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Peoples & Things

Peoples & Things

By Peoples & Things

Peoples & Things is a podcast in which host Lee Vinsel interviews scholars, practitioners, and activists about human life with technology.
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Nirit Weiss-Blatt on The Techlash and Tech Crisis Communication

Peoples & Things

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Zack Furness on Bicycles and American Roadways
Zack Furness on Bicycles and American Roadways
Furness on bicycles and American roadways
01:26:56
November 28, 2022
Popp and Coopersmith
Popp and Coopersmith
Lee talks with Popp and Coopersmith
01:11:37
November 14, 2022
Elizabeth Tandy Shermer on Student Debt
Elizabeth Tandy Shermer on Student Debt
Elizabeth Tandy Shermer on Student Debt
01:03:05
November 07, 2022
Eric Hintz and American Independent Inventors in an Era of Corporate R&D
Eric Hintz and American Independent Inventors in an Era of Corporate R&D
Eric Hintz, a historian and fellowship coordinator with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, talks about his book, American Independent Inventors in an Era of Corporate R&D, with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. The two discuss why independent inventors are often invisible in histories of 20th century invention and innovation, the role that independent inventors played in the two world wars, and the complicated history of gender and race around invention, which was a path of both promise and risk for women and black people.
55:20
October 31, 2022
Aaron Gordon on Gun-Detecting AI, Infrastructure, and Bureaucracy
Aaron Gordon on Gun-Detecting AI, Infrastructure, and Bureaucracy
Aaron Gordon, Senior Writer at Motherboard, Vice’s science and technology website, talks about his co-authored article, “‘The Least Safe Day’: Rollout of Gun-Detecting AI Scanners Has Been a ‘Cluster,’ Emails Show,” with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. They also discuss Gordon’s career trajectory, going from a sports reporter to a writer focused on infrastructure, maintenance, bureaucracy, and related topics. Additionally, the two chat about systematic bottlenecks around electric vehicles, a promising technology too-often cast as a cure-all.
01:22:19
October 24, 2022
Stephanie Hoopes on ALICE and Economic Hardship in the United States
Stephanie Hoopes on ALICE and Economic Hardship in the United States
Stephanie Hoopes, National Director of United for ALICE, a research center founded at United Way of Northern New Jersey, talks about the ALICE program with Peoples & Thing host, Lee Vinsel. ALICE stands for Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained Employed, and describes working households who can barely afford to make ends meet. The ALICE program repeatedly finds that about 40% of American households fits its criteria. Hoopes and Vinsel also the social structures and economic factors that contribute to ALICE, and how different populations are affected unequally by these factors.
57:38
October 17, 2022
Nirit Weiss-Blatt on The Techlash and Tech Crisis Communication
Nirit Weiss-Blatt on The Techlash and Tech Crisis Communication
Communication researcher Nirit Weiss-Blatt talks about her book, The Techlash and Tech Crisis Communication, as well as some of her recent and forthcoming pieces on the digital technology industry with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. Weiss-Blatt’s work examines both the rise of the “techlash”—the development of negative public and expert sentiment about the digital technology industry—and how company public relations efforts responded to this development. Weiss-Blatt and Vinsel also talk about how some claims about the negative impacts of social media do not seem to hold up to empirical scrutiny and what all of this means for regulation of the digital technology industry.
01:05:28
October 10, 2022
Destenie Nock on Hidden Energy Poverty
Destenie Nock on Hidden Energy Poverty
Destenie Nock, an assistant professor in the Engineering and Public Policy and Civil and Environmental Engineering Departments at Carnegie Mellon University and CEO of People’s Energy Analytics, a new startup, talks about her co-authored paper  “The Energy Equity Gap: Unveiling Hidden Energy Poverty” with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. The two also talk about the arc of Nock’s career; poverty, race, and infrastructure in the United States; and how Nock’s new company can help energy utilities identify and address hidden forms of energy poverty.
55:36
October 03, 2022
Katherine Blunt on California Burning
Katherine Blunt on California Burning
Journalist Katherine Blunt, who writes about renewable energy and utilities for the Wall Street Journal, talks about her new book, California Burning: The Fall of Pacific Gas and Electric—and What It Means for America’s Power Grid with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. The book tells the fascinating story of how declining performance at an electrical utility eventually led to wildfires and staggering loss of human life. Blunt and Vinsel also talk about what this story means for the future of electricity utilities in the face of global climate change.
01:01:48
September 26, 2022
John Markoff on Tech Journalism and the Many Lives of Stewart Brand
John Markoff on Tech Journalism and the Many Lives of Stewart Brand
Journalist John Markoff has been writing about Silicon Valley for over forty years. In this interview with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel, Markoff talks about his long career, how he became a “tech journalist” long before that term even existed, and how he came to write his new book, Whole Earth: The Many Lives of Stewart Brand. Markoff and Vinsel also talk about how Brand’s life is interwoven with the history of Silicon Valley and the technology its companies have made.
