As sodding 2022 finally ticked over to 2023, I did not bother making policy predictions for the year ahead. Really, this year, I just couldn’t be bothered. But while the year is still young, I’m going to do something different.
For what it’s worth, my predictions for 2022 were a mix of hits and misses. I’m rather surprised, and happy about it, that my prediction of a dark digital dystopia payloading on the Queen’s passing did not materialise. Bizarrely, we can thank the dysfunction of the Johnson-Truss transition for that: everyone was too busy stabbing each other in the back to stab the rest of us.
In fact, if I were to make a policy prediction for 2023, it would be to sit back and let the Conservative/Brexit revolution devour itself and its own children, whether they are people or the policies they’ve created. But that’s not so much a prediction as it is a statement of the laws of physics.
Speaking of which.
This dark and miserable winter, I’ve been hooked on a podcast called The Space Above Us. It’s a mission-by-mission history of the US space programme, from pre-NASA days to the last flight of the space shuttle. If it launched, it gets a devoted episode: 6 years and 171 episodes so far. But that’s not why I’m praising it.
What makes it brilliant is that it is the work of an amateur space fan who started the podcast so he could learn, himself, about NASA’s spaceflight history, and do so on a structured plan that he could hold himself to. That’s the best way to learn about anything; after all, that’s how I ended up writing a book.
So he teaches. His narrative scripts are brilliantly written, well-researched, and impeccably edited. He speaks slowly and clearly, there’s never an extraneous word or filler, and notably, he never breaks the narrative to promote himself, or anything, other than the show itself. The audio quality is also outstanding: you would never believe for a moment that it’s not a professionally produced show. There aren’t even ads, unless your podcast application of choice adds them.
I also admire how he restrains emotion when describing the missions which ended in tragedy, narrating them with quiet dignity rather than slipping into melodrama, in a way which truly honours those who were lost.
He also sticks to time. With a few exceptions, each episode is on a pretty fixed time limit, between 25 and 30 minutes. If he needs more time, he splits a mission into two episodes. He understands his own attention span, and ours too.
So to me, The Space Above Us is the best of the Internet, the one we find it all too easy to forget still exists. The one where anyone with a passion can create something good and share it with the world, on their own terms. The one where external platforms and applications are used to distribute the work, rather than distort it. And the one where the creator retains total control of what they’ve made, even if they’re doing it just for fun.
In 2023, let’s get back to that: let’s get back to creating, and sharing, and learning, and doing it for each other, on our own terms, in our own spaces.
Because I gotta tell you: it’s movements like that which will make more of a difference to the future of the open Internet than any amount of policy planning or legislative scheming.
Ad astra: catch you on the next pass.