Lee McGuigan: Selling the American People

September 7, 2023
Headshot of Lee McGuigan

Thursday, September 7th at 3:00pm
Freedom Forum Conference Center, Carroll Hall

How did technical experts working at the intersection of data processing and management sciences come to command the center of gravity in the advertising and media industries? How did their ambition to remake marketing through mathematical optimization shape and reflect developments in digital technology? In short, where did adtech come from, and how did data-driven marketing come to mediate the daily encounters of people, products, and public spheres?

Lee addresses these questions in his book "Selling the American People: Advertising, Optimization, and the Origins of Adtech", and shows how the advertising industry's efforts to bend information technologies toward its dream of efficiency and rational management helped to make "surveillance capitalism" one of the defining experiences of public life.

Dr. Lee McGuigan is an assistant professor in the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media. He studies the history and political economy of advertising, media and information technology. His ongoing work looks at knowledge infrastructures and logistical processes in advertising and media industries. This research tries to make sense of today’s “attention merchants” and “choice architects” by examining how related efforts to predict and influence consumer habits and to package and sell audience attention have collectively channeled and amplified currents in surveillance, data processing, and behavioral and management sciences.

Lee’s scholarship has appeared in a variety of books and journals, including New Media & Society, Media, Culture, & Society, Critical Studies in Media Communication, the Journal of Consumer Culture, Media Industries, Communication, Culture, & Critique, and Television & New Media. He is also co-editor (with Vincent Manzerolle) of The Audience Commodity in a Digital Age, published in 2014 by Peter Lang.