Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
22 January 2020updated 03 Aug 2021 1:03pm

World Wise Web: the radio show that unleashes teenage interviewers on tech pioneers

It might sound like a gimmick, but this is a powerfully valid approach to conversations about technology.

By Antonia Quirke

A new 12-part series unleashes teenaged interviewers on tech pioneers. “I’m 17 and that makes me younger than a lot of the technology we’ll be talking about,” says host Anna Zanelli; the series pitch in a nutshell.

This kind of thing can go badly wrong. Who can forget when cricketer Ian Botham went on Open to Question in 1986, to speak to teenagers about, you know, life – which he clearly thought would be a doddle – only to find himself immediately horrified by a studio of 16-year-old girls, solemn under turrets of lacquered hair, who were basically much better at speaking English than he was and proceeded to tie him up in knots about his hypocrisies, memorably his reluctance to change nappies. Botham writhed in his chair. (“I think you’re missing the whole context, love. I HAVE NO PROBLEM CHANGING NAPPIES.”) The torture just wouldn’t stop. You could hardly have a better description of the fault lines of modern British society.

I can’t even think about it without gibbering and giggling, so I listened to part one of World Wise Web (18 Jan, 6:50pm) holding a sock to stuff in my mouth – only to be completely charmed and to learn a thing or two. It turned out to be a powerfully valid approach to conversations about technology: get creators to explain their invention to someone for whom it is entirely quotidian.  Speaking to Tony Fadell, the 50 year-old creator of the iPod, in episode one, Zanelli may well do teenagerish things like breathing “wow” when he declares “we didn’t have email back then”, but in just eight super-cogent minutes she gets him talking about the lulling feel of the iPod’s wheel under the human finger, and the maddening heaviness of boxes of records when he was a DJ – hence wanting to fit them in his pocket. “So the inspiration was from your own problem,” Zanelli concludes.

There is something heartbreaking about her evident worries. When Fadell (sincere, open) speaks about begging for (and landing, via curious twists and turns) jobs in Silicon Valley, Anna marvels, “That’s so cool. You always hear about these things, and I always think – how did you get the opportunities?” In her voice is awe, and fear, of the inexplicability of luck. 

World Wise Web
BBC World Service

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
Why public health policy needs to refocus
The five key tech areas for the public sector in 2023
You wouldn’t give your house keys to anyone, so why do that with your computers?

This article appears in the 22 Jan 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Power to the people