Get Lifted

Welcome to Team Tressie! Recap a jam-packed day in the life of Tressie + my Academic Code of Data Rights + how to get a signed book & support a great indie bookstore (& maybe even get some churros).

Last week, I did an interview with Ezra Klein that was published in the New York Times on April 13. It is the end of the semester, which means my tolerance for Zoom and for interacting with people in general is waning. But I enjoyed speaking with Ezra. He translated me for a broader audience. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing yet, but it is certainly a thing. And it looks like that conversation resonated with a lot of folks, because many new people have made it to Team Tressie! So we figured it was time for a “Week in the Life of Tressie” newsletter. In case you missed it, here are some of the things I’ve been up to: 

On April 8th, I virtually visited Goucher College as part of their Virtual Speaker series. This was a wide ranging Q&A with a wonderful moderator, Nicole J. Johnson. The talk is available to view here

Five days later, on April 13th, I gave the Ed Mignon Distinguished Lecture at the University of Washington’s iSchool entitled “The Future of Education.” Someone said I should be “in charge of all the things” based on this talk. You don’t want me running things. Trust me. But I do have a few thoughts.

In fact, I talked through some of those thoughts, which appeared on with Ezra Klein’s New York Times podcast, where we discussed: the old internet, writing for many audiences, my family in North Carolina, the idea of being a genius, moral panics, podcasting, the utility of understanding status, shame, and Dolly Parton (of course). 

And, as if April 13th wasn’t busy enough, I also gave the opening keynote for the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 2021 Conference,"Ascending Into an Open Future.” I talked about the work I’m doing over at UNC-Chapel Hill in curriculum building and using resources in Information Schools to try answering questions about social problems. While one of my new jobs at the Center for Information and Technology and Public Life and the School of Information and Library Sciences at UNC is building a teaching curriculum for graduate students, I see my role as bridging disciplinary conversations in such a way that whatever our students choose to do, they will have the analytical tools to think through the context, social implications, and political meaning of their professional work in and around libraries. I teach big ideas like “Writing for Public Life” and “The Networks of Racial Capitalism” in an information school because that framing situates them in an interdisciplinary social problem context. In preparing for these courses and in having discussions with students, I came up with a big idea I wanted to share with ACRL: An Academic Code of Data Rights. 

I offered this Academic Code of Data Rights as a solution to issues around information capitalism, borrowing heavily from indigenous sovereignty frameworks. I should note that a code of rights specific to data and information and technology is not unique. Civil rights, human rights have used the same framing. Various codes of ethics across data science also try, I think, to get at this. But within the university, we rarely talk about what rights various stakeholders have when it comes to information and data. An Academic Code of Data Rights is about solving a problem. Information capitalism, if unchecked, will reproduce pre-existing social inequalities to the economic benefit of the few and at the expense of many. An Academic Code of Data Rights is a people-centered code and takes us a step closer to solving problems of information capitalism and moving toward human-centered justice. Library Journal did a great write-up of this talk, if you’re interested in reading more. 

In other exciting professional news, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity announced that an article I wrote, “Where Platform Capitalism and Racial Capitalism Meet: The Sociology of Race and Racism in the Digital Society,” was their most downloaded article of 2020. In it, I discuss racial capitalism as a coherent framework to produce theoretically distinct and robust formulations of internet technologies as key characteristics of the political economy in the study of race and racism in the digital society. If you want to read it, you can here

Last, but certainly not least, I partnered with Epilogue, a local Latinx-owned bookstore in Chapel Hill, to offer signed copies of my books for purchase. A lot of people ask me directly about getting signed copies, and this way you can do so through them. Signed copies of both Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy and Thick can be ordered from their website. I love supporting local bookstores, and there may have been some churros given in exchange—so this is ultimately a win-win for everyone involved. 


In a talk I gave last year, I started by discussing the conservative ideas in public policy we all love to hate: the welfare queen, the deadbeat dad, the illegal alien. What I have been more interested in discussing are the liberal narratives that have shaped and, I argue, delimited public policy. What stories are we telling about power and possibility? I was happy when I came across this review by Marshall Steinbaum on how both liberal and conservative ideology and rhetoric around higher-ed policy is changing. There are some interesting tensions I think essaying readers will enjoy.

Speaking of y’all, you were very into my non-influencer influencer post! If you’re not a paid subscriber, we’ve made the post available to everyone so you can join in on the recommendations. In the comment thread, we talked about helicopter parenting, “running while fat,” and how weird it is when someone finally calls you an athlete. But my favorite observation came from Twitter:

Of course that’s what it is. You are trying to help me. That is something I can understand. I am bad at marketing so it never occurred to me. I noted on Twitter that this probably explains why so many people demand pictures of my bookshelves. Still not gonna do it.