The Tech Humanist Show: Episode 9 – Rahaf Harfoush

About this episode’s guest:

Rahaf Harfoush is a Strategist, Digital Anthropologist, and Best-Selling Author who focuses on the intersections between emerging technology, innovation, and digital culture. She is the Executive Director of the Red Thread Institute of Digital Culture and teaches “Innovation & Emerging Business Models” at Sciences Politique’s school of Management and Innovation in Paris. She is currently working on her fourth book.
Her third book, entitled “Hustle & Float: Reclaim Your Creativity and Thrive in a World Obsessed with Work,” was released in 2019. She has been featured by Bloomberg, The CBC, CTV, and Forbes for her work on workplace culture.
Formerly, Rahaf was the Associate Director of the Technology Pioneer Program at the World Economic Forum in Geneva where she helped identify disruptive-startups that were improving the state of the world. Rahaf is the co-author of “The Decoded Company: Know Your Talent Better Than You Know your Customers” Her first book, “Yes We Did: An Insider’s Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand,”chronicled her experiences as a member of Barack Obama’s digital media team during the 2008 Presidential elections and explored how social networking revolutionized political campaign strategy.
Rahaf has been named “one of the most innovative women in France,” “one of the top future thinkers to shape the world,” “a Young Global Changer,” and a “Canadian Arab to Watch.”
Rahaf’s writing has been featured in HBR, Wired, The Globe and Mail, Fast Company, and many more. She is a frequent commentator on France24 and the CBC. 
In her spare time, Rahaf enjoys instagramming too many pictures of her dog Pixel, learning how to play the ukulele and working on her first novel.

She tweets as @rahafharfoush.

This episode streamed live on Thursday, September 10, 2020. Here’s an archive of the show on YouTube:

About the show:

The Tech Humanist Show is a multi-media-format program exploring how data and technology shape the human experience. Hosted by Kate O’Neill.

Subscribe to The Tech Humanist Show hosted by Kate O’Neill channel on YouTube for updates.

Transcript

02:33
hello
02:34
humans who do we have out there
02:38
we got some folks tuning in it looks
02:39
like
02:41
see some numbers popping up so i’m glad
02:43
to see you
02:45
thanks to those of you who are already
02:46
online if you are tuned in
02:48
go ahead and pop a little comment in
02:50
wherever you’re watching and just let me
02:51
know where you’re watching from
02:54
so we can see what kind of an
02:55
international audience i’m sure we have
02:57
since we do have an international host
03:00
and guest arrangement today
03:03
so uh this is the tech humanist show of
03:05
course you are in the right classroom
03:07
i hope it’s a multimedia format program
03:11
exploring data how data and technology
03:12
shape the human experience i’m kate
03:14
o’neil
03:15
uh so please subscribe or follow
03:17
wherever you’re checking this out so you
03:18
won’t miss any new episodes
03:21
tammy evans says we love kate o’neil i
03:23
love you tammy evans i’m so glad you’re
03:25
here
03:26
st petersburg florida but it’s
03:29
a little warmer there i mean it’s been
03:32
very nice here but i don’t know is it
03:33
hot in st petersburg right now
03:35
i don’t know if it’s miserably hot or
03:37
nice it seems like it’s probably nice
03:40
um i am so glad to have some folks
03:43
tuning in and showing up
03:44
i’m excited because today i’m gonna go
03:47
ahead and talk about our guest which is
03:48
probably why a lot of you are tuned in
03:50
oh hey ted poulton tuning in from
03:52
connecticut hi
03:54
glad to see you uh today we are talking
03:57
with rahav harfuj who is a strategist
04:00
digital anthropologist and best-selling
04:02
author who focuses on the intersections
04:04
between emerging technology
04:06
innovation and digital culture she’s the
04:08
executive director of the red thread
04:10
institute of digital culture and teaches
04:12
innovation and emerging business models
04:14
at sean’s politique she’ll have to tell
04:16
me if i pronounce that well enough
04:18
science poe is how i always see it
04:21
school of management and innovation in
04:23
paris
04:23
she is currently working on her fourth
04:25
book we’ll talk about that and her third
04:27
book entitled hustle and float reclaim
04:29
your creativity and thrive in a world
04:31
obsessed with work was released in 2019
04:33
she’s been featured by bloomberg the cvc
04:35
ctv and forbes for her work on
04:38
workplace culture formerly rahaf was the
04:40
associate director of the technology
04:42
pioneer program at the world economic
04:44
forum in geneva
04:45
where she helped identify disruptive
04:46
startups that were improving the state
04:48
of the world
04:49
rahaf is the co-author of the decoded
04:51
company know your talent better than you
04:52
know your customers
04:54
and her first book yes we did an
04:56
insider’s look at how social media built
04:57
the obama brand
04:58
chronicled her experiences as a member
05:00
of barack obama’s digital media team
05:02
during the 2008 presidential elections
05:05
and explored how social networking
05:06
revolutionized political campaign
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strategy
05:09
rahath has been named one of the most
05:10
innovative women in france
05:12
one of the top future thinkers to shape
05:14
the world a young global changer
05:17
and a canadian arab to watch rahaf’s
05:20
writing has been featured in hbr
05:22
wired the globe and mail fast company
05:24
and many more
05:25
she’s a frequent commentator on france
05:27
24 and the cbc
05:28
in her spare time which doesn’t sound
05:30
like she probably doesn’t have any
05:32
rahav enjoys instagramming too many
05:34
pictures of her dog pixel
05:35
and as an instagram follower i can tell
05:37
you they are adorable
05:38
learning how to play the ukulele and
05:40
working on her first novel we’ll check
05:42
in on the ukulele novel status in just a
05:44
little bit
05:44
so audience start getting your questions
05:46
ready for our fantastic guest
05:48
and my friend please do note that as a
05:50
live show we’ll do our best to vet
05:52
comments and questions in real time
05:54
so we may not get to all of them but we
05:56
really appreciate you being here
05:58
tuning in and participating in the show
05:59
so with that
06:01
please welcome my friend rahav harfouche
06:05
who is here you are live on the tech
06:08
human show thank you so much for joining
06:10
us
06:11
hi your intro was so infectious i
06:14
honestly felt my mood just like
06:16
lift up 10 points just like seeing your
06:19
sparkly bubbly energy
06:22
isn’t it so fun too to have your bio
06:24
read and be like that person sounds
06:25
really impressive
06:27
i’m always like you know you know it’s
06:29
always so weird to hear people read
06:30
things
06:31
about you but uh it’s always so nice to
06:34
have like such great friends that you
06:35
can have i’m so excited for this chat
06:37
i’ve been looking forward to it
06:38
me too i’ve been harassing you to have
06:40
me on since you started oh please i was
06:42
like you were the one of the first
06:43
people i thought i’ve gotta have rough i
06:45
have on so i refer your work constantly
06:48
i don’t know if you know this but
06:49
people so often ask me about the impact
06:52
of tech on our everyday lives so if i’m
06:54
doing a talk
06:55
on tech in the uh in the workplace in
06:57
terms of digital transformation or
06:58
whatever
06:59
i get questions about things like you
07:01
know tech overload and how we personally
07:03
use tech and i’m always like you know
07:05
that’s a really
07:05
important and interesting question i am
07:07
not an expert on that you should totally
07:09
check out my friend ralph’s book
07:11
and i’ve handed your copies of your book
07:13
to so many people
07:15
uh so i am very curious to hear you know
07:18
basically with with covid changing
07:21
everything in the landscape like
07:22
how has that tech and personal
07:25
experience relationship
07:26
changed for you or what’s been happening
07:28
relative to that for you
07:32
um well for me i think it just amplified
07:35
a lot of the issues that i had with
07:39
the way that we were using technology
07:41
before so
07:42
um i i i’ve been very careful and with
07:45
my work but very intentional about the
07:47
type of
07:47
information that i consume and the
07:49
amount of time i spent on certain
07:51
platforms
07:51
but i noticed that in my social networks
07:54
and
07:55
in my friend groups that people were
07:57
home more
07:58
obviously we were under lockdown for
08:00
several months and so
08:01
what can we do but turn to our online to
08:04
this never-ending
08:06
sphere of content and distraction and
08:08
connections and i noticed in the first
08:10
couple of weeks everyone was all about
08:12
the zoom everything’s and then there was
08:13
like a zoom burnout and
08:15
uh for me i think there’s a couple of
08:17
big issues at play and we can dive into
08:19
whichever one you want the first
08:21
is that we have more bandwidth because
08:24
we’re at home so we’re like
08:26
consuming more information for better or
08:28
for worse i say for worse because i
08:30
think with so much uncertainty
08:32
a lot of these platforms uh leverage
08:34
this like addictive
08:35
constant refresh breaking news cycle and
08:38
with something as complex
08:40
and nuanced as covid i know many of us
08:42
were glued to our screens refreshing
08:44
refreshing refreshing the latest news
