Katherine Cramer: Listening to Strengthen Democracy

October 23, 2019 1:05:00
Kaltura Video

Katherine Cramer explains what she heard while inviting herself into the conversations of people in small communities in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. October, 2019.


I'm Tom Ivacko with the 

State & Urban Policy.

It's better known as CLOSUP,

one of the research centers 

here at the Ford School.

It's my pleasure to

introduce today's


I'm going to start with 

a few notes about the 

fornat of our event.

We have time at the 

end for questions.

Please write your 

questions on the index

cards that have been

handed out.

If you need another 

one flag down Bonnie 

here and We'll keep an

eye out and We'll 

collect those starting 

at about 4:30 

or so.

For those of us 

joining online, please

tweet your questions 

using the hash tag 

policy talks and We'll

transcribe those on 

the cards here 


Joining us to present 

the questions is the 


First it Richardson 

and lily Alexander.

They will ask the 

questions to our 

speaker today and will

be assisted by a 

university of Michigan

student Michael wolf 

who will be assisted 

by Sarah mills our -- 

our senior project 


Sarah has been leading

an effort on campus to

bring together 

faculty, staff and 

students from across 

the campus to look at 

issues across the 

urban rural divide.

They take particular 

approaching looking 

more along a spectrum 

as opposed to 

conceiving them as 

across a divide.

So we close our event 

today with a couple of

notes about a 

following event.

Finally I like to 

thank Bonnie Roberts, 

our events manager for

pulling together for 

you today, great job, 

thank you Bonnie.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Today's talk is 

about listening to 

strength in democracy.

It is sponsored by 

close-up and the Ford 


As part of the 

initiative of 


I think we feel the 

strain that our 

country is under, 


tribalism plaguing our


The Ford school is 

committed to playing a

leading role in public

discourse that is 

nonpartisan and 

evidence based and 


We host public events 

that model reason and 

evidence based debate 

and to explore issues 

around identity and 


We developed new 

student programming 

and curriculum to 

train our students in 

how to bridge 


productively discuss 

contested topics and 


We practice trust 

building through a 

problem solving and --

and procedural noev 


-- innovation and 

learning and solving 

problems aCcross 


We generate diversity.

The school has a deep 

mission driven 

commitment to the 

values of scholarship,

respectful dialogue 

and inclusive 


Our graduate and under

graduate students, we 

help them to make 

progress on difficult 

problems through 

constructive dialogue 

and action across 


So today's talk by 

Kathy Cramer is a 

perfect fit.

We're proud to 

announce she earned 

her Ph.D. and she's 

the anatomy chair and 

professor at Wisconsin

Madison and senior 


advisor at cortico to 

foster public 

discourse among the 

public but with also 

among the media to 

help us develop a 

better understanding 

of one another.

Sheil talk about some 

of this work today.

Kathy's work focuses 

on the way that people

in the United States 

make sense of our 

politics and their 

place in it.

She's award winning 

author and known for 

an innovative approach

to the study of public

opinion in which she 

introduces herself in 

to conversations -- of

groups of people to 

listen and -- and get 

a better understanding

of how they make sense

of public issues.

She's author of 

"policies of 

resentment" makes 

sense of this 


So rather than take 

any more time from 

Kathy's talk you could

read more of her 

really impressive bio 

in your program.

Please join me in 

welcoming Kathy 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Thank you so much.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Hi, everyone.

Thank you so much for 

having me.

Bonnie Roberts, thank 

you so much for all of

the logistics.

She's sort of amazing 

person and if you need

Bonnie and 

organization in your 

life, talk to her.

I've only been here a 

few hours but had a 

fabulous visit.

Thank you so much.

Thank you Tom and 

Sarah, thank you.

Yes, I am a proud 

graduate of the 

political science 

program here at 

Michigan and I want to

give out a shout out 

to Don kinder who I 

see in the room, a 

dear friend that 

taught me the value of

studying the things 

you care most about in

the world.

You'll see in short 

order I'm going to 

tell a series of 


You'll see in short 

order that I was very 

fortunate to -- to 

study political 

science here because 

it was an environment 

in which I learned all

of the cutting edge 

skills and I also 

learned ideas of 

pursuing ideas I care 

about and important to

the world and the 

methods by which I did

that were less 

important than 

studying important 

things and I owe a lot

of that, the courage 

to do that to Don who 

supported me from very

early on.

So, let me tell you 


When I was a college 

graduate student here,

I was fortunate to get

involved with Kent 

Jennings who recently 

retired from the 

university of 

California Santa 


He had been engage in 

a study of political 


In the 1997 I was 

involved with that 



It was a study of high

school seniors in 1965

and they were followed

over the course of 

their life.

Part of my job was to 

interview these folks 

in rural areas of the 

deep south.

