tv Media Technology 20th Century Politics CSPAN May 20, 2020 4:53pm-6:28pm EDT
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up next on american history tv, historians discuss the effect of media and technology on politics. topics include silicon valley, artificial intelligence and cable television. from purdue university, this is about 90 minutes from purdue university. >> so good morning and welcome to the media technology and state panel. this is part of a larger two day session called "remaking american political history" where we're all talking about history and how it's going to be taught and talked about and consumed over the years. this conference is sponsored by the department of history here at purdue university. it is organized by katie brunell. thank you. and also by nicki hemmer and leah igor. we're thankful to all of them to get into this and discuss this whole issue of how history is going to be taught in the future.
we're new in the brian lamb school of communication here and our goal is to help professors from across the country use the c-span archives which is now over 250,000 hours of american political history. in their classrooms and in their research. we do other things. but that's what we're concentrating on at this conference. i tweet at cj doubly and the center suites at the center for c-span. we'll be interested in following you as we reach out to specifically history professors across the country. who are interested in using the c-span archives in the classrooms and in research. here is what we're going to do today. we have three excellent panelists that all have different areas of interest under this topic.
>> northwestern university. >> to northwestern? >> yes. >> how did do you that? >> i wanted to go to a big city. i wanted to be somewhere other than the south. and i got in. >> how did you choose history? >> you know, my high school is little rock central high school. and i was in my senior year was the 30th anniversary, the fall of 1987.
30th anniversary of the crisis at central high. little rock nine returned. and it was a real -- the time i was in high school is a time that we were all being, you know, being made very aware of that history where at least certainly within the walls of the high school were reckoning with that history. by that point it had become a majority/minority very, very socioeconomically diverse high school. understanding my own personal connection to a place that played a significant role in the american civil rights story is one of the reasons i did this. >> last bio question, what professor or what teacher no matter whether it was grade school, high school, university level made the most difference in your career path? >> my graduate adviser, michael katz from the university of pennsylvania. >> because we are the c-span archives, i was able to and i
was tickled to find that all three of our panelists are in the c-span archives. this is part of a program that does called lectures in history. they look for professors teaching historical issues in the classrooms and actually bring the cameras into the classrooms and get a class. >> 1960s is a time, yes, when the modern left, liberal left comes together and you have strong leftist movements. both within and outside formal politics, a push towards more leftist solutions. but it is also the moment when the modern right is coming together. there are young people in college campuses and high schools and post collegiate that
have very different ideas about what america is and what it should be. you have a book that is now history now. it is for some of us. i turn it to you. >> all right. well, thank you so much, connie. thank you, katie for organizing this and meredith, just great to be on this panel with all of you and to be speaking to the people in the room and the people who will be watching this on c-span. so i set to writing my most recent book "the code" and approached it when i started about five years ago. as a political history of silicon valley. and it morphed into something broader, but the political sign was there. the course of writing evolution of the high technology, computer and hardware industries in
california and west coast, but more broadly from the 1940s to present, when you get to the last 25 years, it becomes a story about media. so i am intensely interested in as scholars say putting the state back into the story of silicon valley, a place that has for quite awhile has been a tech no libertarian paradise in which politics and government was something to be avoided, that when government got involved, they messed things up, and funnily enough, politicians of both parties held up as a beautiful example of american free enterprise and entrepreneurialism in action. but there's actually a very critical government story, political story that runs throughout. there also is a media story, information dissemination story. i think going to something we see that's manifesting now, you have of course very large
technology companies, like alphabet and google and facebook that are media platforms through much so much information flows, yet they're companies that do not think of themselves as media companies, not only sort of a verb, say they're not in the business of media as if they were newspapers, but also their self conception truly is one of being against traditional media, being something that media is like government something to be an old style institution. when we look at this historically, we not only see how the culture of silicon valley in particular business culture that was based on growing fast at all costs, elbowing competitors out of the way, bringing products to market quickly, so the growth mindset of silicon valley is something
that is animating how these very large companies are working today, and also why it is challenging to change the business model to something that isn't about creating ever more powerful algorithms that can scrape information. also, a community that grew that i referred to in my book as a gallon app goes, a distinctive ecosystem that grew up in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, connected to centers of finance and government on the east coast, notably through flow of money through the industrial complex, why silicon valley came to be, itself. but it was isolated enough geographically and in terms of people paying attention. if you read a story in "the washington post" or "the new york times" that referred to silicon valley anytime before 1980, first of all the term comes up rarely. when it does, it is in silicon
valley. and there were -- even when you had national news coverage and news magazines like fortune, profiling entrepreneurs in silicon valley, it is as if this was a strange, beautiful far away species, a very different type. if we look back to the way in which entrepreneurs like steve jobs, bill gates were presented to the world when they first came to prominence, their companies first came to prominence, this was as shaggy haired iconic -- very different and disruption from the larger narrative of american capitalism. one thing we discover looking back that there is a distinctive business culture that grows in the technology industry, a technology industry that's come in modern age to have an immense influence on politics and government and on media. it is very distinctive, yet it
is deeply connected to old economy institutions, whether they be national government or state government or local governments, old money. where did money for the technology revolution come from, where were funds that flowed into the initial venture funds that started these iconic entrepreneurial companies and semiconductors and personal computing and on and on. it was the rockefellers, whitneys, where the money was. wall street, wall street banks. most establishment of establishment is underneath. and these companies, even ones like apple, for example, which presented itself in the beginning, a counter cultural dream of a company, place that thinks different. why did apple break apart from the pack of other personal computer makers in the late '70s? they had a beautiful product. and they also had a single ar,
