen to parts of it at a time.)

I know – but what to do it ON? Where does my knowledge (and urge to know more) overlap with the public’s need to know?

Ha ha, where DOESN’T it?

I wouldn’t apply too strong a filter to start. Probably more important to just take some kernel of curiosity and run with it — produce something short, maybe in the 5 minute range. Easy to scale up (and focus in) from there. You need to do an alpha version!

You should go for it. The beauty of a program like Radio Lab is its breadth. If one episode doesn’t grab you, I bet the next one will. For the listener, its all about becoming a generally better informed person. People already know where to go for specialized knowledge in their fields.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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