It's a fictional streetscape we wander, here, a metropolis whose buildings, boulevards, and back alleys are in a constant state of flux. This is every place, and yet, no place at all - a city of dreams and a dream of a city.

Here, we explore the life and work of Ivan Illich and his circle of collaborators. There's no comprehensive index to the articles published, but we invite you to use the Search box, to the left, and to explore the Archive links that appear at the bottom of each page. Comments are welcomed.

Friday, February 04, 2011

More from Mr. Cayley

David Cayley surely is a name familiar to anyone who has taken Illich seriously since the late 1980s. A producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s radio program IDEAS, Mr. Cayley has created two 5-hour-long radio shows devoted to Illich (and a lesser-known hour-long tribute to Illich broadcast shortly after his death), and written two books related to those shows. He became a close friend of Illich's and was his main interlocutor in the later years of his life.

At the end of this month (Feb. 28 - March 4), we've just learned, Mr. Cayley will present a 5-part program called The Malaise of Modernity: Charles Taylor in Conversation. Mr. Taylor, of course, contributed the perceptive foreword to The Rivers North of the Future, expressing thanks to Mr. Cayley for bringing forth that final, resounding statement of Illich's thought: "Illich, in his overall vision and in the penetrating historical detail of his arguments, offers a new road map, a way of coming to understand what has been jeopardized in our decentred, objectifying, discarnate way of remaking ourselves, and he does so without simply falling into the clichés of anti-modernism." Mr. Taylor also writes about Illich, at some length, in a recent book, A Secular Age.

CBC describes the upcoming program so:

Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is Canada's best known and most widely read contemporary thinker. In books like Sources of the Self and A Secular Age, he has attempted to define the unique character of the modern age. He maps the fault-lines in our modern identity, and points to both the pitfalls and the promise of our condition. Charles Taylor has also been active in politics, having run four times for Parliament during the 1960s. IDEAS producer David Cayley surveys Taylor's thought in a series of extended conversations.

Ideas is broadcast weekdays at 9PM Toronto/Eastern time, on CBC Radio One and at several other times during the day over the Sirius Satellite Radio system. Radio One also broadcasts "live" on the Web, and makes certain of its shows, including many (but perhaps not all) Ideas programs, available for on-demand listening after their original broadcast dates.

In any case, we look forward to listening to these conversations with Mr. Taylor, when they're aired. And we'll likely record them, too. (Shameless but well-deserved product plug: We use Rogue Amoeba's superb Audio Hijack Pro software to record all our Web streams, and other audio, too.) And, if these conversations lead to a book, as has happened with previous interview subjects (Illich and Northrop Frye, for instance), we'll probably read that, too.

Meanwhile, we might point out two previous multi-part radio series of Mr. Cayley's that are still available as podcasts: In 24 parts, there is "How to Think about Science," and in 14 parts, "The Origins of the Modern Public."
The former features hour-long interviews with thinkers who study science itself - what scientists do, what scientific knowledge is and how it's used, the history and philosophy of science, the underlying assumptions of modern scientific thought and procedure, and so forth. We've only recently caught up with this series of programs, in the form of podcasts, but we heartily recommend it. Each program is devoted to one or two thinkers. And as the list of interviews reveals, a number of Mr. Cayley's subjects have worked closely with Illich, though they don't actually speak about him in these interviews: Barbara Duden, Silya Samerski, David Abram, and Sajay Samuel.

These programs may be listened to in streaming format from CBC's website or downloaded as MP3 podcasts from the iTunes store or via this helpful blog.

How to Think About Science

Episode 1 - Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer

Episode 2 - Lorraine Daston

Episode 3 - Margaret Lock

Episode 4 - Ian Hacking and Andrew Pickering

Episode 5 - Ulrich Beck and Bruno Latour

Episode 6 - James Lovelock

Episode 7 - Arthur Zajonc

Episode 8 - Wendell Berry

Episode 9 - Rupert Sheldrake

Episode 10 - Brian Wynne

Episode 11 - Sajay Samuel

Episode 12 - David Abram

Episode 13 - Dean Bavington

Episode 14 - Evelyn Fox Keller

Episode 15 - Barbara Duden and Silya Samerski

Episode 16 - Steven Shapin

Episode 17 - Peter Galison

Episode 18 - Richard Lewontin

Episode 19 - Ruth Hubbard

Episode 20 - Michael Gibbons, Peter Scott, & Janet Atkinson Grosjean

Episode 21 - Christopher Norris and Mary Midgely

Episode 22 - Allan Young

Episode 23 - Lee Smolin

Episode 24 - Nicholas Maxwell

Easily our favorite discovery in this series has been Simon Schaffer, a professor in the philosophy of science at Cambridge University. He has both a gift for explaining his topic and a great sense of humor. He points out, for instance, that both Newton and Leibniz, each of whom seem to have invented the calculus independently of the other, both have biscuits named after them. Video and audio of Schaffer speaking about various subjects are well worth looking for: at Cambridge and Stanford University, on YouTube (Mr. Schaffer has anchored some BBC TV shows about science), and on an erudite BBC radio show called In Our Time, hosted by Melvyn Bragg (available as a podcast from BBC or via iTunes.)

The other of Mr. Cayley's programs, about the shaping of the modern public, also is available on the Web and in podcast form. It is essentially a series of interviews with Canadian and American academics involved in a research project overseen by McGill University, in Montreal. "Publicity was once the exclusive property of men of rank," the CBC website states. "They alone, by virtue of their stations, could make things public. During the 18th century it became meaningful to talk about 'public opinion' as something formed outside the state. Today anyone with a Twitter account can make a public. In this series IDEAS producer David Cayley examines how publics were formed in Europe, between 1500 and 1700, and how these early publics grew into the concept of 'the public' that we hold today." We look forward to listening to these programs, as well.
(At first glance, this topic of the "public" brings to mind the idea of the attention economy, which we first heard about in the mid-1980s from Michael H. Goldhaber. Goldhaber points out that while the world is awash in "information," the amount of attention that people can pay to that information is quite limited. Attention is a scarce commodity, as Illich might say. And so, an economy of attention is already underway, with different kinds of attention - mass audiences paying attention to stars and vice-versa, for instance - being traded back and forth. Much of the "PC revolution," Goldhaber points out, has had to do with providing people with ways of gainign attention for themselves: Powerpoint, desktop publishing, bulletin boards and now, Facebook and Twitter. Goldhaber goes so far as to predict that "the attention economy will eventually replace the money-industrial economy, in all variants, including capitalism.")

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Santa Rosa, California, United States
Writer, photographer, music fan; father and husband living in northern Calif.