Madison McVeigh/CityLab

The podcast on how technology is disrupting, remaking, and sometimes overrunning our cities. Hosted by Molly Turner and Jim Kapsis.

Hosted by urban innovation professor Molly Turner and startup advisor Jim Kapsis, Technopolis explores what needs to change for tech to help solve more problems than it creates.

Listen and subscribe: Apple Podcasts / Stitcher / Google Play / Spotify

Lizzie Jacobs is Executive Producer. Virginia Lora is Producer.


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Bonus episode 2

Wired City: Are we at risk of creating a permanent digital underclass?

Internet access has become essential for modern American life, but current policies don't treat it that way. In this special bonus episode, Jim and Molly talk to Maya Wiley about a core piece of the infrastructure for our tech future: broadband. Wiley, a digital equity expert and MSNBC contributor, breaks down the history of broadband access, the severity of the inequity, and what it costs us all when some people just can't get online. We also talk about local efforts to improve broadband access, including Wiley's own work in New York City to turn old phone booths into free Wifi kiosks.

Related reading from CityLab

The Problem With America’s New National Broadband Map

Broadband Is Largely Inaccessible to Those Who Need It Most

Will New York City’s Free Wi-Fi Help Police Watch Users?

Arkansas Shows How Red States Embrace Municipal Broadband

Why 5G Internet Is a Policy Minefield for Cities

The Hitch in Kentucky’s Plan to Build High-Speed Internet for All


Bonus episode

Golden City: Can Wakanda's capital city teach us to build better cities in the real world?

For as long as there have been movies, there have been fictional visions of tech-forward futures. But few cities on film have inspired the awe of urbanists like Black Panther's Golden City, devised by production designer Hannah Beachler. In this special bonus episode, Jim and Molly talk with Beachler about the role tech played in her meticulously crafted urban vision. Beachler, who won the Academy Award for her work in the film, helps us understand why the Wakandan city feels so right—and what she thinks some real-life tech-led urban designs are getting wrong.

Related reading from CityLab

The Social Responsibility of Wakanda’s Golden City

The Wakanda Reader

The Attainable Wonders of Wakandan Transit

Wakanda: The Chocolatest City


Episode 8

Feedback City: Is tech making it easier for us to talk to our cities?

Changed bus routes. A shuttered park. How many times has your city made a decision affecting you that you didn't know about until after it happened? This persistent communication gap is one of the great conundrums for many city leaders. And it hasn't necessarily gotten any better just because we're on apps and social media. What are cities doing to find us where we are? And is using tech a more effective way to get our feedback about proposed changes?

Molly and Jim talk to Eyal Feder-Levy, whose startup ZenCity tracks opinions about city government through our online comments, including public social media posts; and Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, who is on the front lines of this communications struggle.


Episode 7

Delivery City: Will food delivery apps kill your favorite neighborhood restaurant?

The tech-fueled delivery economy is already having a dramatic impact on how some restaurants do business. Will it also transform our neighborhoods? And should we feel guilty about ordering that coffee and donut directly to our door with a few taps on our phone? Molly and Jim talk with Leslie Silverglide, the CEO of the tech-savvy salad chain Mixt; and Amy Liu, vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

Related reading from CityLab

The Grim Outlook for Suburban Retail

The 2018 Retail Apocalypse, in Six Charts and a Map

At ‘Ghost Restaurants,’ It’s Delivery Only

Why People Still Don’t Buy Groceries Online


Episode 6

Nudge City: How is your city using tech to amplify hidden social cues?

Can tech help cities nudge us to live better lives, without things getting weird? In this episode, we look at how technology is making the popular behavioral science tool known as a "nudge" more prevalent in cities, from tackling sign-ups for food stamps to reducing congestion downtown. Molly and Jim talk with Emily Bailard, CEO of InClass Today, a startup that uses nudges to help school districts reduce student absenteeism; and Anthony Barrows, managing director of Ideas42, a nonprofit that helps cities use these behavioral science tools to improve social outcomes.

Related reading from CityLab

Durham’s Plan to ‘Nudge’ Drivers Out of Cars

The Amazing Psychology of Japanese Train Stations

The Results of America’s First Transit-Incentive Program

Pay Kids to Attend School or Keep Losing Them

One Answer to School Attendance: Washing Machines


Episode 5

Techlash City: How should we react when new tech comes to town?

