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Sean Graham: How the CBC Began

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Talking History focuses on a wide range of topics in Canadian history, and it consists of articles by Canada's foremost historians and history experts. Our contributors use the power of narrative to bring the past to life and to show how it is not just relevant, but essential to our understanding of Canada and the world today. "Talking History" is a series made possible through a special funding grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Sean Graham is a William Lyon Mackenzie King Postdoctoral Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, where his research focuses on the history of national broadcasting and Canadian efforts to situate itself within the North American broadcasting environment. He is also an editor at Activehistory.ca and host/producer of the History Slam Podcast.

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Radio—that thing a lot people listen to in the car when their phone runs out of battery power—hasn’t always been an afterthought in the world of popular culture. During the 1930s it was at the centre of the entertainment industry. In fact, it has been said that radio was so popular during the 1930s that during the summer you could walk down the street and follow the hijinks of Amos n’ Andy through open windows. Coinciding with radio’ …

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Literary Revelations: Top Reviewers Pick Their Surprise Books of the Year

We have so many amazing experiences as book lovers: entering new worlds, falling in love with characters, dog-earing so many pages that a book won't close, grieving the inevitable but terrible fact that books do end, etc. And of course, the treat of being surprised. This post centres on a particular type of bibliophilic surprise: that of picking up a book one might not normally pick up, expect much from, or know much about ... then being delighted or otherwise impressed by the read.

We asked four powerhouse tastemakers within Canadian book media—Mark Medley, books editor at the National Post and overseer of The Afterword blog; Steven W. Beattie, review editor at Quill & Quire and author of the blog, That Shakespearean Rag; Erin Balser, radio/web producer and columnist for CBC Books; and Jared Bland, books editor at the Globe and Mail—to tell us about the books that most surprised them this year, and why they were surprised. Here are their picks, as well as their caveats about the notion of surprise and/or prefaces to their choices.

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Mark Medley (National Post):

"Choosing three books that 'surprised' me is a puzzling task; I expect every book I open to surprise me in one way or another, otherwise what's the point of reading? However, I think it's probably eas …

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Top Shelf Ep. 1: Canadian Books You Need to Read

One of the most rewarding things we do at 49th Shelf is make themed lists—as well as commission them from authors and highlight the best of those compiled by members.

Too often, though, we find that incredible lists—and blog posts—get buried in the web’s relentless tendency to favour the new over the old. So starting today, we are launching a new bimonthly series (erm, that’s twice a month in this case) called Top Shelf that will shine a spotlight on great 49th Shelf lists and posts … newer and older. Each Top Shelf post will include three to five awesome lists and/or blog posts.

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Backlist, Baby: This is the perfect pick to roll out Top Shelf because it immediately reveals the danger of getting fixated on new releases. It’s a list of Canadian books published prior to 2013 that the 49th Shelf community created, and it includes such stunners as Bronwen Wallace’s People You’d Trust Your Life To, Isabel Huggan’s Belonging, and Alistair MacLeod’s The Lost Salt Gift of Blood (which to our recollection, has never once been left off a serious “best of” list).

 

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Podcast: Nora Young talks about her book The Virtual Self and how our digital lives can reground us in the physical realm.

UPDATE: After much hullabaloo, Facebook filed its paperwork for an initial public offering, the week of its eighth birthday. The company will begin trading late May 2012. Read more at Mashable. They also have a nice video to explain what this all means, in particular the increase of mobile-Facebooking.

I went back to Nora Young to ask her thoughts. What does this mean in terms of data? OUR data? Here they be:

At the most basic level, Facebook's IPO is a good example of the fact that our data has value. In fact, it's interesting just to consider for a moment that the stock price is — and will be — driven by the loyalty of users and the data they choose to contribute, more than the platform itself, which in the absence of user data really has little intrinsic value.

Does that data have as much value as today's trading suggests, though? In advance of the IPO, I found it interesting to read speculation on what FB might need to do in order to generate the revenue that "Wall Street" might expect. See for instance, this New York Times article. It points out another feature of these platforms: that exactly what use will be made of our data, is something of a moving target. We are really at a fluid period in thinking about what value personal data actually has.

At more of a cultural level, the borderline hysterical coverage leading up to FB's IPO suggests that we are really drunk on data. It's a story with an odd sex appeal to it, since as users we are in some sense 'involved' in the …

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