two steves, steve wozniak who designed a beautiful, powerful elegant mother board inside the computer, but steve jobs who could tell a good story and understood how to present this device to the world. they also had management expertise coming from other companies that were much more traditional, well established, that kind of took two guys in a garage, turned it into a real operation. you see this again and again and again. so recognizing, a, that this whole ecosystem has a history, that it is single lar and distinctive, a product of the last 75 years of political history and social history is critical to understanding and grappling with the immense influence today. and i'll leave it at that. >> meredith broussard is the
next speaker. meredith is from new york university and she has a book called artificial unintelligence. how computers misunderstand the world. and i'm going to put up your biography but ask you questions like where did you grow up. >> i grew up in a small quaker town outside philadelphia. >> how did you make it from philadelphia to nyu? >> well, i was at penn before this, at temple before this -- sorry? >> microphone. >> before i was at nyu, i was professor at temple and professor at the university of pennsylvania, and i study data journalism. i practice data journalism. it is a practice of finding stories, numbers, and using numbers to tell stories. and new york is really the epicenter now of people who are working on data journalism and
people that are working on major issues around ethics in technology. especially ethics in artificial intelligence which is my other specialty. >> so what teacher moved your life? >> one of the stories i tell in the book is about when i was in high school. i was in an engineering program for kids. >> all right. go ahead. >> do we need to start over? >> absolutely not.']f÷ changed your life. >> one of the really important educational experiences i had in learning to use technology happened when i was in high school. i was in an engineering program for kids. we would get -- take them once a
month to the rca plant in this small town where i grew up. it was rumored they were building nuclear weapons there, but actually what i did was i went on this little bus to this engineering program and they gave us spare computer parts and said here, build a computer. so i actually built my own first computer. and it was great. and so i learned from that that i had the power to create technology. also that there are a lot of wasted spare parts laying around at tech companies that seemed like useful information. and i learned about power. i learned that i had the power to build things. i learned that as margaret said, there's a lot of economic power behind building technology. so that was important knowledge that took me into becoming a data journalist.
>> looking for you in cspan archives, found you at the yelp headquarters in washington, d.c., didn't know they had one, much less in washington, d.c. >> technology will not save us from every social problem, so let's take homelessness, for example. the fix for homelessness is not making an app to connect people with services better. the fix for homelessness is giving people homes. so we need to think about pushing back against tech no chauvinism, using the right tool for the task. sometimes that tool is a computer, and sometimes it's not. >> meredith broussard. thank you. >> so i want to talk a little bit today about understanding artificial intelligence. so my book "artificial unintelligence" is about the inner workings and outer limits of technology.
i started writing it because i was having a really hard time with people understanding what the heck i was doing in my work. so i build artificial intelligence systems for investigative reporting. i would say this, people would say you mean it is like a robot reporter? and i would say no. and they would say so it is like a machine that spits out story ideas? and i would say no. so i realize that if i wanted anybody to understand what the heck i was talking about, what i was working on, there needed to be more basic understanding of artificial intelligence in the world. so i started researching the book. and i realize that we don't often get good definitions of ai. we talk about ai a lot, but
there's kind of a fog that descends when we try to talk precisely about it, there's a lot of confusion. often when you have a conversation between two people about ai, one person is actually talking about the hollywood stuff with the killer robots, and, you know, a computer that's going to take over the world, and the other person is talking about computational statistics. all right. so it is really important if we're going to have policy discussions about artificial intelligence and role of technology and society that we're all talking about exactly the same thing. so one of the things that i do in the book is i give a concise definition of artificial intelligence and i show readers exactly what it looks like when somebody does ai, specifically i look at machine learning which is a form of artificial intelligence.
so artificial intelligence is a sub discipline of computer science, same way that algebra is a sub discipline of mathematics. and inside the field of artificial intelligence, there are a lot of sub fields, machine learning, expert systems, natural language processing, natural language generation, but the interesting thing happened where machine learning has become the most popular sub field of artificial intelligence, and so this linguist particular slippage happened. when people say i am using ai for business, what they mean is i am using machine learning for business. but the two terms have become conflated. it is important to keep this distinction in mind. then another point of confusion is that machine learning like artificial intelligence sounds like there's a little brain inside the computer. so i was once at a kind of science fair for grown ups, doing a demo of an ai system i
built, and this undergraduate said you built an ai system? i said yes. is it real? i said yes. i was kind of confused. then he starts looking under the table, like there's something hiding under the computer. as if there is a brain in there. so i realize this is profound. so we need to talk about the fact that the real artificial intelligence and machine learning is not actually about sent yens in the computer. tez a bad term honestly. what machine learning is it is computational statistics on steroids. it is amazing that it works well most of the time.
it's a mazing that we can use math to figure things out about the universe. math cannot 'til us everything. prediction can tell us likelihood but can't tell us truth. so we need to keep these ideas in mind. we need to think about hollywood. hollywood ideas about artificial intelligence colors our beliefs. every student who comes in the classroom and starts thinking about technology and history is simultaneously thinking about hollywood and thinking about hollywood and artificial intelligence. so we need to make that distinction. that hollywood imagery ai is imaginary. researchers call it general artificial intelligence.
that's the robe ots that take over the world and it is totally imaginary. real artificial intelligence, what we have, is called narrow ai. machine learning, even though it starts with that, it is just math. so another thing i realized when i was doing the research for the book is that the confusion with artificial intelligence is almost deliberate. people have been using confusion about technology as a gate keeping method. to keep certain kinds of people out of the profession. when you really trace it back, all our ideas about technology
and society today come from a very mall and homogeneous group of people, mostly ivy league educated white male mathematicians. there's nothing wrong with being a white ivy league male mathematician. some of my best friends are white male mathematicians. people embed their biases in technology. for example, if you look at the way that we don't have women and people of color represented at the upper echelons in silicon valley, that is a -- we can draw direct connection to the fact that women and people of color are not represented in the upper echelons of mathematics. so at the harvard math department, there are two senior professors that are women. in 2019, there are two. and you know when they started?