When a new tech innovation arrives in our city, we can't always know what its impacts will be before it floods the market. And yet, increasingly, some city governments and residents are having a particularly strong reaction to certain kinds of tech startups: Shut. It. Down. Is that the right reaction? Why exactly is that our impulse? And does it even matter what kind of tech we're talking about?

On this episode, we look at what happens when a new tech idea creeps into one of the most fundamental parts of society: Housing. We examine the case of tech start-up Rentberry, a rental bidding platform, in Seattle. We talk with Desiree Fields, an expert on the relationship between digital platforms and housing at the University of Sheffield; and Nick Carr, acclaimed author of many books on the unexpected ways tech is messing with our lives.

Related reading from CityLab

Rentberry, a San Francisco Startup, Wants to Turn Housing Rental Applications into an eBay-Style Auction

The Rise of ‘Digital Poorhouses’

How to Build an App to Fight Evictions

Minimum Wages Can’t Pay for a 2-Bedroom Apartment Anywhere

Las Vegas Gambles on a ‘Smart City’ Technology Makeover


Episode 4

Battery City: Are batteries the key to our cities' energy future?

Will every building in your city one day be powered by a battery? In this episode, Molly and Jim look at how energy storage could change everything about how we turn on the lights and get around town. And they'll explore how renewable energy might keep our cities running even when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow. They talk with John Zahurancik of Fluence Energy and Rushad Nanavatty of Rocky Mountain Institute. They also make an inspiring phone call to Dan Neil, auto columnist for the Wall Street Journal.


Episode 3

Disruptor City: Should startups ask permission from cities before they drop their tech on city streets?

Scooters show up on your corner. Cars with mustaches show up on your streets. You didn't know these new innovations were coming until they were there in front of you. But did your city? Oftentimes, no. That's because tech companies have long prided themselves on their rule-defying business models. But as we've learned from past controversies, showing up without seeking city permission can cause as many problems as it avoids.

Molly and Jim take on the seminal question for urban startups: Should they ask for permission or beg for forgiveness? Jim shares a conversation with Bradley Tusk, an early policy advisor to Uber; and Seleta Reynolds, head of LA Department of Transportation. And Molly and Jim both talk with Nina Hernandez, a reporter at the Austin Chronicle, about her city's infamous showdown between ride-hailing and regulation.

Related reading from CityLab

The Electric Scooter War Is No Joke

Who Owns Urban Mobility Data?

To Measure the ‘Uber Effect,’ Cities Get Creative


Episode 2

Self-Driving City: What does our future really look like when autonomous vehicles take over the roads?

Molly and Jim take us on a tour of self-driving cars’ less-considered effects: vomit, sex, and criminalized pedestrians. But also: Will self-driving cars carry our groceries before they carry us? They talk with Nan Ransohoff, the head of product at AV startup Nuro; and Jeff Tumlin, a transportation consultant focused on sustainability.

Related reading from CityLab

Self-Driving Cars Could Be Bad for Walkable Cities

How the Self-Driving Dream Might Become a Self-Driving Nightmare

Self-Driving Cars Still Have a Lot to Learn

The ‘Driverless Experience’ Looks Awfully Distracting

Cities Have Taken the Lead in Regulating Driverless Vehicles

The Social Responsibility of Wakanda’s Golden City


Episode 1

Venture-Backed City: Why are investors pouring so much cash into urban tech?

Smartphones and the apps they’ve spawned have changed city life in fundamental ways. When did investors decide to get so involved in our sidewalks? And did they really set out to transform our cities, or was it just a byproduct of market domination?

On this first episode of Technopolis, Molly and Jim follow the money behind the explosion in urban tech. We talk to Jason Calacanis, early Uber investor, start-up founder, and author of Angel: How to Invest in Start-Ups. They also talk with Warren Logan, Senior Transportation Planner at San Francisco County Transportation Authority about how cities cope with all the disruption in the epicenter of venture-backed tech.

Related reading from CityLab

Behind the Big Promises of the Micromobility Industry

Urban Tech is Unleashing Creative Destruction on Cities

No, Urban Tech Startups Aren’t Transforming All American Cities

The Extreme Geographic Inequality of High-Tech Venture Capital

To Measure the ‘Uber Effect,’ Cities Get Creative


Listen to the trailer


About the hosts

Jim Kapsis was a climate negotiator in the Obama administration and now advises tech startups. He was a senior advisor to Sidewalk Labs, Alphabet’s urban venture.

Molly Turner is an urban planner who teaches urban innovation at the Berkeley Haas School of Business. She was the first policy person at Airbnb.

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