8 episodes

Welcome to the Urgent Futures Podcast, the show that brings you TOMORROW'S IDEAS TODAY. Each episode, I sit down with leading thinkers for big idea dialogues that clarify the chaos, from culture to the cosmos. Stick around to hear the research, concepts, and questions that animate their approaches to reality.

www.realitystudies.co

Urgent Futures with Jesse Damiani Jesse Damiani

    • Society & Culture
    • 5.0 • 8 Ratings

Welcome to the Urgent Futures Podcast, the show that brings you TOMORROW'S IDEAS TODAY. Each episode, I sit down with leading thinkers for big idea dialogues that clarify the chaos, from culture to the cosmos. Stick around to hear the research, concepts, and questions that animate their approaches to reality.

www.realitystudies.co

    Lisa Messeri: Unreal Realities in Los Angeles and VR | Urgent Futures Ep. 8

    Lisa Messeri: Unreal Realities in Los Angeles and VR | Urgent Futures Ep. 8

    Welcome to the Urgent Futures podcast, the show that finds signal in the noise. Each week, I sit down with leading thinkers whose research, concepts, and questions clarify the chaos, from culture to the cosmos.
    The best way to support the show, you ask? Pop over to YouTube and hit that Subscribe button. You hear it all the time for a reason—nothing will help the channel grow more than that simple click.
    Lisa Messeri is an associate professor in sociocultural anthropology at Yale University. Her research focuses on the norms, aspirations, and consequences of work done by expert communities as they forge new fields of knowledge and invention. She is the author of In the Land of the Unreal: Virtual and Other Realities in Los Angeles (Duke University Press, 2024) and Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds (Duke University Press, 2016). Her research has been featured in The New York Times, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, PBS’s Nova Next, and Wired. Messeri received her Ph.D. from MIT’s program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society.
    All of the conversations I host on Urgent Futures are personal; they’re conversations with people I think understand something about the shape of things to come. But this conversation with Lisa was especially personal for me. In the Land of the Unreal is an ethnography of the VR community in Los Angeles in 2018. All three of these details hold great significance in my life.
    I see my work in the VR community—in Los Angeles—starting in 2014, as the beginning of my professional career. Or at least my professional identity. Much of how I now understand reality and the real were also forged during this time. It’s an inevitable outcome of working in an industry that is making active claims about reality (however correct or not). Looking back, 2018 is when the first inklings of my ideas about Postreality started to come into view, when the initial VR hype had simmered, and when political realities came crashing into the tech’s utopian ideals.
    I’ve spent the past few years reflecting on this time, feeling a little sheepish about the ways I was magnetized by some of these grand visions. Lisa’s book really captures what all of that felt like—in my view, it’s as close to being there as we’re going to be able to get. And most importantly, her elaboration of the concept of the unreal, this interplay between fact and fantasy, feels more relevant now than ever. Do yourself a favor and go buy the book!
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    NOTE: Purchasing through these links supports the work I do with Reality Studies. I will only ever share products that I would endorse regardless of financial incentive.
    ZBiotics: Right now, get 10% off ZBiotics. Just head over to zbiotics.com and use code JESSEDAMIANI. The next day after drinking feels way better when you take one of these. Art fairs have no shortage of alcohol—perfect time to test drive ZBiotics.
    Genetically engineered by a team of PhD microbiologists, ZBiotics is a probiotic drink that breaks down the byproduct of alcohol responsible for rough mornings after drinking (acetaldehyde).
    NordVPN: Right now, get up to 74% off + 3 months extra through this link. Some people tell me that “VPN” brings to mind ideas of hackers and the dark web, but honestly VPNs are just an extremely easy way to stay much safer online. I’ve used NordVPN for the past four years, and appreciate what they offer, including Threat Protection against malware, 24/7 customer support, fast speeds, and more. One account can protect up to 6 devices (phone and computer), and they don’t track or share what you do online. Another benefit: you can always access the content/apps you have at home, wherever in the world you are.
    Mission Farms CBD: Mission Farms CBD crafts full-spectrum CBD products for specific conditions like sleep, stress, and discomfort, using a combination of CBD and terpenes found in essential oi

    • 2 hr 1 min
    Dennis Yi Tenen: The Hidden History of Modern AI & Machine Learning | Urgent Futures Ep. 7

    Dennis Yi Tenen: The Hidden History of Modern AI & Machine Learning | Urgent Futures Ep. 7