2018. all right. so there are structural forces at work inside technology fields that are extremely important. but people in technology fields, people in mathematics and physics don't think structural forces are important. they think that what matters is the math. they think that solving mathematical problems, solving technological problems is so superior to these pesky social problems that they get a pass. so this is the root of an idea that i call tech no chauvinism which we saw in the earlier clip. it is superior to other solutions, that using a computer
is a superior technology which is really about saying that math is superior and is really about a kind of bias. all right. so what i would argue is again, let's think about using the right tool for the task. sometimes the right tool for the task is a computer. other times it is something simple like a book in the hands of a child sitting on a parent's lap. one is not better than the other. it is simply what's appropriate. we can also think about the environmental cost of our rush to use ai to replace existing systems, and we can say what is behind the rush to use ai. is it technochauvinism, is it desire to make vast amounts of money? and is that actually giving us
the world we want. we can also look at the way the ai systems function, which is that they replicate the world as it is. the way you built an ai system, you take data, build a machine learning model that is a mathematical model of what's happening inside this data, then use that model to predict values, make decisions about future data. the problem is that this model has no sent yens, has no soul, and it replicates what already exists. if you think the world is already pretty great, then yeah. you're going to want to replicate it exactly. but i would argue that the world includes sexism. the world includes racism. the world includes generations of biased decisions about who gets a mortgage. the world includes in the u.s. a
vast amount of residential segregation. so for using ai systems to decide who gets a mortgage to buy a house, then we're actually replicating generations of inequality. we need to think about these ai systems. as discriminating by default and question whether we're actually building the systems that get us toward the world as it should be. >> thank you very much. so now we go to katie brownell from purdue university. history professor. katie, is republic of entertainment the title of the book? >> no, it is a title i came up with for a grant application. i do not like it. so any ideas, let me know. >> all right. you can read on the screen katie's bio. tell me a little about where you're from. >> originally from michigan. went to university of michigan and then did my graduate work at
boston university. >> how old were you when you knew you wanted to study history as a profession? >> it was my freshman year at university of michigan. i went in to study business. i thought that would get me a job. i took a history class with matt lassiter. first day of that class completely opened my eyes, my jaw was dropped after that lecture. i decided i wanted to learn more about history. by the end of the year i wanted to become a historian. >> your first book was "showbiz politics." what was that about? >> looks at the role of entertainment in american politics, leading up to ronald reagan. how our political culture shifted to becoming a celebrity and what i call showbiz politics, a core component of how politicians gained power and credibility. >> that's a great transition
into the clip we chose for you. this is from an interview that cspan did at the organization of american historians, is that right? >> sounds right. >> that's a compelling speech, you have nixon's handwriting on it. he says reagan appeals to the heart. we appeal to the minds. are we missing something by not invoking reagan strategy. he had a team of television producers, roger ales, they all agree what went wrong in 1960 is that he didn't use media effectively, he turned himself into a celebrity the way kennedy had. he completely revamped his media strategy, made television central, and followed what kennedy did. and followed what reagan did. and this is really significant. at the end of the day, he believed and people he
surrounded himself believed that the difference between nixon the loser and nixon the winner is what embraced that showbiz politics style. >> take that into your next project on the cable television industry. >> excellent. thank you. so i am honored to be on this panel by two people whose work i admire so much, especially because they have both completed their work and i'm drawing on it for my own work. it is still very much a plan in progress. i'm trying to put together the pieces and look at the political history of cable television. and it really builds off my first book because it starts with nixon and this president who believed communications mattered and communications policy mattered as well. and the book, the core question is what is the relationship
between media, technology, and the state. and that's something i have been thinking about as i'm looking over ways in which cable television dramatically changes over the past half century. for the cable industry, politics were deeply intertwined with all aspects of business. political battles, whether they played out at the local or state level with national elected officials or with fcc regulators are at the core of the industry's history. and these political debates propelled varied transformations, and the idea of what cable television was and how it could actually function because for the first two decades that cable television existed, it emerged with the advent of broadcast television. and it was simply a way to extend the reach of broadcast television originally. if there was a trouble in terms of reception due to terrain or
distance, cable could provide broadcast, amplify the reach of broadcast. then during the 1960s and 1970s, cable became seen as a new technology that could be an alternative form of how tv could function in society, that could have very specialized programming that would empower viewers to have more control over what they were watching and to quote, unquote vote with their remote control. the industry recognized that their business was tied to what cable television meant. this is especially important, they were not part of the decisions being made about how their business should function. they were firmly, cable operators, were firmly on the outside of the political and media establishment during the
1950s and 1960s. and this meant that broadcasters who were part of the political establishment and had relationships with regulators and congressmen, they limited what was possible for cable to function as a business. there's a really powerful clip of bill daniels, cable pioneer, available through cable center's oral history. done in 1990. after the industry had expanded very rapidly during the 1980s, and he lists all of the steep opposition that cable television once faced in the '50s and '60s, and he rattles off the quote list of our enemies when we first started, and he slowly starts counting on his fingers, abc, nbc, cbs, telephone company owners, movie producers, local tv stations, city council, state governments, lawyers, lobbyists,
and added a challenge came from congressional representatives who, quote, didn't like us because their broadcast buddies at home and whom they were depending to get elected didn't like us. i think this really captures the environment of cable television in the 1950s and 1960s because it really did suffer at the hands of a regulatory regime that gave tremendous social, economic, power to the broadcasting industry. there's a close collaboration between broadcasters and congressional leaders, presidential administrations and the fcc that created a favorable regulatory framework that benefitted congressmen and presidents that were eager to be in the eye of their constituents on local or national news. so they benefitted from this. and the broadcasting industry also benefitted from this
arrangement, they experienced very little competition in exchange for foregrounding the official voices from government. they underpinned this arrangement that allowed for corporate monopoly to dominate for two decades, even longer. what is essential, politicians believed they needed broadcasters to get elected. nixon is key here. 1950s and 1960s are a moment in which politicians are grappling with the age of television. and they're hiring consultants who are telling them that you need to go on tv, you need to have advertisements, you need to be part of the news. so they believe that broadcasters have a lot of political power and that they have to have favorable relationships with them. culturally, the regulatory model depended on the idea of objectivity.
