9 episodes

Untangled is a podcast about technology, people, and power.



untangled.substack.com

Untangled Charley Johnson

    • Technology

Untangled is a podcast about technology, people, and power.



untangled.substack.com

    Elise Hu on pretty privilege, appearance labor, and worthiness.

    Elise Hu on pretty privilege, appearance labor, and worthiness.

    Y’all are in for a treat — this week I interviewed for the podcast edition of Untangled. Elise is a journalist, podcaster, and entrepreneur. She is the host of TED Talks Daily, a host-at-large for NPR, co-founder of the podcast production company Reasonable Volume, and she reports for VICE News. Her book, Flawless: Lessons in Looks and Culture from the K-Beauty Capital is fantastic, and it inspired my recent essay “The Artificial Gaze.”
    Guess what? For the first three people to sign up for an annual paid subscription to Untangled, Elise is offering a free, signed copy of her book. So, sign up for the annual paid subscription, and if you’re one of the first three, I’ll ping you for your address, and Elise will generously send you a signed copy. Huzzah!
    Now, on to the show!
    In the episode, Elise and I talk about a lot of things:
    * The idea of “pretty privilege” and the ways in which beauty culture is entangled with social norms, power, and technology;
    * How Korean beauty culture is one of the most extreme in the world and how its hypermodernity offers the rest of us a glimpse into our future;
    * How Elise’s book might have been different if she started writing it now, amidst all the craze over AI;
    * Beauty filters and how they remind us of the internet of the early 1990s that felt weirder and more exploratory — like play!
    Listen to the end to hear Elise and I talk about our shared love of Brene Brown and how worthiness, embodiment, and mutuality can help us collectively create an alternative future.
    I’m grateful to for joining me on Untangled. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to her newsletter, — it is a fun jaunt through current events and pop culture, and I just added it to my recommendations list!
    In the show, Elise and I mentioned a few great pieces. You can find them here:
    * “We Have Built a Giant Treadmill That We Can’t Get Off”: Sci-Fi Prophet Ted Chiang on How to Best Think About AI
    * Face Forward: The unpredictable magic of TikTok and Instagram beauty filters is that they make you feel more like you.
    If you like the podcast, subscribe to it on Apple or Spotify, review it, rate it, and share it. It really does make a difference.
    As always, if you have ideas about how to make the newsletter or podcast better, tell me. If you're curious about how it's all going, let's talk. If you think one of the posts misses the mark, let me know.*
    Until next time,
    Charley
    Also, definitely tell me if you like it 😍.


    Get full access to Untangled with Charley Johnson at untangled.substack.com/subscribe

    • 36 min
    Transparency! It’s, uh, complicated.

    Transparency! It’s, uh, complicated.

    Hi, and welcome back to the podcast edition of Untangled. This was a big week at Untangled HQ. Substack featured Untangled on its homepage (!) and sent me this cute lil’ graphic to commemorate the moment.
    As a result, hundreds of you have subscribed in the last few days. That just warms my wonky heart. Welcome to the Untangled community 👋
    Here’s what to expect:
    * On the first Sunday of the month, you'll receive a post where I embark on a deep exploration of a particular topic. This month I answered the question on everyone’s mind: what connects crypto and ‘Love is Blind’?
    * The next Sunday, you’ll receive an audio version of the monthly newsletter, a few gifts from the internet, and maybe even a sneak peek into my next topic. It’ll look something like this.
    * Most months, I’ll interview a relevant expert and publish it as a podcast.
    This month is one of those months, and I have to say, you’re in for a real treat. I interviewed Brandon Silverman, co-founder and CEO of CrowdTangle, the data analytics tool once at the center of controversy inside Facebook over just how transparent the company should be. Brandon left the company in October 2021 and he’s now supporting the ongoing policy efforts in the EU and U.S. that would require platform companies like Facebook to be more transparent.
    Last year I wrote the essay, “Some Unsatisfing Solutions for Facebook.” I started the piece with me, trapped in what I called a “transparency feedback loop,” where “there are information leaks and demands for transparency, and these reveal problems we didn't know of before, which prompts calls for more transparency, which identifies still more problems. And on, and on, we go.”
    The piece then delves into the real limitations of transparency. I’m not against transparency but I think that it’s in pushing on the concept that we better understand what problems it might solve, what problems it definitely will not, and what new problems it might create along the way. Needless to say, my views on transparency are, uh, complicated. Turns out, this is something Brandon and I have in common 🙌.
    In the episode, we get into Brandon’s time at Facebook and the fights over CrowdTangle but we spend most of our time exploring his views on transparency — its utility and limitations, its relationship to accountability, power, and trust — and how they have evolved over time. Along the way, we discuss:
    * How Brandon initially got “red-pilled” on transparency.
    * How CrowdTangle challenged the stories Facebook leadership told themselves about the platform’s impact on the world.
    * How the scale of these platforms means that when it comes to solutions, “it’s tradeoffs all the way down.” Want to delve deeper into this idea? Check out my conversation with Daphne Keller, Director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center.
    🥺 Oh, and we also talked about Brandon’s fear that Facebook will stop sharing data with journalists in the not-so-distant future.
    If you like the podcast, subscribe to it on Apple or Spotify, review it, rate it, and share it. It really does make a difference.
    As always, if you have ideas about how to make the newsletter or podcast better, tell me. If you're curious about how it's all going, let's talk. If you think one of the posts misses the mark, let me know.* Let’s make this a fun learning community!
    Until next time,
    Charley
    *Definitely tell me if you like it 😍.