    Welcome to the Urgent Futures podcast, the show that finds signal in the noise. Each week, I sit down with leading thinkers whose research, concepts, and questions clarify the chaos, from culture to the cosmos.
    The best way to support the show, you ask? Pop over to YouTube and hit that Subscribe button. You hear it all the time for a reason—nothing will help the channel grow more than that simple click.
    🎧 For audio-only, subscribe to Apple Podcasts & Spotify so you never miss an episode!
    My guest today is Dennis Yi Tenen.
    Dennis Yi Tenen is an associate professor of English at Columbia University, where he also co-directs the Center for Comparative Media. His research happens at the intersection of people, text, and technology. A long-time affiliate of Columbia’s Data Science Institute, formerly a Microsoft engineer in the Windows group and fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, his code runs on millions of personal computers worldwide.
    Tenen received his doctorate in Comparative Literature at Harvard University under the advisement of Elaine Scarry and William Todd. The founder of Columbia’s Literary Modeling and Visualization Lab, he co-edits the On Method book series at Columbia University Press. His published work can be found in monographs including Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation (Stanford University Press, 2017), Literary Theory for Robots (W.W. Norton, 2024) and Author Function under contract with Chicago UP. His recent articles appear on the pages of Modern Philology, New Literary History, Amodern, boundary2, Computational Culture, and Modernism/modernity on topics that span literary theory, the sociology of literature, media history, and computational narratology.
    I first directly encountered Dennis’s work through Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation, though of course I indirectly encountered his work through my first brush with cell phones as a teenager. AI, as both a concept and industry, continues to be a center for white hot debate, which leads to extremes of hype and doomerism. What I find so refreshing about Dennis’s overall approach, spelled out in plain English in Literary Theory for Robots, is that technology is not some unknowable force—it’s the physical manifestation of human coordination. And it’s deeply embedded with the history of language (which itself is a type of technology). As someone working directly at the intersection of data and the humanities, he’s uniquely qualified to examine this hybrid history and present, and his perspective has influenced my own considerably.
    Get your copy of Literary Theory for Robots here!
    CREDITS: This podcast is edited and produced by Adam Labrie and me, Jesse Damiani. Adam Labrie also directed, shot, and edited the video version of the podcast, which is available on YouTube. The podcast is presented by Reality Studies. If you appreciate the work I’m doing, please subscribe and share it with someone you think would enjoy it.
    Find more episodes of Urgent Futures at: youtube.com/@UrgentFutures. Past conversations include Taylor Lorenz, Asad J. Malik, Lia Halloran & Kip Thorne, Cherie Hu, Eric Czuleger, Idris Brewster, and more.
    Reality Studies is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.



    Get full access to Reality Studies at www.realitystudies.co/subscribe

    • 1 hr 38 min
    Idris Brewster: Why AR Matters

    Idris Brewster: Why AR Matters

    Welcome to the Urgent Futures podcast, the show that finds signal in the noise. Each week, I sit down with leading thinkers whose research, concepts, and questions clarify the chaos, from culture to the cosmos.
    The best way to support the show, you ask? Pop over to YouTube and hit that Subscribe button. You hear it all the time for a reason—nothing will help the channel grow more than that simple click.
    🎧 For audio-only, subscribe to Apple Podcasts & Spotify so you never miss an episode!
    My guest today is Idris Brewster.
    Idris Brewster is a Brooklyn-born artist and creative technologist who disrupts traditional narratives through spatial experiences. Idris’s work explores the liminal space between the historical archive, public space, and technology. Idris is the Executive Director of Kinfolk Foundation, an augmented reality archive that puts the power of monument making and historical preservation into the hands of Black and Brown communities. Idris has received several awards and recognitions for his work, including Forbes 30 under 30, Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, New Museum, Eyebeam, and the Museum of Modern Art.
    The Apple Vision Pro has everyone talking about spatial computing again, but as I’ve said in the past and continue to believe after a decade in the industry: XR adoption is a question of culture. Cultural norms will ultimately determine if and how spatial computing becomes a reality.
    I’m not even saying we should necessarily be advocating for spatial computing to be adopted at mass scale—my opinions on that continue to evolve. But what I know for certain is that the only way I believe we’ll see positive outcomes is by using the tools for different ends than data harvesting and advertising; using the tools in unexpected ways, in ways that are unique to them.
    To that end, Idris is doing urgent work through Kinfolk. One of AR’s unique affordances is its ability to activate specific real-world sites. In Kinfolk’s case, those activations are about revealing erased histories, deepening context to space. And those new understandings don’t leave you when you put the phone down. This is something that came up in an earlier episode of Urgent Futures with Asad J. Malik, and it’s something I’ve learned firsthand through working with Nancy Baker Cahill on AR public art projects like Battlegrounds (2019).
    One of my goals for this show is to square my background as somebody covering and working in technology with my sense that we are in a critical time for developing new systems that will sustain life on earth. Modes of information, communication, and creative expression are part of that picture, and Idris’s work and thinking demonstrates why.
    Reality Studies Recommends:
    NOTE: Purchasing through these links supports the work I do with Reality Studies. I will only ever share products that I would endorse regardless of financial incentive.
    ZBiotics: Right now, get 10% off ZBiotics. Just head over to zbiotics.com and use code JESSEDAMIANI. The next day after drinking feels way better when you take one of these. Art fairs have no shortage of alcohol—perfect time to test drive ZBiotics.
    Genetically engineered by a team of PhD microbiologists, ZBiotics is a probiotic drink that breaks down the byproduct of alcohol responsible for rough mornings after drinking (acetaldehyde).
    NordVPN: Right now, get up to 66% off + 3 months extra through this link. Some people tell me that “VPN” brings to mind ideas of hackers and the dark web, but honestly VPNs are just an extremely easy way to stay much safer online. I’ve used NordVPN for the past four years, and appreciate what they offer, including Threat Protection against malware, 24/7 customer support, fast speeds, and more. One account can protect up to 6 devices (phone and computer), and they don’t track or share what you do online. Another benefit: you can always access the content/apps you have at home, wherever in the world you are.

