Online EventOctober 15 2020

Adtech and the Attention Economy

Tim Hwang in conversation with Moira Weigel

Databite No. 137
Thursday, October 15, 2020
4 - 5 p.m. ET

On Thursday, October 15, 2020 from 4-5 p.m. ET, Data & Society Sociotechnical Security Researcher Moira Weigel hosts author Tim Hwang to discuss the way big tech financializes attention. Weigel and Hwang will explore how the false promises of adtech is just one example of tech-solutionism’s many fictions. Drawing on Tim Hwang’s new book, Subprime Attention Crisis, a revealing examination of digital advertising and the internet’s precarious foundation, this talk will detail how digital advertising—the beating heart of the internet—is at risk of collapsing. From the unreliability of advertising numbers and the unregulated automation of advertising bidding wars, to the simple fact that online ads mostly fail to work, Hwang demonstrates that while consumers’ attention has never been more prized, the true value of that attention itself is wildly misrepresented. Audience Q&A follows the discussion.

“In this well-grounded, heretical attack on the fictions that uphold the online advertising ecosystem, Subprime Attention Crisis destroys the illusion that programmatic ads are effective and financially sound. One can only hope that this book will be used to pop the bubble that benefits so few.” — danah boyd, author of It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, founder of Data & Society, and Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research

Closed captioning provided. Please email [email protected] with other accessibility requests at least 72 hours prior to the event. Documentation, including video and resource list, will be available on our website afterwards. Buy your book here, and Data & Society will receive a portion of the proceeds.

About the Presenters

Tim Hwang is a writer, lawyer, and technology policy researcher based in New York. He is currently a research fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University, and previously served as the global public policy lead for artificial intelligence and machine learning at Google. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wired, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. Dubbed “the busiest man on the internet” by Forbes, Hwang focuses on the future of the attention economy and the geopolitics of computational power.

Moira Weigel is a Sociotechnical Security researcher at Data & Society, a historian and theorist of media technologies, and a founding editor of Logic magazine. She is the author of Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating (FSG 2016) and co-editor of the anthology Voices from the Valley (FSG 2020), a collection of interviews with anonymous workers from across the Bay Area tech industry, which is published this week as part of the FSG x Logic Books series where Tim’s book also appears. She received her PhD from the joint program in Comparative Literature and Film and Media Studies at Yale University and spent 2017-2020 at the Harvard Society of Fellows. In 2021, she will join Northeastern University as an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies.

About FSG Originals x Logic

FSG Originals × Logic dissects the way technology functions in everyday lives. The titans of Silicon Valley, for all their utopian imaginings, never really had our best interests at heart: recent threats to democracy, truth, privacy, and safety, as a result of tech’s reckless pursuit of progress, have shown as much. We present an alternate story, one that delights in capturing technology in all its contradictions and innovation, across borders and socioeconomic divisions, from history through the future, beyond platitudes and PR hype, and past doom and gloom. Our collaboration features four brief but provocative forays into the tech industry’s many worlds, and aspires to incite fresh conversations about technology focused on nuanced and accessible explorations of the emerging tools that reorganize and redefine life today.

About Databites

“Databites” is a regular speaker series that presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology today. Speakers bridge our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.