The Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure

@ UMass Amherst

Reimagining the Internet

We're talking to some of the most exciting scholars, activists, journalists, and entrepreneurs in our field about what's wrong with social media and how to fix it.

Select an episode below to watch the interview. Be sure to subscribe to "Reimagine the Internet" on your favorite podcast app.

Ethan Zuckerman (#Reimagine conference, May 2021)

This episode shares a recorded talk from the 2021 Reimagine the Internet conference, a virtual conference co-hosted by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the soon-to-be-launched Initiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In six sessions over five days, there will be more than a dozen speakers whose work hints at what the internet could become over the next decade. Knight Institute Visiting Research Scholar Ethan Zuckerman will speak about digital public infrastructure and his work to build social media spaces that are self-governing and civically focused.

Katherine Maher (#Reimagine conference, May 2021)

This episode shares a recorded talk from the 2021 Reimagine the Internet conference, a virtual conference co-hosted by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the soon-to-be-launched Initiative on Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In six sessions over five days, there will be more than a dozen speakers whose work hints at what the internet could become over the next decade. Katherine Maher will talk about the ways in which Wikimedia has created an alternative model for online spaces and the ways in which it has fallen short. She will also discuss lessons the rest of the web might take from the Wikimedia experiment.

Lola Hunt & Eliza Sorensen, Assembly Four

Lola Hunt and Eliza Sorensen join the podcast to tell us about their crucial work to build an internet safe for sex workers. Through their company Assembly Four, Lola and Eliza maintain Switter, a Mastodon fork serving sex workers who were deplatformed from other sites, and Tryst, an advertising platform for sex work. In this special long-form episode, we talk about the fallout from America’s FOSTA/SESTA legislation, the global fight for sex worker protection, and what norms need to shift to have honest, open conversations about sex, consent, and abuse.

Charlton McIlwain, Black Software

We’re incredibly excited to have Charlton McIlwain join us for an interview about the history of the Black Internet and his book “Black Software.” As a professor in NYU’s Media, Culture, and Communications department, Charlton has studied Black spaces on the internet from the dial-up days through Black Lives Matter. At a time when so much of online culture is indebted to Black culture, Charlton asks us to imagine what it might look like for the Internet to once again be Black.

GJ Bogaerts, Public Spaces

We’re thrilled to welcome GJ Bogaerts, head of new media at Dutch public broadcaster VBRO and director of the Public Spaces coalition, which is a partnership of public broadcasters, arts institutions and other public service institutions in the Netherlands. GJ tells us how he hopes a mix of government support and institutional independence will help ween Europeans off of private corporate platforms to create an internet that is safe and private for users, while safe from private interests.

Davi Ottenheimer, Inrupt and SOLID

Davi Ottenheimer joins us to explain SOLID, a revolutionary data protocol created by inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners Lee. Davi is a VP of Trust and Digital Ethics at Inrupt, the company implementing SOLID as both a user-facing technology and for large-scale infrastructural systems in the UK and India. At its core, SOLID is a framework that gives users complete and exclusive ownership of their own data, and Davi tells us what this could mean for everything from health care to band practice. Davi is also a long-time blogger at his site Flying Penguin.

Elizabeth Hansen-Shapiro

Elizabeth Hansen-Shapiro joins Ethan to talk about “New Approaches to Platform Data Research,” the report they just published together with the NetGain Partnership. Elizabeth and Ethan talk about a variety of issues facing journalists and researchers for studying social media companies, and what sort of solutions — both small-scale and radical — could help ensure a better-studied, more accountable social media ecosystem. Elizabeth is the co-founded of the National Trust for Local News.

Julia Angwin, The Markup

Julia Angwin, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Markup, joins us to talk about her innovative method for investigating Facebook and holding it accountable — paying Facebook users to show her team what they’re seeing. This is a thrilling interview about what the future of data journalism looks like, and just how weird it is that investigative journalists are doing the work that regulators would do in any other industry.

Michael Wood-Lewis, Front Porch Forum

Michael Wood-Lewis joins us to talk about Vermont’s Front Porch Forum, the hyperlocal social network he and his wife founded 21 years ago, predating similar platforms offered by Nextdoor and Facebook. It ends up, as he tells us, that the secret to running a healthy online community of neighbors is healthy moderation and non-surveillant advertising.

