Our culture is shaped by technology, and the people building that technology determine how it’s changing our lives. But who are they? And how do they think about their responsibility to the rest of us? From mental health to algorithmic bias, entrepreneur Anil Dash talks to developers, designers, and culture experts to understand the ways tech is changing culture, and what it means for us. Produced by Glitch and the Vox Media Podcast Network.
Here's the Latest Episode from Function with Anil Dash:
The integrity of the internet is at stake -- what have we lost and how do we get it back?
At the 2019 Texas Tribune Festival, Anil spoke with web scholars and writers about reclaiming the internet through historical context, how we are tethered to social media and the inventive ways marginalized people have always reinvented the platforms available.
Are social networks downplaying their complicity in the problem that is “fake news?”Anil talks to Fadi Quran of the people powered social advocacy group, Avaaz, about how tech is used to target groups of people and spread disinformation that affects our elections, relationships, and social justice movements. Together they discuss insidious nature of disinformation and misinformation, meet its victims, and go over solutions.
Listen closely for the steps that platforms can take right now to stem the tide of fake news and fake accounts.
What happens when social networks become social media, and tech starts making editorial decisions?
Anil talks with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen about the priorities of tech companies and how their faux neutrality and feigned ignorance has taken a toll on our news cycles and elections. Together, they identify the problems that the press is facing, like attention hacking and misinformation, in order to focus on how the press and us as citizens can reclaim “the news” and what they care about.
Part 2 of Anil's discussion of Prince's complicated relationship with technology.
How do you go from fan to colleague to friend with an icon?
Prince’s manager, Phaedra Ellis Lamkins and Sam Jennings, one of Prince’s webmasters take us on a journey of growth and evolution of an artist realizing his worth and his power. As part of a team of trusted friends and confidants they helped “The Artist” realize tech dreams that would serve us all. We also learn that the vision of freedom we often associate with Prince isn’t what we thought.
What does it mean to be on the receiving end of a Prince direct message?
This week on Function, Anil takes us through Prince’s complicated relationship with technology through his eyes and the eyes of super fans Jay Smooth, social commentator and former host of WBAI's Underground Railroad; and Andrea Swensson, host and writer at Minnesota Public Radio’s The Current, where she helms The Local Show, a weekly show dedicated to exploring the Minnesota music scene.
From being summoned to Paisley Park to being part of early crowdfunding and subscriber based models pioneered by Prince; we learn what it felt like to build a relationship with Prince online a decade before social media made artists accessible to fans.
As Prince's relationship with technology evolved, he worked hard to control his image often times butting heads with his fans and record labels.
***Check out Anil's guest episode with Switched on Pop where he talked more in-depth about the ways technology influenced Prince's music. ***
Function is back next week with a new episode. In the meantime, check out Reset from Vox and Recode.
Students across the country are graded by artificial intelligence. But does an algorithm really know how to write?
Links to resources discussed:
Every story is a tech story. We live in a world where algorithms drive our interests, scientists are re-engineering our food supply, and a robot may be your next boss. Host Arielle Duhaime-Ross explores why–and how–tech is changing everything.
Anil speaks with Dr. Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University and author of Race After Technology, about design discrimination. They discuss how systemic racism is replicated in the technology we use and how tools like artificial intelligence, machine learning and software used in the criminal justice system are shaped by racial bias.
Then he speaks with James Cadogan, VP of Criminal Justice, and Kristin Bechtel, Director of Criminal Justice Research, for Arnold Ventures, a non-profit that funds the Public Safety Assessment, a tool used by judges that predicts a person's likelihood to reoffend or return to court if released.
It seems like every month a new cringe worthy picture of a public official in Blackface is shared on social media. The pictures usually surface decades after they were taken but they are born out of a long tradition of Blackface and racial mockery in America. But that tradition isn't just a part of our history, it's being replicated online through our use of GIFs.
Anil talks with Dr. Lauren Michelle Jackson, author of White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue & and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation and Kenyatta Cheese, digital enthusiast, cofounder of Everybody at Once, and founder of Know Your Meme, about digital blackface. They discuss how we can examine our online persona's and how algorithmic choices reflect systemic bias.
