Journalist Peter Kafka has been on the tech beat since at least 1997 with a simple-sounding question at the core of his approach: What happens when media, entertainment, and technology collide?
“The entire industry has shifted from being ‘look at this cool stuff’ and kind of a sideshow to what was going on in the rest of America to, ‘no, technology is mainstream. Everyone is involved in technology. And we have not done enough time thinking about the consequences of this stuff’,” says Kafka. “As the power of the companies that made all this stuff has increased, we have belatedly said, ‘oh, we should be looking at that power and what it means and who is holding them accountable.’”
A senior correspondent for Recode—a Vox Media site that focuses on technology and digital media news, particularly as it pertains to the business of Silicon Valley—Kafka is also the co-host of a fascinating-for-media-nerds podcast called Recode Media. Last week his new season of Vox’s “Land of Giants” podcast debuted. “The Apple Revolution” charts the origins and ultimate dominance of the house that Steve Jobs built.
Kafka is this week’s guest on “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast” from his perch in Bay Ridge, an unlikely zip-code for a member of the New York media elite.
If you’re interested in things like Instagram, Apple, Netflix, OnlyFans, AT&T Time Warner, Buzzfeed, Disney, deep fakes, Twitch, Amazon (and on and on), Kafka’s reporting will give you something you can chew on. He talks to the leaders of these companies, often gets them to pull the kimono back a little and holds their feet to the fire. How do they make money? How do they affect culture or the political climate? What’s coming up next?
On the podcast, we discuss his career and how it’s evolved over the years, and how the pandemic in particular has had a major impact on everyone’s relationship to tech.
“The cliché, which is true about the pandemic, is that it’s an accelerant for everything socially and technologically,” he says. “I think most people listening to this realize that all the tech companies did really well during the pandemic.”
He’ll unpack that a little, and explain why a large part of the back-to-work discussion is being driven by the major tech companies—to the extent that their policies around returning to the office are influencing the broader work culture.
Himself a father of young boys, Kafka also discusses parenting in the always-online world.
“A lot of adults think that their kid is going to get swept up by the equivalent of a dude in an unmarked van, luring them with candy. I don’t really worry about that,” he says. “Short of shutting off the internet, how do you create spaces that allow kids to grow up at a reasonable pace? If you’re an 11- or 13-year-old kid and you have this magical device, why wouldn’t it consume your entire world? And that worries me.”
It’s a fun chat about technology, tech journalism, parenting and culture. Stick around for a Bay Ridge pro-tip and a pop quiz about another, slightly more famous, Kafka.