Following Our Speakers

Keeping in Touch with Our Speakers. we make every effort to keep following the people who are kind enough to come speak to us at the 2pm pre-meeting session.  When we are inspired (as we usually are), their thoughts continue to permeate in our conversations, on these pages, and in our public pronouncements.  Here are evolving summaries of our guest speakers’ presentations and work.

January 19, 2014: Moe Tkacik: Financialization and the 99%.
You can listen to the entire talk here. But here is a quick summary.  Moe is a former Altbanker who, to our great regret (even more so now that we got to hear her thoughts again), now lives in DC and cannot attend our Sunday meetings.  Her presentation was just a tour de force of curiosity, intensity, wide-ranging interest, and humility. She gave about a 30 minute prepared talk, and then took questions, but everything she says has an air of quizzical wonder to it: from admiring the efficiency of the restaurant at which she now works as a barista, including its relatively constricted 5-to-1 top earner to bottom earner wage differential; to analyzing statistics she personally assembled about the growth of house-building compared to vacant housing, and the relative size of both (yes, the rate of house-emptiness way outstrips the rate at which we are building them… and they are bigger on average too). What does that tell us about the real motivations behind building houses anyway?  It would not seem to be about having people live in them.  Enough said. Click the link above and listen to her talk.

December 8, 2013. Merlyna Lim: Social Media and Dissident Movements. Merlyna gave a great presentation on December 8, 2013 is an Assistant Professor at the Consortium for Science Technology at Arizona  State and is visiting at Princeton this year.  Her work focuses on the role of social media and new technologies in fostering activism, with obvious recent concentration on the Mid- and Far- east. Here is a link to her faculty page.

Her presentation was about her research into the role of new media in the Mid and Far east protest movements with fascinating observations about where it is — and is not– actually helpful.  For example, contrary to popular conception, these movements did not just erupt in the past few years, but had long development stages going back to the late 90s during which the social connections necessary for their recent “eruptions” were formed. Texting took the place of face–to–face meetings in countries where severe government regulation of social gatherings was in place. However, social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, were much more important as a way of getting different sectors of society (rather than individuals) to communicate. In this sense, these media served as “brokers” between different, otherwise disconnected, parts of the society.

Interestingly, the success of these media often turned on their being used by traditional community groups, such as soccer clubs in Egypt, which had huge followings quite  accustomed to taking the streets (if for other purposes). We learned a lot with the above being just a smattering.

Cathy blogged about Merlyna’s talk on Mathbabe on Dec. 9.

We can take hope and guidance from Merlyna’s thoughts. The strategy of using new media to “broker” connections to roughly like-minded communities is not one we have adequately pursued, but is something these pages hopefully begin to address.  The fact that we meet every week in person is not an anachronism, but a necessary feature of a modern movement. And the fact that our protests are at times thinly attended, should urge us to work harder, but not dismay. Our actions may serve as examples, whether we ever know it, to people who see them; they bond us as a group, and they may eventually have synergy with our and our friends’ new media efforts to attract a greater crowd.

Merlyna has some presentations on You Tube. Here is one she gave at Princeton. Here she is presenting on a New American Foundation panel.(beginning at about 47 minutes).

Scott Baker gave a great presentation on March 23rd, 2014 to the group discussing a Public Banking option for the State of New York. If you missed it please go to his presentations notes online.