08:46
right i don’t know about you but that
08:48
was not the best thing i could have done
08:49
for my mental well-being
08:51
or anxiety it was at one point i was
08:53
like i need
08:54
to take a step away because i’m just
08:56
addicted to like
08:57
the news of it instead of actually
08:59
increasing my information or my
09:01
knowledge
09:02
um and the other thing is i think that
09:04
for many people
09:05
uh at least for people in our line of
09:08
work you know where we travel a lot
09:10
uh the forced pause in many cases
09:13
uh made us realize that we are some of
09:16
us use productivity as a coping
09:17
mechanism so suddenly we had more time
09:20
and what does that mean that to have
09:21
more time and so i saw people starting
09:23
to
09:23
try to make their personal time as
09:25
productive as their
09:27
professional time and really pushing
09:29
themselves to like pick up 10 new
09:30
hobbies and learn 10 new languages and
09:32
take 10 new classes and
09:34
one or two of those things is great but
09:36
i really saw people loading up
09:38
and that was a good indication to me of
09:40
our
09:42
our like lack of comfort with not doing
09:44
anything
09:45
yeah so i feel like tech just brought a
09:46
lot of that to the surface
09:48
so is uh the the goal to learn ukulele
09:51
and write a novel those were pre-coveted
09:52
goals
09:54
those were 100 pre-coded goals and you
09:56
know there was a point in time
09:57
where i was feeling quite low about
09:59
everything and and then i noticed i was
10:01
guilty myself for
10:03
not writing and not learning and not
10:05
doing all these things and then
10:06
i was like you know what like we are
10:08
undergoing this immensely traumatic
10:11
super stressful thing like it’s okay to
10:14
not do
10:15
anything it’s okay to just recover and
10:17
rest like that’s fine
10:19
and i just put all those things to the
10:20
to the side during that like peak
10:22
lockdown period and it was like really
10:24
scary
10:26
it was and i think i think it was scary
10:28
in a background way so it was really
10:30
hard to allow ourselves to acknowledge
10:32
that it was scary right it’s this kind
10:33
of muted
10:34
undertone of scariness that’s not
10:36
something like i almost
10:38
would have preferred zombie you know
10:39
what i mean like the sun was shining
10:42
and we couldn’t see anything but it was
10:43
so scary outside but like everything
10:46
looked normal but it wasn’t normal i i
10:48
found the whole thing to be quite
10:50
unsettling
10:51
and that’s different from from a normal
10:53
you know unhealthy relationship with
10:55
tech
10:56
in the sense that i think we always have
10:58
you know we always had this tendency to
10:59
have kind of a
11:00
an always-on work access and you know
11:03
being always connected to social and
11:04
there’s like the whole fomo culture and
11:06
everything
11:07
um but i i think what’s so interesting
11:09
about your book i mean
11:10
there are many interesting things about
11:11
your book but one is that what you’re
11:13
really talking about it seems like on
11:15
one level is about
11:16
creativity and how to be your most
11:18
creative self and in a sense your most
11:21
productive self but not productive in
11:22
the kind of
11:23
hustle porn sort of way it’s more like
11:26
your most
11:27
authentically productive or your most
11:29
authentically creative self is that a
11:30
fair characterization
11:33
yeah i think the word creative has such
11:36
such a hot word for people like people
11:38
either love it or they hate it they
11:40
either totally associate or don’t they
11:41
either say yes that’s me or that’s not
11:43
me
11:44
but i believe my definition of
11:45
creativity is pretty much all of
11:47
knowledge work so if you are a
11:49
researcher
11:49
or a marketer or a comms person or an
11:52
accountant or a lawyer if you are
11:54
solving problems and figuring things out
11:57
and coming up with new ideas like
11:59
you’re you’re a creative you’re a
12:01
professional creative
12:02
and many of us have big goals and big
12:06
things and big problems that we’re
12:07
working on and these
12:09
large ambitions we want to accomplish
12:11
and so
12:12
we want to achieve things we want to
12:14
produce things we want to be productive
12:16
but the problem is
12:17
is that the systems that are put into
12:19
place of how many of us
12:21
currently measure our productivity were
12:23
never designed for us
12:25
so they were never made for us and the
12:27
type of work that we do
12:28
and not only were they never designed
12:30
for us they actively hurt us
12:32
and so my book asks this question is
12:34
kind of asks two big questions the first
12:36
is like
12:37
what would a system that was designed
12:40
by creatives for creatives to do their
12:43
best work look like and i guarantee you
12:45
it’s not spending 16 hours a day in
12:47
front of a computer
12:48
and the second thing was is what is this
12:50
interesting relationship we have with
12:52
our work
12:52
whereas so many of us burn out and so
12:55
many of us push ourselves to the limit
12:57
despite knowing better right it’s not
12:59
like i say to you hey i’ve got this
13:01
groundbreaking new idea kate it’s called
13:03
taking a break like
13:04
you know what to do i know what to do we
13:07
all know what to do and yet we don’t do
13:09
it and so it was diving into the
13:12
the media aspect the psychology the
13:14
stories that we tell ourselves and each
13:16
other about like who gets to be
13:17
successful
13:18
and what success looks like and should
13:20
we wake up at 5am and should we do
13:22
you know all of these things tell
13:25
ourselves like build a world where we
13:27
believe that only by
13:28
working non-stop can we be successful
13:30
and worse if you don’t work hard enough
13:33
then we have this horrible message like
13:34
well you just must not want your goal
13:36
enough you must not be as committed to
13:38
your goal that’s not true
13:40
we as creatives we need time to be able
13:43
to build great things we can’t
13:45
build great things if we don’t have time
13:46
to think about them we can’t think about
13:48
them if we’re non-stop on technology
13:50
distracted all the time
13:52
yeah and there are certainly ways where
13:54
that technology can help facilitate
13:56
our creativity uh and i believe you
13:59
address
13:59
many of those throughout the book um but
14:02
it’s a really delicate balance it seems
14:04
like
14:05
i mean you and i know this and you
14:07
actually i learned this from you and
14:09
your work which is the technology itself
14:11
is just
14:12
a tool it’s like fire right i can use a
14:15
fire to warm up
14:16
my house or i can use a fire to burn my
14:18
house down it depends on how i use it
14:20
and so
14:20
i believe that technology can be
14:22
incredibly powerful to
14:24
amplifying your creativity to connecting
14:26
you with new ideas with new people with
14:28
new avenues with new business
14:30
opportunities
14:31
but if you don’t have that
14:32
intentionality it will
14:34
suck your creative juice it will
14:36
distract you it will make you feel
14:38
horrible it will corrode your attention
14:41
and your focus and it’ll just make you
14:43
miserable
14:44
if you’re not really clear about how
14:47
you’re using it and
14:48
very intentional with how you’re using
14:50
it to support your creative process
14:51
yeah so tammy evans says you are
14:53
speaking to my soul
14:55
the struggle with the deep desire to
14:57
create battling the wudakura soda is
14:59
real
15:01
ugh tammy you nailed it yeah right and
15:04
then spider gram says it seems so
15:05
paradoxical that taking meaningful
15:07
downtime can make you more productive
15:09
which i think you know speaks to what
15:11
you’re saying there
15:13
the trick is is that for creatives we
15:16
have to balance
15:17
periods where we’re actually producing
15:19
the thing
15:20
with periods where i called intangible
15:22
creativity a lot of the thinking you
15:24
can’t see and in our culture
15:26
we don’t like things that we can’t see
15:28
if i can’t see you working then you must
15:29
not be working
15:30
but how many of us have gone for a walk
15:32
and gotten that idea
15:34
or been daydreaming and gotten that idea
15:36
and so creatives we need
15:38
that downtime we need time when we’re
15:40
actually not distracted
15:41
and by the way like downtime isn’t
15:44
taking a coffee break and then being on
15:45
social media downtime is really
15:48
downtime it’s daydreaming it’s just
15:50
letting your brain go
15:51
and we don’t do that because in our
15:54
culture
15:54
any time not spent being productive is a
15:57
waste
15:58
which is why we need a different
15:59
framework because for a writer
16:01
or for a strategist or for you for you
16:03
and i you like you spend so much time
16:04
thinking about things for you to think
16:07
about things you
16:08
need the time to think about them yeah i
16:10
mean i asked you
16:11
how do you think how do you carve out
16:12
time in your day to just like
16:15
let the ideas marinate a bit i remember
16:17
early in my career i had
16:19
jobs where my title was tech writer or
16:21
where writing was a big part of the job
16:23
i was doing and i actually had a sign
16:24
posted at my desk that said a writer is
16:26
writing even when staring into space
16:29
ugh i love that that’s exactly it yeah
16:32
and i feel like it’s a really important
16:33
framework to establish with people
16:35
that like don’t interrupt me just
16:37
because i’m sitting here and robbie and
16:38
i have
