Event, Podcast, VideoOctober 15 2020

Adtech and the Attention Economy

Tim Hwang in conversation with Moira Weigel

Databite No. 137

Data & Society Sociotechnical Security Researcher Moira Weigel hosts author Tim Hwang to discuss the way big tech financializes attention. Weigel and Hwang explore how the false promises of adtech are 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 details 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.


About the Speakers

Moira Weigel, Sociotechnical Security Researcher here at Data & Society.

Tim Hwang is a writer, lawyer, and technology policy researcher based in NY. Previously, he was at Google, where he was the company’s global public policy lead on artificial intelligence. Forbes also dubbed him the busiest man on the Internet.

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.