February 2012

Clay Johnson on information consumption

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Clay Johnson, co-founder of Blue State Digital and former director of Sunlight Labs at the Sunlight Foundation, discusses his new book, The Information Diet. According to Johnson, America’s diet of mass-produced unhealthy food has resulted in an obesity epidemic and we may be seeing the same thing when it comes to our media diet. He believes the problem is not too much information, rather it is the quality of information that people choose to consume. Johnson encourages more responsibility in choosing information intake, similar to what is required to make healthy food choices. He ends by outlining a plan of action and offers tips on consuming “healthy” information.

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David Weinberger on knowledge

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David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard Law’s Berkman Center for the Internet & Society and Co-Director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab at Harvard Law School, discusses his new book entitled, “Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room.” According to Weinberger, knowledge in the Western world is taking on properties of its new medium, the Internet. He discusses how he believes the transformation from paper medium to Internet medium changes the shape of knowledge. Weinberger goes on to discuss how gathering knowledge is different and more effective, using hyper-links as an example of a speedy way to obtain more information on a topic. Weinberger then talks about how the web serves as the “room,” where knowledge seekers are plugged into a network of experts who disagree and critique one another. He also addresses how he believes the web has a way of filtering itself, steering one toward information that is valuable.

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Jonathan Coulton on music piracy

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Jonathan Coulton, a musician, singer-songwriter, and geek icon, who releases his music under a Non-Commercial Creative Commons License, discusses his thoughts on piracy from an artist’s point of view. Coulton talks about quitting his day job so he could focus on his music. He bypassed the traditional route of becoming a musician, which usually means signing to a record label, and began releasing one song per week on his website. This lead to moderate success, according to Coulton, who now makes his living as a full-time musician by touring and selling his music on his website. The discussion then turns to piracy. Coulton explains why he thinks piracy cannot be stopped and describes what he considers “victimless piracy.” He goes on to discuss the difficulties of addressing piracy issues, especially when taking fairness and practicality into account.

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Catherine Tucker on online advertising and antitrust

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Catherine Tucker, Douglas Drane Career Development Professor in IT and Management, and Assistant Professor of Marketing at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, discusses her paper with Avi Goldfarb in the Journal of Competition Law and Economics entitled, Substitution between Offline and Online Advertising Markets. According to Tucker, the FTC treats online advertising as a distinct market from offline advertising for antitrust purposes. She describes the study she and Goldfarb conducted, where they sought to determine whether online advertising could serve as a substitute for offline advertising. Tucker also discusses Google’s role in online advertising, how its auction mechanism affects pricing, and the difference between search advertising and display advertising. The conversation ends with a discussion on policy implications on how dominate players in online advertising should be viewed.

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