How to Know What's Real

The Atlantic

A series about how technology has altered our relationship to reality.

  • 32 minutes 18 seconds
    How to Win at Real Life

    Games can serve as an escape from reality—but they can also shape our understanding of trust, collaboration, and what might be possible IRL. Megan Garber talks with C. Thi Nguyen, an associate philosophy professor at the University of Utah, to better understand how games can help us safely explore our current reality and shape new realities, too.

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    Music by Forever Sunset (“Spring Dance”), baegel (“Cyber Wham”), Etienne Roussel (“Twilight”), Dip Diet (“Sidelined”), Ben Elson (“Darkwave”), and Rob Smierciak (“Whistle Jazz”).

    How to Know What's Real is produced by Natalie Brennan. Our editors are Claudine Ebeid and Jocelyn Frank. Fact-check by Ena Alvarado. Our engineer is Rob Smierciak. The executive producer of audio is Claudine Ebeid, and the managing editor of audio is Andrea Valdez.

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    10 June 2024, 10:00 am
  • 28 minutes 7 seconds
    How to Keep Watch

    With smartphones in our pockets and doorbell cameras cheaply available, our relationship with video as a form of proof is evolving. We often say “pics or it didn’t happen!”—but meanwhile, there’s been a rise in problematic imaging including deepfakes and surveillance systems, which often reinforce embedded gender and racial biases. So what is really being revealed with increased documentation of our lives? And what’s lost when privacy is diminished? 

    In this episode of How to Know What’s Real, staff writer Megan Garber speaks with Deborah Raji, a Mozilla fellow, whose work is focused on algorithmic auditing and evaluation. In the past, Raji worked closely with the Algorithmic Justice League initiative to highlight bias in deployed AI products.

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    Music by Forever Sunset (“Spring Dance”), baegel (“Cyber Wham”), Etienne Roussel (“Twilight”), Dip Diet (“Sidelined”), Ben Elson (“Darkwave”), and Rob Smierciak (“Whistle Jazz”).

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    3 June 2024, 10:00 am
  • 33 minutes 14 seconds
    How to Trust Your Brain Online

    This episode explores the web’s effects on our brains and how narrative, repetition, and even a focus on replaying memories can muddy our ability to separate fact from fiction. 

    How do we come to believe the things we do? Why do conspiracy theories flourish? And how can we train our brains to recognize misinformation online? 

    Lisa Fazio, an associate psychology professor at Vanderbilt University, explains how people process information and disinformation, and how to debunk and pre-bunk in ways that can help discern the real from the fake.

    Music by Forever Sunset (“Spring Dance”), baegel (“Cyber Wham”), Etienne Roussel (“Twilight”), Dip Diet (“Sidelined”), Ben Elson (“Darkwave”), and Rob Smierciak (“Whistle Jazz”).

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    27 May 2024, 10:00 am
  • 28 minutes 28 seconds
    How to Live in a Digital City

    While the vibrance, innovation, and cacophony of online life can feel completely unlike anything humanity has ever created before, its newness isn’t wholly unprecedented. Humans reckoned with many similar challenges to life as they knew it while navigating a different kind of social web: the city.  

    In this episode, Danah Boyd, a partner researcher at Microsoft Research and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Georgetown University, explains how the sociological work conducted during a time of rapid urbanization in the United States reveals a lot about human behavior and what we need to feel safe, secure, and inspired.

    Music by Forever Sunset (“Spring Dance”), baegel (“Cyber Wham”), Etienne Roussel (“Twilight”), Dip Diet (“Sidelined”), Ben Elson (“Darkwave”), and Rob Smierciak (“Whistle Jazz”).

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    20 May 2024, 10:00 am
  • 28 minutes 35 seconds
    How to Know Who’s Real

    Social media has made it easier to build more parasocial relationships with celebrities and influencers. What impact are those connections having on our relationships IRL? And how do they shift our understanding and expectations of intimacy and trust? 

    Florida State University assistant professor Arienne Ferchaud defines parasocial relationships and discusses how new technologies are changing the role of entertainment in our lives.

    Music by Forever Sunset (“Spring Dance”), baegel (“Cyber Wham”), Etienne Roussel (“Twilight”), Dip Diet (“Sidelined”), Ben Elson (“Darkwave”), and Rob Smierciak (“Whistle”).


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    13 May 2024, 10:00 am
  • 2 minutes 59 seconds
    Introducing: How to Know What's Real

    What is “real life,” now that the internet and AI are integrated into so much that we do? In the new season of The Atlantic’s popular How To series, co-hosts Megan Garber and Andrea Valdez explore deepfakes, illusions, and misinformation, and how to make sense of where things are really happening. How to Know What’s Real examines how technology has altered our sense of connectedness and how to determine what is authentic and true.


