Guardian technology podcast: ‘World leaders should listen!’ | Membership

How and when did the idea for the podcast come about? How did you and Jordan come to be involved?

Danielle Chips With Everything was the idea of the former producer Matt Shaw, who wanted to change the format of the original Tech Weekly podcast so it was more about digital culture and how technology influences society, or vice versa. I met a former producer for a coffee and mentioned I had worked on a tech podcast in New York, and a week later I met the former head of audio Jason Phipps, who invited me to join the team.

Jordan My area of expertise is video games, and I used to write about them regularly for the Guardian. Back when the Guardian’s tech podcast was called Tech Weekly, we occasionally did a video games takeover, and I was invited on as a guest presenter. Jason Phipps said I was a natural and I guess when Chips needed a new presenter he thought of me.

How do you decide what to focus on in each instalment?

Danielle It’s a mixed bag. Sometimes we look to the news for inspiration, particularly when legislation has been passed that will affect tech users, or if big tech companies have hit the headlines for some reason. Other times, we focus on the weird and wonderful stories, such as when Max Benwell spent a year looking for a man catfishing women online using Max’s face. Jordan is great at suggesting particularly niche stories.

Jordan I send Danielle interesting stories when I see them, but she does the vast majority of the planning. She’s incredible. I don’t know how she does it.

What do you enjoy most about making the pod?

Danielle Not to be corny, but I love working with Jordan and getting to meet some incredibly interesting people. I like that we cover stories that some listeners have said they didn’t know they wanted to know. It’s a fun show.

Jordan Sometimes a particular topic or an individual’s story will just hit me, whether it’s taught me something entirely new or given me a new perspective on something. I love it when we cover topics other people aren’t, such as our episode on the relationship between technology and Barbie. And I’m so lucky to meet so many interesting people, including some real heroes.

What are the big challenges of covering the tech world?

Danielle It’s quite difficult to get big tech companies, or even startups, to want to have an in-depth conversation about some of the potentially negative ways their companies can affect society. It’s a PR-driven industry, so it’s a challenge to pick the stories from the pitches.

Jordan Technology can obviously move really fast, but sometimes it feels as if we’re seeing the same story again and again, especially around things such as privacy and the pace of legislation.

Do you have a favourite episode or guest?

Danielle One of my favourite episodes was when we had the journalist and author Hussein Kesvani on the show to talk about the time he met one of the many Islamophobic trolls he interacts with on Twitter every day. The story was eye-opening and just one of the many anecdotes he wrote as part of his new book, which looked at British Muslims growing up in the age of the internet. My favourite shows are those that I feel our listeners will say “huh, I never knew that”.

Jordan I loved the episode on the relationship between technology and Barbie, because we got into some really interesting discussions about gender. And I got to talk to Jesyca Durchin-Schnepp, who produced movies I used to watch with my little sister. The episode about how Norad tracks Santa was a joy to make, too. I was so excited when Danielle first told me her idea for that.

What have been the highlights and challenges?

Danielle Highlights for me are when Jordan and I record in the field. I loved going to see PlayStation in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, for example. It has been lovely getting to know Jordan and she teaches me something new about video games every week. Finally, one of the best parts of doing the show is getting the feedback from listeners all over the world. We’ve received emails from Argentina, Australia and Pakistan – it’s exciting to think our show is reaching that far.

Jordan One of the biggest highlights has been working with Danielle, who is not only an incredible producer but also a friend. As for challenges, the most obvious one is time. Danielle gets two days per episode, and I get one. So on that one day we write questions, conduct a couple of interviews, write a script, and record it. We often end up having to write the script before we’ve even done all the interviews, so that our head of audio has time to check it. If an interviewee doesn’t show up we don’t really have time to find a replacement. We pull it off 90% of the time, because Danielle is amazing, but it can be really stressful.

Norad’s ‘Santa tracking’ operation at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

Norad’s ‘Santa tracking’ operation at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Photograph: Brennan Linsley/AP

What can we do to make sure Big Tech is held to account on privacy and data security?

Danielle Legislation is key. Looking at the US 2020 election now, I’d love someone to ask them how they would protect their elections from being hacked in the future, how they would hold Silicon Valley to account, and how they would use cyberwarfare in future. We probably won’t see the question asked, but until this type of protection is seen as a preventative measure and not a retrospective “let’s just break up big tech”, nothing will change and individuals will have less and less autonomy over their data.

Jordan We need to legislate. And we are legislating – but governments are slow to act. And before they act, they are slow to understand. Our representatives need to educate themselves. Maybe they should listen to Chips!

Do you get much chance to interact with listeners?

Danielle As I mentioned, we get a lot of emails in telling us how much they like show and it’s something I want to capitalise on in future.

Jordan We always ask for listeners to email us, and they do. But I especially love it when we bump into a listener in public. We met one on the tube once who recognised my voice, which was awesome.

Which technological advancement are you most excited about – and which most concerns you?

Danielle I am surprised every week by a piece of technology that is aiming to – or is already – solving medical problems. Any technology that can make a person who has a medical condition that bit easier, or can make a surgical procedure more precise, is incredibly exciting. On the flip side, apps that are readily available on the Play store or Apple store that allow one individual to track another terrify me.

Jordan I’m most excited by technology that is being developed to help tackle existing problems, and I’m most concerned about technology that creates new ones.

Is there a particular tech trend you wish would come back?

Danielle I miss the excitement of transferring a song to a mate by connecting through Bluetooth and holding our phones very close together.

Jordan I kind of miss when you couldn’t be online all the time.

Which Guardian journalist(s) do you most admire?

Danielle I really love reading anything that Julia Carrie Wong writes, as well as our very own Alex Hern, who I’m pretty sure knows everything about tech.

Jordan Alex Hern is a friend, but he’s also a really impressive journalist. He’s always an excellent podcast guest too. Outside of tech, I admire those journalists who pursue long investigations into stories other people aren’t covering – I’m glad the Guardian supports that kind of journalism.

What makes our tech coverage different?

Danielle I like that we hold people to account. I think Carole Cadwalladr is the perfect example of this. I can only imagine how much abuse she got, but the Guardian and Observer stood by her and that’s hugely comforting.

Jordan I think tech coverage can often fall into either enthusiastic coverage of the latest shiny gadget or scornful luddism about “kids these days”. Hopefully we manage to ask questions of tech from an informed perspective.

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