16:39
a sort of method where since we share
16:42
our living room as a workspace
16:43
if we have headphones on that’s like
16:45
sacred time
16:47
we do not interrupt each other and so
16:48
you may put on headphones and not be
16:50
listening to anything
16:51
but it’s just to carve out that
16:52
isolation and that time
16:54
to just be and that might be in front of
16:57
a screen or it might not
16:58
uh but but just having that that
17:00
isolation is still really helpful
17:03
georgia o’neil my mother says i’m trying
17:05
to create a balance but that’s a
17:07
challenge
17:08
it really is georgia your daughter is a
17:11
delight and you should be so proud of
17:12
her she’s one of my favorite people
17:15
don’t beat her she’ll totally go off on
17:17
it
17:18
[Laughter]
17:19
no it is hard to find a balance and i
17:21
think it’s because we’ve shamed
17:22
ourselves into thinking
17:24
that if we’re not doing stuff it’s a
17:26
waste and that’s the problem the problem
17:28
is is like intentional recovery
17:31
deciding and choosing to rest as a part
17:34
of your life and prioritizing that
17:37
is really hard for all of us because we
17:39
constantly hear
17:40
these stories of ceos and celebrities
17:43
and
17:44
you know elon musk sleeping on the floor
17:46
of his factory and tim cook waking up at
17:49
4 30 a.m in the morning so you hear all
17:50
of that and then you think
17:53
i can’t take a nap i can’t watch a movie
17:55
i can’t go for a walk because
17:57
then i don’t i’m not like committed to
17:59
being successful which is the most
18:02
toxic belief system that we have
18:04
incorporated into our society today
18:05
especially for creatives
18:07
yeah so anna milicivic says you hit the
18:09
nail on the head with knowledge work
18:10
equals creativity and then follows that
18:12
up saying
18:13
we’re still operating on industrial era
18:15
work assumptions time for a big revamp
18:17
and i was thinking that too as you were
18:19
talking about it that you know it’s kind
18:20
of like
18:21
daydreaming and walking is not in my
18:22
okrs so i don’t know how to measure that
18:24
i don’t know how to report on that i
18:26
don’t know how to tell my
18:27
my bosses or my clients that i’m being
18:29
productive you know that that’s
18:31
that’s what i think is a lot of the the
18:33
challenge with the framework is that
18:35
we may know intuitively once we’ve kind
18:38
of overcome that hurdle that
18:39
that there is an important piece of
18:41
creativity and of knowledge work that’s
18:43
implicit in
18:45
downtime and and allowing yourself a
18:47
refresh
18:48
but that isn’t built into our systems as
18:50
anna points out here
18:53
and the way that i mean you raised such
18:54
a good point because
18:56
when you start questioning the systems
18:58
if you just hold them up and just say
18:59
let’s just like talk about these systems
19:01
they become even more and more absurd
19:03
it’s like okay kate how many ideas do
19:04
you come up with
19:06
in an eight-hour day what’s your idea
19:08
per hour well that’s not how that works
19:11
and it’s like but these are the systems
19:13
why am i measuring
19:15
you know the number of hours you’re at
19:17
your desk and somehow equating that to
19:19
your creative output
19:20
when really what you might need is a a
19:23
walk in central park or a nap
19:25
or something else yeah it’s so so true
19:28
when i was working on pixels in place
19:30
there were points where i had hit a wall
19:32
just
19:33
kind of conceptually and i would take my
19:35
phone uh with the dictation
19:37
feature ready to go and just walk and
19:40
just be thinking and walking and then if
19:42
i thought of something i would start
19:43
dictating immediately but it might only
19:45
be
19:45
a few sentences and then just walk for
19:47
another you know
19:48
10 minutes of just quiet time but then
19:51
maybe have another sentence that occurs
19:52
to me
19:53
and that that kind of even those two or
19:55
three sentences can really help you
19:57
break through
19:58
that barrier so it is it’s so important
20:00
and it’s not
20:01
you’re right it’s not something that we
20:02
can measure on an ideas per hour
20:04
basis it is so absurd
20:09
i really like this idea of like taking
20:11
this time like i’ve started where if i
20:13
want to work on a document
20:15
i’ll open the document up i’ll write the
20:17
title
20:18
and i’ll write two or three sentences of
20:20
what i want the document to be about and
20:23
then i will
20:24
minimize the document and i will go do
20:26
something else for like 30 minutes
20:28
and you wouldn’t believe it like every
20:30
single time i do that
20:32
my brain’s working working working and
20:33
then it’s like okay that’s the first
20:35
point that’s the second point and then i
20:36
come back
20:37
and it’s so easy instead of what i used
20:39
to do which is like stare
20:41
at my screen and tear my hair out until
20:43
like i got what i needed and it was such
20:45
an unpleasant experience
20:46
so out of curiosity have you found that
20:48
to be true with fiction as well with
20:50
this work of fiction that you’re
20:51
yeah you can do that you can just start
20:52
with an idea and walk away and have it
20:54
be
20:55
percolating in the background the best
20:57
thing i’ve done for myself
20:58
is prep work so like i break everything
21:01
down in scenes
21:02
and then what i do is the night before i
21:05
look at the outline of the scene that i
21:06
want to work on the next day and then i
21:08
just like
21:09
sleep on it and then i wake up and i
21:11
have my coffee and like generally by
21:12
that time it
21:14
it’s working in the background like it’s
21:15
just because you’re not actively working
21:17
doesn’t mean that your brain
21:19
isn’t still doing stuff your brain is
21:21
constantly making connections reviewing
21:23
stuff thinking about stuff imagining
21:25
stuff so if you say to yourself okay
21:26
like
21:27
my two characters need to get into a
21:28
bind and i need them to find a way out
21:31
of this particular situation i don’t
21:32
know what that is
21:33
you just kick that to the back but your
21:35
brain’s like got it and then while
21:36
you’re
21:37
hanging out while you’re sleeping while
21:38
you’re doing stuff it’s still
21:40
running in the background it just saves
21:42
a lot of that like intense effort
21:44
you know yeah of having forced it ted
21:47
poulton says much of what you’re
21:48
describing is detailed in the book
21:49
stealing fire
21:50
as well in case anybody’s interested in
21:52
following up on that idea or that lead
21:55
josh canal says how do we get people to
21:57
realize that our present appearance
21:58
doesn’t reflect our future delivery well
22:00
that’s a really good articulation
22:02
of that what do you think rahab
22:05
i mean for me the the the breakthrough
22:08
that i had in doing this work was that
22:10
it’s not actually about systems or
22:12
organizations it’s about us as people
22:14
like we are our hardest task masters we
22:17
are our harshest
22:18
bosses and we will push ourselves to the
22:21
limit
22:21
even when other people tell us that we
22:24
should stop and take a break
22:26
and so i think if we’re going to move to
22:28
a more i would say instead of human
22:30
productivity humane
22:31
productivity if we’re going to move to a
22:33
more humane productivity mindset
22:35
we have to face some we have to have
22:38
some uncomfortable conversations about
22:40
the role of work in our lives the link
22:42
between our identity and our jobs and
22:44
our self-worth
22:45
our need for validation with social
22:47
media and professional recognition
22:49
our egos all of these things like
22:52
battle it out which is why i just can’t
22:54
come on here and be like okay guys take
22:56
a break here
22:56
do this we’re not gonna do it we really
22:58
have to talk about questions like
23:00
growing up what did your parents teach
23:03
you about work ethic when you think
23:05
about work ethic
23:06
how is that related to how you see
23:08
yourself or
23:09
who are the people that you admire or
23:11
what does success look like to you
23:13
and then there’s statements that you can
23:14
ask yourselves like you know if you work
23:16
hard
23:16
anything is like all these things you
23:18
can start testing your own relationship
23:20
with work and once you start asking
23:21
yourself these questions
23:23
you start to see that we have built a
23:24
relationship psychologically
23:27
where we feel like if we don’t work hard
23:29
enough
23:30
we’re not deserving of the success we
23:32
have in our lives and not only do we
23:34
have to work hard
23:35
we have to suffer for it we have to pull
23:37
all-nighters and
23:38
think of like think of the words that we
23:40
use hustle and grind
23:41
and like all of these like horrible
23:44
verbs
23:45
you know which is why i wanted to add
23:46
float into the mix because it doesn’t
23:48
float just sound
23:48
so chill
23:52
also chris westwall comes to your
23:53
defense and says come on ted she’s an
23:55
original
23:55
and of course of course you are
23:59
listen artists steal i we stand on the
24:01
shoulders of giants i’m happy to be
24:03
compared in the same company as like
24:05
anybody that’s working in this space
24:07
really so
24:08
yeah also chris westball says why are
24:10
these uncomfortable conversations
24:11
necessary what’s the ultimate outcome
24:13
defining success isn’t the same as
24:14
achieving it
24:15
but maybe it’s a start so that
24:17
articulation of what success is and and
24:19
being able to frame those questions like