a trust that the public had in big institutions. so network news was primarily seen as objective source of information that gave out the official line. think of walter cronkite and that's the way it is. overwhelmingly relying on government sources to shape their presentation of the news. intellectually, another key component that broadcasters shaped research how television functioned. so all of the studies that support the broadcasting model with these three corporate networks, this was in the best interest of the country, they were done by research departments of the networks. again, they were able to shape the intellectual framework as well. so during this time again, 1950s and 1960s, fcc and congress created strict regulations that
ensured cable couldn't compete, limited the programming that cable could use and offer its subscribers, and basically made it the only way cable could function is if it extended the signals of the broadcasting industry. this starts to change over the next two decades as congress and state and local governments combined with the activism of cable operators, the formation of an effective lobbying organization and consumers to transform not just the regulatory structure but the very ways that television functions in american politics and this is the story that my book will hopefully continue to outline. these changes started in the
presidential administration of richmond nixon. it is not an accident that nixon who so firmly believes in the power of media to shape his political success, something that i charted in my first book becomes a president who is very passionate good telecommunications and who takes it seriously. he firmly believed that there was this idea of liberal bias in network television and wanted to do something to challenge institutional structures that gave network television so much power. and he ultimately empowered many white house staffers who worked for him to pursue a revolutionary approach to television that would allow cable television to emerge as a competitor to broadcasting. he created the office of telecommunications policy and it existed for only eight years but this was an incredibly influential office because it
started to pierce holes in some of the raining assumptions about television. notably it capitalized on the growing technique of objectivity manifesting on the left and right in the early 1970s. and it encouraged new research about the economics of cable television and whether or not it could flourish as a new type of business. that ultimately dismantled the economic justifications of the broadcast monopoly. and in the aftermath of nixon's presidency, congress continues to debate and take seriously some of the policies that originated in the nixon white house. and the newly elected post watergate reformers, they took away kind of the emphasis on the waging war against broadcasters that nixon had used but took seriously the ideas that his
office of telecommunications put forward about the need for more diversity and a more comprehensive television programming that could benefit all aspects of civic engagement and government. the televised watergate hearings, i see it is as an important moment because it elevated the prestige of the legislative branch and its members and it taught congress that if they were the stars of the show, that they could gain this power and shift some of the power back to the legislative branch. and so in the aftermath, congress starts debating how could we integrate television coverages away to restore more power to what they were doing and they were looking for television. how do we have more attention and more cameras focused on what
we're doing. the problem is network news only had half an hour, maybe an hour that they wanted to dedicate to public affairs so you needed a different type of television in order for this to work. and the cable industry, that is where they were taking advantage of some of the political shifts and new ideas and they proposed a solution. one that would benefit them and would benefit congress. and this is something that c-span founder brian lam argued and in oral history recounting how he sold the idea of c-span to cover what congress was doing to quote/unquote turn the lights on congress, he told people in the cable industry, that only by becoming a player in the news could c-span clhallenge the authority that nbc, cbs, and abc ultimately had. and he was right.
c-span launched in 1979 and politicians debated how cable should be used and not if it should be used and the politicians that once dismissed the industry because they're broadcasting buddies didn't like us, eventually saw cable television as a tool for political advancement and they forged relationships with the industry that were at times collaborate and at times very contentious. but they were always very consequential. and the process, as political leaders are becoming very eager to manipulate the cable dial. the style of government, and how they were communicating and engaging with their constituents became transformed by the core ideas of a market populism and that made cable so powerful and
popular. since the 1960s the financial success of the cable industry depended on the industry's ability to defend, define and distinguish cable television as a new technology and a new form of television. and it really reshaped the way people thought about media and the way that media functioned in american political life. and so by 1990s that conquered list of enemies that bill daniels outlined by conquering all of the enemies and forging relationships and becoming a power player itself, american society and the media structures on which it depended were fundamentally transformed. the terrain has shifted but, and this is a key argument that i want to bring out in the book, that in the process of shifting that terrain it's not just that
politicians came to rely on cable television more, or consumers became to rely on cable television more to interact with their politicians, but through that process politics began to look more like the programs that were actually on the dial. thank you. >> thanks very much. >> [ applause ] >> so we're going to open up. i was getting ready to say we'll open up the phone lines. we're going to open up for q&a in a minute or two and if you could let them know and we'll get a microphone to you. and as they do that, let me ask each of you, since this is a panel about media technology and the state, tell me each of your areas where you think the state let people down.