So I was doing -- 

basically a survey, a 

laptop based survey in

people's homes, asking

them questions like 


This is a famous 

Michigan question 

about identity.

Generally do you 

consider yourself a 

Democrat or republican

or what? 

Republican, democratic

or what? 

People record the 


At the time a lot was 

do not on paper and 

you had to fill out 

the paperwork and send

it back to the 

institute here or the 

survey research 


I was spending a lot 

of time in post 


So places like this, 

mailing these things 

back and rural areas, 

post offices are 

important hub of the 


Most people have post 

office boxes and they 

stop in about once a 

day, maybe it changed 

over time as surface 

mail becomes less a 

part of their lives, 

they stop in and get 

the news and move on.

I was interested in 

the conversations I 

was encountering in 

those places as well 

as the conversations I

was having with these 

survey respondents 

after the survey was 


From pretty early on 

in my life as a 

political scientist, I

knew I was interested 

in conversation.

I knew I picked up a 

lot about their lives 

and about the way they

understood politics 

from listening to them

talk with one another.

So again I owe a lot 

of credit to this 

university saying yes,

that's interesting and

we support glou 

studying it in 

whatever way you think

is useful.

So fast forward a bit.

Across the course of 

my career this is 

basically the question

I've been pursuing, 

how do people 

understand their 


And what is behind 

this is this 

recognition by many of

us that you can expose

people, two different 

people, to the same 

message, the same 

speech and campaign ad

and they will come 

away with two 

different readings on 

it, two different 


They'll see different 

things here.

What is that? 

How does that happen? 

It happens because we 

all have different 

lenses that we see the

world and filter 

things and process 


I have found just in 

different ways I've 

been pursuing this 


I found it much more 

rewarding than than 

question which is 

basically how could 

people be so stupid? 

How could people vote 

against their 


What is wrong with 


I like to ask not what

are people getting 

wrong but how are they

getting it.

I just earned tenure 

at the University of 


I told myself you can 

understand why social 

class identities 


So this was Wisconsin,

a bying background 


The blue areas are 

more urban areas.

What is I did, I was 

interested in this.

Bui areas are more you

are urb

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

We're on the short end of 

the stick in three main ways, 

lots of ways that I I can't 

characterize them.

One of this all of the decisions

that effect our lives are made 

in Madison or Milwaukee which 

are the two natural areas in the

state, the only two and 

communicated out to us.

We don't -- people don't come 

out here and ask us what we 


We're told what the rules are 

going to be.

So we -- we're on the short end 

of the stick in teams of power 

basically and political power 

and decision-making power.

We're on the short end of the 

stick in terms of resources.

You know all of our taxpayer 

dollars get sucked in and spent 

on Madison and Milwaukee and we 

don't see that money in return.

We're also on the short end of 

the stick in terms of respect.

You all making the decisions 

down there, you don't know us.

You don't know what life is like

in a place like this.

You don't like us.

You don't respect us.

You think we're racist and 

sexist and homophobic and Islam 


That came out.

That's sobering.

I think it is important.

But as a political scientist it 

seemed to me politically really 


This is a set of sentiments that

a savvy politician might tap 

into, right, in the following 


It has many layers to it.

You may have heard some already 

just the way I'm explaining it, 

it is resentment toward city and

city people and also toward 

elites and one political party 

more than another, perhaps 

increasingly so since the time I

was in the field in early 2007.

And it is also racism and 

resentment against minorities.

Wisconsin you may be familiar 

with this is very segregated 


When people talk about the 

cities, oftentimes it is also a 

conversation about race.


They can activate a component of

this and so potentially is 


It sets the stage for divisive 

messages that clears out to 

people who is us and who is 


People are like we're working 

hard to make ends meet.

We're good, hard working 

Americans and it seems to us 

that our hard earned money is 

going to -- to support people 

who -- who -- who aren't as 

deserving, aren't as hard 

working whether it be you, 

Kathy, you're a full-time 

professor down at university of 

Wisconsin Madison.

What are you doing driving 

around the state and having 

coffee with us? 

How is that hard work? 

Sometimes they would say when do

you take a shower? 

I say before I go to work.

Exactly they would say, I work 

so hard that the first thing I 

do when I get home is take a 


They would have -- they said 

there hard workers and those 

that sit behind desks.

They thought a lot of their 

money was going to pay for 

people like me.

That's one example because 

sometimes the deservingness was 

racialized, they would have a 

stereotype of a welfare 

recipient, someone that doesn't 

deserve the public benefits.

Another way this was very ripe 

ground for -- for a politician 

to tap into is that it sets the 

stage for someone to say, yeah, 

let's have less government.

People would look around at 

their communities and say 

whatever government is doing, it

is not working for us.

It is not working people in 

places like us.

It is not working for people 

like us.

There's a sense that -- that -- 

that government folks were 

people that didn't respect 

people in the smaller 


There's a sentence that it was 

an urban thing.