24:21
you’re talking about ask yourself those
24:22
really important
24:23
um outlook questions of you know what
24:25
informed your world view
24:27
on that that that’s a that seems like
24:29
it’s it’s an important piece of the work
24:31
right
24:32
so there’s the part about like your
24:34
relationship with work as an individual
24:36
and it’s important and the reason why
24:37
it’s important to dig into that is that
24:39
oftentimes
24:40
our views about our work become
24:42
assumptions that we don’t question so
24:44
don’t we don’t ever stop and say
24:46
does this belief actually help me
24:47
produce my best
24:49
possible work or is it just pushing me
24:51
to a point where i’m exhausted and i’m
24:53
burned out that’s the first thing
24:55
the second thing is a lot of the stories
24:58
that we have been told about success
24:59
just like
25:00
aren’t true and the way that and i’ll
25:02
give you a super quick super simple
25:04
example which is if there’s an equation
25:05
for success most people think hard work
25:07
equals success like that is the the
25:09
summary of it
25:10
but in reality while hard work is very
25:13
important it’s super important
25:15
it’s not the only variable where you’re
25:17
born
25:18
your serendipity your you know like the
25:21
the birth lottery element your luck your
25:23
gender your all of these things are
25:25
little variables that add into the
25:27
equation so what i don’t like about the
25:29
hard work equals success
25:31
is the flip side of that tells people
25:33
that well if you’re not successful it
25:35
must be because you’re not working hard
25:36
enough
25:37
and part of the awakening is to
25:39
understand that
25:40
there are other factors at play here and
25:43
we’re all working
25:44
pretty hard and so we don’t need more
25:46
things telling us that we’re not enough
25:48
and we’re not worthy
25:49
that also seems like a distinctly
25:51
american mythology
25:52
and what i particularly love about your
25:56
background and your bio is that your
25:58
intersectional identities are
25:59
on full display you know being a
26:01
canadian arab living in france who
26:03
happened to work on obama’s campaign i
26:04
mean that’s a wonderfully
26:06
rich kind of understanding of the world
26:09
that’s
26:10
that’s part of that and uh also that you
26:12
know your your
26:13
parents and you were born in damascus
26:15
syria right
26:16
uh and grew up in toronto so and lived
26:18
in geneva and now living in in france
26:21
that seems like it must have something
26:23
to do with your ability
26:25
to and this is an interesting segue i
26:26
think into you know sort of the digital
26:28
anthropology thing but your ability to
26:30
look
26:30
around across culture and across the
26:32
stories we tell ourselves and those
26:34
mythologies and be able
26:36
to have some objectivity about them is
26:38
that fair
26:39
yeah when i first moved to europe i was
26:42
shocked
26:42
like genuinely shocked by the fact that
26:45
entry-level workers got 25
26:48
paid days off of vacation a year i was
26:51
like
26:51
what how i remember starting my first
26:54
job in canada and getting 10
26:55
days including chris including
26:58
everything and so
26:59
um living in europe really opened my
27:01
eyes to how a life that’s
27:04
that prioritizes different aspects of
27:06
daily living
27:07
could look like in practice and you know
27:10
in france the first couple of years that
27:12
i lived in france in france there’s this
27:13
thing called le grande pag which is the
27:15
big departure which is in august
27:16
basically the entire country shuts down
27:18
and goes on vacation
27:20
and i remember the first like year or
27:22
two being furious like
27:23
genuinely furious being like how could
27:25
they do this
27:27
what a dumb business idea everything’s
27:29
closed think of all the money they’re
27:30
missing
27:31
and then now seven years in august is my
27:34
most favorite month because i started
27:36
taking it off as well
27:37
and the first year i took the entire
27:39
month off which i’ve met i’d never done
27:41
in my life before
27:42
on like day like 17 it felt like my
27:46
brain
27:46
had undergone like a factory reset i had
27:49
never
27:50
taken that long of a break and and
27:53
wasn’t like
27:53
hopping from country to country on like
27:55
a big trip i was just
27:56
in the countryside just hanging out and
28:00
i
28:00
brought up a notebook with me and i said
28:02
to myself i’m not doing any work
28:04
i just brought a notebook for ideas i
28:06
came back in september with
28:07
two notebooks filled with ideas
28:10
wow and it was just like wow
28:14
yeah that’s amazing i remember too i
28:17
think the only time i’ve taken
28:18
that long of a period off at once uh my
28:22
late husband and i in 1998 we did a
28:24
three-week cross-country
28:25
across america road trip and i remember
28:28
it was about
28:29
day eight or ten or so that i had talked
28:32
with one of my
28:33
co-workers and she was asking me a
28:35
question and i legitimately could not
28:37
remember the answer to the question like
28:39
my brain was just so checked out from
28:41
work and it was
28:42
really nice it was a really lovely
28:45
experience so yeah
28:46
at that and you’ve really just convinced
28:48
me with those two notebooks
28:51
i mean you your brain needs at least a
28:53
week to just like
28:55
unwind from the stress of work like we
28:57
just need it took me a week to just like
28:59
recover to zero before i could go
29:02
beyond zero and then the second you let
29:04
your brain rest like it
29:06
all came pouring in i still refer to
29:08
that notebook honestly
29:09
and just look at all the things that i
29:11
wrote down and i was like wow where did
29:12
this come from and it’s like well of
29:14
course if you don’t give it room to come
29:16
out
29:16
it’s if you’re just constantly on planes
29:19
and
29:19
you know in deliverables and client
29:21
stuff and business stuff like you’re
29:22
never going to actually take the time to
29:24
imagine new opportunities for yourself
29:26
new potentials for yourself
29:28
yeah oh that’s such a wonderful
29:30
testimonial
29:31
for the value of unplugging so
29:34
in describing yourself as a digital
29:36
anthropologist are are you saying that
29:38
you studied the cultures of the internet
29:40
or is there a different way you would
29:41
explain or articulate that
29:44
i studied the interacting relationship
29:47
between technology and culture so one
29:49
how internet culture is evolving but
29:52
also how does culture impact technology
29:54
and how does technology impact culture
29:56
so it’s like this really interesting
29:57
back and forth between the two
29:59
yeah that’s true there does seem to be a
30:01
lot of that and it seems like
30:02
at first glance your book hustle and
30:04
float would seem like it’s a departure
30:06
from that field
30:07
but i would think that there’s a lot of
30:09
ways that technology and data and
30:10
algorithms and
30:11
and digital cultures are driving us to
30:14
workaholism and exhaustion
30:16
and reactionary and polarized discourse
30:18
and so on so
30:19
was that part of what drew you to
30:21
writing the book or did that crossover
30:23
just happen
30:24
naturally and that crossover happened
30:27
very naturally and randomly the whole
30:29
thing stood because i got really
30:31
frustrated
30:32
when i had my own burnout that like i
30:34
knew better but didn’t do better
30:36
and that was really frustrating to me
30:37
it’s like i have the knowledge why
30:39
couldn’t i put the knowledge in practice
30:41
and then eventually i realized all of
30:43
these belief systems and stories they’re
30:45
embedded
30:46
in every instagram meme and every
30:48
algorithm that asks you to refresh every
30:50
10 seconds and every
30:52
notification that interrupts your time
30:54
in the design of these tools where we’re
30:56
designing them
30:57
to make to socially shame people for not
31:00
responding bad enough
31:01
or sorry for not responding fast enough
31:03
so like with whatsapp for example you
31:05
know the blue check marks that lets you
31:07
know that the person you’ve sent the
31:08
message to
31:09
has seen and read your message like what
31:12
is that if not social pressure to like
31:14
respond so we’ve also shaped technology
31:17
to amplify
31:18
the social norms that if you’re left on
31:21
red
31:21
that is a breach of etiquette that is
31:23
like not okay you know and
31:25
i started seeing more and more of these
31:27
especially like memes there’s so many
31:29
like as you called it earlier
31:30
productivity porn like so many weird
31:32
memes that are
31:33
telling you the the one that sticks out
31:35
in my mind is one that says
31:37
that assumes you’ve worked a full eight
31:39
hour day at a job and then says if
31:41
you’re not where you’re at have you been
31:43
thinking what you’re doing between
31:44
midnight and 2 a.m in the morning
31:46
because that’s when you should be
31:47
building your side hustle
31:48
in full seriousness and i was just like
31:52
it just you know and then you see people
31:53
that like read this
31:54
and then make themselves feel bad
31:56
because then they convince themselves
31:57
that all they need is to work harder
31:59
when maybe to be creative all they need
32:01
is actually to do less
32:03
and to give their brains a chance to
32:04
catch up yeah and to use
32:06
some of those coffee breaks where
32:08
they’re hitting their phone in social
32:09
media
32:10
to maybe actually go for a walk and let
32:12
some of that space happen