so where in that history, margaret, did the state let the american people down in silicon valley and that history? >> well, i think there was a really critical moment in the early 1990s when the internet, which has been around since 1969 as a product of the defense department used by government ooer employees and researchers up until the early 90s and it is becoming commercialized and it involves a set of regulatory decisions and there is a really interesting -- and it is the moment when silicon valley or at least this generation of silicon valley entrepreneurs turned/millionaires turn political activists start making a presence in washington and it is the moment and that is
partially because bill clinton, who is elect fld 1992, works very hard starting before he declared his candidacy to woo silicon valley and to make democrats the party of silicon valley and prior there had been close ties with republicans both at the national and the state level. but there is a moment where they're trying to figure a medium that is defined as the wild west. and that where the advocates of the internet from the valley are talking about it as a frontier, talking about it in a very frederick jackson turner sort of way. although not consciously, sort of wide open spaces waiting to be conquered, limitless possibility. but they are arguing for keeping something that on principle that sounds very good to members of both parties as well as defenders of free speech which is keeping the internet free and as out of influence of the media
companies, including cable, as possible. so there is a political battle essentially in which media is defined by -- as the telecoms and as the cable providers who are -- wanting to control the information flow and where the electronic frontier foundation, the eff are arguing to keep in jeffersonnian and leaders of both parties, republicans first in the opposition in congress and then after 1995 as the majority in congress, led by newt gingrich and democrats in the white house, it is one of the few things in the mid 1990 that is the two parties could agree on be enlarge. what was not realized and this is less a case of the government letting the american people down, but really not realizing
that some of the scrappy little companies, these guys would become google, facebook, would become even silicon valley itself and those people who were arguing for the jeffersonny an internet, mitch who wrote and talked eloquently about this, this notion, later reflected to me we had no idea that people would use the internet, we were so naive. we had no idea people would use the internet for bad as well as for good. and neither did regulators and neither did politicians in the '90s. it was such a boutique issue and the technology was so very little understood, meredith and i were talking last night about there is very few people in washington that now that grasp the technology. which is a real challenge. and that lack of a gulf of understanding of ai is not
machine learning and not something that it transposes into policy making. so at the end, why is our country economy so unregulated. they're not regulated like the cable companies were and like nearly everything else. and what we're doing now is we're grappling with a kind of post hock regulatory decision making where new economy companies grow so large and it is like okay we need to back up and figure out some way to contain and channel this energy in a way that allows them to continue to grow and do their business. but also not to have these second order and third order effects. and that sort of between 1993 and 1997 there is a moment that is so consequential to what happens where the media technology landscape is now and
the state didn't realize what they were deciding to do or not to do. >> we'll get your thoughts on that but let's take our first question. >> these papers were great. so interesting. and i'm wondering as somebody interested in local radio and we have somebody sitting here who built a low power fm station, art fm in louisville, kentucky, i'm wondering what you see as the potential for a democratic media or policies that could potentially promote a jeffersonnian internet or radio/television from the bottom up that brings the voices of people in localities to the surface. >> who wants to take that? >> well, i can start by saying i don't have the solution.
but i could tell you that that's a debate that has been at the core of regulatory issues. and when connie asked the question of how has the state let the people down, i would have actually said that i think that pole tigss -- politicians are having regulatory debates in the 1970s and the 1980s and rethinking about how to restructure the regime that many people are pointing out the problems. there is a lot of problems and what can we do about it and the language of diversity of voices, localism, we need to empower local communities, return this media back to the people, that is so powerful in they're debates and how they're framing it and talking about the importance of consumers and
privileging their interest. but what they actually do is they're really shaped more by their self-interest and you see a corporate structure without. so i think there is that tension that has really always been there. and so it is kind of -- wading through what these policies could do and would they provide more diversity, mores for local communities to have control or do they replicate some of the corporate structures that allow for the massive amounts of mergers that happen in the 1980s and 1990s that then stifle those very adventures that you're talking about. >> so we have a question up here and while we wait for the mic to get there, let me ask you, meredith, you were a member of the media, a reporter for the philadelphia enquirer and now a member of the media in the new
era that you work in. how have you, or have you, been welcomed by the journalism community in this new oarea tha you want to work in. >> one of the wonderful things about working in journalism as opposed to tech is journalism is vastly less sexist than the tech industry. the sexism that you face as a woman doing computer science, i found it unbearable. everything they say about the social forces that conduct women out of tech careers, they're all true. right. so journalism for all of its faults is just an extraordinary place compared to the tech industry. so it feels like a privilege to be able to do what i love which is building technology in a realm that i really love and to be able to actually communicate
with people about what i'm doing. >> so you find that journalists are open to the idea of using your kind of data in terms of nir this stories? >> yeah. so data journalism is a fast-growing field. people have only really been talking about data journalism since, say, 2006 but it dates back much further. so the first time that somebody used a computer for an investigative reporting story was in 1968. it was a reporter named phil meyer who looked at the detroit race riots and the dominant narrative at that point was that the race riots were most of the people involved were lower class. so he did this analysis where he did a survey and so used the tools of social scientific research in order to conduct a survey. he used a main frame to analyze
the survey results and found the participants cut across the class spectrum and that tells us a very different story about who was participating in the race riots in detroit and also what does it mean for the community. so philip myers work in the '60s morphed into commuter assist answer reporting which is a dorky name but that is what we called it in the 80s and the 90s when the big revelation that every reporter had a desktop reporter. we're moving off of main frames. it is off of main frames that you could use data journalism and what we started calling it when we started using more internet tools. >> thanks. yes. >> excellent panel. amazing. i love the conversation that all
four of you had. my question is to meredith and i'd like to know if you think that it would be fair to say there are causal links between the rise of ai and the decline of humanity over the last 30 years and if so what can we do on the humanity to take on techno chauvinism. it is just about staying relevant. but there is a mentality that there is that really rain and rewards techno chauvinism like political science like economics have years of the policymakers not the humanities. part of a bigger problem. but what could humanities do and i worry about techno chauvinism