    • 1 hr 45 min
    Eric Czuleger: What's...a Country?

    Eric Czuleger: What's...a Country?

    Welcome to the Urgent Futures podcast, the show that finds signal in the noise. Each week, I sit down with leading thinkers whose research, concepts, and questions clarify the chaos, from culture to the cosmos.
    Want to see the video version of the show? Pop over to YouTube and hit that Subscribe button so you never miss an episode.
    My guest today is Eric Czuleger. His fascination with travel, history, and politics began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania. After service, he completed his first circle of the globe. Returning to the U.S. he worked as a barista, yoga instructor, intelligence analyst, journalist, and tech storyteller. Eric spent his year of statelessness while completing his MSt in creative writing at Oxford University. He's lived, worked, and traveled through 47 countries and climbed two of the seven summits. Czuleger is the author of Eternal L.A., and Immortal L.A. He is also the writer and reader of the Howl Podcast, which is strange short fiction for a strange short existence.
    Reality Studies Recommends (Note: Purchasing through these links supports the work I do with Reality Studies. I will only ever share products that I would endorse regardless of financial incentive.)
    ZBiotics: Right now, get 10% off with code JESSEDAMIANI at zbiotics.com. The next day after drinking feels way better when you take one of these.
    NordVPN: Right now, get up to 66% off + 3 months extra through this link. It's an extremely easy way to stay much safer online.
    Mission Farms CBD: Lots of junk CBD on the market, but Mission Farms CBD is the real deal. Head over to missionfarmscbd.com and use code EARTH25 for 25% off.
    CREDITS: This podcast is edited and produced by Adam Labrie and me, Jesse Damiani. Adam Labrie also directed, shot, and edited the video version of the podcast, which is available on YouTube. The podcast is presented by Reality Studies. If you appreciate the work I’m doing, please subscribe and share it with someone you think would enjoy it.
    For more information visit: https://www.realitystudies.co/


    Get full access to Reality Studies at www.realitystudies.co/subscribe

    • 1 hr 56 min
    Cherie Hu: What's Next for the Music Industry? AI, Blockchain, and More