01:04:21
June 06, 2022
Laura Ann Twagira
Laura Ann Twagira
Laura Ann Twagira
57:22
May 23, 2022
Gemma Milne on Hype
Gemma Milne on Hype
Gemma Milne on Hype
01:08:46
May 16, 2022
Daniel Greene on The Promise of Access
Daniel Greene on The Promise of Access
Daniel Greene on The Promise of Access
01:20:20
May 09, 2022
Samantha Kleinberg on Information and Decision-Making
Samantha Kleinberg on Information and Decision-Making
Samantha Kleinberg, an associate professor of computer science at Stevens Institute of Technology, talks about a book she’s been writing on how we can (and can’t) use information to make better decisions with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. Kleinberg and Vinsel also talk about barriers to artificial intelligence getting dramatically better anytime soon, and why ideas, like “the singularity,” are mere fantasies.
01:01:19
May 02, 2022
Leidy Klotz on Subtract
Leidy Klotz on Subtract
Leidy, professor of engineering at the University of Virginia, talks about his book, Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. As Klotz shows throughout the book, we pile on “to-dos” but don’t consider “stop-doings.” We create incentives for good behavior, but don’t get rid of obstacles to it. We collect new-and-improved ideas, but don’t prune the outdated ones. Every day, across challenges big and small, we neglect a basic way to make things better: we don’t subtract. Klotz’s work sits at a fascinating intersection between engineering, design, and experimental psychology. His pioneering research shows us what is true whether we’re building Lego models, cities, or strategic plans: Our minds tend to add before taking away, and this is holding us back.
01:04:15
April 11, 2022
Richard John on Network Nation
Richard John on Network Nation
Historian Richard John, professor of journalism at Columbia University, talks about his book, Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications, with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. Network Nation is a history of the telegraph and telephone in the United States, and one of its key findings is that, from the very beginning of these technologies, thinking about the state, regulation, and ideas of political economy was at the heart of business strategy. John and Vinsel also talk about the nature of historical research and why it is so important to go back to primary sources.
01:16:36
March 28, 2022
Nicole Archambeau on Souls Under Siege
Nicole Archambeau on Souls Under Siege
Nicole Archambeau, associate professor of history at Colorado State University, talks about her book, _ Souls under Siege: Stories of War, Plague, and Confession in Fourteenth-Century Provence_ (Cornell University Press), with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. The book explores how the inhabitants of southern France made sense of the ravages of successive waves of plague, the depredations of mercenary warfare, and the violence of royal succession. Many people, Archambeau finds, understood both plague and war as the symptoms of spiritual sicknesses caused by excessive sin, and they sought cures in confession. Archambeau and Vinsel also discuss the important lessons historians can teach about working to understand people who are quite different from ourselves.
01:03:06
March 21, 2022
Hannah Zeavin on the Distance Cure
Hannah Zeavin on the Distance Cure
Hannah Zeavin, lecturer in the department of History and member of the executive committees of both the Center for New Media and the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society at University of California, Berkeley, talks about her book, The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy, with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. The book tracks the history of teletherapy, which Zeavin defines as therapeutic interaction over distance, and its metamorphosis from a model of cure to one of contingent help. The book starts with letters sent through the mail and ends in our current coronavirus catastrophe. Zeavin and Vinsel also talk about the complexities and potential harms of going back fully in-person, including how it will negatively affect disabled people.
01:00:16
March 07, 2022
Patrick McCray on Making Art Work
Patrick McCray on Making Art Work
Patrick McCray, Professor of History at University of California, Santa Barbara, talks about his book, _Making Art Work: How Cold War Engineers and Artists Forged a New Creative Culture_, with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. The book shows how artists eagerly collaborated with engineers and scientists to explore new technologies and create visually and sonically compelling multimedia works after World War II. McCray and Vinsel also discuss how this history connects to more recent developments such as the creation of the MIT Media Lab and so-called “STEAM education.”
01:12:30
February 28, 2022
Phil Scranton on Business in Socialist Hungary
Phil Scranton on Business in Socialist Hungary
Philip Scranton, University Board of Governors Professor Emeritus of the history of industry and technology at Rutgers University-Camden, talks about his book, _Business Practice In Socialist Hungary, Volume 1: Creating The Theft Economy, 1945-1957_, with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Scranton’s book examines how leaders in socialist Hungary planned and developed business enterprises in the shattered post-World War II economy and how workers, farmers, and citizens both supported and resisted these aims. Scranton and Vinsel also talk about what this project means for business history, which has tended to focus far too often on Western, rich, capitalist nations.