in our own ways. >> thank you. that is a really good question. what can we do to work against this? i think it starts with admitting that techno chauvinism works and back against it and saying that technical solutions are not necessarily superior to solutions from social sciences or humanities. each is valid. we have to look at funding inequality. we have to look at funding for humanities and social sciences versus for darpa, funding for data science, and we have to remedy that particular inequality because there is a lot of nonsense through the nsf and through dara that gets funded and a lot of the funds
could be reappropriated and put into the neh and nea. we have to think about the money. we also need to address economic inequality in terms of the pay gap. one of the reasons we don't have more data journalists is because of the really profound a gap between what you can make as a journalist and what you can make as somebody who does ai in silicon valley. you go into journalism and say you are going to make $30,000 or $40,000 a year as a starting salary. you can make literally 10 times as much as a starting salary just out of college doing ai. that is absurd and it did not used to be the case. in the 1960's and 1970's when technology policy was developing, the gap between what you made as a doctor or lawyer and we made as a social worker was much smaller. now the gap between what you
make as a technology executive and what you make as a teacher is unfathomable. one thing we can do is pay teachers more. [laughter] >> not just university, but k-12. if we pay teachers more, then we will have more talent in the classroom teaching our younger generations about technology. right now, -- when i meet computer science teachers, a lot of them are wonderful. they used to be gym teachers and teaching computer science computer science which is
basically how to use google docs. i think it is about economics and looking at priorities and also thinking about race and ethnicity. part of the narrative has been in technology that it is objective and unbiased and therefore superior. when you ignore incredibly important social factors like how race and ethnicity functions, you build systems that do not get us toward the kind of society i think we need to enter gets a storms. that we want to live in. there is a discipline of data journalism called algorithmic reporting that is my little corner. it is a promising field. one of the things we do in
algorithmic accountability reporting is we look at the black boxes of algorithms used to make decisions on our behalf. we interrogate them and ask if they are fair or just. generally, the answer is no. we also build our own algorithms in order to look at how systems function and to find the flaws in the system. >> so margaret, when you were looking at your history of silicon valley what is your take? >> techno chauvinism has a history. silicon valley looks at two professions that were entirely white and all-male. they were not necessarily elites -- there were plenty of penniless boys from south carolina who got scholarships to m.i.t.. a lot of the founding generation of the valley were men from a modest background
who went to university because it had free tuition and came to stanford for grad school because they could work and go to school at the same time. you didn't have a lot of ivy league are and perhaps didn't work for fortune 50 companies. it was all white and all-male. it is the world of engineering and engineering where women were not -- department chairs could say if a woman wanted to major in math, sorry we don't allow women in this program. as the 1950's and 1960's. the other was finance/mba executive management. harvard business school did not admit women. you had very homogenous world. the magic of silicon valley is
that the baton, my friend talks about a relay relay race. we are passing the baton. the semi conductor funds the personal computer generation and then does the same to the internet generation and the social media generation. they have what they say is pattern recognition. i am going to invest in this person because they went to stanford in computer science they are wearing a hoodie and they are somewhere on spectrum. it is also this gut thing because you believe in the person. that is the challenge. if you want to explain the magic of silicon valley. the other dimension of the history is there is a little history. there is a lot of money. darpa has become the giant in computer science, in part because it is government
austerity and everything else got caught away even computer sciences -- scientists who were not taking money from the pentagon and had to find a way to work on it and that was the only way you could get money what you want to do certain parts of the government, and the military is one part of the u.s. government that gets money and appropriations. not even any age and nda but other parts of the research establishment have again it is for, it has to have some long-range adaptability for some military purpose in some way. all these things are feeding in and this isn't to say that this is intractable and that we can't fix it but recognizing the political history and the way that this has been structured and embedded in this larger narrative of political history, that we all and so many people in this room right
about and think about, and that so many people watching are writing and living, recognizing that that is the way you identify how you perhaps change. and anyone looking at history can look at instances in history where things do change remarkably we are frustrated by this imbalance and technologists themselves are very frustrated by, they recognize that there needs to be summary framing and incorporation of whether we call it ai ethics or something else. they are understanding this is the way to get to a different future. >> next question. >> when you look at political polarization and dysfunction today, you have to look at cable tv and the internet as two of the primary drivers of this. they are right at the top of the list.
i just wonder what you think and they are only growing stronger and more important in american daily life -- what is the way out of this? i wonder what you see in terms of what comes next and what is the way out of fixing this problem. >> it is a really great question. i think the dominant narrative around cable is it has created this polarization, but i think that narrative does foreground the technology more. cable is doing this, rather it's a variety of politicians who are using cable platforms for different strategies. newt gingrich really brilliantly saw an opportunity to take c-span and turn it into a way to blast his opponents, even though no one else is watching, and nationalize congressional politics.
i think that it is important to think about how there are choices in terms of how the medium is used, but also there's the ramification of relying, putting that faith in the market, right? is this going to be about competition and what cells becomes defined as news, then you have a very different style of news. i think that is one of the shifts that is important to understand. the news as it existed in the 1960's and 1970's advocated for this consensus. it was driven by white, middle-class and wealthy men who are part of the establishment and did not allow other voices to come into play.
one thing i appreciate about what cable does in terms of providing tens and hundreds and so many more channels that it does give voice to different perspectives. so there's a shift, there is a shift from an elitist perception of what constitutes as news and where people are going for their information to this more diverse -- and again, bringing in those market principles, right? what counts as news, how people vote with their remote controls. i think that there's a payoff, but it's important to note this older system of broadcast network television also had a lot of problems inherent as well. in terms of solutions, i do not have any concrete ones.