Are we making sure the tech we create is usable for the people we say we want to help?
Accessibility is more than a buzzword. Anil speaks with Emily Ladau, co- host of The Accessible Stall podcast; Alex Haagaard, Director of Communications at the Disabled List, and Vilissa Thompson, founder of Ramp Your Voice, about accessibility bias in tech and what abled designers can unlearn in order to create more inclusive apps.
These activists are dedicated to making sure disabled people are represented in the design processes within tech and all facets of society.
Does the internet help or harm our mental health?
In this season two premiere of Function, Anil explores how the web made an impact on his mental health and talks to experts like Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, Stanford University psychiatrist and author; and web creators Desi Rottman and Angelo Stavrow about the how the internet is changing the way we see ourselves and interact with others.
Together, they explore the consequences of our love affair with the internet and discuss ways to use the internet to manage our mental health.
Dr. Elias Aboujaoude
Function with Anil Dash is back with all new episodes on October 2.
Coding education for kids is wildly popular, from books and toys to after school programs from non-profit organizations, companies are putting lots of money and resources behind helping create the next generation of programmers. But is that enough? A few years ago, Anil wrote about his skepticism behind these efforts, wondering if perhaps they are missing the mark on teaching proficiency over literacy.
Alex's company Kano creates kits for all ages that help make coding and computing skills as simple and fun as putting together LEGO bricks. He shares what motivated him to empower kids and beginners to create technology.
Thank you for listening to the first season of Function! As we take a break and prep for season two, we want to learn more about you. What do you like about Function? What would you change? Tell us everything in our audience survey! Visit voxmedia.com/podsurvey and let us know what you think.
References and other notes:
On Function, our focus is about how technology has influenced culture and communications, and nothing encompasses the intersection of these concepts more than social media. It's allowed us to express our innermost feelings, meet people that share our interests, and find community with others from all over the world.
This week, we're doing something a little different. Anil sits down with some of the pioneers of the social web — Bruce Ableson (founder of Open Diary), Lisa Phillips (former senior system administrator at LiveJournal), and Andrew Smales (founder of Diaryland) — for an oral history about social media 20 years ago. What was the Web like in 1999? How did these websites begin, and what did the media think about them? How have the features of these networks influenced the Web that we know today, and can we get that old feeling back of the early social web?
Show notes and references:
Saving money is at the top of a lot of people's lists of new year's resolutions. According to Fidelity Investments, nearly one-third of Americans want to make some type of money resolution for 2019. Maybe you want to pay down debt, or maybe you just want to save more of your hard-earned cash. Regardless of the goal, there are a number of mobile apps to help you make it happen. But are they worth the download or do they just make you feel bad about your spending routines?
We're kicking off 2019 here on Function with a look at personal finance apps. Anil sits down with Varun Krishna, VP of Product at Intuit Consumer Group, the company behind the apps Mint and Turbo. Varun says money can be the primary source of stress for most people, and personal finance apps can help transform the nature of finances for households and individuals. Anil also talks to author and personal finance coach Tarra Jackson, better known as "Madam Money". Tarra shares the apps she uses for her own spending habits and discusses how personal finance apps help her clients re-evaluate where their money goes.
Other Personal Finance Apps Mentioned
It's the end of 2018, and charities and nonprofit organizations are gearing up for their most important fundraising campaign of the year. Over 30% of all annual giving occurs in December, with approximately 12% of giving happening in these final three days of the month. Whether it's SMS, mobile apps, social media, email newsletters, or a simple donation button on your website, technology has now made donating to your favorite cause easier than ever.
We're looking at digital giving this week on Function, and Anil talks with the creators of two of the most influential and innovative new nonprofits in the country. The Human Utility, co-founded by Tiffani Bellhelps citizens in Detroit and Baltimore pay their water bills. Anil speaks with Tiffani about what inspired her to start this initiative, and we learn more about the impact its had on communities in both cities. Anil also talks to the duo behind Appolition, Tiffany Mikelland Dr. Kortney Zieglerabout how their app helps people donate their spare change to help with community bail funds. You'll learn how even small actions in tech can enable us to be more generous, more giving and more charitable.