Even for public employee living 

in the community for example, 

postschool educators and people 

would sometimes say things like,

look, yeah, I know, he's lived 

there the last 25 years, but the

testing, the decisions about 

curriculum, all of that stuff is

decided by you all down in 

Madison, in the by people here 

and whether or not that's true, 

that was perception that public 

employees the way they do their 

jobs were good urban values and 

urban decisions.

So Lo and behold, Scott walker 

comes on the scene.

Mind you, he was Milwaukee 

county executive.

He ran for governor and won.

Shortly after he took office, he

proposed a piece of legislation 

known as act 10 Wisconsin.

It was a budget addendum.

It was a budget repair ir bill that

would undercut public employee 

unions to organize and bargain.

And also it required public 

employees to pay in more of 

their pay checks for pensions 

and healthcare benefits.

This picture is a reaction in 

Madison, how people were around 

the state capital in Madison.

It seemed to be the most 

unpopular legislation ever 

proposed in the state.

But 20, 25 miles outside of the 

city, the conversation, the 

behavior was very different.

Instead people were saying 

thing, not like let's impeach 

the guy, but it is about time.

It is about time someone came 

along and made those people pay 

in more -- more to the pot.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

That was all very sobering 

for those of us in Wisconsin and

those of everybody watching from

other parts of the country.

Then the 2016 presidential 

election took place.


People started wondering wow, 

what is going on in rural 


Those of you watching election 

crosses and you realize will be 

the next president and Wisconsin

is in the middle of the night 

the last state to clinch the 

election for Trump.

It seemed quickly that whatever 

was happening in Wisconsin had 

some parallels to other parts of

the country as well.

And Donald Trump is a very 

different politician than Scott 


In his own way, he was saying to

people, you were right to be so 


You are doing things as you 

should, you are hard working.

You're a good American.

What you deserve is going to 

other people or those people.

And for Scott walker, the target

of blame was basically public 


That wasn't necessarily Donald 

Trump's blame he said he was 

pointing the finger at 

immigrants and uppity women and 

liberal elites and such.

In ways they were playing into 

the same set of sentiment.

Now I don't want to convey that 

it was -- it was rural 

Wisconsin, rural Wisconsin, 

rural Americans who -- who were 

the -- the kind of -- the kind 

of -- of -- of pivotal 

population group in the election

of 2016.

But they were important to the 

outcome of the election.

And my goodness, they received a

lot of attention since then.


One thing that happened to me, 

this -- and personally, I 

thought I was -- was starting a 

corner of the world that I cared

a lot about.

Election -- that election 

changed my life pretty much 

overnight in terms of who was 

asking me to share my knowledge 

and -- asking me to commenTate 

on the world around me.

One of my favorite stories, as 

returns came in in 2016, I 

turned to my daughter who is 12 

and I said I think we should go 


I think I'm going to be busy 


And I'm checking my e-mail 

before we went to bed and 

there's an e-mail from the "New 

York Times" saying, hi, we're 

the "New York Times", we think 

we know something, can we talk 

to you tomorrow? 

That was the start of a lot of 

people saying what the heck is 

going on in Wisconsin and what 

can you -- can you help us 

understand about rural America? 

Part of what happened was many 

people around the country and 

around the world, but primarily 

from the United States wrote 

messages to me, primarily by 

e-mail saying -- sometimes 

asking questions but more often 

than the no expressing things to


They heard me speak or read 

something that I wrote and -- 

and felt compelled to tell me 

what was on their minds.

I'm turning to those messages 

next to help -- to help -- to 

help convey the importance of 


I think what I learned from -- 

from doing this work is that -- 

is that listening, taking the --

having the luxury of taking the 

time to go into people and 

sitting down with them and 

listening to the way they talked

about politics opened my eyes to

all kind of things that I hadn't

even thought I -- I had been 

looking for.

One thing in particular, you 

know, the -- the way that people

were turning to me and saying 

can you help me explain taught 

me that we really don't know 

much about the perspectives that

people are using to think about 

politics in rural America but in

many different parts of our 


It is not just rural Americans 

that are feeling as though 

they're unheard and not unseen 

or they're overlooked or 


Many people express those 


As a social scientist or 

political observer we're often 

asking the question, how can 

people do that? 

There's part of you us that 

wants to know more.

How are they understanding the 


It helps to listen to people to 

talk to people in their own 

lives to get a better sense of 


It also taught me that there's 

more to know about political -- 

people's political beliefs and 

partisanship, because I would 

ask people, so tell me which 

party best represents the 

interests of the people around 


Almost always they would say, 

neither party.

None of them are paying 

attention to us.

Their attachment to the parties 

was much more complicated than 

leaning towards republican or 

Democrat but it -- it was 

intertwined with the sense of --

of where -- where some of the 

parties -- it helped to listen 

to them to talk about the parts 

to understand that.