the medium is recognizing its limitations and the political choices in how to deploy those media formats are really important to consider. i saw statistic in some of your work where you said that >> you said 10% of the american people at the height of walter kronkite doing the evening news or watching him, yet today 23 times that number -- not the percentage, but the number are involved in twitter and facebook and that kind of
thing. go from there. >> there are two different types of information. as katie was saying, it's highly curated, but curated by people in power. by the late 1960's you are getting pushback on that, but there is a certain worldview and point of view and the point of view of the ivy league educated, east coast media. you could not have silly news stories. what cable creates initially and what the internet has exacerbated is the spin cycle, just this hunger for content and which trivial things become multi-day news stories in the way these millions of people are using -- including all of
us, the way we use media -- is much less deliberate. you're not sitting down at certain times like, now, i shall sit down and look at twitter for 30 minutes and get everything i need to know. it comes in snippets. some of it is of great import, this is one of the upsides of the internet age, we know everything going on in the world and there was a lot of bad stuff that was not revealed. now there's revelation. but one becomes immune to all of this bad stuff. you do not take things as seriously. whereas when walter in february 1968 cronkite turned to the camera won't and had a brief editorial moment in which he said the vietnam war has reached a stalemate, this is something we cannot get out of in the way we expect, that ricocheted through politics.
lyndon johnson did not run for reelection -- we do not have those moments anymore, even though there's so much more consumption of so much information. next question? >> one of the things i appreciate, meredith, about your stance -- they do not i thought don't think we're doing a good job of capturing the tide we are all standing in. when you speak to most people about ai or things like that and you start to speak to them about some of the people in the field they don't know who some of the people are okay know the basic people who are really formulating this layer of complexity around us. we, in our own have not dealt with too much of it. we have not integrated but we
have the same way as with the steel industry, we have an integrated that into their part of their understanding because we have only have a few little articles here and media has surprised itself by realizing when we did the facebook movie, that was less than ten years ago. it's moving so fast i think that historians are not prepared for the speed of that industry sometimes because we like to two, three, four decades to look back on things. but we haven't been giving that sort of space and i try to bring that to my students and my radio audience that i have looked for people who are doing this and i think it has to be more of a crossover from people like you who are bringing this technical perspective and technical writing and giving it more of a historical
perspective. i really enjoy all that you three have powerful minds have given us this morning. i really like that a lot. what do you think the biggest thing that historians are missing about this moment of technology? what is the secret, what's the book that is going to break this news and wake us up and help us realize that we are in a renaissance? >> i think if you read margaret's book and my book next to each other i think it will probably give a really good historical overview as well as technical overview for
how do we understand all of these forces. publishers have only been investing in books that counter the dominant technology narrative for the last three or four years. it's not surprising we have not had such a narrative before now because publishers are driven by market imperatives. everybody believed technology is the future and everyone believes the techno-libertarian rhetoric and everyone believed the new communalist rhetoric about, oh, cyberspace is going to be so different and it's going to change the world and empower people. only the past three or four years have people started to say, maybe that's not true. i am excited that dialogue is happening now. one thing that is important to
start grappling with, the question of how do we do history in the future? when you think about twitter posts as an historical archive, those are not being preserved anywhere. so what you get from twitter as a civilian is you get a garden hose of twitter data, and there is a firehose of all the twitter data, but you have to pay for it. twitter is not going to be around forever. what's going to happen to all of that data? you think about newspapers and how our newspapers are archived. we know a lot about how to archive print news because you can go to any library and find a paper from 1849 and read the
entire paper. you can see all of the ads all the copy, and that's a really useful tool for history, but you can't go to the boston globe and see everything that was written in the boston globe on a given day in 2002, because there's the print paper and then there's the digital version of the paper and the website and then there's social media, and god knows what else. the ads change for everybody, so you can't see those. and there's proprietary ad technology. >> this is a really big problem, the fact that we have invested in all of these technological
systems for creating media, it's really great, but at the same time we are shooting ourselves in the foot because in five years you're not going to be able to read any of today's news. especially not the more cutting edge digital news, so digital -- are hard to preserve. . >> you are picking up that mirror for your own industry, historians, particularly people teaching history -- what do you think? >> that question makes me think about the key idea in my research, which is how technology is defined is a
political process. again, seeing all of these different moments, looking at cable and how people are talking about how it can be used, its potential. this is so deeply embedded in the politics of that particular moment, and it changes so dramatically and that is one of the fascinating things about the cable industry. it's not a new technology in the 70's. it's not a new technology in the 90's, but the way it is talked about and its he potential and how it will solve all these problems in about how it will solve all these political battles. so, i think it's really important to understand that and to think about who is influencing that discussion of how technology is being defined. consumers, constituents writing
to their representatives, demanding access, demanding certain things. lobbyists are playing a key role shaping the public relations debates, and politicians, how they understand technology is frequently shaped by how they use it. those are key things to consider at this moment when everything is changing so quickly. it's hard to keep up with, there is a reason my book ends in the 1990's. the environment changes -- >> you say that now. >> all of a sudden everything does escalate really quickly, but some of those fundamental questions are still at play. >> are historians up for this challenge? >> of course. one of the things that historians are very good at doing, where we are in tech -- as meredith said, to years ago,
four years ago, we were changing the world for the future and now we have swung violently to the other side where things are bad, bad, bad, so bad. before i was the person saying, maybe it is not all good and now i am like, we have supercomputers in our pockets, guys. they've done some good things. let's think about -- so what historians are good at is showing this complex, nuance, making sense of the data, showing the good and the bad, showing how and why you can grapple with that and understand the phenomenon is not just all good and all bad, but helping people understand something as this complex subject that is actionable. that is where the historian's superpower is, bringing this