The 2018 midterm elections have wrapped up here in the U.S., and issues with voting machines are back in the news. It's not a hanging chad situation like the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, but malfunctions, outdated tech, and talk of interference from foreign powers has tanked voter confidence. With the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign season about to kickoff, how do you rock the vote when you're not even sure your vote is being properly counted? And how do you put trust in a voting system that's full of weak links?
On Function this week, we're looking at voting machines and election security. Anil talks with Verified Voting data consultant Matt Bernhard about the history of voting machines and the broad social implications of technology and privacy. We also talk to Maurice Turner, a former poll worker and senior technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, who gives practical advice for individual voters who are worried about the trustworthiness of their local precincts.
- Verified Voting
- Center for Democracy and Technology
- AccuVote TS
- Serious Vulnerabilities in Georgia’s Online Voter Registration System(Matt Bernhard's Medium piece)
- Can Georgia’s electronic voting machines be trusted? (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
On November 1, 2018, thousands of Google employees around the world staged a mass walkout in protest of how the company handled claims of sexual misconduct. While this is not the first time we have seen protests at this scale, it does signal to the larger community that workers at huge tech companies like these are at an inflection point. When is enough, enough?
This week on Function, we take a look at the rising labor movement in tech by hearing from those whose advocacy was instrumental in setting the foundation for what we see today around the dissent from tech workers.
Anil talks to Leigh Honeywell, CEO and founder of Tall Poppy and creator of the Never Again pledge, about how her early work, along with others, helped galvanize tech workers to connect the dots between different issues in tech.
Next, Anil speaks to Former Facebook manager Mark S. Luckie about his recent memo that's swept the Internet, and Mark details steps that tech companies can do to make conditions better for employees of color.
Lastly, Anil sits down with Matt Rivitz: one of the key people behind the grassroots campaign Sleeping Giants which caused thousands of advertisers to remove their ads from Breitbart News. According to Matt, there needs to be an awakening in the tech industry, and he illustrates that all of us can take small actions which can come together to make a massive change.
- Google employees worldwide staging walkout to protest response to sexual misconduct claims (USA Today)
- Facebook is failing its black employees and its black users (Mark S. Luckie / Facebook)
- Revealed: The People Behind an Anti-Breitbart Twitter Account (The New York Times)
Squarespace. Mailchimp. Casper. Blue Apron. If you're a regular podcast listener, then there's no doubt you've heard ads from these companies, among many others. Podcasting's reach has grown exponentially over the past few years, and companies like these are spending millions of dollars to reach listeners whenever, wherever and however they tune in. But is this truly effective? What type of ads work best? And if you're not a podcast from a big media organization, how can you can get a piece of the pie?
This week on Function, we examine the world of podcast advertising. Anil sits down with Francesco Baschieri, president of Voxnest, and talks about some of the trends and technology behind podcast ads. We also hear from New York City podcasting duo Jade + XD and pull back the curtain on advertising and monetization from an independent media perspective.
How does podcast advertising stay ahead of tech like adblockers? What happens when an ad is automatically placed in your podcast by the network that goes against both the host and the audience? You'll find out the answers to all this and more on this week's episode!
But first, a word from our sponsors....
- Jade + XD's Website
- Dynamic Ad Insertion — What it is and Why You Should Be Utilising It (Voxnest)
- Podcasts, Analytics, and Centralization (Stratechery)
- But First, A Word From 100 Podcasts' Sponsors (FiveThirtyEight)
YouTube is one of the most popular websites on the Internet, and millions of users upload all kinds of videos to it every day. Some of these are original productions, but there are also song covers, clips from television or movies, and lots of other content that occupy a murky gray area with respect to copyright. Including a caption like "no copyright infringement intended" might offer you some protection, but YouTube's Content ID system could ensure that your video is demonetized or blocked from the platform completely.
