2019 Speakers

Kentaro Toyama

Title: Technology’s Law of Amplification, and What It Means for iSchools

The same social media that connects us with friends and colleagues accelerates fake news. The same Internet that enables international banking allows remote theft and ransomware. The same digital technology that empowers economic growth exacerbates inequality. In 2015, I published a book, Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology(PublicAffairs), that proposed that a simple “Law of Amplification” explained and even predicted these kinds of information technology impacts — positive, negative, and in between. My hope was to influence two key groups familiar to the information community: technologists interested in social change, and social activists excited about applying technology.

Four years out, I am not sure what the net impact of the book has been, but I have received a lot of excellent feedback. In this talk, I will overview the amplification thesis, discuss the feedback I have heard (and not heard), and highlight a paradoxical consequence of technological amplification — that in an age of advanced technology, people and institutions matter even more than before. This last point hints at an essential, discipline-unifying role for Schools of Information that I would like to propose for the iConference community.

BIO: Kentaro Toyama is W. K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan School of Information and a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT. He is the author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology. From 2005-2009, Toyama was co-founder and assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India. There, he started the Technology for Emerging Markets research group, which conducts interdisciplinary research to understand how the world’s poorest communities interact with electronic technology and to invent new ways for technology to support their socio-economic development. Prior to his time in India, Toyama did research in artificial intelligence, computer vision, and human-computer interaction at Microsoft and taught mathematics at Ashesi University in Ghana. Toyama graduated from Yale with a PhD in computer science and from Harvard with a bachelors degree in physics.

Brewster Kahle

Title: Opening our Libraries: Millions of Books Online through Controlled Digital Lending

Today, a growing majority of people get their information online—often filtered through for-profit platforms. For many, if a book isn’t online, it’s as if it doesn’t exist. Yet much of modern knowledge still lives only on the printed page, stored in libraries. Libraries haven’t met this digital demand, stymied by costs, ebook restrictions, policy risks, and missing infrastructure.

But now, through innovations in technology and new legal frameworks, we have the power to transform our library system and bring it into the digital age. The Internet Archive’s Open Libraries project is working with library partners across the country to bring 4 million books online, starting with a wishlist of the most widely held and used books in libraries and classrooms. 

Our project includes expanded circulation of these digital books, enabling libraries who own the physical works to lend digital copies to their patrons.Through Open Libraries, thousands of libraries can unlock their analog collections for a new generation of learners, ensuring free, long-term, public access to knowledge

BIO: A passionate advocate for public Internet access and a successful entrepreneur, Brewster Kahle has spent his career intent on a singular focus: providing Universal Access to All Knowledge. He is the founder and Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, one of the largest libraries in the world. Soon after graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied artificial intelligence, Kahle helped found the company Thinking Machines, a parallel supercomputer maker. In 1989, Kahle created the Internet’s first publishing system called Wide Area Information Server (WAIS), later selling the company to AOL. In 1996, Kahle co-founded Alexa Internet, which helps catalog the Web, selling it to Amazon.com in 1999. The Internet Archive, which he founded in 1996, now preserves 40 petabytes of data – the books, Web pages, music, television, and software of our cultural heritage, working with more than 600 library and university partners to create a digital library, accessible to all.