I want to know one thing I think

these conversations did for me 

was to see the complexity of the

way, when people are talking 

about those people and who is 

observing that -- economics and 

racism and cultural anxiety and 

whatever you want to call it are

intertwined in the way people 

are perceiving candidates and 


I turn now to the letters to 

dive into these letters more.

I want to share with you some of

the words that I received but I 

think these are all from e-mail 

from people who were -- were -- 

were reading stuff I wrote and 

hearing things and responding to

the people I had been studying.

Primarily the people we assume 

voted for Trump in the election.

They say things like, you know, 

I don't know what they're paying

attention to.

But this seems to be from 

another universe.

They would say things like, 

don't they get that they're 

getting going and support too.

That they're getting government 

benefits themselves and how is 

it that they want to undercut 

government and why Scott walker 

and why smaller government.

Sometimes they would say things 

likes -- they have the 

opportunity to move.

They can move to where the jobs 


The people in the communities 

are people that are left behind 

and wallowing in their own 


Harsh, right? 

What is harsh and troubling to 

me is all of that stuff sounds 

so much like the comments that I

heard Trump supporters saying 

about who we presume to be 

Clinton supporters.

I want to share those with you.

Sorry to make you even more 


For example, I would hear 

oftentimes, or Democrats they 

cannot decide can for 


They being fooled and 


One guy saying, this Democrat 

said he basically even if Hitler

he would vote for him just 

because he's a Democrat.

They can't make their own 


Here's another set of things.

They would say things like, you 

know, not just based on par

partisan, they just vote for 

Barack Obama because he's black 

or Hillary Clinton because she's

a woman.

Or they only vote for Democrats 

because they're on a government 

program and want the money to 


They would say they're 


Oftentimes this comes up when I 

go back after the 2016 campaign 

to some groups and say -- it 

would come up the way before the

gain who did I vote for? 

I would say Hillary Clinton.

I would say why? 

I would say I saw the videotape 

and access video and I have a 


What about bill Clinton? 

They criticize Trump for things 

they don't criticize their own 


Another thing that would come up

is just the -- the perception of

Democrats being intolerant.

So this person is talking about,

you try to have a conversation 

with them, they won't listen to 



Now I thoroughly depressed you.

What is troubling is there's 

energy being spent on what is 

wrong with each other, what 

needs to be fixed in those 

people, while we're focusing on 

the flaws of each other as 

opposed to focusing on the 

things that are more 

fundamentally wrong.

Why is it that our attention is 

drawn to -- to what is wrong 

with each other.

Why is that the conversation? 

And what happens is that we get 

so frustrated with one another, 


We think that -- that the 

problem is those people and 

clearly they're not paying 

attention to the right news on 

any information that you give 

them will not change their minds

so it is hopeless.

We throw up or hands and turn 

away and we don't engage and 

don't get involved.

The result is that the policies 

that are getting us to these 

places whether we're talking 

about economic policy or 

otherwise continue.

So the people in power have the 

ability to continue passing 

legislation that actually isn't 

helping the people who are 

complaining about the state of 


I'm wondering these days, is the

question, what is wrong with 

these people or those people? 

Or instead, should we be asking 

what is wrong with our overall 


What is wrong with the democracy

that we're in the state of 

affairs that we're in? 

We can ask, so what is it that 

with need or probably a question

that is more familiar to a lot 

of you, a question I've been 

asking myself since the campaign

is what is it that I should be 

doing with my talents at this 

point in time? 

Given our state of affairs, what

do I do to contribute to a 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

One thing I've been working 

on since early 2017.

This is a project that I've been

working on with a colleague of a

dear friend, he's a director of 

the lab called the laboratory 

for social machines.

They create a nonprofit 

organization called cortico 

which helps them deploy what 

they invent.

I've been in the lab.

It is a group of designers and 

computer engineers and analogy 

language processing people and 

machine learning folks.

What we came up with is 

basically our answer to how do 

we scale up the listening that I

did in Wisconsin on a national 

scale, perhaps international, 

We'll see how it goes.

But this is where a conversation

we started along this 

recognition that the way in 

which we communicate with each 

other, whether we're talking 

social media and traditional 

immediate yeah, typically it is 

loud and shallow and divisive 

and reactive and it is just not 

nuanced and it is often 

disconnected from the things 

that we're -- that we care about

and are in our every day lives.

If you go to a friend and say, 

what are your biggest concerns 

these days? 

More often than not it is 

thought going to be the stuff 

that is getting talked about in 

the news but instead it is jobs 

and paying off your school loans

and healthcare, maybe the 


What we're aiming for is a kind 

of communication in which we 

lift up the voices of the people

who are under heard.