32:14
but it is an interesting overlap and and
32:17
cross-pollination almost
32:19
it seems like also meme culture is a
32:22
really important part
32:23
of understanding the the way that those
32:26
um those concepts cross-pollinate and i
32:30
think
32:30
i think about when eli paris our first
32:32
talked about filter bubbles back in 2011
32:35
and it was like we were only
32:37
experiencing a fraction of the
32:38
algorithmic polarization we do now
32:41
uh and a lot of that is through memes it
32:43
seems like you know the amplification
32:45
and the dominance of meme discourse
32:49
online so when you look at the
32:51
polarization and fragmentation of
32:52
digital culture in 2020
32:54
and even looking beyond if if you do how
32:57
do you think it affects us and and what
32:59
is there to be done about it
33:02
what’s interesting is that the
33:03
polarization that you’re seeing right
33:05
now in the content ecosystem
33:07
is the byproduct of a market that has
33:09
prioritized personalized
33:11
personalization in every single aspect
33:13
of our lives like you can expect people
33:15
to
33:16
personalize their their their movie
33:18
queue
33:19
their book cue their playlists and then
33:22
somehow expect news to remain neutral
33:24
right we created this entire
33:26
technological reality where
33:28
your subjective experience as an
33:30
individual your desires what you like
33:32
what you want to see what you agree with
33:34
is constantly mirrored back at you
33:37
and so then what happens is it’s only a
33:38
natural extension then that the
33:40
information that you see
33:41
also reflects your reality what i think
33:43
is quite interesting
33:44
is that i believe that by frequenting in
33:47
these filter bubbles
33:49
we have reduced our capacity to engage
33:52
in things that we disagree with because
33:53
we don’t have to we don’t actively have
33:55
to
33:56
engage in anything that upsets us we
33:58
just click out we mute we block we
34:01
cancel
34:01
we eliminate it so we can fully create
34:04
an echo chamber of information that only
34:08
ever reflects back our own world view
34:10
and what that is doing is that it’s
34:12
making people get this false sense of
34:14
reality where their opinions slowly
34:16
become beliefs because it gets repeated
34:18
over and over and over and if every time
34:20
you said something
34:22
a hundred people were like yes you’re
34:23
absolutely right kate yes you’re
34:24
absolutely right
34:25
you’re gonna become more and more
34:26
certain about your world view and then
34:29
you’re
34:29
gonna become less capable of navigating
34:32
that world view because you don’t have
34:34
to
34:34
and so you see this divisiveness and i
34:36
mean what’s interesting is when facebook
34:38
did those experiments
34:39
of the different algorithms and how
34:41
different two people
34:42
on either end of the political spectrum
34:45
um
34:45
their their content that they were
34:47
seeing and the sources that they were
34:48
seeing
34:49
what we’re what we’re doing is we’re
34:51
ripping people apart to the point where
34:53
we can’t even agree
34:55
on a mutual reality anymore like
34:58
sometimes i feel like i’m in my own
35:00
reality and people
35:01
on the other political spectrum are in
35:03
their own reality and we’re both like
35:05
living in separate worlds but it’s the
35:07
same world and that’s quite dangerous
35:09
because if you can’t find
35:11
any common ground at all how can you
35:15
repair this divisiveness and the worst
35:17
part is is that the
35:18
going back to how technology influences
35:20
culture the metrics in play
35:23
that are driving the revenue models for
35:25
most of these technology platforms
35:28
depend on you spending a lot of time on
35:30
the platform so it’s this fundamental
35:32
thing of what you want versus what you
35:33
need
35:34
what you need is objective content from
35:36
a variety of vetted and trusted sources
35:38
what you want is to constantly get the
35:40
hit of validation because everyone
35:42
agrees with you and you feel like you’re
35:43
right
35:44
so we’re like little kids that have
35:45
gotten nothing but a constant stream of
35:47
junk food and now we’re wondering why we
35:49
don’t feel good and why we’re getting
35:51
like
35:52
becoming really healthy yeah that’s
35:54
exactly what we’re consuming information
35:56
junk and trash and this is what’s
36:00
happening
36:00
yeah when you look at a fast-growing
36:03
phenomenon
36:04
like tick-tock for example what do you
36:06
see in it do you see that it reflects
36:09
any of that piece of culture or is it a
36:11
completely different part of
36:13
a different different digital phenomenon
36:15
sorry
36:16
now i find tech talk really really
36:19
interesting because i think
36:20
they’re one of the few social networks
36:22
that actually got it right in terms of
36:24
like
36:25
social community design i’m gonna put
36:27
the data and the privacy
36:29
and the you know all that stuff just to
36:31
decide for a second because i know
36:32
that’s a big
36:33
privacy issue we should talk about it
36:35
i’m just literally talking about it from
36:37
just the way that they’ve structured the
36:38
flow of information
36:40
and if you think about it tick tock
36:41
understood that
36:43
um technology and social networks are an
36:46
ecosystem
36:46
where other platforms compete
36:48
desperately to keep
36:50
you and the content on their platforms
36:52
and these walled communities tick tock
36:54
is like take this content
36:55
and share it take it and take it
36:57
everywhere because they know you’ll come
36:58
back
36:59
that’s the first thing the second thing
37:00
is what i think is really interesting
37:02
about tiktok is that
37:04
the algorithm totally capitalizes on
37:07
people’s need for attention because for
37:09
those of you that don’t know or who
37:10
don’t use tick tock a lot
37:12
you navigate the page through a main
37:14
feed that’s called the for you page
37:16
and the for you page shows you content
37:18
say 50 content from people you follow
37:21
but 50 content from from people you
37:24
don’t follow but whose content is
37:25
popular on the app or whose content is
37:27
aligned with the algorithms that you’re
37:29
searching for
37:30
what this means is that you don’t need
37:32
to build a large audience in order to
37:34
hit
37:35
uh to have a viral piece of content so
37:37
because there’s like this lottery system
37:39
where anyone’s content can go viral and
37:41
i think
37:42
at a much faster and easier rate than
37:44
other platforms
37:45
people are creating content non-stop and
37:48
the content
37:48
is like so specifically tailored imagine
37:52
like an
37:52
endless neighborhood with like teeny
37:55
tiny little micro communities there’s
37:56
viking tick tock and back pain tick tock
37:59
and witch tick tock and
38:00
small business tick tock and and quantum
38:03
physics tick tock and dance tik tok and
38:05
all these little tiny neighborhoods are
38:06
constantly being cross-pollinated from
38:08
other social networks
38:10
that i think is a really innovative
38:12
approach and why i think the app has
38:14
been so popular
38:15
do you find that really different from
38:17
youtube for example i mean it seems like
38:19
there’s a similar kind of concept with
38:21
channels and people creating content
38:22
that really tailors to
38:24
their niche audience and then that
38:25
content is shared out to other
38:27
platforms and throughout the web and
38:29
throughout social channels is
38:30
what makes it different in terms of is
38:33
it the engagement within the platform
38:36
it’s the fundamental understanding of
38:38
meme culture
38:39
as the main currency of distribution so
38:43
all of tick tock is using meme sounds
38:45
and the memes evolve and the memes take
38:47
on their own meaning and then they
38:48
become popular and then memes rise and
38:50
fall and trends rise and fall so there
38:51
are sounds that you’re using and then
38:53
like 30 000 people will use the same
38:55
sound that will create a collective meme
38:58
and it’s 15 seconds and it’s really
39:00
easy and unlike the full gear that you
39:02
need to produce a beautiful
39:04
youtube video tick tock gives the
39:06
creators everything that you need if you
39:08
have
39:08
zero technical experience to be able to
39:10
take a piece of meme content
39:12
to respond to it copy it imitate it
39:14
reshare it directly from the app you
39:16
don’t have to
39:17
upload anything separate you have to do
39:18
anything everything is done for you
39:20
but i think it’s so powerful because it
39:22
essentially organizes meme content so
39:24
you can take one sound and see all the
39:26
people that have used it and essentially
39:28
see the evolution of the meme from the
39:30
first person that uploaded it
39:31
all the way through the different stages
39:33
of virality from remixing and reacting
39:35
to reimagining
39:38
and like recreating all of those things
39:40
you can follow it and i think that is
39:41
quite
39:42
unique so i know another sort of digital
39:44
subculture you often
39:46
talk about and research about is the bts
39:49
subculture and k-pop in general
39:51
yes k-pop is there a an overlap between
39:55
tiktok and the phenomenon of the
39:58
virality of the the meme culture
40:00
and bts and k-pop and the the sort of
40:04
cam culture and things like that is is
40:06
there is there overlap or are they two
40:08
separate functioning things
40:11
no there’s definitely overlap like tick
40:13
tock is almost like a big
40:15
