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#152: The ‘Attention Economy’ Ft. James Williams
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September 12, 2019 08:19 AM PDT
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Digital technology is playing an increasingly large role in our lives. We use our smartphones to communicate, post photos, read breaking news, watch videos, and more — to the point where we touch our phones an average of 2,600 times a day, according to a study by research firm Dscout.

Author James Williams joins Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang in this episode to discuss his new book, “Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy.” The book examines the attention economy and how this relentless competition for attention from our digital products and services is undermining individual human will and democracy at large.

The book was chosen by Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 as the pre-read selection for the Class of 2023. Williams joined Eisgruber and other faculty (including Wang) at a Sept. 9 book talk.

The recipient of the inaugural Cambridge University “Nine Dots Prize” for original thinking in 2017, Williams recently completed his doctoral work in philosophy at Oxford University. Before that, he worked for Google as a technology and business strategist. He also is a co-founder of the Time Well Spent campaign, a project that aims to steer technology design toward having greater respect for users’ attention, goals, and values. His writing about the philosophy and ethics of technology has been published in The Observer, WIRED, and other publications.

#151: Digital Media and Politics Ft. David Kapf
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September 05, 2019 12:05 PM PDT
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Political discussions — and subsequent controversies — unfold by the minute on platforms like Twitter. In this episode, Julian Zelizer speaks with David Karpf about viral moments and their ramifications.

Karpf is an associate professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University. His work focuses on strategic communication practices of political associations in the United States, with a particular interest in internet-related strategies.

He is the author of "The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy" and "Analytic Activism: Digital Listening and the New Political Strategy." Both books discuss how digital media is transforming the work of political advocacy and activist organizations. His writing about digital media and politics has been published in a wide range of academic and journalistic outlets, including The Nation, Nonprofit Quarterly, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

#150: Election Reform with Lawrence Lessig
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August 15, 2019 09:33 AM PDT
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Voter suppression, gerrymandering, money in politics, and even issues with the electoral college all call into question whether the United States truly has a representative democracy. How might these issues play a role in the upcoming 2020 elections?

Renowned scholar Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School joins Sam Wang on today’s program for a discussion on election reform.

Lessig is the is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership. Prior to rejoining the Harvard faculty, he was a professor at Stanford Law School, where he founded the school’s Center for Internet and Society, and a professor at the University of Chicago. He clerked for Judge Richard Posner on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Author of numerous books, he’s also received many awards, including the Free Software Foundation’s Freedom Award, Fastcase 50 Award and was named one of Scientific American’s Top 50 Visionaries.

#149: How Our Genes Shape Societies Ft. Nicholas Christakis
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August 08, 2019 11:27 AM PDT
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History is rife with examples of people behaving badly, sometimes with truly evil intent. Yet noted scholar Nicholas Christakis argues that humans are actually wired for goodness. His recent book, “Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society,” makes the case for what he calls a “social blueprint for goodness,” which he discusses with Sam Wang and Julian Zelizer in this episode.

A physician and sociologist, Christakis directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale University and is the Sterling Professor of Social and Natural Science in the Departments of Sociology, Medicine, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Statistics and Data Science, and Biomedical Engineering. Nicholas was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers.”

#148: The Power of Silicon Valley Ft. Margaret O’Mara
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August 01, 2019 07:55 AM PDT
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Silicon Valley has emerged as the epicenter of technological innovation within the American economy. Yet, people often know little about the region’s origins and how it grew to become an influential force behind new innovations in society.

Margaret O’Mara joins Julian Zelizer to discuss her new book, “The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America,” which addresses the history behind the development of Silicon Valley.

O’Mara is the Howard & Frances Keller Professor of History at the University of Washington. Her previous books include “Cities of Knowledge: Cold War Science and the Search for the Next Silicon Valley” and “Pivotal Tuesdays: Four Elections That Shaped the Twentieth Century.” Before becoming a professor, O’Mara was a contributing researcher at the Brookings Institution in the Clinton White House.

Democracy Works: Neoliberalism Featuring Wendy Brown
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July 25, 2019 08:11 AM PDT
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This week’s show is special: We’ve swapped episodes with Democracy Works, a podcast produced by Penn State University’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy. (They ran an episode of ours last week.)

