Note to Self

Note to Self

“Is your phone watching you?  Can wexting [walking and texting] make you smarter?  Are your kids real?  These and other essential quandaries [are] facing anyone trying to preserve their humanity in the digital age.  Join host Manoush Zomorodi for your weekly reminder to question everything.”
Unless a friend printed this review out for you to read in your cave, analog-style, then you, like the rest of us, find your life to be increasingly entangled in technology and the digital world.  From Note to Self’s point of view, this is neither an intrinsically good nor an intrinsically bad thing.  Regardless, it is a thing that has very real ramifications on both our day-to-day lives and the future of our species, ie the experiment that is Human Life.  These ramifications are significant, and they’re very much worth exploring, and that’s more or less the backbone of what Note to Self is and what it does.  

Manoush Zomorodi is pretty good at what she does--a sort of gonzo-style journalism in which she, the host, is almost inseparable from the material she covers.  Luckily she’s both charismatic and seemingly boundlessly optimistic, otherwise I don’t think the show would work as well as it does.  In her podcast, Manoush takes on all varieties of topics regarding both our increasing dependence on technology, and how that dependence influences our behavior.  Topics are wide-ranging, and include everything from social media and privacy, to stimulation of the brain via electrical currents, to the nature of reality itself (is it a simulation or what??).  

Note to self does all of this passingly well, but my general impression is that it’s always a step behind the zeitgeist.  Not only that, but the notably short episode lengths for some of the exceedingly complex topics covered makes it come off as amateurish.  It perhaps may serve as a good primer if the listener somehow hasn’t heard of the given subject being covered, but if you stop there you’ll surely miss out on some important aspects of the story, as well as the bigger picture.  All that said, given that Note to Self is firstly a radio show on WNYC and only secondly a podcast, it makes sense that they’re forced to cram everything into a 20-30 minute time slot.  And honestly a simple primer is probably what a lot of folks listening to this radio program (NPR’s audiences skew older) need.  So I can’t fault them too much.  

All I can say is, you may not feel the need to subscribe to this podcast given all the other shows out there that serve a similar niche, but check in from time to time, as there are definitely a few gems in both their archive and their newer episodes, particularly if you see an episode featuring a topic you’re unfamiliar with.  

High quality, as to be expected from a professional radio show.  But again, the short format kind of limits it.

Hit or miss, depending on the given topic.

Manoush is very much an “along for the ride,” learning alongside the listener type, and less an explainer of things.  

Driveway Moments:
I’m hard-pressed to think of any…

Future Potential:
Medium.  I expect them to continue to push out both good and mediocre episodes alike.

Episode Length: 
20-30 minutes

Overall Score: 6.6/10

Notable Episodes:

  • Is My Phone Listening in On Me?
  • Sext Education: Teens, Photos, and the Law
  • When Silicon Valley Takes on Elementary School
  • The Privacy Paradox series
  • Zapping Your Brain to Bliss
  • Will You Do a Snapchat Streak With Me?

    If you like this podcast, you’ll probably like: 
  • Science Vs
  • How I Built This
  • Radiolab
  • TED Radio Hour
  • Invisibilia

    Note to Self's Website

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