People that don't fool listened 


People that feel they're 

overlooked and disrespected or 


Communication that is more 

nuanced as opposed to putting us

in boxes in corners.

Instead it enables to see the 

complexity of each other's views

and not SisiSisimply say he's one of 


He's more grounded in our every 

day concerns.

So we came up with a thing that 

we call the local voices 


It is to foster constructive 

conversations that help us each 


We're aiming for simply a way in

which we can listen to one 

another and understand the per 

spktives of people who are 

unlike us or don't live near us 

or that we haven't had 

interaction with.

We have grounded our work in 

these five values.

We keep these front and center 

in our design decisions.

The first one is we're trying to

get people to talk about their 

stories and their personal 

experiences as opposed to their 

bullet points.

We want people to come into a 

conversation and share their 

lives rather than their 


I'm understanding that it is -- 

it is -- when you have the 

opportunity to hear other people

stories that you can actually 

understand their lives better.

Another way of putting it is if 

you bring people into a 

conversation and say, we're 

going to have a conversation 

about climate change, people are

going to show up with their -- 

their points in mind, their 

bullet points, their arguments 

in mind.

As soon as you sit down in that 

conversation and people start to

talk, you will though who is on 

which side of what.

And more likely than not your 

defenses are going to go up.

You won't hear.

You won't actually listen to 

what other people have to say.

We're trying to foster people 

talking about their stories.

We're also trying to engage as 

many different types of people 

as possible primarily for the 

purpose again of lifting up the 

voices of people that are not 

normally heard and also called 

public conversation project.

We're grounding our work in 

their particular communities in 

which we're trying out the local

voices network so -- so every 

place we are we are working with

the community asking them what 

is it you want to the 

communication to look like? 

How do you think this should 

should work here and tailoring 

to each community as we go? 

We're trying to be as 

transparent as possible, where 

the data is going, because we're

merging people and technology 


And that hasn't gone so well in 

many aspects.

Finally we want it to matter.

We hope to have measurable 


These are the key things we're 

focusing on as we keep these 

values front and center and 

create a new public conversation

that we're -- again, we're 

trying to lift up the voices of 

people who are not normally 

heard and we're trying to get 

people to listen and learn.

You could see affinity for the 

work you're doing here.

And again, we're trying to get 

people to share their own 

stories, their personal 


So we call the public 

conversation network because at 

the core our small group 

conversations much like the kind

I was encountering in gas 

stations and designer where 

we're aiming for about six 

people to be led in a 

conversation by a facilitator, 

all of these folks are 

volunteers from the community, 

and it is public that -- that 

the conversations are recorded.

Everyone knows they're recorded.

They know they're going to be 

recorded from the moment they 

volunteer to participate.

And the conversations are shared

across the community and 

neighborhoods in the community 

and space.

This is possible through what 

they have invented.

It is a scalable technology 

platform that is tech lingo, not

so familiar to me, meaning this.

They invented a thing called a 

digital hearth.

It is size of a hug.

What is inside eight 

microphones, raspberry pie and 

computer and enables this thing 

to communicate with the 

controller which I'll show you 

as well as a speaker.

During the conversation which is

open-ended and yet structured 

which I'll say a lot about in a 

minute, the facilitator can say,

I talked about affordable 


Imagine there's other people in 

the room with us.

Let's play this from Paco, 

Wisconsin and people are talking

about affordable housing and 

once you hear the conversation 

we can reflect together and 

through this thing we can bring 

in voices from other people who 

these folks may not have 

encountered before.

Here it what it looks like.

We put it in a box so it doesn't

feel like a phone during can a 


These are the principles that 

guide the script and the guide 

that the host uses to guide the 

information, but basically the 

conversation goes like this.

Share your first name, tell us 

the value that is important to 

you and that is related to why 

you're here today.

Tell us a story from your 

background that helps us 

understand the person you've 


Tell us what do you love about 

living here? 

And then what are are you 

concerned about in this 

community and then let's listen 

to a voice from another place.

And then what do you wish would 

be different five years from 


What do you wish they knew about

your life? 

Finally what is one thing you're

going to be taking away from the


Simple questions that so far 

have sparked some thoughtful 

conversations and -- and about a

wide variety of -- of issues.

So we're not telling people what

to talk about.

Part of the idea is people -- 

people have the power to -- to 

set the agenda, to say what is 

important in their communities.

So it is community power to 

understanding and it is benefit 

driven and it is in particular 


We started in Madison.

This is a group of people 

training to be facilitators in 


You see the hearth at work here.

We're working with the library 

and they're a huge part of the 

local voices network.

These hearts live in the 

libraries meaning that's where 

they get recharged and that's 

where the data gets uploaded to 

a cloud.