    Get full access to Untangled with Charley Johnson at untangled.substack.com/subscribe

    • 50 min
    "Just because we can build it, does that mean we should?"

    "Just because we can build it, does that mean we should?"

    Hi, and welcome back to the podcast edition of Untangled. Want to make my day? Just subscribe to the newsletter on Substack and the podcast on Apple or Spotify. Clicking a couple of links to make someone’s day just a lil’ more joyful sounds like a deal to me 🙃

    This month I decided to write about a phrase that has always driven me a bit bonkers: “tech for good.” In the essay, I drew upon Eileen Guo’s investigation into WorldCoin, which illustrates the massive gap between what WorldCoin says it’s doing and why it is doing it, and, ya know, reality. It’s phrases like “tech for good” that help sustain that gap, and it’s excellent reporting (and super smart newsletters! 😉) that help to close it.
    I was thrilled to host Eileen on the pod to talk about her investigation. In our conversation, we discussed:
    * How WorldCoin is modeling the “move fast and break things” ethos of Silicon Valley — and how, surprise surprise, they’re breaking things!
    * What problem WorldCoin is actually trying to solve. Hint - it has a lot more to do with crypto than it does with UBI or poverty.
    * How WorldCoin’s approach follows a long lineage of techno-colonialism. It’s not great.
    Along the way, we stumbled upon a broader lesson that we’re seemingly forced to re-learn over and over again as a society. Listen to the end to hear what it is.
    As always, if you like the podcast, please review it, rate it, and share it.
    Until next time,
    Charley
    Credits:
    Track: The Perpetual Ticking of Time — Artificial.Music [Audio Library Release]
    Music provided by Audio Library Plus



    Get full access to Untangled with Charley Johnson at untangled.substack.com/subscribe

    • 32 min
    🙈How a future collapse of DeFi could impact all of us.

    🙈How a future collapse of DeFi could impact all of us.

    Hi, and welcome back to the podcast edition of Untangled. If you’re reading this but haven’t yet subscribed, what are you even doing with your life?! I kid. (I hear chastising one’s readers is a top-notch strategy! 🤪) But more to the point: please take a moment to subscribe to the newsletter on Substack and the podcast on Apple or Spotify.

    This month I wrote about why decentralized finance is a normal accident waiting to happen. I argued that the collapse we are currently witnessing in DeFi is an indictment of a system that treats the dynamic interaction of leverage and rigidity as features to be celebrated, rather than bugs to be avoided… or, ya know, regulated.
    In the piece, I drew upon the writing and thinking of Hilary Allen, a law professor at American University and an expert in financial stability. Good news! Hilary agreed to come on the podcast to talk about all things DeFi.
    Now, finance is … complicated. I was intimidated to write about it. But don’t let that deter you from listening to this episode — Allen is an incredible explainer of how complex dynamics within the financial system interact. In our conversation, we discussed:
    * How ‘DeFi’ — despite having ‘decentralization right there in the name — isn’t actually decentralized. (For early Untangled readers and listeners — and here, I’m mostly referring to my dad and my sister — this won’t be surprising.)
    * How transparent on-chain data isn’t terribly useful when systems are complex. Ah, yes, remember the limits of transparency?
    * How Hilary would regulate DeFi if given a blank sheet of paper.
    If you’re thinking to yourself, “eh, why do I have to care about DeFi?” Hilary and I also talk about how a future collapse of DeFi could impact all of us. Listen to the end to hear how! It’s…not great.
    You can find more from Hilary on Twitter.
    As always, if you like the podcast, please review it, rate it, and share it. Make it go to the moon!
    Until next time,
    Charley
    Credits:
    Track: The Perpetual Ticking of Time — Artificial.Music [Audio Library Release]
    Music provided by Audio Library Plus


