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With John Battelle (Founder/CEO, The Recount).
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 06:30 PM   $10
General Assembly, 902 Broadway, 4th Fl


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America's got a fundamental problem with how information flows through its economy & society. Encouraged by a light touch regulatory framework, early internet business models - from Amazon to Facebook - have metastasized, in the process creating an information architecture that's proven toxic to our society. As John Battelle sees it, the problem comes down to who controls the flow of information in our increasingly interconnected world. But to understand that flow, we first have to visualize it, then we must imagine alternatives. As hearing after hearing in Washington has proven, we're failing at this basic task.

Data is often understood in terms of ownership & personal harm, & certainly these are important factors. But data flows through systems, & these systems are not well understood. For example, Facebook leases our data to advertisers, but neither the advertiser nor the Facebook user has any transparency into how that data is managed, manipulated, or categorized. Amazon connects customers to a wide range of products, including Amazon's own, but none of the participants in this process have access to how their data interacts with Amazon's systems. And it is these systems which have directly impacted America's economy & democracy - often with dramatic consequences.

Americans are now facing up to the fact that we need some layer of governance that reworks the system & ensures that not only the tech middlemen benefit, but that the rest of our economy & society thrives as well. Almost all businesses that use online marketing & advertising, or that are involved or compete with online retail, will be impacted by the outcome. Battelle is the perfect person to explain how the system actually works today & lay out better ways forward. A serial entrepreneur who has co-founded & run more than half a dozen startups in the San Francisco Bay Area, Battelle writes frequently about media, advertising, & technology issues, & is the author of a best-selling book on Google called The Search. In the last year he's been called on as a leading authority to testify before the U.S. Senate on what to do about Facebook, Google, & the other tech giants.

Battelle now lives in New York City, where he is CEO & co-founder of political video platform The Recount. He also teaches on Internet Business Models & Technology Policy at Columbia University's School of International & Public Affairs, where he & a team of grad students are working on a project visualizing data as it flows through the digital advertising ecosystem. Battelle believes there is a way to create an ecosystem of true innovation that reworks the way data flows through society & who owns that data. Key to such a system is machine readable data portability & an associated overhaul in the private shadow regulation of companies' Terms of Service. In this talk, Battelle will give an overview of his research, tie it to today's political environment, & seek input from the audience on next steps.

- Pizza & socializing begins @ 6:45
- Talk begins @ 7:00 followed by Q&A
- A little extra socializing after the event
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