Produced by the University of California, Berkeley's Social Science Matrix, the Matrix Podcast features interviews with scholars from across the UC Berkeley campus. The Matrix Podcast is hosted by Professor Michael Watts, Emeritus "Class of 1963" Professor of Geography and Development Studies at UC Berkeley.

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Joan Donovan, "The True Costs of Misinformation: Producing Moral and Technical Order in a Time of Pandemonium"

Recorded on February 19, 2021, this Matrix podcast episode features a lecture by Joan Donovan, Research Director for the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. This event was presented as part of the "Solidarity and Strife: Democracies in a Time of Pandemic" initiative, funded by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and co-sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley's Social Science Matrix and the D-Lab.

Dr. Donovan leads the field in examining internet and technology studies, online extremism, media manipulation, and disinformation campaigns. Dr. Donovan leads The Technology and Social Change Project (TaSC), which explores how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. TaSC conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns. Dr. Donovan's research and teaching interests are focused on media manipulation, effects of disinformation campaigns, and adversarial media movements.


Authors Meet Critics: Steven Weber: "Bloc by Bloc: How to Build a Global Enterprise for the New Regional Order"

Recorded on February 11, 2021, this episode features a Social Science Matrix "Authors Meet Critics" panel discussion, features Professor Steven Weber, a political scientist and professor in the UC Berkeley School of Information. Weber discusses his book, Bloc by Bloc: How to Build a Global Enterprise for the New Regional Order, together with Vinod K. Aggarwal, Professor of Political Science, and Homa Bahrami, Senior Lecturer in the Haas School of Business. The panel was introduced by Marion Fourcade, Director of Matrix, and moderated by AnnaLee Saxenian, Professor in the UC Berkeley School of Information.

"Bloc by Bloc" puts forward a compelling model for global organization that integrates modern developments in technology and governance. Weber argues that the global political economy is decomposing into regional systems that are more densely linked internally and much more loosely linked to each other. But the new regions are not defined by familiar physical boundaries like mountains and oceans. They are defined by technology rules and standards, which means we need to re-envision a region as a logical not physical space, with no need for geographic contiguity. The panel was presented by the Social Science Matrix and the Center for Long-Term Cybersecurity, where Weber serves as faculty director. You can watch a video of the event here.



Rebecca Herman

In this podcast, Michael Watts interviews Rebecca Herman, Assistant Professor of History, UC Berkeley. Professor Herman's research and writing examine modern Latin American history in a global context. Her first book, forthcoming from Oxford University Press, reconstructs the history of U.S. military basing in Latin America during World War II – through high diplomacy and on-the-ground examinations of race, labor, sex and law – to reveal the origins and impact of inter-American “security cooperation” on domestic and international politics in the region. She has also authored past and forthcoming articles and book chapters on the global politics of anti-racism, the Cuban literacy campaign, the Brazilian labor justice system, and U.S.-Latin American relations. She is currently working on a new book project on Antarctica, Latin America, and the World.

Prior to entering academia, she spent several years in Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Brazil working as a freelance translator, researcher, and documentarian. Before joining the faculty at Berkeley, she was Assistant Professor of International Studies and Latin American Studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. She received her Ph.D. in History from UC Berkeley and her B.A. in Literature and History from Duke.


Danielle Allen: "Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century"

Recorded on February 3, 2021, this podcast features a Matrix Distinguished Lecture by Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. Professor Allen’s lecture focuses on the findings of "Our Common Purpose: Reinventing Democracy for the 21st Century," a report by the American Academy’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship. Allen served as co-chair of the Commission, which convened weekly for two years in support of this project. As detailed in the report, the Commission was established to “consider what it means to be a good citizen in the twenty-first century, and to ask how all of us might obtain the values, knowledge, and skills to become still better citizens…. Through its recommendations, the Commission has looked to increase citizens’ capacity to engage in their communities, counter rising threats to democratic self-government, and rebuild trust in political institutions.”

The lecture was introduced and moderated by Henry Brady, Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy and Class of 1941 Monroe Deutsch Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.


Matrix Lecture: Measuring Belief in Fake News Online: Joshua A. Tucker, Professor of Politics, New York University

How well can ordinary people do in identifying the veracity of news in real time?  In this lecture, recorded on Feb. 1, 2021, Professor Joshua Tucker reported on preliminary findings from a study focused on this important question. Using a unique research design that involved crowdsourcing popular news articles from both mainstream and suspect news sources that have appeared in the past 24 hours to both ordinary citizens and professional fact checkers, Professor Tucker researched the characteristics of those likely to incorrectly identify false news stories as true, the results of interventions to attempt to reduce the prevalence of this behavior, and the prospects for crowdsourcing to serve as a viable means for identifying false news stories in real time.

This lecture was presented as part of the "Solidarity and Strife: Democracies in a Time of Pandemic" initiative, funded by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and co-sponsored by Social Science Matrix and the D-Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.