Jimmy Wales, Wikimedia Foundation

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales joins us for a thrilling chat about what we can learn from social media and what’s anti-social about a lot of social media today. Jimmy has recently launched the the social network WT.Social, designed to as a non-addictive, thoughtful online space, and has lots of thoughts about the type of communities that we might be able to start cultivating online.

Wendy Liu, Abolish Silicon Valley

Wendy Liu, author of the memoir Abolish Silicon Valley and former start-up founder, joins us to talk about the structural issues of our current tech industry under capitalism. Wendy walks us through a left perspective on Silicon Valley, including the push to organize labor and the toxic incentive structure that values profit and exploitation over public and social good. In addition to publishing her memoir last year, Wendy has been published in Logic Magazine, The Guardian, New Socialist, and Notes from Below.

Trebor Scholz, Platform Coopertivism Consortium

Trebor Scholz, a scholar and activist at the forefront of the bustling platform cooperativism movement, joins us to talk about how coops can shape everything from ride share apps to data ownership, from local delivery services to music streaming. It’s a fascinating listen about the variety of ways coops can aid local communities, labor unions, and freelancers, empowering communities of workers to govern themselves and more equitably distribute revenue.

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.

Holiday Special with Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci and Mike Sugarman

For this very special episode of Reimagining the Internet, Ethan is joined by Knight First Amendment Initiative research fellow Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci and producer Mike Sugarman to celebrate 12 days of reimagining the internet. We talk about our favorite stuff on the internet this year, and what we're looking forward to in 2021. We share our holidy cheer talking about Zoom class fails, livestreaming concerts, and a speculative West African recipe war.

Liz Pelly, The Baffler

Critic and music journalist Liz Pelly joins us for a fascinating interview about why the Spotify model is so bad for musicians and what that might mean for podcasters. Liz is a veteran of the DIY music community as a former member of the Silent Barn collective in Brooklyn, and a stalwart of independent journalism with her own publication The Media, and pieces published Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and the New York Times.

Tim Hwang, Subprime Attention Crisis

We’re delighted to welcome Tim Hwang to the podcast, author of the recently published "Subprime Attention Crisis, Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet" and the brains a great number of eclectic, eccentric tech-related ventures. Tim talks with us about unchecked fraud in the programmatic advertising industry and who he’s successfully managed to infuriate with his new book.

Kate Crawford, Atlas of AI

Scholar and artist Kate Crawford joins the podcast to talk about why we don’t just need to imagine how to fix the internet, but how we want to change society. Kate is a co-founder of the AI Now Initiative at NYU and author of the Atlas of AI, coming April 2021 on Yale University Press. She walks us through the extractive nature of AI, talks about her collaborations with Vladan Joler (recently acquired by MoMA) and Trevor Paglan, and a fascinating history of classification. Visit the episode page for a transcript of the interview and links to work mentioned in the interview.

Kevin Roose, The New York Times

We welcome Kevin Roose to the podcast — tech reporter for The New York Times and thorn in the side of Facebook — to talk to us about how platforms' laser focus on growth resulted in building a misinformation ecosystems and algorithms that they don't really understand. Kevin and Ethan talk about what's really the healthiest social media platform of them all, and what Wall Street-style regulation might look like for major platforms. Visit the episode page for show notes and a full transcription of the interview.

Safiya Noble, UCLA Center for Critial Internet Inquiry

Safiya Noble, author of Algorithms of Oppression and co-founder of the Center for Critical Internet Studies at UCLA, outlines her abolitionist framework for Big Tech. Recorded the day after Jacob Blake was shot by Kenosha, WI police in August, Noble joins us to talk about what it might look like to hold social media platforms accountable for the dangerous speech they help disseminate.

Evan Henshaw-Plath, Planetary.Social

Evan Henshaw-Plath (aka Rabble), founder of Planetary.Social and member of Twitter's founding team, joins the podcast to talk about decentralized social media, how context collapse makes content moderation on platforms like Facebook and Twitter impossible, and building a platform that's safe for people like furries while keeping away people like neo-Nazis. Vist our episode web page for links to Planetary.Social and a transcript of this interview.

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.

Welcome to Reimagining the Internet

Our host Ethan Zuckerman introduces iDPI's new podcast, talking about the need to create online spaces in the public interest instead of a corporate profit motive. Join us as we interview activists, scholars, journalists, and entrepreneurs reimagining the internet as we know it today.