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VIRTUAL: Launch for Tim Hwang / Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet

October 14, 2020 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm PDT

The Internet Archive and Booksmith present the virtual launch for Tim Hwang‘s new book, Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet.

** Please note **

>  This event is free and all ages, but RSVP is required.

>  We’re happy to announce we have *signed copies* for the first 50 orders. If you’d like a copy of Subprime Attention Crisis, you can purchase one here or below. We are currently offering free shipping throughout San Francisco and the East Bay. Questions? Write events@booksmith.com.

About this event

Advertising is the seemingly unstoppable financial engine that has powered the meteoric growth of the modern web. What if it’s more fragile than it looks?

In his new book, Subprime Attention Crisis: Advertising and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Internet, researcher Tim Hwang makes the case that the core advertising model driving Google, Facebook, and many of the most powerful companies on the internet is — at its heart — a multibillion dollar financial bubble. Drawing parallels to the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, Hwang shines a spotlight on the lack of transparency, flawed incentives, and outright fraud that keep this machine running.

Join us for a virtual book talk with the author and New York Times technology reporter Kashmir Hill. Hill writes about the unexpected and sometimes ominous ways technology is changing our lives, particularly when it comes to our privacy. Her work has appeared in Forbes Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post. Their discussion will tackle:

  • Why data-driven, online advertising may be much, much less effective than it looks
  • The long-term impact of the covid-19 recession on the media and online ads
  • Whether or not the giants of Big Tech are already “too big to fail”

This discussion will also focus on the future, and how we might be able to transition to a better, more financially robust internet. Joining the discussion will be Desigan Chinniah, who co-leads Grant for the Web—a $100 million fund launched in 2019 to spur open standards and pilot new sustainable business models for the internet.

About the book

In Subprime Attention Crisis, Tim Hwang investigates the way big tech financializes attention. In the process, he shows us how digital advertising—the beating heart of the internet—is at risk of collapsing, and that its potential demise bears an uncanny resemblance to the housing crisis of 2008. From the unreliability of advertising numbers and the unregulated automation of advertising bidding wars, to the simple fact that online ads mostly fail to work, Hwang demonstrates that while consumers’ attention has never been more prized, the true value of that attention itself—much like subprime mortgages—is wildly misrepresented. And if online advertising goes belly-up, the internet—and its free services—will suddenly be accessible only to those who can afford it. Deeply researched, convincing, and alarming, Subprime Attention Crisis will change the way you look at the internet, and its precarious future.

“Using apt analogies and accessible terminology, Hwang makes a persuasive case that the internet bubble is bound to burst. This wake-up call rings loud and clear.” – Publishers Weekly

“In this well-grounded, heretical attack on the fictions that uphold the online advertising ecosystem, Subprime Attention Crisis destroys the illusion that programmatic ads are effective and financially sound. One can only hope that this book will be used to pop the bubble that benefits so few.” – danah boyd, founder of Data & Society, and Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research

Tim Hwang is a writer and researcher. He is the former director of the Harvard-MIT Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative, and previously served as the global public policy lead for artificial intelligence and machine learning at Google. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wired, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal, among other publications. He lives in New York City. Subprime Attention Crisis is his first book.

Moderator Kashmir Hill is a tech reporter based in New York for the New York Times. She writes about the unexpected and sometimes ominous ways technology is changing our lives, particularly when it comes to our privacy. Hill worked as an investigative reporter at Gizmodo Media Group and as a writer and editor at Fusion, Forbes Magazine, and Above the Law. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker and The Washington Post. In 2018, she gave a TED talk—”What your smart devices know (and share) about you”—in which she described what happened when she transformed her apartment into a smart home and monitored the data being sent out of it.

Panelist Desigan Chinniah (aka-“Dees”) is a creative technologist, certified firestarter, sneakerhead and champion tea-drinker. After check-ins at various dot-coms (Mozilla Firefox, eBay, PayPal, BBC, Skype, Ask Jeeves) over the last two decades, he today has a portfolio of advisory roles with global early-stage technology startups. He recently co-created Grant for the Web, a $100M fund supported by Mozilla and Creative Commons, to catalyse alternative business models on the web using open protocols and web standards.

This event is free and all ages, but RSVP is required. RSVP here.


October 14, 2020
10:00 am - 12:00 pm PDT
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The Booksmith
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