Clancy Wilmott

In this episode, Professor Michael Watts interviews Clancy Wilmott, Assistant Professor in Critical Cartography, Geovisualisation, and Design in the Berkeley Centre for New Media and the Department of Geography. Professor Wilmott comes to UC Berkeley from the Department of Geography at the University of Manchester, where she received her PhD in Human Geography with a multi-site study on the interaction between mobile phone maps, cartographic discourse, and postcolonial landscapes. At UC Berkeley, Professor Wilmott is teaching graduate-level combined theory/studio courses on locative media, cross listed courses in digital geographies, as well as core curriculum on geographic information systems in the Geography department.

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Leigh Raiford

In this episode, Michael Watts interviews Leigh Raiford, Associate Professor of African American Studies at UC Berkeley and author of Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare: Photography and the African American Freedom Struggle, finalist for the 2011 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians First Book Prize. In her book, Raiford argues that over the past one hundred years, activists in the black freedom struggle have used photographic imagery both to gain political recognition and to develop a different visual vocabulary about black lives. Offering readings of the use of photography in the anti-lynching movement, the civil rights movement, and the black power movement, Imprisoned in a Luminous Glare focuses on key transformations in technology, society, and politics to understand the evolution of photography's deployment in capturing white oppression, black resistance, and African American life.

Listen below or download here.

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Dacher Keltner

In this episode, Michael Watts talks with Dacher Keltner, Professor of Psychology, Director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory, and Faculty Director of the Greater Good Science Center.

Dacher’s research focuses the biological and evolutionary origins of emotion, in particular prosocial states such as compassion, awe, love, and beauty, and power, social class, and inequality. He is the co-author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness, and The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence. Dacher has published over 200 scientific articles, written for many media outlets, and consulted for the Center for Constitutional Rights (to help end solitary confinement), Google, Facebook, the Sierra Club, and for Pixar’s Inside Out.

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Desiree Fields

In this episode, Michael Watts talks with Desiree Fields, Assistant Professor of Geography and Global Metropolitan Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Fields' research explores the financial technologies, market devices, and historical and geographic contingencies that make it possible to treat housing as a financial asset, and how this process is contested at the urban scale. At the heart of her work is an interest in how economic and transformations unevenly restructure urban space and social relations, with a particular concern for how urban struggles for justice coalesce around these changes. Within this broadly defined area, she examines two transformations as they relate to housing, a crucial vector of urban inequality and terrain of grassroots political contestation. First, the shift to a finance-oriented political economy; second, the growing global reach and power of digital platforms.

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Mariane Ferme

In this episode, Michael Watts talks with Mariane C. Ferme, Professor of Anthropology at UC Berkeley and the author of Out of War: Violence, Trauma, and the Political Imagination in Sierra Leone and The Underneath of Things: Violence, History, and the Everyday in Sierra Leone.

Ferme is a sociocultural anthropologist whose current research focuses on the political imagination, violence and conflict, and access to justice in West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone. Her research encompasses gendered approaches to everyday practices and materiality in agrarian West African societies, and work on the political imagination in times of violence, particularly in relation to the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone. Her most recent fieldwork in Sierra Leone—carried out in 2015-16—was an interdisciplinary research project on changing agrarian institutions and access to land in the country. Ferme's latest book, Out of War: Violence, Trauma, and the Political Imagination in Sierra Leone, draws on her three decades of ethnographic engagements to examine the physical and psychological aftereffects of the harms of Sierra Leone's civil war.

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Brittany Birberick

In this episode, Professor Michael Watts interviews Brittany Birberick, an anthropology PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley — and a former Matrix Dissertation Fellow. Birberick's dissertation project focuses on urban transformation in Johannesburg, South Africa. More broadly, she writes and thinks about economies, migration, temporality, and aesthetics within an urban context. Her dissertation, “Paved with Gold: Urban Transformation in Johannesburg,” situates the city of Johannesburg historically, considering the extractive economy of gold that initiated its development to understand the city’s contemporary tensions: a dilapidated post-apartheid city aiming to be a world-class global city. Her research takes place in Jeppestown, a neighborhood in Johannesburg, and focuses on the inhabitants and built environment of a single street. Today, Jeppestown is portrayed as either on its way to becoming a site of redevelopment by the Johannesburg Development Agency, artists, and private developers, or, if left unattended, a crime ridden area and hotbed of xenophobic violence. The dissertation posits that rather than transformation and development projects leading to an inherently new city or inherently new object, Jeppestown, like many urban areas around the world, is caught in a back and forth between being a successful or failed urban space—a “good” or “bad” city.

Birberick received the Association for Africanist Anthropology's 2019 Bennetta Jules-Rosette Graduate Essay Award for her essay, “Dreaming Numbers," which is an analysis of fafi, a street-based lottery game played by residents in Jeppestown. The piece investigates the ways in which dreams, gambling, and interpreting patterns become meaningful strategies for choosing the next winning number and reducing uncertainty in the city.

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