01:07:06
February 22, 2022
Diana Montaño on Electrifying Mexico
Diana Montaño on Electrifying Mexico
In her detailed cultural history of technological change, Electrifying Mexico, Diana Montaño argues that ordinary Mexicans became electrifying agents who actively negotiated the extent and manner electricity entered their lives and lived spaces in Mexico City.  An Assistant Professor of History at Washington University in St. Louis, Dr. Montaño's teaching and research interests broadly include the construction of modern Latin American societies with a focus on technology and its relationship to nationalism, everyday life and domesticity.
01:09:40
February 14, 2022
Catherine Frieman on the Archaeology of Innovation
Catherine Frieman on the Archaeology of Innovation
Catherine Frieman, an associate professor of European Archaeology at the School of Archaeology, talks about her recent book, An Archaeology of Innovation: Approaching Social and Technological Change in Human Society, with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. Her book offers a long-term perspective on innovation that only archaeology can offer and draws on case studies from across human history, from our earliest hominin ancestors to the present. The book makes several different arguments, but one of them is that our present narrow focus on pushing the adoption of technical innovations—especially so called “disruptive innovations”—ignores the complex social, technological, and environmental systems that undergirds successful societies.
01:10:25
February 07, 2022
Donna Riley on Engineering and Social Justice
Donna Riley on Engineering and Social Justice
Donna Riley, professor and head of the school of engineering education at Purdue University, talks about her path, her work, and her 2008 book, Engineering and Social Justice, with Peoples & Things host, Lee Vinsel. If technologies and infrastructures embody moral and political values, what should engineering students be taught about their roles in society? Riley and Vinsel also talk about how universities have changed since Riley’s book came out and Riley’s hopes for social justice in engineering education going forward.
01:08:34
January 31, 2022
Louis Hyman on Temporary Work
Louis Hyman on Temporary Work
Historian Louis Hyman, professor and director of the Institute of Workplace Studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, talks about his book, Temp: How American Work, American Business, and American Dream Became Temporary, with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. In this conversation, Hyman and Vinsel chat about how most mid-20th century secure jobs were possessed by white men, how temporary work began to rise after World War Two, and how all this led to the gig-based world we inhabit.
01:08:07
January 24, 2022
Davarian Baldwin on In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower
Davarian Baldwin on In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower
Davarian L. Baldwin is a professor of American studies and founding director of the Smart Cities Lab at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. His latest book, In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities Are Plundering Our Cities (Bold Type Books, 2021) is a wake-up call to the reality that higher education is no longer the ubiquitous public good it was once thought to be. But as Baldwin shows, there is an alternative vision for urban life, one that necessitates a more equitable relationship between our cities and our universities.
01:20:18
January 17, 2022
Jaipreet Virdi on Hearing Happiness
Jaipreet Virdi on Hearing Happiness
Jaipreet Virdi talks about her book _Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History_ with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. The book details the long history of attempts to “fix” deaf people, including a great deal of quackery. Towards the end of the conversation, Virdi and Vinsel also talk about what a world beyond solutionist fantasies that disability can be “cured” would look like.
58:13
December 13, 2021
Devon Powers on Trend Forecasting
Devon Powers on Trend Forecasting
Devon Powers, a professor of advertising, media, and communication at Temple University, talks about her book, On Trend: The Business of Forecasting the Future with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Powers’ book examines the world of futurists, cool hunters, and forecasters who sell people advice about tomorrow. Powers and Vinsel discuss about how we should think about the influence of such individuals, given that their predictions are often misleading and inaccurate. They also talk how the making of futures can become more just and inclusive.
56:02
December 06, 2021
L. M. Sacasas on Ivan Illich
L. M. Sacasas on Ivan Illich
Author L. M. Sacasas talks about the life, thought, and legacy of the Catholic priest, philosopher, and social critic Ivan Illich with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Sacasas and Vinsel discuss Illich’s critiques of bureaucracy, technology, scale, and expertise and how these critiques apply to medicine, education, our credential society, and life with media technologies.
01:22:10
November 22, 2021
Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra on Automating Finance
Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra on Automating Finance
Sociologist Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, a professor at University of California San Diego, talks about his book _Automating Finance: Infrastructures, Engineers, and the Making of Electronic Markets_ with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. The book traces the long, largely anonymous, and in some senses boring history of how experts applied computers to financial systems since the 1970s, creating a digital infrastructure of the trading world. The conversation also touches on Pardo-Guerra’s more recent work on how systems of quantitative metrics have been applied to the management of universities and what might be done about it.