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    22 April 2024, 10:00 am
  • 41 minutes 50 seconds
    Can We Keep Time?

    It can be tough to face our own mortality. Keeping diaries, posting to social media, and taking photos are all tools that can help to minimize the discomfort that comes with realizing we have limited time on Earth. But how exactly does documenting our lives impact how we live and remember them? 


    In this episode, diarist and author Sarah Manguso reflects on the benefits and limitations of keeping track of time, and Charan Ranganath, a professor of psychology and researcher at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, discusses what research reveals about how memories work and how we can better keep time.


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    Music by Rob Smierciak (“Slow Money, Guitar Time, Ambient Time”), Corinne Sperens (“Dichotomy”), Felix Johansson Carne (“Headless”), Martin Gauffin (“The Time”), and Dylan Sittss (“On the Fritz”).


     

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    15 January 2024, 10:00 am
  • 36 minutes 24 seconds
    Time Tips From the Universe

    Time can feel like a subjective experience—different at different points in our lives. It’s also a real, measurable thing. The universe may be too big to fully comprehend, but what we do know could help inform the ways we approach our understanding of ourselves, our purpose, and our time.

    Theoretical physicist and black-hole expert Janna Levin explains how the science of time can inspire new thinking and fresh perspectives on a much larger scale.

    Music by Rob Smierciak (“Slow Money, Money Time, Guitar Time, Ambient Time”), Gavin Luke (“Time Zones”), Hanna Lindgren (“Everywhere Except Right Here”), and Dylan Sitts (“On the Fritz”).

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    8 January 2024, 10:00 am
  • 34 minutes 31 seconds
    How to Rest

    Between making time for work, family, friends, exercise, chores, shopping—the list goes on and on—it can feel like a huge accomplishment to just take a few minutes to read a book or watch TV before bed. All that busyness can lead to poor sleep quality when we finally do get to put our heads down. 

    How does our relationship with rest impact our ability to gain real benefits from it? And how can we use our free time to rest in a culture that often moralizes rest as laziness? Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the author of several books on rest and director of global programs at 4 Day Week Global, explains what rest is and how anyone can get started doing it more effectively.

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    1 January 2024, 10:00 am
  • 24 minutes 42 seconds
    How to Leave Work Time at Work

    Before laptops allowed us to take the office home and smartphones could light up with notifications at any hour, work time and “life” time had clearer boundaries. Today, work is not done exclusively in the workplace, and that makes it harder to leave work at work. 


    Co-hosts Becca Rashid and Ian Bogost examine the habits that shrink our available time, and Ignacio Sánchez Prado, a professor of Latin American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, offers his reflections on American culture and shares suggestions for how to use the time we do have, for life. 


    This episode was co-hosted by Becca Rashid and Ian Bogost. Becca Rashid also produces the show. Editing by Jocelyn Frank and Claudine Ebeid. Fact-check by Ena Alvarado. Engineering by Rob Smierciak. The managing editor of How to Keep Time is Andrea Valdez. Write to us at [email protected]. 


    Want to share unlimited access to The Atlantic with your loved ones? Give a gift today at theatlantic.com/podgift. For a limited time, select new subscriptions will come with the bold Atlantic tote bag as a free holiday bonus.

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    18 December 2023, 10:00 am
  • 37 minutes 52 seconds
    How to Look Busy

    Many of us complain about being too busy—and about not having enough time to do the things we really want to do. But has busyness become an excuse for our inability to focus on what matters? 

    According to Neeru Paharia, a marketing professor at Arizona State University, time is a sort of luxury good—the more of it you have, the more valuable you are. But her research also revealed that, for many Americans, having less time and being busy can be a status symbol for others to notice. And when it comes to the signals we create for ourselves, sociologist Melissa Mazmanian reveals a few myths that may be keeping us from living the lives we want with the meaningful connections we crave. 

    Music by Dylan Sitts (“On the Fritz”) and Rob Smierciak (“Slow Money,” “Guitar Time,” “Ambient Time”).

    This episode was co-hosted by Becca Rashid and Ian Bogost. Becca Rashid also produces the show. Editing by Jocelyn Frank and Claudine Ebeid. Fact-check by Ena Alvarado. Engineering by Rob Smierciak. The managing editor of How to Keep Time is Andrea Valdez. Write to us at [email protected]

    Want to share unlimited access to The Atlantic with your loved ones? Give a gift today at theatlantic.com/podgift. For a limited time, select new subscriptions will come with the bold Atlantic tote bag as a free holiday bonus.

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    11 December 2023, 10:00 am
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