Also, they help us do 


But importantly and by design, 

these things can go anywhere, so

librarians taught us early on if

you want to engage a wide 

variety of people you need to go

through them, right, which I 

think I learned as well that if 

you really want to listen to 

people and understand how they 

think about their community, you

need to go to where they are in 

the course of their every day 


These things are portable and go

to where people are and they 

come back.

Here's -- here's shots from the 

library and they're -- they're 

tagging it and circulate with 

the books.

Here's very first hearth 

checkout by a host that owns a 

pancake restaurant.

Went back to the restaurant and 

had a conversation and to the --

to the much chagrin of the 

engineers placed a cup on top of



So all of this data, then what? 

Part of the idea is people 

encounter the speaker playing 

parts of the conversation but 

also there's a great web 

interface that if you're a 

participate, you can log on and 

hear and see your own 

conversation but also hear and 

see the conversations of other 

people and -- and you can easily

search through and find 

conversations about a particular


This is going to give you a 

quick overview of what the 

website looks like.

This is the website for Madison.

When you open it up, there's a 

map and the bar shows you where 

conversations have taken place 

and how many.

Along the side, snippets of 

different conversations.

Dive into one particular 

conversation here is that the 

blue spot is -- is where it took


When you open up a given 

conversation, there's a -- 

there's a -- a bar that shows up

that shows you who has 

participated along the left 


And then across the top are key 

words that pop up.

It is showing you what is 

getting talked about where in 

the conversation.

You could see that's where 

shooting was mentioned.

That's where school district is 

mentioned, the suppreme court and


Highlights by volunteers as well

and people are fascinated by the


You click on one part and hear 


I don't have the audio linked to

this right now.

As it plays it highlights the 

words that are being said so you

can follow along visually pretty

easily as well as hear the 

person's voice, let's see you 

the full transcript and read 

through and again at any point 

what you want to hear the person

saying you'll click on it and 

they'll play the transcript.

It is all -- it is all by -- you

know, it is all an experiment 

and -- and we are -- we are 

improving things as we go.

On that I was shog you we now 

expanded to Boston, New York 

City, Birmingham, Alabama, which

is just starting up, so there 

aren't conversations up on the 

website and as well as as apple 

ton in Wisconsin.

And peck.

Peck is a smaller community.

What we're showing you is a 

topic index that went up maybe a

few weeks ago that is the result

of -- of me highlighting parts 

of a conversation saying, these 

are conversations about 

education, and then the machine 

learning folks teaching, 

teaching the machines to look 

for more conversations about 

education and now you can go 

into the page and say I want to 

see conversations about the 

environment, show them to me.

They'll pop up.

In other words there's much more

to say here.

It is an awesome tool for being 

able to search through the 

conversations and -- and now, 

what we're working on is how do 

you meld the human ability to 

interpret conversational data 

along with a capability of 


We have a long way to go.

It is my hope that we can find a

way to go from post-notes to 

using machines to be able to 

understand conversations about 

politics on a larger scale than 

I was able to go in my 

Volkswagen or Prius.

Media outlets are amplifying 

these conversations.

It is one thing for a volunteer 

to log in and listen.

It is another for the local 

media to say hey, look, a lot of

people seem to talk about 

policing in schools.

What are they saying? 

And let me as a journalist 

follow up with that and have a 

more in-depth interview to 

understand what is going on this

that person's life or their son 

or daughter's life for example.

This is one example of -- of -- 

of an outlet that we're 

partnering with in Madison and 

then these are others that we're

working with around the country.

So the ultimate hope is that at 

one point in time there will be 

one of these crazy digital 

hearts in every library.

There's 17,000 of them around 

the country.

So we have a ways to go.

So far so good.

I like you are hoping there's 

ways -- we need to be creative 

about how we listen, we need to 

be creative, and this I hope is 

one contribution for your 

attention and I really am 

looking forward to your 


So thank you to the students.


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Thank you, Dr. Cramer for 

your policy talk.

I'm a first year masters student

here at the north Michigan.

How much of the world is 

administered by media versus 

more authentic sources like 

grass roots sources?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

I don't know is the honest 


Probably a good bit of it.

It is hard to tell.

I -- I -- for -- for -- for the 

work with my book I worked with 

and Dave lawson and we did a 

content analysis of local 

newspapers across the state 

going back to the 50s to try to 

get some sense of -- of -- of 

was this a kind of sentiment in 

the local news coverage.

Is there a way that we could see

it in local news and we really 

couldn't at all.

That's not to say it is not part

of the media.

I think -- I think -- sentiments

like this are -- are a part of 

-- of political cultures which 

come from so plane different 


It is what we say to each other 

and as well as what we pick up 

from -- from news and popular 

culture and movies and music and


It is hard to attribute it.

It is hard to quantify how much 

comes from the media.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Good question.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

I'm Marie Alexander.

I'm with a club on campus to 

increase dialogue.