together and the other dimension is historians as teachers of history, writers of history have an obligation with the state of the internet archive broadly defined. we need to be our google activist's. we need to be talking about here is how historians do what they do. here is how we produce the things that others read and learn from. here is what needs to be done with this new digital archive, not just digitizing things but also thinking about how you grapple with the twitter feeds and the ephemeral internet-based advertising -- how do you preserve that record? not just that record, but the broad record of the web itself. people are trying to do that but that is not yet an institutional project on the scale that other archives have been in the past. let's talk and think about this
and make people aware of why these gaps exist and how they need to be remedied >> we have time for one more question. cable companies and companies like facebook and twitter have become self appointed arbiters of proper political speech through stylist races like hate speech that they used to try to suppress conservative or traditionalist politics and social issues. a couple of examples of this is the case of the students from covington catholic high school at the lincoln memorial being braided by the american indian activists and the more recent example of the new york city men who posted a parody video of nancy pelosi online got pilloried. how do you see government policy makers and scholars addressing this weaponization
of political differences in their future writings? >> can we combine that question? >> i'm very interested you talked about public policy. you talked about technology. where do you see the influence of advertisers in the shaping of -- i have often said to my children the inventor of the mute button ought to get a nobel peace prize. because i mute out the commercials. to what extent do they influence or the competition for them influence what we see on cable tv? >> who wants to
start? weaponization, advertising? >> i see these questions as being very connected. the advertising, the ad-based model, the model by which these platforms think about -- facebook, the debate about whose speech, these companies are driven by their ad-based model and their shareholders and they are for-profit companies, but they are also informed by politics -- small p politics, the origin being the gate to the computer science building. the home were sergey brennan and larry page went to graduate school the dopey ideal of don't be evil and we are in the business of creating a platform in which conversation can happen. but the way that this is
function now is that these are incredibly important media companies these platforms have become places for speech of all kinds and actually what is being understood as censorship of some voices is a product of companies that don't want to take sides or don't know how to navigate what has become -- they have become producers and curators of media, and their algorithm is the underlying mechanics of what is enabling these companies to do what they do and to sell ads and a very tailored ads for individual users, is making a runaway train, a process where you have different pieces of content that has a way of spiking out. and also reactions to that.
i don't see for my understanding and the understanding of how these companies work, i see a desire to keep this fight for neutrality -- these things are very different from when it was a search engine created by a couple -- this of graduate students they become much more powerful and become embedded in different parts of life this is the great dilemma of these companies need to take sides without taking sides if that makes sense in at the same time they have to serve their ad based model because, how do you change? it probably the way it's going to be changed is with the third part of the triumvirate to the state, with some sort of regulation and what is that regulation going to look like? and how do you preserve the jeffersonian internet dimensions of it and allowed speech, different types of
voices to be heard across the spectrum at the same time without having the state of affairs we have now which no one seems very happy with i can tackle the advertising question and give it to you to take it home. >> one thing to add that your question makes me think of that i hadn't really, spent a lot of time analyzing but i think is a a really important part of the story, arguments for cable television in the 1970's and 1980's really hinged on the idea that subscribers would be the ones that cable would be serving. again, the empowerment of the consumer, that they would offer new types of programs, from
espn2 to mtv to c-span. hbo one of the early models of this, all subscription-based. and some of those channels remains subscription-based, but the majority have shifted toward an advertising model and that happens over the 1980's and into the 90's as well. that's a really interesting shift in terms of the business model where the cable industry begins with all of these ideas about how are they going to be different, they will be different from broadcasting. they will solve these problems with the broadcasting model, but they actually become more consolidated, corporate media structure. they take on these media structures and they become a new player in that model and they replicate it.
>> i would say one of the things i am really interested in and thinking about the ad model, i am interested in advertiser fraud. they estimated something like $7 billion of internet advertising is about ad fraud. there is vast amount of fraud in internet advertising. i've heard that organized crime is heavily involved in ad fraud these days. this is something i have wanted to write about for long time but i have not found the right hook yet. it's a major complicating factor when we think about the success of facebook and twitter and their ad model. also the historical perspective
how newspapers address this because there was a similar crisis in the wild west era newspapers, because you could prince a whole bunch of newspapers and throw them away and claim that you printed this number and that was your circulation so we had things like the advertising bureau of circulation came into being and we do have the i-80, the internet advertising bureau but but their effectiveness is limited. i'm really curious about that. margaret, one thing you said, and katie, i was reminded about this. . the way the government regulation has advanced around cable television, i was thinking about the way that
telecoms policy evolved, the way that broadcast regulatory policy evolve and i've been thinking lately about the silicon valley idea of iteration that's an idea i really like. i really like the idea that okay, we can try something and see if it works and if it doesn't then you try to do better. and i think that the way that this fits with the law because the law evolves. the law is the original artifact that iterates, right? even the constitution we have iterations of the constitution. i wonder if when it comes to regulating social media platforms, i wonder if we should regulate and then iterates, right? if we should let go of the idea that we have to get it right on the first try and just try something because doing nothing doesn't seem to have worked
very well so maybe let's destroy something and let's put it in place for a little bit and if it doesn't work let's change it, let's iterate. >> very roosevelt. >> i am the timekeeper so we have to wrap up thank you very much doctor brossard-la to burn now doctoral maryland, give them a round of applause.