CBC’s Search Engine was the very first show I started listening to, way back before I had an iPod or had even discovered the magic of subscribing to podcasts on iTunes.
Search Engine is a look at how society, politics and culture are informed and influenced by technology. For example, host Jesse Brown was instrumental in spreading awareness of Bill C-61, which would have overwhelmingly bowed to US industry pressure (while simultaneously ignoring Canadian consumer/creator interests) to cripple our capabilities to consume and create media how we want. Recently he has taken up the issue of the privacy issues of the RFID chips being implanted in Driver’s Licenses across Canada.
Originally Search Engine was a full CBC show – half an hour every week, produced by a team of people, each episode covering a few different issues with varying correspondents (though Jesse was still at the helm). It was cancelled in June 2008, after less than a year on the air. An overwhelming response on Facebook and a letter writing campaign to the CBC convinced the powers that be to bring it back, although without a space on the radio. Search Engine is now just a podcast, and is put together solely by Jesse. Episodes vary from 10-20 minutes on average, and generally just features one story or interview. Jesse also travels throughout the world of CBC Radio, doing features on the intersection of technology, politics and culture for a host of other shows.
Jesse takes on these subjects – subjects that I find fascinating, but I fully realize many don’t – with his own unique tone. He approaches them in a light hearted, humorous way that makes often drearily boring subjects (such as copyright legislation) interesting to the everyday Canadian. He also constantly calls out to his listeners for story ideas or information, and skillfully creates the feeling of a community through his weekly podcast.
A great introduction to Search Engine is his mini radio essay on the absurd internet phenomenon that was Zeitgeist: The Movie (link leads to the Search Engine show, not the silly movie. I wouldn’t link to that). Also fun is his interview with Jim Prentice, formerly the industry minister, where Jesse gets hung up on a few minutes in after a series of non-answers from Prentice.
The show is an excellent way to keep up with current technology related issues in Canada, and although the scope and production value has fallen significantly since its transition to the current podcast-only format, it remains one of my favourite weekly shows. Check it out (direct iTunes link here).
Next: The Moth.