With township governments 

there's talk of consolidating 

into fewer larger units but is 

there a benefit to having 

smaller government units closer 

to the people in rural areas?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Great question.

That's a difficult tradeoff.

There's a benefit for people 

having government close to them 

so they know who to contact if 

and when they have a grievance 

or an issue that they want 

attention on.

Yet, so many of our local 

governments are so strapped for 

resources that consolidating up 

and just some respects makes 

sense economically but if we're 

just talking about -- about -- 

about -- about -- about the 

sentiment of feeling heard, 

getting rid of the local 

governments does seem a bit 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

The next question is do 

survey questions that ask if 

you're a republican or Democrat 

get it wrong? 

Is that just too simple?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

That's a good question.

I wouldn't say it is wrong.

Just -- it is a partial answer.


That -- that -- that -- I 

imagine many of you in the room,

if you were asked a question, if

you're a republican or 0 

Democrat or independent or what 

could pick one pretty easily? 

Yet there's more you want to say

about yourself, right? 

Yeah, I'm a Democrat but blah 

blah blah.

It is -- it is -- it is just 

incomplete answer, it doesn't --

it is not the whole answer.

Yet, you know, that question 

continues to be very powerful 

for predicting how people are 

going to vote or how they will 

stand on certain issues.

It is a very efficient a 

question for many decades now.

There's also -- there's more to 

learn about people's leanings 

towards the parties.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

If rural American radio and 

cable are owned by chosely 

monitored groups how can we 

change this information? 

That's a great question.

We clearly need ways of 

communicating and -- and 

learning about -- about the 

world around us in which the -- 

the incentive that -- and the 

divisiveness is not profitable.

I don't think we yet discovered 

what those ways of communicating


For time we thought social media

was going to enable that and 

that hasn't really been a great 


That's another.

I don't know.

I wish I knew the answer.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

You talk about getting 

people to share their stories 

and communities, how do you plan

to extend these discussings 

across communities?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.


So one way is just do this what 

we call cross-pollination of 

having for example say, a group 

of people in the Bronx.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Why use resentment

in the title? 

It is a strong word.

Why not the politics, 

quote, one down, end 


I don't get the new 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.


Well, good question.

It is a question that 

got a lot of -- after 

the 2016 election and 

so after 2016 election

I felt compelled to go

back to many of these 


I wanted to know, I 

too wanted to know 

what they were saying 


Part of the reason I 

was going back even 

before the election 

happened was I wanted 

to give all of them a 

copy or so of the 


And so I started to 

say, don't hurt my 

feelings, don't feel 

like you're going to 

hurt my feelings? 

How do you feel about 

the title of the book?

Tell me, really.

You have to take it 

with a grain of Sault,

they tell me they 

don't like the title.

Often what would 

happen is people would

-- would -- they 

wouldn't say anything 

and they would sit 

this and pause and 

they would say what do

you mean? 

Well, do you -- do you

-- you know, how does 

it sit with you? 

How do you feel about 

the title? 

They would say, you 

know, we resent that.

I'm like, yeah.

We resent this.

I don't have a problem

with the title.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

The way to the 

presidency is through 

rural Wisconsin 

voters, what are the 

rural people from 

Wisconsin saying about

the democratic 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

I don't know.

To answer.

I've been creating the

local voices network 

and a different 

project that -- that 

-- so I haven't been 

back to the 

communities, not 

really since the 

candidates were up and

running and -- and -- 

and people have known 

about them.

So I don't know.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

How far back do 

you think the politics

of resentment go?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

A long time.

So you know, could go 

to ancient Greece.

Like, you could say on

one-hand, there's -- 

humans created 

anything like a city.

There's been this -- 

this rural urban thing

going on, but -- but 

to not so be flippant 

about it.

I would say since -- I

would say since the 

late 60s early 70s, or

the mix of social 

movements and -- and 

changes in our economy

that -- that mix of 

things that is both --

both -- resulted in a 

downturn this the 

economy and also this 

-- this sort of 

cultural backlash 

against many of the 

civil rights movements

action that mix of 

things have been fuel 

for the kind of 

sentiments that I 

heard in the rural 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

How have you 

accounted for the 

identity as a white 

woman in having 

conversations with 

rural Americans?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Great question.

I mean -- this this 

kind of work, you 

always have to be 

mindful -- let me put 

it this way, in this 

line of work, you 

shouldn't fool 

yourself that your 

presence, you can do 

something to make your

presence not matter.


I'm not just -- I'm 

not just a thermometer

going into a community

and taking the 


I'm a human being 

entering into 

relationships with 


As with any 

relationship, like who

you are or appear to 

be in the world 

influences how that 

person is going to 

respond to you.

So I guess the answer 

is I think about it a 


I ask myself would 

this have been a 

different conversation

had I been a different


I try to be attentive 

to that.