like hub that everything can be sent out
40:18
on and if you think about it you have
40:19
this app what makes it really easy to
40:21
create like a funky
40:22
short snappy incredibly catchy uh
40:25
piece of content that you can then whip
40:27
out across the web
40:28
and kpop stands or kpop fans in general
40:32
are incredibly well versed in leveraging
40:34
all of these platforms to amplify their
40:36
message at an
40:37
insane scale like the quantity of tweets
40:40
that you will see
40:41
from one fandom to another fandom is
40:43
like is in the millions
40:45
and bts is really interesting because i
40:48
find it
40:49
particularly interesting where in a
40:51
quite like
40:52
american-centric social media landscape
40:55
to have
40:55
a boy band that the primary language is
40:59
korean
41:00
that is able to come and interject
41:03
itself in such a powerful way around the
41:06
world
41:07
and that to me is like so interesting
41:09
and a lot of it depends on
41:10
the labor of the fans so they’re called
41:13
the the
41:13
the k army so so bts for example their
41:16
fandom’s called army
41:18
and the korean army members they will go
41:20
to all the trouble and they were for
41:22
free
41:23
at their own cost their own expense
41:25
translate content explain
41:27
content subtitle content do all of these
41:29
things so that the i army the
41:30
international fans get a chance to
41:33
experience it as well and they do that
41:35
through tick tock but they also do that
41:37
through every other platform so it’s
41:39
just like
41:40
like k-pop fans are just incredibly
41:43
well-versed at
41:44
using the platforms to amplify their
41:46
message and um tick tock just gave them
41:48
another tool to be able to do that
41:50
yeah ana militivex says regarding tic
41:52
toc i call this
41:53
the remixability index whole community
41:56
iterates
41:56
unlike youtube etc and then follows up
41:59
and says twitter has remixability too
42:01
but doesn’t handle abuse or bad actors
42:03
well so it seems like that’s a really
42:05
important
42:06
piece of the discussion as well
42:09
but uh yeah well tick tock has had some
42:11
trouble handling bad actors as well i
42:13
think there’s bad actors across the
42:14
board but
42:15
but no she’s absolutely right it’s this
42:17
meme it’s this it’s the social currency
42:19
of the language of the web that’s just
42:21
been like organized in a way that makes
42:23
it accessible to a large group of people
42:26
i noticed too that you uh you first you
42:28
did your first uh
42:29
live in person event recently and uh
42:32
by the way was that strange or good or
42:34
both or
42:36
it was good and it was also very strange
42:38
it really uh
42:39
hammered home how different things were
42:42
just from six months
42:44
ago you know plexiglas in call out rooms
42:47
chairs that were spaced limits masks
42:50
everywhere it just
42:51
um in a way i was very happy to have the
42:54
opportunity to get back out there
42:55
but i was also a little bit sad because
42:58
one of my favorite things to do at
42:59
events is like meet people
43:00
and exchange ideas and chat with them
43:02
and like the conversations that happen
43:04
and the friends that you meet and it was
43:06
very like limited and i was
43:08
keeping my distance and i had a mask and
43:09
i said to you before
43:11
i’m a very very pro mask person i just
43:14
want to start by saying i
43:15
wear masks all the time but i did find
43:18
that there was like a piece of that like
43:20
human connection that was lost when i
43:21
couldn’t see somebody like
43:23
smiling i couldn’t see their face their
43:24
micro expressions their voice their
43:26
accent like
43:27
that definitely added like a weird
43:29
filter in the in the
43:31
human interaction yeah i would imagine
43:33
so but the reason why
43:35
i actually uh brought up this in-person
43:37
event is because i noticed in the photos
43:38
that you posted that you were talking
43:40
with a group of cfos about the business
43:42
of bts
43:43
and so that sounds awesome and amazing i
43:46
wonder if you could give us a little
43:47
taste of what that talk is about
43:50
yeah they’re just really prolific and in
43:53
uh during the pandemic
43:54
when every a lot of music industries
43:56
were like trying to figure out or music
43:58
acts we’re trying to figure out what to
43:59
do
44:00
bts put together a very interesting
44:02
pay-per-view
44:03
concert called uh bang bang con that
44:06
broke the records for
44:08
the highest number of concurrent viewers
44:10
in a virtual con in a virtual concert
44:12
756 000 people from over 102 different
44:16
countries
44:17
paid money in order to see a bts virtual
44:21
concert
44:22
uh netting the band almost 20 million
44:24
dollars just for that one event alone
44:26
which is like a huge
44:28
interesting data point and yes i know
44:30
bts is really big but they offer an
44:31
interesting proto like an interesting
44:33
prototype to follow
44:34
and the other thing that i thought was
44:35
really cool speaking about
44:37
personalization is so
44:38
you know bts has seven members and in
44:41
k-pop and all
44:42
and i’m sure you probably know this but
44:44
in k-pop you generally have a favorite
44:46
and that favorite member is called your
44:48
bias so your bias is out of the seven
44:51
members of say bts you have one member
44:53
that you like
44:54
maybe more than one but there’s one
44:55
person that you who’s your bias
44:57
and so what they did what the the video
45:00
platform did was that
45:01
every member had their own camera feed
45:05
so that when you were watching the
45:06
concert if your favorite member
45:09
was um you know um
45:12
i don’t know like taehyung or something
45:14
one of the members or you know
45:15
you could click on his camera feed and
45:17
no matter what was happening on the main
45:19
stage
45:19
you knew that you could watch the entire
45:21
concert centered on like your favorite
45:23
bias
45:24
and i just thought what a great thing to
45:27
do
45:28
because you know with fan with that cam
45:30
culture and things like that
45:31
normally there’s like fan feeds that do
45:33
it and what a great way to be able to
45:35
create that opportunity for people to
45:36
have that intimate experience
45:38
so things like that um i i talked about
45:41
i also talked about the travis scott
45:43
fortnite concert where they did he did a
45:45
10-minute set
45:47
in fortnight that was beautiful and
45:49
incredible and i would encourage you
45:50
guys to go watch it if you haven’t
45:51
already
45:52
it just shows the potentiality of how
45:54
entertainment and platforms can mix
45:56
which i think is going to be important
45:57
as we try to navigate what this virus is
45:59
gonna
46:00
do to our ability to gather and enjoy
46:02
the arts together yeah absolutely
46:04
it also seems like a lot of your work
46:06
focuses on understanding youth culture
46:08
and it’s in its emerging impact on the
46:10
internet and on the workplace and
46:11
politics and so on so as you think about
46:13
2020 and looking ahead through the
46:15
pandemic
46:16
you know what stands out to you in terms
46:18
of how that’s going to shape
46:20
dominant culture
46:24
i’ve been particularly interested i mean
46:26
i think youth culture
46:28
i think young people are just taking
46:30
more risks sometimes and they iterate
46:32
faster and they’re open to new things i
46:33
feel even as an
46:34
older millennial you know i have my
46:37
habits and my platforms that i use and
46:38
we sort of get set in our ways so it’s
46:40
always kind of good to look at the next
46:41
generation and to see
46:43
uh by the way the the uh gen z has
46:46
announced that we’re no longer using
46:48
like the crying laughing emoji so if you
46:50
are
46:50
not just just so everybody knows that
46:52
has been the the next update
46:54
use the the laughing crying cat emoji or
46:57
the skull emoji just wanted to
46:58
make sure everyone got the memo about
47:00
the latest cool technology
47:02
it’s very kind of you considering that
47:03
the host is gen x like we need to make
47:05
sure
47:07
that we stay cool and
47:13
what i think is interesting is this idea
47:15
of micro content and we’re seeing
47:16
content you know in the era of vine
47:18
especially tick tock that we’re
47:20
delivering messages and say under a
47:21
minute
47:22
what i’m finding really fascinating is
47:24
people’s ability
47:25
creatively to jam-pack quite nuanced and
47:29
intense conversations within that small
47:32
period of time
47:33
so now on tick tock now that the all of
47:35
us older people are on tick tock you’re
47:37
seeing for example like economists
47:39
quantum physicists
47:40
teachers doctors dermatologists
47:43
psychiatrists that are coming in and
47:45
that are talking
47:46
about like intense stuff but they’re
47:49
able to to deliver it in this like small
47:51
narrative
47:52
i saw a woman who was a quantum
47:54
physicist who was like talking about
47:55
stephen hawking’s
47:57
you know her his theories to like
47:59
hip-hop music and she was explaining it
48:01
in a way and i just thought you know
48:02
it’s there’s never been an easier time
48:05
to learn something in snippets the
48:07
counter part of that though
48:08
is i often wonder what we miss if we
48:11
move towards a skimming culture and not
48:13
a deep dive culture
48:15
and i noticed this in myself and i like
48:16
tried to watch a movie the other day a
48:18
two-hour movie and within 30 seconds i
48:20
almost felt myself being like okay
48:22
where’s the punch line what’s the point
48:23
what’s the next
