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Creating a Place for Ethical Debate with Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the CEO & Publisher of the MIT Technology Review

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Technology can no longer be isolated from the rest of life and only discussed in particular circles among scholars, professionals, or those that just like to geek out on tech. This is because the innovation is too rapid, the tools are too powerful, and the stakes are too high. Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the CEO & Publisher of the MIT Technology Review, explains that people must consider how technology is impacting their lives and suggests journalists need to play a role in framing these conversations.

Main Takeaways

    • The Need for Ethical Debate About Technology: Technology is touching just about every area of life. Now, more than ever, thoughtful stories about technology are needed to educate and engage the public in necessary ethical conversations. The question must be asked: Is a certain technology going to be good or bad for humanity and for the world? People must then respectfully debate that question and act accordingly based upon their convictions.
  • Modernizing a Legacy Publication: Many publishing companies have adapted to incorporate a digital space. An important first step to do so is a willingness to disrupt the current publication. Additionally, training writers for this format is an essential step as the format is shorter and the frequency intensifies.  
  • Knowing Your Lane and Always Earning an Audience: A media company, and any organization for that matter, must know its mission. Then, it’s a matter of producing high quality content with that lane in mind and constantly earning an audience by adding value to the customers’ lives.  

For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.

Article:

Technology can no longer be isolated from the rest of life and only discussed in particular circles among scholars, professionals, or those that just like to geek out on tech. This is because the innovation is too rapid, the tools too are too powerful, and the stakes are too high. Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the CEO & Publisher of the MIT Technology Review, explained that people must consider how technology is impacting their lives and suggested journalists need to play a role in framing these conversations.

“There is a quote that we talk about a lot here,” Bramson Boudrea said. “A professor of the history of technology named Melvin Kranzberg said, ‘Technology is neither good, nor bad; nor is it neutral.’ Meaning, you can’t just assume that technology isn’t going to impact the world we live in. And so the journalism that the team here creates is asking those kinds of questions so that we can be conscious, sentient actors in the world that we are finding created around us; in some cases, creating ourselves.”

The current media landscape is more focused on the moment-to-moment, play-by-play of the events of the day rather than a broad, contextualized view of current events. Additionally, conflict is promoted rather than thoughtful debate that provides diverse perspectives with the intention to educate customers. There is a definite need for trusted media sources that can provide accurate information and analysis that sets the table for conversation and understanding. This is, perhaps, even more necessary in the realm of technology because that is touching nearly every aspect of human life.

On a recent episode of IT Visionaries, Bramson-Boudreau shared how the MIT Technology Review has undergone a process of digital transformation to expand its forum for ethical, thoughtful debate about technology. If people are not a part of the debate about the ethical considerations concerning a certain technological advance, that doesn’t mean decisions won’t be made that impact them. Hopefully, an educated public, committed to sorting through ethical issues and coming to reasonable conclusions, can influence leaders to make good regulatory choices. 

In order to transform the MIT Technology Review into a modern forum set up for ethical debate, early on in her tenure Bramson-Boudreau had to oversee the disruption of the publication. 

“There were a lot of things that needed to be rethought,” said Bramson-Boudreau. “It needed to become a digital media company. It had been print for all those years and hadn’t really figured out how to get past that [and] how to really modernize. There was a lot of work that needed to be done to do that because you can obviously reach a huge audience digitally and the cost of doing that is significantly better than that of print…A lot of things needed to be tidied up or in some cases ripped out and replaced with new technologies or different sets of skills.”  

Online articles, newsletters, podcasts, and events were all added to the MIT Technology Review’s repertoire as part of its transformation. The review also reflected on why it was particularly relevant to readers.

“Why would you read us as opposed to any other publisher out there who’s telling stories about technology?” Bramson-Boudreau asked. “And the answer is because we have this particular unique perspective and we have this way of looking at the impact of new technologies and the growth of new technologies and how they’re going to change the world that we live in and how they might be improved upon or how they might be made worse if bad actors got involved.”

The MIT Technology Review dives into the deep end in specific technologies and asks the human questions.

“What we’re aiming to do is look at kind of big technology areas, like A.I. itself is massive, and tell stories about the way decisions are being made around those technologies and the creations of those technologies,” Bramson-Bordeau said. 

MIT owns the MIT Technology Review, but the review has autonomy in terms of how it is run and what stories it produces.

“Our investment plans are backed by them but we’re entirely independent from them,” Bramson-Boudreau said. “So we can write anything we want about MIT or any other institute or organization we want to, but, rather, where we exercise that editorial, I guess, autonomy is by tracking down stories that we think are most interesting to our readership among which are MIT alums, but not exclusively.” 

The MIT Review leverages its relationship to MIT plus its independence to offer its audience credible analysis on upcoming technological advances.

“We’re really focused on emerging tech and we think that the brand and the connection and the relationships and the sort of special sauce that we get from MIT gives us a unique perspective on understanding which of these technologies are actually going to be the real deal and which of them are kind of hype and nonsense…” Bramson-Bordeau said. 

To hear more about how the MIT Technology Review is telling stories that intersect humanity and technology while posing ethical questions for their audience, check out the full episode of IT Visionaries!

To hear the entire discussion, tune into IT Visionaries here

IT Visionaries is brought to you by the Salesforce Platform – the #1 cloud platform for digital transformation of every experience. Build connected experiences, empower every employee, and deliver continuous innovation – with the customer at the center of everything you do. Learn more at salesforce.com/platform

 

Episode 327