On this week's episode of Function, we look into YouTube and copyright infringement with entertainment lawyer Gordon Firemark and YouTuber and musician Paul Davids. Gordon specializes in theatre, film, television, and new media law, and he breaks down how works become copyright, talks about the concept of fair use, and discusses with Anil why a copyright disclaimer could do more harm than good.
Later, Anil speaks with Paul about how YouTube's Content ID system resulted in getting a copyright strike on his own original song. As someone who has been on the other side of this issue, Paul offers a thoughtful and nuanced explanation on his situation that will influence how you think about your work and copyrights.
If you're an active Twitter user, you've probably made a typo or a mistake in a tweet before that you wish you could correct. You could delete the tweet and just write another one, or Twitter could create a feature that users have adamantly requested for years -- an edit button. Even Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey has mulled over this feature, and according to recent news, it may just happen.
Enabling a button to edit your tweets sounds like an easy thing to set up from a user standpoint, but like most technological features, implementing it comes with its own positives and negatives.
This week on Function, we look at this popular feature request from the expert and the user side. We talk with Leslie Miley, former engineering manager at Twitter, about the behind-the-scenes technical and ethical considerations that need to take place to carry out this feature from a product level.
We also talk to Andy Carvin, author, professor, and former social media editor at NPR. Andy knows firsthand how one misinformed tweet can have a dangerous ripple effect, and talks about how the possibility of editing that tweet may have caused even more damage.
Ah, the humble animated GIF. We use them on social media or in text messages as a way to signify a reaction, tell a story, or just to have a laugh. Some are even making animated GIFs of entire movies!
It's not all fun and games though — organizations and media companies are cracking down on animated GIF usage, with some going as far as issuing copyright notices against animated GIF creators. Even the IOC, the governing body of the Olympic Games, banned news organizations from creating animated GIFs of sports coverage from the Rio 2016 Summer Games. Are animated GIF creators protected under fair use, or are these organizations not being fair?
This week on Function, we unpack this issue with Kenyatta Cheese and T. Kyle MacMahon. Kenyatta, a long-time Internet historian and co-creator of Know Your Meme, talks about the history of the GIF format and how animated GIFs are a fundamental part of memes and Internet culture as a whole. Later, we talk to T. Kyle about his website RealityTVGIFs, his thoughts on how animated GIFs have influenced modern television, and why these images aren't going away any time soon.
GIFs Referenced in the Episode
- Dancing baby
- Michael Jackson eating popcorn
- Teresa Guidice flipping a table
- Angela "Big Ang" Raiola
- Tiffany "New York" Pollard
What does the latest celebrity mea culpa and your weekend shopping list have in common? If your answer is the Apple Notes app, then congratulations! You're not alone.
Apple Notes has become the de facto tool of choice for social media apologies, circumventing the brevity of Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms to provide lengthy additional context in a single update. But why?
In this week's episode, we explore the reasons, motivations, and compromises behind this behavior with writer and culture expert Kara Brown and senior user experience designer Regine Gilbert. Together, we look at what the evolving use of Apple Notes means for the ways in which we interact via technology.
Epic Games' Fortnite is one of the most popular video games in the world, and a big part of that popularity comes from their emotes -- dances and other gestures which are used in the game as taunts or celebratory moves. However, many have called out Epic Games for these emotes, claiming that they have been stolen and renamed in Fortnite without permission or citation from their creators or sources.
On this week's episode of Function, we explore the concept of commodifying culture through video games. We talk with Ty Robinson, a former game animator for Konami's Dance Dance Revolution, about the technology behind putting dance moves into video games. And we also speak with Brooklyn rapper 2 Milly, an artist at the center of the controversy surrounding Epic Games' and their use of his dance, the Milly Rock.
Anil Dash is a world-renowned technology expert and the CEO of Glitch. From the Obama White House to the Lower Eastside Girls Club, he’s spent decades advising people on the ways tech can transform government, society, and culture. On Function, he’ll bring those conversations to you, offering insight into the way makers think, users act, and communities shift with new technologies and products.