    Get full access to Untangled with Charley Johnson at untangled.substack.com/subscribe

    • 35 min
    Why harassment happens online

    Why harassment happens online

    Hi, welcome back to the podcast edition of Untangled. You must be thinking “whoa, two podcasts in two weeks, you’re really working hard to produce that sweet, sweet content.” You’re right, I am! But, like any relationship, this is a two-way street, so please do your part by subscribing to Untangled on Apple or Spotify, and sharing this episode with a few friends.
    This month I wrote about pseudonymity, harassment, and what they reveal about our relationship to technology. In the newsletter, I drew upon Alice Marwick’s model of “morally motivated networked harassment” to help contextualize the backlash to Katie Notopoulos’s story that revealed the real identities of the pseudonymous founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club.
    Marwick’s model is the best explanation for why harassment happens online that I’ve come across, so I was thrilled to host her on Untangled to dive into it. Marwick is an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she researches the social, political, and cultural implications of popular social media technologies. In this episode, we discuss:
    * The “morally motivated networked harassment” (MMNH) model and what it helps explain that we didn’t understand before.
    * The impact of networked harassment at an individual, group, and societal level.
    * Why social media companies aren’t designed or incentivized to address networked harassment.
    * How networked harassment relates to the process of online radicalization.
    Listen to the end to hear what advice Marwick would offer her teenage self.
    You can find more from Alice on Twitter.
    As always, if you like the podcast, please review it, rate it, and share it.
    Until next time,
    Charley
    p.s. What’s the point of having a newsletter if you can’t wish your Dad a Happy Father’s Day? So - Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
    Credits:
    Track: The Perpetual Ticking of Time — Artificial.Music [Audio Library Release]
    Music provided by Audio Library Plus



    Get full access to Untangled with Charley Johnson at untangled.substack.com/subscribe

    • 38 min
    She revealed the names of the pseudonymous founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Here's why.

    She revealed the names of the pseudonymous founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. Here's why.

    Hi, welcome back to the podcast edition of Untangled. Not long ago, I had the terrifying thought, “is the Internet out of content? Have I reached the end of the Internet??” Luckily, I didn’t have to contemplate that question for too long before a new season of Love on the Spectrum came out. Thank you, Netflix! 😂
    The point is: the Internet isn’t all bad, and you can preempt that same anxious thought by watching Love on the Spectrum AND, importantly, subscribing to Untangled on Apple or Spotify.

    (Oh, and please leave recommendations for your favorite current shows in the comments!)
    This month I wrote about pseudonymity, harassment, and what they reveal about our relationship to technology. I argue that pseudonymity is not a neutral cover from the world; that whether it protects your safety or your power depends on your position in society. The essay centers on a high-stakes story by Sr. Technology Reporter at BuzzFeed News, Katie Notopoulos, that exposed the real identities of the founders of the Bored Ape Yacht Club.
    I was thrilled to host Katie on the podcast to talk about that story and the backlash to it. She is a trenchant and hilarious(!) writer with a nuanced understanding of Internet culture. In our conversation, we discuss:
    * Why reporting on crypto is different from reporting on other tech issues.
    * How Katie figured out the real identities of the founders.
    * The pluses and minuses of pseudonymity.
    * The harassment she experienced after publishing the story and how she responded.
    Between the two of us, we also pronounced “pseudonymity” maybe eight or ten different ways? Count along as you listen — it’ll be a fun game.
    You can find Katie on Twitter or follow her writing here. As always, if you like the podcast, please review it, rate it, and share it.
    Until next time,
    Charley
    Credits:
    * Track: The Perpetual Ticking of Time — Artificial.Music [Audio Library Release]
    * Music provided by Audio Library Plus
    * Here
    * http://alplus.io/PerpetualTickingOfTime


    Get full access to Untangled with Charley Johnson at untangled.substack.com/subscribe

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