112th: Tim Wu and Mara Einstein
Please join us on Monday, December 5th at 7pm for a discussion with Tim Wu, author The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, and Mara Einstein, author of Black Ops Advertising.
Attention merchant: an industrial-scale harvester of human attention. A firm whose business model is the mass capture of attention for resale to advertisers. In nearly every moment of our waking lives, we face a barrage of advertising enticements, branding efforts, sponsored social media, commercials and other efforts to harvest our attention. Over the last century, few times or spaces have remained uncultivated by the "attention merchants," contributing to the distracted, unfocused tenor of our times. Tim Wu argues that this is not simply the byproduct of recent inventions but the end result of more than a century's growth and expansion in the industries that feed on human attention. From the pre-Madison Avenue birth of advertising to TV's golden age to our present age of radically individualized choices, the business model of "attention merchants" has always been the same. He describes the revolts that have risen against these relentless attempts to influence our consumption, from the remote control to FDA regulations to Apple's ad-blocking OS. But he makes clear that attention merchants grow ever-new heads, and their means of harvesting our attention have given rise to the defining industries of our time, changing our nature--cognitive, social, and otherwise--in ways unimaginable even a generation ago.
Black Ops Advertising dissects this rapid rise of “sponsored content,” a strategy whereby advertisers have become publishers and publishers create advertising—all under the guise of unbiased information. Covert selling, mostly in the form of native advertising and content marketing, has so blurred the lines between editorial content and marketing message that it is next to impossible to tell real news from paid endorsements. In the 21st century, instead of telling us to buy, buy, BUY, marketers “engage” with us so that we share, share, SHARE—the ultimate subtle sell.
Tim Wu is an author, policy advocate, and professor at Columbia University, best known for coining the term "net neutrality." In 2006, Scientific American named him one of 50 leaders in science and technology; in 2007, 01238 magazine listed him as one of Harvard's 100 most influential graduates; in 2013, National Law Journal included him in "America's 100 Most Influential Lawyers"; and in 2014 and 2015, he was named to the "Politico 50." He formerly wrote for Slate, where he won the Lowell Thomas Gold medal for Travel Journalism, and is a contributing writer for The New Yorker. In 2015, he was appointed to the Executive Staff of the Office of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman as a senior enforcement counsel and special adviser.
Mara Einstein is professor of media studies at Queens College, City University of New York, and an independent marketing consultant. She has been working in, or writing about, media and marketing for more than 25 years, and been an executive at NBC, MTV Networks, and at major advertising agencies. Dr. Einstein is the author of a number of books, including Compassion, Inc. (University of California Press), which examines the growing trend of promoting consumer products as a means to fund social causes and effective social change.