Don Tapscott's Radio 'ReCivilization': Building a Better B.S. Detector


"ReCivilization is a five-part series that examines some of the biggest challenges facing our world," reads the official description of the new CBC Radio series hosted by Don Tapscott. "It charts a path to the future enabled by the revolutions underway in communications, innovation and learning in this new, post-industrial, digital age."

Mostly, though, it's all about Don Tapscott.

The program was introduced with an ominous drumbeat as the author of the 1992 book Paradigm Shift assured the audience that things are still in flux 20 years later. Next, an uncredited voice — a self-penned bio written in the third-person, obviously — provided assurance that Tapscott was the rare person who could be trusted to shed light on how everything is on the verge of becoming new. Perhaps the target audience would rather not know that we are already there.

Programs that acknowledge that we are several thousand miles along in this "path to the future" seem to be doing quite well in the boomer orbit of public radio: NPR's staple On the Media assumes the audience is fully engaged with technology and CBC's five-year-old Spark doesn't seem to need to footnote every term that was foreign five years ago. (Disclosure: Metaviews president Jesse Hirsh is a technology columnist for the public broadcaster.)

So where was the demand for this kind of primer program coming from? The debut episode, "Turning the media inside out," offered nothing new — except the idea that the host of an interview-based show about the condition of the communications industry needs to keep reminding the audience who he is.

"We've got the idea person of idea people," enthused Leo Laporte in a clip of Tapscott appearing on one of his shows, produced at the new headquarters. So, why bother asking anything of a lesser idea person?

Once again, the inference is that an online show about technology should continue to be seen as an exotic novelty, even as the CBC itself is being heckled daily in the private media for throwing out old delivery systems in order to make digital strides.

A segment with The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, meanwhile, made no suggestion that any outlet in Canada has a clue of what to do with online news, which might be true, although there is no space in ReCivilization to address that. Then again, the fact that ex-CBC types Jay Walsh and Sue Gardner currently work for the Wikimedia Foundation was pointedly emphasized.

Yet the overriding message was that only Don Tapscott can tell Canada about tomorrow. At the end of the hour, his own collaborator Anthony Williams was recruited to sum up how the media works now, with the implication that it has a dark side.

"What are the tools that people need to consume the news in this new way?" Tapscott knowingly asked. "Do we all need better B.S. detectors, for example?"

Four more hours of the series will not be necessary for those who acquired those detectors long ago.

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Reminds me of Alvin Toffler's equally trivial "Future Shock" 30 years ago.

Painful show

This is a brutal show...did someone at the CBC owe Don a favour? I honestlywinced as I listened to part of last week's episode (the "transformation of education and science"). As they moribundly cover topics that were examined by Spark years ago (the very first episode of Spark in 2007 discussed "the changing culture of learning and creation"), I try to figure out the intended audience for the show...are they angling for the people who found Spark too complicated?

Take a smart, entertaining show like Spark, lobotomize it, and voilà! You've got Recivilization. If I had to come up with something good to say about the show, I could point out that it serves as a 2-hour reminder that Spark is coming up.

Don Tapscott

Well said!

Tapscott seems to have wrung a career out of one self-evident notion: changes in technology beget changes in society. When I read "The last book you'll ever read" some 15 or 20 years ago, I thought, that's lame, but at least the guy is honor-bound to stop writing books.

No such luck...