Fred Turner, Stanford University and “Seeing Silicon Valley”

How did hippies living on communes help create the Internet? Is Mark Zuckerberg today’s PT Barnum? What can we learn from 17th Century Protestantism about inequality in Silicon Valley? Fred Turner, perhaps the definitive historian of the Internet and counterculture, joins us for a thrilling conversation about how we need to shake post-WWII politics to make not just a better Internet, but a better world.

For links to projects mentioned and a full transcript of this episode, please visit https://publicinfrastructure.org/podcast/47-fred-turner

Key takeaways:
1. Communes were insular, and so was the first Internet community created by back-to-land hippies.
2. Silicon Valley’s cult of personality follows from Protestants’ belief that wealth is a sign of godliness.
3. “Seeing Silicon Valley” documents the inequality that fuels tech with portraits of the rich and poor.
4. We need to reckon with issues of class that started during the Vietnam War.
5. Institutions that bring people to come together despite identity and ideology differences are crucial.

Rerun — Amy Zhang, University of Washington

Amy Zhang from the Social Futures Lab at University of Washington joins the podcast to talk about the a next version of the internet where groups of users are empowered to govern themselves and help each other to deal online harassment. Amy tells us how she’s pushing HCI and Social Computing scholarship in exciting new directions, to ask what sorts of new practices might make up a post-mega-platform internet.

Tracy Chou, Block Party

While some big social media companies are working to use AI to combat harassment, Tracy Chou has a simpler solution — put users in control of what and who they see on their feeds. In this week’s episode, Tracy tells us about he app Block Party, a clever and radical set of tools to protect users from trolling and abuse.

Damon Krukowski, Damon & Naomi and UMAW

Did Spotify save the music industry or simply find a way for itself to profit from a power vacuum opened up by piracy? This week, we’re thrilled to welcome drummer and writer Damon Krukowski to talk to us about how Spotify became dominant and how musicians are fighting it to win a music industry that supports their livelihoods.

Rerun — Talia Stroud, Civic Signals

Talia Stroud from the University of Texas joins us to talk about her project Civic Signals, a project reimagining the Internet as a public space. She walks us through what’s wrong with the type of speech currently rewarded by Facebook and Twitter, and what it might look like to promote civic speech instead. Recorded August, 2020. Visit our episode web page for links to Civic Signals’ website and newsletter, and Eli Pariser’s TED Talk.

Maciej Ceglowski, Pinboard

Maciej Ceglowski is not just the founder of one of the indie web’s success stories — the modest yet long-running subscription bookmarking service Pinboard — but a prolific commentator on the world the Internet is helping to create. This week, we’re thrilled to chat with Maciej about reimagining not just the Internet, but the stakes that the people using the Internet are responding to.

Are.na with Charles Broskoski and Daniel Pianetti

Are.na might be the most exciting social network for designers, artists, and curious, interdisciplinary self-educators, kind of like Pinterest or Tumblr but offering the functionality to spin a vast web of images and knowledge. The platform is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary, so we invited two of Are.na’s co-founders to talk to us about the close-knit (and often paying) community that makes the site vibrant and how the platform’s systems of Blocks and Channels makes it an ideal tool for connecting ideas and creating trains of thought.

Deen Freelon (CITAP, UNC-Chapel Hill)

Deen Freelon is one of the foremost scholars on how contemporary protest movements organize on the Internet. This week Deen joins us to talk about his work on the Black Lives Matter movement, how he’s trying to understand mis- and disinformation from both the right and the left, and what fixing social media might look like when the scale of platforms like Facebook and Twitter is what makes them so exciting and so difficult to moderate.