53:30
November 15, 2021
Hanna Rose Shell on Shoddy
Hanna Rose Shell on Shoddy
Historian Hanna Rose Shell, a professor at University of Colorado – Boulder, talks about her book _Shoddy: From Devil’s Dust to the Renaissance of Rags_ with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Along the way, Shell raises a number of important and interesting things, including the long history of reuse and recycling and how forms of technology and work become tied to social status. With shoddy, it was the anxieties of low class, low social status work and poverty. Shell also discusses how individual technologies become mirrors for the worries, fears, hatreds, and other feelings of society – how when we look into the history of any technology we often see ourselves reflected back.
51:45
November 01, 2021
Lilly Irani on the Ideology of Innovation
Lilly Irani on the Ideology of Innovation
Science and Technologies scholar Lilly Irani talks her book, Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India, with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Irani’s work examines the ideological role that ideas of “innovation” and “entrepreneurship” have played in India and the people who are left behind by such visions. Irani and Vinsel also discuss her other work and activism focusing on the politics of the Bay Area in California, including organization against the digital technology industry.
01:04:38
October 25, 2021
Patrick Chung on South Korea and Globalization
Patrick Chung on South Korea and Globalization
Patrick Chung, assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland, talks about his research on the rise of shipping and manufacturing in South Korea with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Along the way, Chung provides fascinating insights into the role that both the US Department of Defense and local South Korean actors played in globalization.
58:41
October 18, 2021
Daniel Armanios on Infrastructure and Inequality
Daniel Armanios on Infrastructure and Inequality
Daniel Armanios, associate professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, talks about his work on infrastructure and inequality with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Armanios’ recent work has focused on coming up with quantitative measures of how infrastructure relates to inequalities around race, gender, and class, both to address historical injustices and to inform future infrastructure construction. Armanios also talks about how he brings these topics into his teaching and his larger project around engineering and social justice.
01:00:00
October 11, 2021
Meredith Whittaker on the Politics of Digital Technology
Meredith Whittaker on the Politics of Digital Technology
Meredith Whittaker, co-founder and faculty director of the AI Now Institute and Minderoo Research Professor at New York University, talks about the politics of digital technologies with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. The conversation examines Whittaker’s fascinating career moving between industry and academia, her role in the Google walkout, and her hopes for the future, including the role of social movements in fomenting political change.
01:11:22
October 04, 2021
Meredith Broussard
Meredith Broussard
Data journalist Meredith Broussard talks about her book, Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World, with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. The book how artificial intelligence systems do and don’t work and why people have come to have such unrealistic understandings of the technologies’ capabilities. One central factor is what Broussard calls technochauvinism, “the belief that technology is always the solution.” Broussard also discusses her early career as a computer scientist, why she became her journalist, and her hopes for a more humane technological future.
58:48
September 27, 2021
Andrew Jewett
Andrew Jewett
Andrew Jewett is the author of Science Under Fire: Challenges to Scientific Authority in Modern America (2020) and Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Civil War to the Cold War (2012). He has taught at Harvard, Yale, NYU, Vanderbilt, and Boston College and held fellowships from the National Humanities Center, the Cornell Society for the Humanities, the National Academy of Education, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
58:24
September 20, 2021
Brent Goldfarb and David Kirsch
Brent Goldfarb and David Kirsch
Brent Goldfarb and David Kirsch, professors of entrepreneurship and strategy at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, talk about their book, Bubbles and Crashes: The Boom and Bust of Technological Innovation, with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Bubbles and Crashes puts forward a parsimonious model of how and when economic bubbles develop around new technologies. In the conversation, Goldfarb and Kirsch reflect on a variety of topics, including why it matters that Elon Musk is such a good story teller, whether we are currently in a technology bubble, and what we can do to prevent bubbles in the future.
01:14:02
September 13, 2021
Catherine Coleman Flowers
Catherine Coleman Flowers
Catherine Coleman Flowers, activist, author, founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, and MacArthur “genius prize” winner, talks about her book Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. Waste examines the brutal realities of rural sanitation issues, particularly the lack of septic tanks, and how they affect poor, often black, people. Flowers also reflects on growing up in Lowndes County, Alabama and how her family, the Civil Rights Movement, and her faith life led her to be the leader she is today.
57:04
September 06, 2021
Ruth Schwartz Cowan
Ruth Schwartz Cowan
Historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan talks about her book, More Work for Mother, with Peoples & Things host Lee Vinsel. The book examines the history of how Americans industrialized their homes over the past two hundred years and how supposedly labor-saving technologies led women to do increased housework. Cowan also reflects on what it was like to work as a professor as a woman and mother in the 1970s and how families have changed their relationship to technology and housework in the nearly forty years since the book was published.
01:10:28
July 21, 2021