We spoke with teenagers from all over the U.S. about their experiences. What we learned from them is invaluable.

The final episode of Medium Playback’s first season is about those who are just peering into the adult years that lay ahead. Right now, teenagers face a deeply unstable future — but maybe that’s always been the case. Journalist Alyssa Giacobbe was one of the nine reporters who interviewed 46 teenagers about their hopes, fears, impressions of adults, and overall outlooks for the collection The Edge of Adulthood. The results are both intriguing and familiar. This episode includes the original audio from four of the six interviews Alyssa conducted so that you can hear from each teen, in the moment.

17-year-old Albuquerquan Juan Rubel Martinez was a high school dropout before finding ACE Leadership High School, which provides him with a more supportive, alternative form of education. Mckenzie Marquez, also 17, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and is waiting for the results after her second round of treatment. Dylan Fontaine, a computer enthusiast, battles depression. …

Meghan writes about her affair with the intellectual dark web and a search for complexity in the midst of heartbreak

The dark web was her safe space.

Meghan Daum, a long-time L.A. Times columnist, faced two endings: Obama’s government and her marriage. What resulted was a distancing from her gentrified bubble and a new love affair with the shadowy corners of free-speech internet. In “Nuance: A Love Story,” Meghan charts her growing infatuation with the public intellectuals touting controversial political ideas. They’re the folks arguing against identity politics, for example, and in favor of fundamental biological differences between men and women that shape their roles in society.

But to Daum, these issues are all more complicated than what you can put in a sound bite or summarize in 280 characters. They require nuance. “I didn’t agree with my Free Speech YouTube friends on every point; far from it,” she explains. “Still, I was invigorated, even electrified, by their willingness to ask (if not ever totally answer) questions that had lately been deemed too messy somehow to deal with in mainstream public discourse.” Suddenly, the intractable problems of the day — and of Meghan’s life — seemed like they could be dealt with head-on. …

Three writers share powerful stories on what it’s like to seek escape in a world that surveils black bodies

Prejudice knows no bounds — not moral and not geographical.

James Baldwin lived in Paris as a way to escape America and its racism for a while, but Europe is not the new promised land for dark-skinned people that it sometimes seems to be. Especially today, when popular black culture has become a global export. Traveling While Black is a collection edited by writer Morgan Jerkins about the difficulty black people can have in just trying to escape.

In the latest episode of Medium Playback, three writers, including Morgan, read their stories from the collection.

Mateo Askaripour performs “Losing Myself in Florence,” which recounts his enjoyable study abroad stay in Italy that is irrevocably rattled by a moment of sharp and oblivious European racism. “Learning the language, being treated well by most Italians, and having a large Senegalese population in the city already serving as resident ‘others’ created a fragile castle of comfort easily flattened by 10 words.” …

Five wealthy investors asked Douglas how to survive environmental collapse. But what they really wanted to know was how to transcend the human world they look down upon.

This week’s Playback gets into the psyche of some big-money overlords — the ones who can’t make it to Mars with Elon, anyway.

In his wildly popular story “Survival of the Richest,” researcher douglas rushkoff starts off writing about an invitation he received last year to give a keynote speech at a deluxe private resort. Despite his misgivings about offering investment advice to incurious rich people, he went: The speaker’s fee was roughly half his annual professor’s salary.

But instead of the usual audience of wealthy retirees, he was greeted by “five super-wealthy guys — yes, all men — from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world.” On the face of it, they wanted Douglas’s advice on how to escape environmental collapse. But soon they began asking questions like “Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain” and “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?’” (“The Event,” meaning “environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. …

The Stanford Prison Experiment has influenced politics, policy—and our understanding of human nature. But newly discovered archives reveal it may have been a sham

Playback returns this week with an investigative showdown. Journalist Ben Blum looks into the reality of the most famous psychology study to ever be conducted, The Stanford Prison Experiment, and makes some shocking discoveries himself.