48:25
but i don’t want to lose that so i think
48:26
that we as a society have to focus on
48:29
developing this like deep dive focus
48:31
because if all we’re ever doing is like
48:32
skip skip skip scroll scroll scroll
48:35
we’re gonna lose our capacity to engage
48:37
with an idea
48:38
with the depth that it requires in order
48:40
to make some of these tackle some of
48:42
these challenges that we have
48:43
yeah it seems like a really interesting
48:44
compliment to have that skimming culture
48:47
and the ability
48:48
to compress a great deal of information
48:50
and insight into
48:51
a 15 second you know to be versed in the
48:54
currency
48:55
or the the language of how that’s done
48:57
you know with the
48:58
the sort of gesturing up and having you
49:00
know bands of text and things like that
49:02
you know if people understand the how to
49:04
be fluent in that language then
49:06
a lot of information can be conveyed
49:08
quickly but yeah it does have to
49:10
it seems like it’s something that we
49:11
have to have running alongside
49:14
you know more in-depth knowledge
49:16
transfer and and learning
49:18
but yeah how do we how do we ensure that
49:20
i guess is
49:21
is a different question by the way tammy
49:24
evans gave us a little
49:25
cat laughing with tears emoji just to
49:28
prove
49:29
it she can stay hip and spider says so
49:31
hard to keep up
49:33
so i feel ya i uh
49:36
i wanted to pivot just uh before we run
49:39
out of time i i love the story of how
49:41
you came to work for obama’s digital
49:42
campaign
49:43
but would you mind recapping for the
49:45
audience of how that came to be
49:48
yeah sure i was uh working as the
49:51
research coordinator
49:52
on a book by a brilliant man named don
49:55
tapscott
49:56
and we were researching how technology
49:58
was influencing millennials at that
50:00
point in time it was for a book called
50:01
uh grown up digital
50:03
uh and as a part of that process one of
50:06
the research focus areas that i was
50:07
responsible for was politics and this
50:09
was like
50:10
2 000 and i’m gonna say so all the
50:14
insights would seem quite pedestrian to
50:16
us now it’s like twitter it’s a thing
50:18
you know like
50:18
that was where we were at at you know
50:20
people should use facebook like this was
50:22
kind of where we were at
50:24
uh but part of the research we spoke to
50:26
several members
50:27
of um barack obama’s new media team
50:30
and one of whom uh a guy by the name of
50:32
chris hughes one of the co-founders
50:34
we interviewed him and him and i sort of
50:36
hit it off and and ended up striking a
50:38
bit of a friendship we were both you
50:40
know
50:40
into very similar things and a couple of
50:43
weeks later
50:44
i i emailed him and i was asking if i
50:46
could just come down for like the
50:47
weekend
50:48
you know can i just come down and just
50:49
like check out what was happening
50:51
because we momentum of the campaign was
50:53
starting to build up and people were
50:54
beginning to say hey these guys are
50:55
doing
50:56
really cool things with social media and
50:59
nobody was doing
51:00
similar things and so i really wanted to
51:01
go see um and he
51:03
wrote back and he said look like yes you
51:05
can come for the weekend but you know we
51:06
need all hands on deck so if you have
51:08
the time
51:09
this might be a crazy idea but why don’t
51:11
you just come down and just work with us
51:13
on it and it was one of those moments
51:15
you know the hairs on the back of your
51:17
neck stands up and you just think
51:18
this is an opportunity this is a and so
51:21
i put everything on pause
51:23
i packed my stuff up my uh husband then
51:26
boyfriend
51:27
drove me overnight to chicago and like
51:30
three
51:30
four days later i was on the as a
51:33
volunteer on the
51:34
digital like in national campaign
51:36
headquarters in chicago working on the
51:39
on the digital strategy which was such a
51:41
wild wild ride
51:43
yeah i would imagine so and it must be a
51:46
really interesting lens
51:47
to have you know looking now at politics
51:51
or
51:51
ever since then looking at politics and
51:53
elections and particularly so
51:55
for the american audience right now and
51:57
presumably for the french audience
51:58
looking ahead to 2022
52:00
what should we understand about the
52:02
evolution of of digital culture
52:04
and how it affects political campaigns
52:05
and elections especially as we just
52:07
talked about
52:07
you know virality and remixability and
52:10
meme discourse and
52:11
and all of these different platforms
52:13
that are allowing the compression of
52:15
information
52:16
um what do we need to know and how do we
52:19
need to think about
52:20
political discourse and campaigning in
52:22
this moment
52:25
to me the most important things we need
52:27
to tackle
52:28
and i mean i don’t know why we can’t
52:30
just do this immediately
52:32
this is my like million dollar idea sort
52:34
of thing
52:35
is i think we need to have the capacity
52:37
on any
52:38
platform that we use to turn off the
52:41
algorithm
52:42
having an algorithm choose what we see
52:45
is
52:46
the one of the biggest threats because i
52:48
always ask people think about all the
52:49
information that you consume in a day
52:51
and think about what percentage of that
52:53
information was selected for you by an
52:55
algorithm
52:56
we need to have an ability to go outside
52:58
of this power that
53:00
this like little piece of code has to go
53:02
out and select our own information or
53:05
start holding companies accountable to
53:06
producing information that is much more
53:09
balanced they can’t do that we can’t say
53:11
hey you know what we’ve seen that you’ve
53:13
consumed 50 percent of your news from
53:16
this
53:16
one really biased source we’re going to
53:19
start piping in
53:20
other things for you to see so i think i
53:22
one understanding how influence
53:24
like how much we can be influenced i was
53:25
going to say influenceable but i don’t
53:27
know if that’s a word
53:28
you made it a word i don’t know here we
53:30
go you hear you have
53:31
i made it first but like how influenced
53:33
you can be and everyone thinks like
53:35
we’re these rational decision makers and
53:38
digital contagion is real
53:39
how your feet impacts your mood is real
53:42
the impact and the power of the words
53:43
you give to your friends is real
53:45
so all of these things have a much
53:48
bigger power over us as the cambridge
53:49
analytica thing mentioned than we would
53:51
like to admit so first and foremost we
53:53
need to understand these tools
53:54
can influence us for good or for bad
53:58
and then to look at the algorithm and
54:00
start to say okay like
54:01
we need to get people back to this
54:04
curiosity and seeking information out in
54:07
a way that’s much more balanced and if
54:08
they’re not going to do it for
54:09
themselves then we have to start holding
54:10
some of these technology companies
54:12
accountable for
54:14
piping certain information especially
54:16
when you have platforms
54:18
that can micro target you to the fact of
54:21
whether or not you took a vacation
54:22
whether or not you’ve ever searched for
54:24
cold medicine in the last three months
54:25
whether like think about that
54:27
and think about what it means for
54:29
somebody to say i know
54:30
everything about you and i’m gonna give
54:32
you the
54:34
thing that’s custom tailored to you
54:36
that’s most likely to change your mind
54:38
or most likely to get you to believe a
54:39
certain thing
54:41
that to me is terrifying because if
54:42
democracy depends on an informed
54:44
populace
54:46
we are eroding people’s capacity to be
54:48
informed
54:50
and so that is very terrifying to me
54:52
yeah
54:53
do you feel like this is a platform
54:56
requirement or do you feel like it’s a
54:57
regulation
54:58
regulatory requirement like something
55:00
that needs to happen
55:01
that there that consumers hold platforms
55:04
accountable to be able to
55:05
implement features that turn off
55:06
algorithm algorithmic feeds for example
55:09
or do we we think we need to go and make
55:12
sure that governments put
55:13
these regulations in place i mean being
55:16
in europe where they have a much more
55:18
um you know strict approach i think for
55:21
example
55:22
giving people the option to opt out
55:25
of an algorithm if they want should be
55:28
considered just like a digital right
55:30
you should be able to turn it off if you
55:32
want like
55:33
you should uh i don’t know why you can’t
55:36
so
55:36
i think and i reason i think that it has
55:38
to come from government is that
55:40
precedent has shown us that these
55:41
companies aren’t that great at
55:42
regulating themselves
55:44
and so it’s not just governments the
55:46
missing piece what people often don’t
55:47
like to hear
55:48
is we all want to point fingers at this
55:50
big company or that big company but it’s
55:51
like guess what we’re all using it we’re
55:53
all complicit if you’re using these
55:55
technologies actively you are complicit
55:57
and maybe complicit’s too harsh of a
55:59
word maybe it’s accountable you’re
56:00
accountable
56:01
for what’s happening so it’s also you
56:04
can’t turn around and say well this big
56:06
company did this and i don’t like it and
56:07
then it’s like okay well do you use
56:09
their services
56:09
yes to use their app yes did you read
56:12
the privacy terms
56:13
no did you read the terms of service no
56:15
then it’s kind of like okay well
56:17
