I am pleased to post Show # 224, November 13, my interview with my colleague Prof. Megan Squire of Elon University on open source data-mining. Megan is doing unique and challenging work looking at 43,000+ (not a typo) datasets of communications between free and open-source software (“FLOSS”) coders and programmers. An advocate of and writer about “clean data,” Megan is analyzing this massive amount of information in order to answer questions like “how software can be more efficient” and “how developers talk to each other.”
This is a work-in-progress, so Megan is still deep within the data weeds, but nonetheless there are insights that can now be gleaned from the data. In our discussion, we talked about Megan’s methods, expectations and preliminary thoughts about answers to the above and other questions. I’m fortunate to count Megan among my great colleagues in the communications, political science and technology spaces at Elon. I hope that you enjoy our chat!
I am thrilled to post Show # 223, November 6, my interview with Prof. Frank Pasquale of the University of Maryland School of Law, author of The Black Box Society: Technologies of Search, Reputation, and Finance. I am an unabashed fan and admirer of Frank’s work, and find his ability to annotate blog posts to be the gold standard. So this was a difficult interview for me, simply because I was tempted to use the classic professorial one-word prompt “discuss,” and leave the microphone open for Frank to deliver a monologue for 50 minutes.
Alas, I did not do that. Frank’s book discusses the challenges inherent in commercial secrecy from a information access and democracy perspective. Focusing on algorithmic computing, he runs through the opacity of computing and its impact on the average consumer in areas ranging from finance to Internet searches. We discussed these challenging issues and potential solutions in our discussion. These critical issues deserve the attention that Frank pays to them, and I hope that you enjoy the discussion as much as I did.
With the semester having ended, and facing the looming presence of grading and writing deadlines, it is time to post several new shows. Get ready for a barrage. And thanks for your patience.
The first show is Show # 222, October 23, my interview with David Golumbia of Virginia Commonwealth University, author of The Cultural Logic of Computation. Over several years on Hearsay Culture, we’ve discussed the nature of policymaking in the technological space. In this discussion, David identifies libertarianism in the technology space as creating unusual policy alliances. We discussed how libertarian worldviews and ideals impact the behavior of a range of actors, from Google to academics. In the process, we explored transparency, innovation, the nature of utopianism and what it means to be an iconoclast in the technology sphere. David’s work is fascinating, and I greatly enjoyed our chat!
I’m very excited to post Show # 221, August 13, my interview with Prof. Frederick Schauer, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, and formerly of Harvard’s Kennedy School, on the “right to know.” I heard Fred discuss this issue at a panel that I moderated on the philosophy of information at Duke Law School earlier this year, and was unsurprisingly blown away by his insights on the issues at stake and questions to be answered in “right to know” analysis. This seemingly simple question has become surprisingly complex in the world of multidirectional communication by institutions and individuals on interconnected networks (like the “Inter-net”). I was thrilled to have Fred on the show, and the discussion was fascinating. I hope that you enjoy it.
I’m pleased to post Show # 220, August 6, my interview with James Grimmelmann of the University of Maryland School of Law and David Post of Temple University School of Law, on the recent US Supreme Court decision in ABC, Inc. v. Aereo and Facebook’s emotional manipulation study. David and James are both repeat guests on Hearsay Culture, but have never been on together. We focused on two issues: (a) the Aereo amicus brief authored by David and James on behalf of law professors, and the impact of the Aereo decision on copyright law and how new content delivery systems may or may not run afoul of copyright law, and (b) the impact of Facebook’s secretive 2014 behavioral study in which it manipulated the content delivered to users’ newsfeeds, particularly James’ extensive analysis of the problems associated with the study. Both issues raise important questions of the role of law in information and content distribution and how private entities and the public might navigate the current technological terrain. I always enjoy David and James as insightful guests capable of wide-ranging discussion, and this show was no exception.
I’m pleased to post Show # 219, July 30 my interview with David Zweig, author of Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion. David has written a fascinating account of individuals who achieve professional success and satisfaction without engaging in the personal publicity efforts that are the hallmark of modern communications and socialization. While he is not opposed to social media, his critical take on its powers of distortion and limitations are worthy of deep consideration, which he admirably tackles in his book. In our conversation, we delved into the characteristics of his “invisibles” and what social media has — and has not — done for our humanity. I greatly enjoyed the discussion!
I’ve been meaning to post that I’m visiting this year at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP). I’m thrilled and privileged to be part of such a dynamic group of scholars and policy wonks who integrate a deep understanding of computing technology with policy analysis and advocacy. As I wrote on my first blog post for CITP: “Every CITP scholar that I’ve gotten to know over the past several years have become friends and influenced my work in areas ranging from voting machine code access to international lawmaking processes. I’m delighted to be a part of CITP’s dynamic team and environment and look forward to an exciting year.” I’ll be working on my research involving input processes in technology policymaking, trade secret reform, and access to proprietary technological information.
Of even more relevance to my wonderful listeners, I’ll also be conducting interviews while at Princeton. Because I’m physically present there on and off, I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity to do “in studio” interviews with the range of Princeton’s faculty and affiliated scholars when I’m there. Appropriately, I’ll do my first interview with CITP’s Ed Felten in November, but look for interviews with others. And if you’re nearby and want to stop by and say hello, or have suggestions about people I should meet while I’m there, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Thanks, as always, for listening! You’re why I do the show.
I’m pleased to post Show # 218, July 23, my interview with Julia Lane of the American Institutes for Research and Prof. Victoria Stodden of the iSchool at Illinois, co-editors of Privacy, Big Data, and the Public Good: Frameworks for Engagement. Julia and Victoria, along with their co-editors Stefan Bender and Helen Nissenbaum (who were not on this show), have collected an impressive array of scholars to study the creation and use of “big data” — massive data sets — by government. Covering not only policy but the economics and statistics considerations of application of big data to decision-making, Julia and Victoria put together a wonderful resource on the challenges and opportunities of big data on a going-forward basis. I greatly enjoyed our discussion, and am a big fan of their work.
Today begins what I hope will be posting of several backlogged shows over the coming few days. My apologies for the delay, but I can assure you that its been for good reasons involving students, advocacy, writing deadlines and a deep desire to maintain contact with my wife and children.
So here we go. I’m pleased to post Show # 217, July 16, my interview with Alex Wright, author of Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age. Alex, who was previously on the show back in 2008 discussing his terrific book Glut, has written a fascinating biography of the heretofore forgotten information utopian named Paul Otlet. Otlet’s vision for a catalog of all of the world’s information is both inspiring and admirable, given his efforts spanned the first half of the twentieth century. In our interview, we discussed Otlet and his relevance to today’s issues involving information access, filtering and systems. As before, I greatly enjoyed our discussion and Alex’s work.
I’m pleased to post Show # 216, July 9, my interview with Prof. David Schanzer of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, on Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency (NSA). It was a bit over a year ago that Edward Snowden appeared on the scene as the source of a seemingly-endless array of information about the NSA’s legal and illegal spying. Snowden has since become a household name for his willingness to expose this behavior despite significant personal risk, which has caused scholars, policymakers and others to weigh in on how Snowden should be viewed. In my interview with David, we discussed David’s views on Snowden as a felon, and whether the “whistleblower” label is appropriate. In the process, we also discussed some of the NSA’s activities and how policymakers might approach reform of the NSA. David’s experience in the counter-terrorism and law enforcement world is vast, and I greatly enjoyed the discussion.