You might remember it from Psych 101: In 1971, young Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo gathered male participants from Bay Area colleges and assigned them as either prisoners or guards. He kept the prisoners in a mock prison in a basement at the university called “Stanford County Jail,” had the guards watch over and discipline them, and served as warden. The experiment was called off early when Zimbardo’s girlfriend came by to visit six days in and insisted that he end it. …

Kristi’s newfound sobriety provides a disturbing clarity: all the women around her are drinking all the time

This week, Playback is a throwback, but the story timeless. Society is fine-tuned for hardworking women — executives, moms, daughters, creatives, and yogis alike — to get drunk. In “Enjoli,” writer and former Amazon employee Kristi Coulter constructs a diary that turns into a radical reframing of what a “having it all” culture actually looks like: socially accepted forms of alcohol dependence in overspent women.

“I’m newly sober and dog-paddling through the booze all around me,” Kristi begins. The story, which went viral when it was published on Medium two years ago, is full of sharpness, tenderness, hilarity, and real anguish — and not just for Kristi’s own experiences, but also for the realities of the “24-hour women” around her, prodded and medicated with wine and cocktails every color of the rainbow at every moment of the day. …

Designers have the power to change the world, including to destroy it. Mike thinks they should be licensed before they can practice their craft.

Designers should be licensed!! Well, the jury’s still out: In this week’s episode of Medium Playback, founder and designer Mike Monteiro reads his piece “Design’s Lost Generation,” in which he makes a rallying cry to his profession…to professionalize. Just like accountants, architects, nurses, and even your dog walkers, he believes that in order to practice, designers ought to train and pass a test. Here’s the rub: credentialing means more gatekeeping in a country in which doctors and lawyers can spend decades, if not lifetimes, paying off their student debt.

But Mike believes that licensing and regulation are life or death imperatives, particularly for UX designers, who shape the products that in turn have influenced national elections and revealed users’ sensitive personal information to their communities. “We need to be more than a pair of hands,” he argues. “And we certainly can’t become the hands of unethical men.” Mike makes quite the rallying call and isn’t afraid to tussle some feathers while doing so. …

At the birthday party of a Hollywood child star, Jonathan hears about a chic evangelical Christian church and decides to try it out for himself

Episode three of Medium Playback is here. Thank God! Literally — this week, writer Jonathan Parks-Ramage explores faith and transcendence at the city of angels’ preeminent hipster evangelical church, Reality L.A. In his soul-searching piece, “Jesus, Mary, and Joe Jonas,” Jonathan attends the chic house of worship, which name-drops Rihanna and preaches a conservative Christian gospel that “non-believers are going to hell, abortion is a sin (even in cases of incest and rape), sex is only acceptable after marriage, and homosexuality is forbidden.”

The church has all the trappings of modernism and none of its values, but worshippers seem to find palpable relief from the services. Jonathan — who grew up in the culturally progressive United Church of Christ, with minister parents who reacted affirmingly to his coming out as gay — interviews a gay-celibate congregationalist who claims his libido went from 100% to 10% when he got saved. He also gets to speak with Reality L.A.’s perfectly-chiseled founder, Jeremy Treat, who “presents a ready-made identity, perfect for those who feel lost.” …

Moving beyond alarmist headlines, Baratunde exposes the plain truths about the fight for data privacy

Playback is back. For our second episode, futurist, comedian, writer, and activist Baratunde Thurston joins the podcast with a word — and then some — on big data, big tech, and his own data detox. His piece “How To Do a Data Detox In a Zillion Easy Steps” appears in Trust Issues, our June digital magazine about the state of trust in 2018. In it, Baratunde takes us through his jarring encounter with the hoard of personal information collected by the 300+ apps on his phone. That’s right, 300 apps with digital records of his photos, notes, documents, contact lists, minute-to-minute location, and more, all for the benefit of big tech’s bottom line. Because “the next big things — artificial intelligence, machine learning, speech and facial recognition — will be powered by more of our data,” Baratunde explains, it is essential that each of us reckon with how and how much of that data is collected. …

Kara Brown and Manoush Zomorodi discuss the power of voice, their favorite books, and fancy pasta

Last week, we released the first episode of our first podcast, Medium Playback. On each episode of the show, we invite a writer we love to the studio to perform a recent story they wrote for Medium (episode one features beloved author Roxane Gay) and then chat with us about it.

To make the show work, we were looking for hosts to introduce you to each episode’s guest and have a candid conversation with them about the story. We found that in Manoush Zomorodi and Kara Brown. …


Medium Playback

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