Episode 26

The Impact of Technology on Society with Dr. Julie M. Albright

Dr. Julie Albright is a Sociologist specializing in digital culture and communications; She has a Masters Degree in Social and Systemic Studies from Nova SouthEastern University and a Dual Doctorate in Sociology and Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Southern California. Dr. Albright is currently a Lecturer in the departments of Applied Psychology and Engineering at USC, where She teaches master’s level courses on the Psychology of Interactive Technologies and Sustainable Infrastructure. 

Dr. Albright’s research has focused on the growing intersection of technology and social / behavioral systems: She was the Co-PI and Project Lead for the Behavioral Component of a $121 million Smart Grid Demonstration Project with LA Dept of Water and Power, the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI), the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and UCLA, funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. 

She is also a sought after keynote speaker for her insights, and has given talks for major data center and energy conferences including SAP for Utilities, IBM Global, Data Center Dynamics and the Dept. of Defense. She has appeared as an expert on national media including the Today Show, CNN, NBC Nightly News, CBS, the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NPR Radio and many others. 

Her book on the impacts of mobile – social- – digital technologies on society – Left to Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives Are Reshaping the American Dream –  will be published Fall 2018 from Random House/ Prometheus. Her next book on our increasing reliance on digital infrastructure will be co-authored with Mr. Dean Nelson (responsible for the digital infrastructure at PayPal/eBay, Uber, and others).

Transcript of the episode:

*this transcript is generated automatically*

Alex Romanovich (00:00):
Hi, this is Alex Romanovich of GlobalEdgeTalk, and welcome to the edition of July 3rd, right before July 4th of 2020. Today we have an amazing guest, Julie Albright. I’m going to tell you all about it. Hello, Julie.

Julie Albright (00:15):
Hello, Alex.

Alex Romanovich (00:17):
Julie Albright. Let me give you a very quick introduction. It’s, you know, when I first saw your posts on Facebook and LinkedIn and other social media and looked at the videos that was about a year ago or so, I was so impressed and I said to myself, we absolutely have to talk. You’re a digital sociologist, which is going to be an interesting topic to begin with, to talk about. You are also a faculty member at the University of Southern California, you teach, you’re a TED speaker, you’re a global lecturer at different conferences, you’ve appeared on NBC, CNN, Bloomberg. You talk a lot about digital infrastructure, you travel the world and you’re an amazing entrepreneur and an amazing teacher. Welcome to our studio.

Julie Albright (01:12):
Thank you so much for having me, Alex. It’s great to be with you today.

Alex Romanovich (01:16):
It’s exciting to be here with you as well. So many interesting things to discuss. First of all, how did it all start? How did you decide to pursue an electrical engineering degree and degree in other technically related type of fields? And then how did you become a digital sociologist? Tell us more about that.

Julie Albright (01:38):
Well, I’ll tell you. First of all, I didn’t pursue an electrical engineering degree, but I teach in electrical engineering. So I’ll tell you how I got there. How I got there was I started going into a counseling degree, so I have a Master’s and a PhD in counseling. And that’s what I was doing then: I started seeing people meeting and meeting on the internet. And I said to my dad, this is going to be huge. And he looked at all this, the words scrolling up on the screen and he goes, why would anybody ever want to do that? But I knew it was going to be gigantic. And now walk out on any street corner, anywhere in the world, you’re going to see people with their head tip down, looking at a internet connected smartphone, right? So it’s become completely mainstream. So from that point forward I spent my career looking at the intersection of behavior and technology, and how those two shape one another. So from that point, I met the former CTO Chevron. We wrote a big grant together for the department of energy and we won it. It’s a smart grid demonstration project. It’s basically about the digitization of the electrical grid, which brings customers and infrastructure closer together. And we won $121 million grant. So the rest is kind of history,

Alex Romanovich (02:57):
That’s impressive. That’s amazing. What is your favorite? I mean, you have so many different accolades, you have so many different things you do. What is your favorite activity out of the entire list of things that you do? I am just curious.

Julie Albright (03:16):
Well, when I was in high school, I wanted to write. I had a wonderful English teacher. I was in an AP course a nd we read all the great from The Great Gatsby to Moby Dick, to Shakespeare, everything. AndI said, I’d like to write, and my dad said, you can’t do that. I was like, oh, so I went on other pathways and now I have the expertise in sociology and counseling and these relationships to technology. And so I just wrote my first book this last year, and it was named Top 30 book by Bloomberg, Top 30 book of the year. So now I get to write and do what I enjoy and travel the world and tell stories and really shed, you know, spotlight what’s changing in society, from the perspective of people’s lives, how they’re interacting with technology and what difference it makes. And really, I think that helps business leaders to see the future and really navigate where they’re going.

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