we at some point too as citizens have to
56:19
stand up and take accountability for the
56:21
way that we use these tools
56:22
but it has to be like we have to push
56:25
for it they’re not going to
56:27
companies are not going to mess with
56:29
revenue models that bring them
56:31
hundreds of millions or billions of
56:32
dollars they’re just not going to do it
56:34
so we have to decide what the real cost
56:36
is and right now
56:37
the real cost is that we’re literally
56:39
selling pieces of our digital identities
56:41
to the highest bidder and we’re not
56:43
exactly sure how those pieces are being
56:44
used against us
56:45
that to me is terrifying i kind of
56:48
wonder tell me you think about this i
56:49
kind of wonder if in like 20 years
56:51
social networks will have the same
56:52
warning labels like cigarettes do you
56:54
know what i mean like at some point in
56:55
20 years we’ll look back and be like i
56:57
can’t believe they used to use all of
56:58
this data without any of these like
57:00
warnings but i don’t know sometimes i
57:02
just feel like people just
57:04
like don’t care it’s just gone so slowly
57:05
and so you know so far it’s like the
57:08
frog
57:08
in boiling water so yeah i think that’s
57:11
an interesting question
57:12
i’d like to throw it out to our audience
57:14
and see what people think if there’s a
57:16
um a future where we have warning labels
57:19
on algorithmic
57:20
experiences animalismic says do
57:22
consumers understand
57:24
enough about how platforms work to
57:25
request this referring to
57:27
yeah yeah and i think you’re you’re
57:28
shaking your head i agree
57:30
it seems like it’s uh it’s not just a
57:33
big ask for consumers to
57:35
to reach that level of education to be
57:37
able to hold comp companies and
57:38
platforms accountable
57:40
but there’s uh there’s so many competing
57:43
interests and and things competing for
57:45
people’s attention all the time
57:46
it’s hard enough just to get a simple
57:48
message through about
57:50
how algorithms do shape experiences let
57:52
alone the importance of how the
57:54
uh the blended algorithmic experiences
57:57
are shaping our
57:58
realities in terms of the political
58:00
outcomes and so on
58:02
but very good question anna i feel like
58:04
that’s a an important point well they
58:06
don’t
58:06
they don’t like when people and think
58:08
about it when the first social networks
58:10
came on stage and asked us to share
58:13
the our data with them there wasn’t that
58:15
much data and it wasn’t all connected
58:17
now it’s like websites can track you
58:19
across the web so like the information
58:22
that was available about you say in 2004
58:24
is nowhere near the information that’s
58:26
available about you in 2020 but many
58:28
consumers seem to think like
58:30
still have that disconnected island view
58:32
and instead you know now you’re starting
58:34
to see okay we can actually track a
58:36
consumer
58:36
across websites acros like we can we
58:39
have such a
58:40
an interesting idea we can we can
58:43
triangulate it’s not just
58:44
where you are it’s your phone and it’s
58:46
the people that you’re with and it’s
58:47
your geo location and it’s all this
58:49
other stuff that i don’t even think
58:51
people realize they’re giving away
58:53
and that’s the problem and then they
58:54
think oh well i’m not doing anything
58:56
wrong
58:56
and like it’s like well that’s not the
58:58
point so
59:00
yeah i find we have to keep having those
59:02
conversations for sure
59:04
agreed yeah so one last thought or
59:07
question i wanted to ask you is i know
59:09
you were formerly the associate director
59:10
of the technology pioneer program at the
59:12
world economic forum
59:13
in geneva where you helped identify
59:15
disruptive startups that were improving
59:17
the state of the world and when
59:18
i think about you know one of the
59:19
recurring questions that i ask
59:21
guests is uh you know what technologies
59:23
do you see on the horizon that seem like
59:25
a boost to humanity it seems like you’re
59:27
in an interesting
59:28
place to have been observing that and
59:30
probably have a discipline of paying
59:32
attention to the technologies that are
59:34
emerging
59:34
so what do you when you think about what
59:37
could what technologies could actually
59:38
help humanity
59:40
what do you think about what types of
59:42
technologies occur to you
59:45
i mean for me the reality is is i think
59:47
everything that has the capacity to help
59:49
us
59:49
it’s just that it’s going to also
59:51
simultaneously hurt us in some new and
59:53
different ways and so
59:55
i try to navigate the complexity of how
59:58
can we hold that duality together
60:00
so for example if you take like even
60:02
just like ai
60:03
ai has done tremendous good for humanity
60:07
it’s helped us diagnose disease faster
60:09
it’s helped us
60:10
understand data better it’s helped us
60:12
like you know and there’s so many ways
60:13
that it’s actually improved the human
60:15
experience but at the same time it’s
60:17
also created a lot of new problems
60:19
so i think i think it’s all of the
60:21
technology has the capacity i mean
60:23
um we if it wasn’t for twitter or
60:26
facebook we would not have met that’s
60:28
right
60:28
right so and so i think about that and i
60:31
think well there are so many people i’m
60:33
close to
60:33
so anna who’s commenting her interesting
60:36
questions i met her
60:37
through you on twitter as well and so
60:39
it’s like if those platforms didn’t
60:41
exist my social network
60:43
my capacity to engage with interesting
60:45
smart people would be so limited
60:46
but at the same time it’s like the same
60:48
platform that gave you
60:49
these cool people is also the platform
60:51
that enables like trolls and enables
60:54
you know weird anti-social behavior so i
60:57
don’t necessarily think about what’s
60:58
going to help humanity i think about
61:00
what new what new challenges are going
61:03
to emerge with this technology and how
61:05
can we navigate that
61:06
because for every single case of facial
61:09
recognition that actually helps to catch
61:11
a criminal there’s a case of where it’s
61:13
being used to breach privacy
61:16
right i mean at least more than that
61:19
i mean you know but like smart cars are
61:21
gonna help they’re gonna hurt and so the
61:22
bigger question for me becomes is like
61:24
how can we prepare people to hold the
61:26
this duality because what worries me is
61:28
that a lot of the
61:29
tech crowd comes in and they try to push
61:31
you this utopian version
61:33
and then other people come in and they
61:34
try to push you the dystopian version
61:37
and the thing is is like both of those
61:38
are not true but both of those are true
61:41
in different ways it’s like i always say
61:43
it’s going to be equally awesome and
61:44
equally terrible at the same time and
61:46
that’s why it’s going to be so hard to
61:48
predict the future
61:49
because we’re going to have technology
61:50
that’s going to make our world amazing
61:52
and we’re going to have technology
61:53
that’s going to
61:54
equally make our world terrifying and we
61:57
just have to
61:58
continuously ask ourselves what side of
62:00
the equation are we falling on
62:02
i love that it’s so it really i relate
62:04
so much to the idea of holding that
62:06
duality and embracing
62:07
both the both and-ness of you know the
62:09
dystopia and the utopia
62:11
uh also it feels like that’s a real sort
62:13
of recurring theme through your work of
62:15
being able to say you know hey look
62:17
uh productivity’s great creativity’s
62:19
great you have to be able to
62:21
embrace the both and this of productive
62:24
time and downtime
62:25
in order to to be your best self and do
62:27
your best work right
62:29
yeah and you’re the one that said this
62:30
to me i think a long time ago when we
62:32
talked about your work and it was i
62:33
think we were talking about like this
62:35
idea of dystopia utopia
62:37
and i remember we said something along
62:38
the lines like well humans are
62:40
flawed and messy we’re great and we’re
62:42
awful all at the same time and so
62:45
how can we expect our technology to be
62:46
different right every act of altruism
62:49
every act of deviancy like those things
62:51
are just who we are as humans and so it
62:53
surprises me sometimes that we hold our
62:55
technology
62:56
to a standard that doesn’t even reflect
62:58
like our own
62:59
reality as a species we’re like a super
63:02
great species we’re a super trash
63:04
species depending on like
63:06
the issue and the time but that’s that
63:08
complexity is who we are and our
63:10
technological reality is
63:11
always going to reflect that fact that’s
63:13
perfect what a great note to to close on
63:15
and we’re at times so how can people
63:17
find and follow your amazing work
63:19
online uh i’m everywhere online so
63:23
rahafharfoush.com or rahafharfoush on
63:26
twitter or foushy on instagram would
63:27
love to connect
63:28
with people any friends of kate or
63:30
kate’s network of peers or people i
63:32
definitely want to meet so don’t be shy
63:34
come say hello
63:35
wonderful thank you so much raha thank
63:37
you everyone who’s tuned in and thank
63:39
you to our podcast listening audience
63:41
when it makes it to that
63:42
medium as well everyone have a wonderful
63:44
day thank you raha again and enjoy your
63:46
evening as i know it’s
63:47
a good deal later where you are
63:51
take care

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