Author: Bobbie Johnson

My ears thank you

Leave a comment
Media

I bloody love podcasts. I mean, I get that this is not a unique or particularly brave position to take. We’re surrounded by the things, everyone probably has their favorites, or they have one of their own. (Everybody* Has a Podcast now in the same way that Everybody* Had a Blog 15-20 years ago.) The Golden Age might be over, the market flooded with terribly-produced, inconsistent audio and formless blobs that are merely placeholders to […]

Explaining the simple things well

Leave a comment
Media

This WSJ video on how TikTok’s algorithm works is proof that just really explaining something that’s pretty obvious can be pretty engaging. Ultimately, I’m not sure there’s a great deal new to what they found—a lot of bots, and a little bit of interpretation, to determine that a lot of TikTok’s algorithmic decisions are based on what you watch, which seems obvious. (I basically never like anything on TikTok and follow almost no accounts: my […]

Slowdown

Leave a comment
Media

I started tracking my book reading habits a few years ago as a way of remembering what I’ve been consuming. Extra benefit: It’s also helped me see patterns or trends. The trouble is that I can also now look back and see when I’m losing the plot. Here’s what I mean: Last year my reading pace felt like it had fallen off a cliff—there were three months or so of total freeze during the pandemic. […]

Nuanced history

Leave a comment
Media

If you want to generate a reaction among nearly any British person—actually, from nearly anyone who comes from a former British colony (and by that I suppose I mean about a quarter of the planet) then all you need to do is start talking about the complicated history and legacy of the Empire. And if you want to really crank your blow-the-gasket-o-meter up, then get onto the subject of museums and statues and things that […]

How should we feel about that?

Leave a comment
Media

Eyeballs on the clash of the real and the virtual this week with the news that a new Bourdain documentary features an AI-generated version of the man’s voice reading out emails he sent people (notably, I think, the audio appears to have been used in the trailer.) This NYer piece, featuring my colleague Karen Hao in quotable form, goes through some of the issues. Creating a synthetic Bourdain voice-over seemed to me far less crass […]

Which books do you truly love?

Leave a comment
Media

“I believe that the books and stories we fall in love with make us who we are, or, not to claim too much, the beloved tale becomes a part of the way in which we understand things and make judgments and choices in our daily lives. A book may cease to speak to us as we grow older, and our feeling for it will fade. Or we may suddenly, as our lives shape and hopefully […]

Getting inside somebody’s head

Leave a comment
Media

There’s something so intricate and mysterious about the whys of another person, wanting to understand what makes them tick, what made them what they are. It’s an instinct that’s so human. Biographies, documentaries, magazine profiles, obituaries are all part of this drive we have to get inside somebody else’s head. One of my first jobs, as a researcher for the Royal Shakespeare Company, was to build dossiers on interesting and notable people that might make […]

My subscription addiction

Leave a comment
Media

I consume a lot of media. I also pay for a lot of it. When I started out in journalism, there was a massive shift taking place, driven by the web, towards free access. But it wasn’t just the web. During college I worked evenings as an intern at the newly-launched Metro; I then worked on free-to-access online news at the London Evening Standard and came up through The Guardian, which has long been an […]

Getting yourself out of the way

Leave a comment
Media

I really enjoyed hearing the director and writer Adam McKay—who has made not-fiction movies like The Big Short, Vice, and a forthcoming Theranos movie, as well as entirely fictional comedies such as Anchorman—discussing creative process on the Longform podcast. It was a little exhilarating to hear him discuss the complexity of producing work in this moment, the feeling that happens when inspiration hits you, and his belief that there are a million ways to tell […]