What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Vanity Fair's Broken Washington: A Few Solutions

August 19, 2010, 12:25 PM
Uni_gulliver

Todd Purdum has a feature in Vanity Fair this month that is so rich with insight, color, and analysis regarding the communication challenges facing the Obama administration that I immediately plugged the article into my graduate course syllabus for the semester.

“The sheer growth of the federal government, the paralysis of Congress, the systemic corruption brought on by lobbying, the trivialization of the ‘news’ by the media, the willful disregard for facts and truth, these forces have made today’s Washington a depressing and dysfunctional place,” writes Purdum in the subscription protected article. “They have shaped and at times hobbled the presidency itself.”

Purdum describes what’s historically different today about Washington even in comparison to the Clinton era. He relates the loss of civil discourse, the structural dysfunction of redistricting that enables House members to be ever more hyper-partisan, and the roadblock of the filibuster. He also focuses on the loss of bi-partisan socializing among Congressional members, as Republicans sleep in their offices rather than maintain a home and social ties in Washington, DC , avoiding the risk of being “polluted” by the Capital’s “cozy culture.” And of course, there is the ever stronger influence and financial might of lobbyists.

Yet Purdum saves his strongest critique for the news media, journalists, and the contemporary culture of social media and blogs. As he writes:

Now, thanks to cable, the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook, there is no such thing as a “news cycle” in Washington—only one endless, undifferentiated full-color stream of fact, opinion, and attitudinizing, where lies and misinformation flourish equally with truth…..The pace of events has picked up, sure, but the capacity to assert, allege, and comment is now infinite, and subject to little responsible control….[Obama] faces the most hyperkinetic, souped-up, tricked-out, trivialized, and combative media environment any president has ever experienced.

Part of the media dysfunction, argues Purdum, is driven by the absence of experience among today’s Washington reporters, an inexperience paired with a culture of youthful snark:

The life experiences—and thus the sense of perspective, history, and balance—of today’s Washington reporters are qualitatively different from those of their predecessors. An entire generation has come of age being taught that the way to succeed is to be smart—if not smart-alecky—young thing.

Addressing these institutional and cultural problems, particularly those of the media and broader communication system, is a topic that will be of chief focus here at Age of Engagement. I don’t pretend to have the exact solutions, but I do have a few modest proposals, initiatives that are already underway and that deserve greater investment and attention.

In the video interview below with Big Think, I describe these three ideas which include:

a) New models of non-profit and localized public affairs media;

b) Widespread adoption of media literacy curriculum from high school through college;

c) New models for direct public participation in government and collective decision-making.

What do readers think? Is Purdum’s diagnosis accurate? Are these ideas worth pursuing?

 

 

Vanity Fair's Broken Washin...

Newsletter: Share: