‘Fundamental flaw’ in decision-making processes must be addressed

Deliberative processes are key if Ireland is to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, according to directors of Social Justice Ireland Seán Healy and Brigid Reynolds.

In the keynote address of the organisation’s conference on ‘Sharing responsibility for shaping Ireland’s future’, held last Wednesday (14 September), Seán Healy said: “The crises of recent years have exposed a fundamental flaw in decision-making processes in Ireland and abroad as many people are paying the price for decisions they had no hand, act or part in making. This unjust situation has fuelled a growing conviction among many that public institutions are not up to addressing the challenges of the present moment. Continue reading →

Mósesdóttir: Ireland should draw on Icelandic dissent

In October 2008, the Icelandic bank, Landsbanki, collapsed. With it collapsed its online Icesave branch and the investments of 340,000 British and Dutch savers. Iceland’s Depositors’ and Investors’ Guarantee Fund lacked the funds to compensate its investors. The Icelandic government initially refused to take responsibility for the failure of a private bank.

After considerable negotiations, Iceland agreed to insure the liabilities of Icesave. The British and Dutch governments provided a €3.8 billion loan to cover the deposit insurance obligations for their citizens. In August 2009, the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, passed a bill setting the interest on repayment of the loan at 5.5 per cent. President Olafur Grimsson, however, refused to sign the bill, forcing a referendum on the issue. In March 2010, Icelandic voters voted overwhelmingly against the deal, with 93 per cent casting ‘no’ votes. Continue reading →

crisisjam 11 cover redmonk

Invasion of the time bandits

Those who are employed experience a distinction between their employer’s time and their ‘own’ time. And the employer must use the time of his labour, and see it is not wasted: not the task but the value of time when reduced to money is dominant. Time is now currency: it is not passed but spent.

-E. P. Thompson, Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism 

 The ideal office worker is a person whose personal life is entirely flexible and does not in any way limit the time they can give to their job. Ideally they live close to the office (no time-consuming commute) are childless, and have no significant interests outside of work.

According to the National Employment Survey 2008, the average hours worked across all sectors in Ireland in October 2007 was 34.4 per week. This figure will probably raise a hollow laugh from most workers, particularly salaried workers not entitled to overtime. The NES is probably not terribly reliable when it comes to calculating hours worked in jobs that don’t pay overtime since it’s completed by employers or HR departments and the figures it generates are for ‘paid hours’ – anyone who works in a job that doesn’t pay overtime knows that ‘paid hours’ and ‘hours worked’ are two very different things. Continue reading →

crisisjam lab

Selling off the soul of science

As Dan Hind points out in The Threat to Reason, “Reason and science can be empolyed for swindling ends but they can also serve in the cause of human liberation. The decision to treat human beings as objects of rational administration does not derive from the operations of rationality. It is an act of will.” Below, Eadaoin O’Sullivan tries to rescue science from its ideological hijacking, and suggests that in fighting against technocracy, we should be wary of being drawn into a fight about who’s got the smallest p-values.

Some weeks ago Colm McCarthy, during an interview on Morning Ireland, was asked about the unreliability of the ESRI’s economic forecasts. His response was brusque, and along the lines of ‘Economics is an inexact science. Forecasts are not gospel and are only estimations.’ There are two possible responses to this burst of professional honesty: (1 – obvious) You lot weren’t saying that five years ago; (2 – important) Exactly. So why do we persist in making the hypotheses generated by economic research into the immovable fulcrum around which all debate about politics and society must revolve, given that those hypotheses are only ever tentative and wide open to falsification and consequently no more valid a basis for political decisions than other tentative hypotheses about the importance of justice, fairness and equality? Continue reading →

Love life? Love Enda

Following the launch of the Edelman Trust Barometer and Enda Kenny’s affirmation that he stands for trust, trust and more trust, Eadaoin O’Sullivan looks at nodding dog syndrome and why some world views appear more credible than others.

Launched last week with much ballyhoo, the Edelman Trust Barometer is a survey of a small sample of wealthy people in 23 countries around the world. Enda Kenny chose the launch of this year’s survey to reappear in public after a stint in hiding. His appearance at the launch of a survey on trust was probably, to some eyes, unsurprising, even predictable. All politicians, all people, indeed, aspire towards at least a semblance of trustworthiness. Some aspire to it in practice. For Ireland’s next Taoiseach to seek to associate himself with a survey of something as valuable and valued as trust; to use its launch as his popping out of the birthday cake moment after a week hunched trembling excitedly inside; betrayed nothing but the standard opportunism of the standard baby-kissing politician. Continue reading →


On noise and Second Square to None

A piece I wrote for the online version of the now defunct Analogue Magazine.

The number of venues for experimental music in Dublin has always been limited, and with the demise of what once were regular Lazybird events in the International recently, it became more limited still. Celebrating their first birthday on the 20th of December, the Second Square to None collective – who run monthly events in Twisted Pepper – aim to plug that gap by providing a forum for experimental and noise music – as well as ambient, downbeat, and electronica – in the city. To my mind, probably SSTN’s most exciting function lies in its offering a space for genres of sound that would otherwise languish unheard on the Dublin scene – one of those being noise.

