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Joel Waldfogel

Apr 21, 2021

Digital Renaissance

What Data and Economics Tell Us about the Future of Popular Culture

Princeton University Press 2020

Digitization is reshaping creative industries. Old gatekeepers in music, publishing, television, movies, and other industries no longer play such an important role, and digital piracy makes it easy for consumers to avoid paying companies, artists, and writers for what they produce. On the other hand, independents can now cheaply produce and distribute creative works both to niche and mass market audiences.

In Digital Renaissance: What Data and Economics Tell Us about the Future of Popular Culture (Princeton UP, 2020), Economist Joel Waldfogel uses data about the quantity, quality, and mass appeal of these works to make the case that this has on balance made us all better off, resulting in a digital renaissance.

In this interview, we discuss the findings in his book and how he arrives at them. I also get his perspective on some developments since his book came out, like the rise of Spotify, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the impact of the pandemic on digitization. He also unwittingly gives me the opportunity to tell everyone with an Amazon device in the house to say “Alexa, Beethoven’s pathetic!” and enjoy the result.

If you want to buy the NFT for Waldfogel’s famously Scroogey paper “The Deadweight Loss of Christmas,” he is open to bids and promises to donate the proceeds to charity, unlike Scrooge. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Host Peter Lorentzen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of San Francisco, where he leads a new digital economy-focused Master's program in Applied Economics.

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Peter Lorentzen

Peter Lorentzen is economics professor at the University of San Francisco. He heads USF's Applied Economics Master's program, which focuses on the digital economy. His research is mainly on China's political economy.

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