As the definition of neoliberalism contrasts among many individuals, Wendy Brown joins this episode to talk about what neoliberalism is, not only on an economic level, but also on a social and political level. Brown addresses the influence of neoliberalism on democratic societies in her most recent book, “In the Ruins of Neoliberalism,” a follow up to her 2015 book, “Undoing the Demos.”

Democracy Works is hosted by Michael Berkman, professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, along with Christopher Beem, managing director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy.

Brown is the Class of 1936 First Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also teaches political theory. She received her Ph.D. in political philosophy from Princeton University in 1983. Her research interests include the history of political theory, 19th- and 20th-century Continental theory, critical theory, and theories of contemporary capitalism.

Democracy Works addresses a wide range of issues involving democracy and is meant for “people coming together to build things that are greater than the sum of their parts.” The podcast is recorded at WPSU Penn State, central Pennsylvania’s NPR station.

#147: Reagan’s Tax Cut Revolution Ft. Monica Prasad
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July 18, 2019 12:59 PM PDT
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In the 1980s, supply-side economics became a rallying cry of conservative politicians. This macroeconomic theory posits that lower taxes and decreased regulation can lead to economic growth, helping everyone on the income ladder as benefits to the rich “trickle down” to those less well-off.

Monica Prasad joins Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang in this episode to discuss her new book, “Starving the Beast: Ronald Reagan and the Tax Cut Revolution.” Referencing archival documents from the Regan Library in Simi Valley, California, the book investigates President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 supply-side tax cut, offering a new understanding of how it has influenced today’s political landscape and what the true motivators are for the most recent round of tax cuts.

Prasad is a professor of sociology and director of graduate studies at Northwestern University. Her previous books include “The Land of Too Much,” “The Politics of Free Markets” and “The New Fiscal Sociology.”

#146: Entrenchment and Overcoming the Power of Concentrated Wealth Ft. Paul Starr
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July 11, 2019 07:23 AM PDT
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Efforts at controlling the powers of concentrated wealth has been an ongoing problem within society. Some believe overcoming the issue involves looking back at the foundations of democratic societies.

Paul Starr from Princeton University joins Sam Wang and Julian E. Zelizer to discuss about his new book, “Entrenchment: Wealth, Power and, the Constitution of Democratic Societies.” The book examines how societal changes in the foundations of contemporary politics are difficult to reverse and how the efforts against entrenchment can be found in the foundations of society to influence the future of America’s democracy.

Starr is Stuart Professor of Communications and Public Affairs and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect magazine and received the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction and the 1984 Bancroft Prize in American History. His other books include “The Social Transformation of American Medicine” and “The Creation of the Media” and more.

#145: Taking Back Our Elections Ft. Joshua Douglas
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June 27, 2019 07:48 AM PDT
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With reports that voting rights are being compromised, some have concluded that elections are not truly democratic. Yet, individuals are making positive changes in their communities to protect these important rights.

Joshua Douglas joins Sam Wang to discuss his new book, “Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting.” The book captures the positive stories of Americans working to secure elections by improving their local and state voting processes. In writing this book, Douglas aims to not only chart efforts to fight against voter suppression but also promote improvements that are making elections more inclusive, convenient, and democratic.

Douglas is the Thomas P. Lewis Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky. His research includes election law and voting rights, civil procedure, constitutional law, and judicial decision-making. He co-edited the book “Election Law Stories” and has published his work in top academic journals, including the Georgetown Law Journal, Penn Law Review Online, Vanderbilt Law Review, Washington University Law Review, among others.

#144: The Origins of the Internet Ft. David Kushner
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June 20, 2019 08:10 AM PDT
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The internet continues to expand and grow in complexity, yet many people are unaware of its origins. Understanding the internet’s roots could be beneficial when looking toward the future of the web.

David Kushner, award-winning journalist and author, joins Julian E. Zelizer to talk about his new book, “The Players Ball: A Genius, A Con Man, and the Secret History of the Internet’s Rise.” The book tells the relatively unknown story of Gary Kremen, creator of Match.com, and his fight for ownership of Sex.com against Stephen Michael Cohen. Kushner demonstrates how the Internet has evolved as a commercial platform through communication and business.

Kushner is a contributing editor of Rolling Stone and has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, New York Times Magazine, New York, and GQ. He has also written “Masters of Doom,” “Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids,” and more.

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