Noise music’s first manifesto came from Luigi Russolo in 1913, who argued that, ‘The limited circle of pure sounds [as produced by orchestral and other traditional instruments] must be broken, and the infinite variety of ‘noise-sound’ conquered.’ This ‘infinite variety’ was explored in the twentieth century by artists from John Cage to Lou Reed to Merzbow (and many many more in-between), but as the twentieth century bled into the twenty-first, and computers became ubiquitous, the ‘infinite variety’ has morphed into something more like ‘infinity squared’. Not that the genre was growing tired, in need of a shot in the arm, as it were, but the ubiquity of both the hard and software needed to mangle and mash audio meant that more and more artists began to play around at the boundaries of sound. Continue reading →

Do people really spend so little time reading news online?

From the December/January 2008 edition of the American Journalism Review:

Newspaper Web sites are attracting lots of visitors, but aren’t keeping them around for long. The typical visitor to nytimes.com, which attracts more than 10 percent of the entire newspaper industry’s traffic online, spent an average of just 34 minutes and 53 seconds browsing its richly detailed offerings in October. That’s 34 minutes and 53 seconds per month, or about 68 seconds per day online. Slim as that is, it’s actually about three times longer than the average of the next nine largest newspaper sites.

The recent Reuters report What’s Happening to our News? gives similar figures for a discrepancy between time spent reading the news online and in print, this time in Europe:

…visitors to the leading UK newspaper websites (as measured by overall traffic) typically only spend a few minutes each day perusing the content. The Daily Mail leads the pack, with an average daily visit of only 8.7 minutes; followed by the Guardian (5.4 minutes), News of the World (3.7 minutes), The Sun (3.7 minutes) and The Times (3.3 minutes).In contrast, McKinsey estimates that, on average, consumers spend roughly eight times longer reading a physical newspaper, compared to the equivalent time they spend at a news-paper website.

In other words, someone who reads the Daily Mail online spends 8.7 minutes doing so, but a reader with a physical copy of the newspaper spends 69.6 minutes at it. Continue reading →

What’s happening to our news?

The Reuters Institute is shortly to publish a wide-ranging report called What’s Happening to our News? It’s based on interviews with 70 significant players in the British media and quantitive data from a range of sources.  The report’s author, Andrew Currah, wrote a piece for Monday’s Guardian summarising the main research findings. First:

News publishers have always had some degree of consumer feedback – but never at the range, intensity and speed that the web makes possible.

He concludes that,

…as newsrooms become more digitally integrated, the flow of data from the web will be faster, more detailed and much harder to ignore. It will put pressure on editors and executives to review the popularity and revenue performance of content, the value of specific journalists and the overall allocation of resources. Already, in the quest for digital success, publishers are being nudged to depart from well-established brand and editorial values. This shift is contributing to the development of a softer and more populist news agenda in the UK, with preference given to topics seen as effective generators of traffic, such as celebrity, entertainment and sport.

To the main report, to find the evidence for this shift.  Unfortunately, the report does not contain any quantitive data on the softening of the news agenda in the UK.  On page 88 there is the assertion: Continue reading →

Funding the future

Thought provoking and interesting piece from Ethan Zuckerman on future funding for journalism.  He points out that advertising has always been massively overpriced in print, and now that vendors can get good stats on how effective their ads are, they’re not willing to shell out quite so much anymore.  He quotes an ex-ad exec called Joshua Jeffryes:

When I worked in Advertising the ineffectiveness of advertising was hardly a secret. But customers couldn’t measure the effectiveness of ads. So they paid and continue to pay ridiculous prices for them.

Online ads, on the other hand, are measurable. They work just as well, if not better, than print, television, etc., the difference is that for the first time ad customers know exactly how ineffective they are.

The first point being something I suppose we all knew intuitively but, like our intuitions about the irrationality of the banking system, didn’t allow into conscious awareness (the somebody knows what’s going on, surely, impulse).  The second point being a thing journalists and publishers are going to have to worry about.  Says Zuckerman: Continue reading →

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Journalism in absentia: Reporting medical research in the mainstream media

A version of this piece ran in the first edition of the Michael Smith-edited reboot of Village Magazine in December 2008. 

A common rumour concerning the contemporary print media is that it is heavily reliant on the public relations industry to supply it with story ideas. The mass austerity drives of newspapers all over the world from the 1990’s onwards; brought on by declining sales and advertising revenue, led to massive staff cutbacks, even as newspapers increased their pagination. In 2006, a group of researchers at Cardiff University set out to discover if the rumours of a newspaper industry in hock to its public relations cousin were true. Their findings, originally published in 2006 but brought to wide public attention in Nick Davies’s 2008 book Flat Earth News, showed that they were: of the 2,207 stories they analysed, they found that less than half of them were entirely independent of traceable PR.

The reliance of the media on press releases and press officers to give them both story ideas, and, too often, the wording of a story too is explained in one way by the the increased pressures on ever smaller numbers of journalists to fill an ever larger news hole, in less time than ever before. A second contributing factor is the increased popularity of lifestyle supplements. These are easy and cheap to produce, consisting as they do of pages of thinly-veiled advertorial and news of celebrity exploits, both of which categories come pre-packaged in press releases from companies and agents eager to see their brand promoted. Continue reading →