Thorne Dreyer :
PODCAST | Author Michael Harris on the Digital Revolution and ‘The End of Absence’

Journalist and editor Harris, our guest on Rag Radio, discusses ‘Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.’

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Michael Harris was our guest on Rag Radio, September 26, 2014.

Interview by Thorne Dreyer | The Rag Blog | October 20, 2014

Our guest on Rag Radio, journalist Michael Harris, is a magazine editor and the author of the critically-acclaimed The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.

On the show we discuss the nature of the digital revolution in relation to earlier transformative communication events —  like the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and the 20th century television invasion.

And Harris recounts a personal epiphany, his “overload moment,” when, sitting in front of his computer, he looked up and realized he had more than a dozen windows open on two computer monitors and was engaged in multiple email conversations and text messages.

He decided on the spot to quit his job and take an extended vacation from technology — kind of a quest to regain the lost experience of “solitude” — and set off on a journey to research this obsession with digital life, which resulted in the book, The End of Absence. Harris acknowledges that we “can’t go back,” but believes we can find a way to temper our digital compulsion, to gain a sense of perspective and rediscover the “gift of absence.”


Download the podcast of our September 26, 2014 Rag Radio interview with Craig McDonald here — or listen to it here:

Rag Radio is a weekly hour-long syndicated radio program produced and hosted by Rag Blog editor Thorne Dreyer. The show is produced in the studios of KOOP 91.7-FM, a cooperatively-run all-volunteer community radio station in Austin, Texas, and is first broadcast live on KOOP every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT).


The End of Absence, is a smart and witty look at our unique time when folks still exist (the “straddle generation” he calls us) who have experienced life both before and after the Internet Revolution. As Bruce Grierson writes, “Harris has caught, with brilliant fidelity and incisiveness, a hinge-point in modern history: Before and After the Digital Rapture.”

Michael Harris writes that, “amid all the changes we’re experiencing, the most interesting is the one that future generations will find hardest to grasp. That is the end of absence — the loss of lack. The daydreaming silences in our lives are filled; the burning solitudes are extinguished.” “There’s no true ‘free time’ when you carry a smartphone,” he says. “Today’s rarest commodity is the chance to be alone with your own thoughts.”

Harris is a contributing editor at Vancouver magazine and Western Living. His writing has been published by Wired, Salon, The Huffington Post, The Globe & Mail, The National Post, and The Walrus. Harris lives with his partner, the artist Kenny Park, in Toronto, Canada.

[Thorne Dreyer is an Austin-based writer, editor, broadcaster, and activist. A pioneering alternative journalist, Dreyer was founding “funnel” of the original Rag in 1966 Austin. Dreyer now edits The Rag Blog, hosts Rag Radio, and is a director of the New Journalism Project. Dreyer can be contacted at editor@theragblog.com.]


Coming up on Rag Radio:

  • FRIDAY, Oct. 24: Miriam Pawel, author of The Crusades of Cesar Chavez, and Gregg Barrios, author of the recent poetry collection, La Causa, about the Mexican-American civil rights movement
  • FRIDAY, Oct. 30: City of Quartz author, urban theorist, Marxist scholar, historian, and political activist, Mike Davis, on “Texas vs. California: Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.” 

853px-Rag_radio2Rag Radio is hosted and produced by Thorne Dreyer. Tracey Schulz is the show’s engineer and co-producer, Roger Baker is our still photographer, and noted investigative journalist Ken Martin is Rag Radio‘s apprentice.

Rag Radio has aired more than 200 shows since September 2009, on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin, Texas. Rag Radio is broadcast live every Friday from 2-3 p.m. (CDT) on KOOP — and streamed live on the web — and is rebroadcast and streamed on Sundays at 10 a.m. (EDT) on WFTE, 90.3-FM in Mt. Cobb, PA, and 105.7-FM in Scranton, PA. Rag Radio is also aired and streamed on KPFT-HD3 90.1 — Pacifica radio in Houston — on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. (CDT).

After broadcast, all Rag Radio shows are posted as podcasts at the Internet Archive.

Rag Radio is produced in association with The Rag Blog, a progressive Internet newsmagazine, and the New Journalism Project, a Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

Please contact us at ragradio@koop.org.

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