    Cherie Hu: What's Next for the Music Industry? AI, Blockchain, and More

    Welcome to the Urgent Futures podcast, the show that finds signal in the noise. Each week, I sit down with leading thinkers whose research, concepts, and questions clarify the chaos, from culture to the cosmos.
    The best way to support the show, you ask? Pop over to YouTube and hit that Subscribe button. You hear it all the time for a reason—nothing will help the channel grow more than that simple click.
    My guest today is Cherie Hu.
    Cherie is an award-winning researcher, founder, and educator forging new paths in music, technology, and business. Since 2019, she has run Water & Music, a global innovation platform for the music business. Through data-driven market research, online courses, consulting projects, and live events, Water & Music has helped thousands of industry professionals translate emergent music-tech trends into transformative opportunities in business and culture. She has also published hundreds of articles for Billboard, Forbes, NPR Music, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Variety, and DJ Mag, among many others. In Fall 2024, Hu will be joining Syracuse University's Bandier Program for Recording and Entertainment Industries as a Professor of Practice, focused on teaching emerging music business models and technologies.
    Cherie is my go-to source for understanding key matters in the music business. Music is a domain where developments in technology often land early but have spillover effects in other industries. Think about how prominent sampling and remix culture have become through music, and the effect in domains like art, design, and video.
    In our conversation, which we recorded in December 2023, Cherie artfully walks us through the music business, and in the process reflects on broader shifts in technology such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. She also makes a pretty big prediction for 2024—hop into the episode to find out.
    Reality Studies Recommends:
    NOTE: Purchasing through these links supports the work I do with Reality Studies. I will only ever share products that I would endorse regardless of financial incentive.
    ZBiotics: Right now, get 10% off ZBiotics. Just head over to zbiotics.com and use code JESSEDAMIANI. The next day after drinking feels way better when you take one of these. Art fairs have no shortage of alcohol—perfect time to test drive ZBiotics.
    Genetically engineered by a team of PhD microbiologists, ZBiotics is a probiotic drink that breaks down the byproduct of alcohol responsible for rough mornings after drinking (acetaldehyde).
    NordVPN: Right now, get up to 69% off + 3 months extra through this link. Some people tell me that “VPN” brings to mind ideas of hackers and the dark web, but honestly VPNs are just an extremely easy way to stay much safer online. I’ve used NordVPN for the past four years, and appreciate what they offer, including Threat Protection against malware, 24/7 customer support, fast speeds, and more. One account can protect up to 6 devices (phone and computer), and they don’t track or share what you do online. Another benefit: you can always access the content/apps you have at home, wherever in the world you are.
    Mission Farms CBD: Mission Farms CBD crafts full-spectrum CBD products for specific conditions like sleep, stress, and discomfort, using a combination of CBD and terpenes found in essential oils. I swear by this stuff: I take one of their Marionberry Lemon gummies to end each day.
    There’s a lot of junk CBD on the market. All of Mission Farms’s CBD comes from a small farm in Bend, Oregon. They farm the hemp organically, tend every plant by hand, and test for purity four times: the soil, the hemp, the hemp-extract, and the final products. This CBD is designed for wellness and it shows. Go to this link and use code SPRINGISHERE for 25% off.
    CREDITS: This podcast is edited and produced by Adam Labrie and me, Jesse Damiani. Adam Labrie also directed, shot, and edited the video version of the podcast, which is available on YouTube. The podcast i

    • 1 hr 40 min
    Lia Halloran & Kip Thorne: A Trip Through the Warped Side of Our Universe

    Lia Halloran & Kip Thorne: A Trip Through the Warped Side of Our Universe

    Welcome to the Reality Studies podcast! This podcast tries to clarify the chaos, from culture to the cosmos. Each episode, I sit down with leading thinkers for big idea dialogues about the research, concepts, and questions that animate their approaches to reality.
    My guests today are Lia Halloran and Kip Thorne.
    Lia Halloran is an award-winning artist who has exhibited widely in galleries and museums. She’s also Chair of the department of Art and Associate Professor at Chapman University. She lives with her wife and two children in Los Angeles, CA.
    Kip Thorne is a Nobel-Prize winning physicist and the Feynman Professor of Theoretical physics emeritus at Caltech. He is also the author of the best-selling books Black Holes and Time Warps andThe Science of Interstellar. He lives with his wife in Pasadena, CA.
    Lia and Kip are the co-authors of the forthcoming book, ‘The Warped Side of Our Universe: An Odyssey Through Black Holes, Wormholes, Time Travel, and Gravitational Waves.’ This book is wild, to say the least. It’s a hybrid epic poem and art book, featuring Kip’s poetry and Lia’s paintings. But what I most appreciate about this book is how it manages to feel like one cohesive beast, rather than two different elements smashed together (no hate to Postal Service, of course).
    As a poet myself, I’m thrilled to see a work like this come into the world. It’s playful, beautiful, trippy, and within all that still manages to educate. It’s so clear that these two love this stuff—not only the ideas but the art and poetry and the chance to make something surprising. 
    We shot this interview in Lia’s studio, where we were surrounded by her incredible work at full-scale. Contrasting the trippy foray into the universe’s weird warped side, you’ll notice some extremely down-to-earth moments in this podcast. I mean that not only in terms of how humble these two are, as well as many delightful moments of mutual admiration, but also with a few audio intrusions, things like neighbors, dogs, machinery, and so on.
    This book feels like an immersive sensory experience, where complex ideas are distilled into verse, and visualized through the evocative medium of painting. It’s the jump-off point to a wide-ranging conversation that touches on the role of collaboration, working interdisciplinarily, the use of art and language as tools for visualizing complex science, and, you know, a whole bunch of wild stuff about gravity.
    A quick note for those who live in (or will be traveling to) the Los Angeles area: artworks associated with the book will be on view at her solo exhibition at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles, Lia Halloran: Warped Side, which runs Nov. 4 - Dec. 23.
    Additionally, a limited edition print of artwork from the book will be available for purchase on the website from October 31 - November 14. Subscribe to Lia’s mailing list or visit her website to learn more.
    To view this episode, visit youtube.com/@RealityStudies. Find the full episode transcript at the official Reality Studies website: realitystudies.co.


    Get full access to Reality Studies at www.realitystudies.co/subscribe

    • 1 hr 23 min

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