The New York Times has made some pretty interesting multimedia stories in the past few years, including a few great podcasts. The most recent (as far as I know) addition to their roster is called Rabbit Hole, and through the story of one young man, it tells how some great sites on the Internet like YouTube can slip from alluring to addicting to dangerous without the user necessarily being aware of what’s happening. So far there have been three episodes of Rabbit Hole. I’ve listened to all three, and the story seems over, but maybe they’ll start focusing on another person’s story. Here is a link to the podcasts, a link to the introductory essay by reporter Kevin Roose, and another version of the same story that appeared on the Times‘ website last year.
For what it’s worth, I think YouTube is great. I am not a fan of recommendation algorithms where I have encountered them, but I am in not danger of falling down a rabbit hole of right-wing radicalism.
The other story I listened to over the weekend was on a British podcast called Intelligence Squared where they interviewed the American author of a new book with the provocative title Abolish Silicon Valley. The author Wendy Liu used to work at Google before founding her own start-up. This is her first book, and she admits that the title is a bit of an exaggeration. She points to some practices and attitudes that she accepted while working in Silicon Valley that she later realized were harmful. She doesn’t want to abolish tech as much as get the people who create and consume tech products to consider the ethical implications of those products and refocus their energies on the public good. The book was released about a week after COVID-19 shut our doors, so I don’t know of a library that has it yet. By the way, I only stumbled upon this British version of Intelligence Squared. I used to listen to a show that I guess was called Intelligence Squared US that I used to hear on NPR. It featured moderated debates on a range of topical issues. Does that show still exist?