I won't know for sure 

what it would sound 

like or looked like 

had I been a different


There -- there -- 

there are certain 

people in the world, 

we're constantly 

making those 


My position in the 

society as a such and 

such, how is that 

impacting the -- the 

interaction I just 


Or the opportunity I 

just had.

The discrimination I 


I try to think about 

it at lot and report 

about it when I report

the research when I 

believe it is relevant

to what people said.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

As populations are

more transient young 

folks moving more and 

having less stable 

jobs, how will place 

identity shift?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Great question.

I don't know for sure.

But there's been some 

really interesting 

research around 

language and dialects 

that suggests to me 

that itemity is going 

to be more important 

at least in the near 


Research I'm referring

to is based on German 

dialects and those who

are specialists in 

linguistics may hear 

in your own voice.

It was spurred by the 



Feeling like you're of

a community and 

there's a human -- 

there's a human drive 

for that.

So I don't -- I don't 


I think place identity

will be important, at 

least in the 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

After doing 

research for years, 

were you surprised as 

many of us about the 

outcome of the 2016 



I -- I -- I got my 

Ph.D. at Michigan.

I believe in research 

and that they can -- 

give us -- give us at 

least a snapshot of a 

moment in time.

So yeah.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

People want to be 

heard, but do you 

think they want to 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Great question.


Yes and no, right? 

Like, no I think 

honestly the quick 

answer, this moment in

time no people don't 

want to listen.

How many of you just 

in the room.

Don't put up your 

hand, you'll make me 

feel bad.

As you're talking, 

you're thinking, this 

listening thing, I'm 

so done with people 

telling me to listen.

Like the last thing I 

want to do is listen.


That's the last thing 

we need.

We do not have time, 

we need to defeat 


I'm in the about 


I'm about organizing 

and figuring out how 

to bring them down.

That's more common 

sentiment, which is 

why I feel a need to 

be a listening 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.


[Indiscernible] the 

biggest divide -- are 

the elite the biggest 

divide in America?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.


If we to choose one, I

would say that -- and 

it is not -- it is not

a clean cut divide, I 

would say that the 

racial divide, divides

in our country are -- 

is probably this -- 

the most profound but 

it is hard to know how

to separate that from 

geography from 


If I had to pick one I

would say race.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

The tax dollars 

from urban areas or 

rural areas, the 




The story from rural 

folks is just not the 


Those [Indiscernible] 

we don't know where 

this is coming from, 

so what is the driver 

for their false 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Just give me a 



I hear what you're 

saying and yes, you're

right, but I want to 

show you pieces of 

data that will 

hopefully complicate 

your view.

So this is an outdated

draft, this is 

recovery from the 


If you're a rural 

person you may not see

this chart but you may

look around you and 

say there's no jobs 

around here.

They're telling me the

recession is over.

There's been a 



This is broadband 

across the country.

The orange spots is 

where it is like, used

to in Ann Arbor where 

you could do business 

and online learning 

and do anything 


The blue parts are 

where, it is kind of 


Very hard.

This -- we have graphs

from my book and I'm 

going to zoom through 

a quick -- quickly 


state of Wisconsin.

What I'm plotting here

is the taxpayer money 

that goes to each 

county and what you 

can see here is -- it 

is -- it is not the 

case that rural 

counties are 

disadvantaged so the 

further you are on the

side of the dot, the 

more rural you are.

It is also not the 

case that -- that 

rural counties are -- 

are disadvantaged in 

terms of federal aid.

If anything they're 

getting more and 

that's the question.

This is the stuff that

that they're referring


When you look on per 

capita basis, rural 

counties in Wisconsin 

in particular, and 

thought -- not anymore

than other states, but

we're talking about 

the people I was 

listening to, they're 

not right, right? 

There's more money 

going to rural folks.

I'm going by here a 

little bit.

If you look at median 

household income in a 

rural county, it is 


If you look at who -- 

who -- the percentage 

of people living below

the Bopoverty line it is

higher and if you look

at unemployment it is 

higher in the rural 


They say they don't 

know what they're 

talking about, they'll

be fooled.

But you can also say, 

they don't see those 


They don't know the 

per capita amount of 

-- of -- of -- of 

taxpayer dollars that 

are coming back to 


What they see is like 

the conditions around 

them and they hear who

-- who is not -- not 

able to -- to -- you 

know get dental care 

or who just lost a 


So is the perception 

that they're worse off

than the urban areas 


I don't think it is an

easy answer.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

How do you think 

the people that you 

met to do research in 

Wisconsin feel about 

the title of your 


Do you think they see 

themselves as 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.


With the Dom innings 

of the two-party 

system and issues of 

identifying we they 

are party what is the 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

I came up with 

this question.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

If I had the 


I don't know.

If I had the solution,

would it matter? 

What a hopeless thing 

to say.

It is one thing to 

have the solution, it 

is another to have the

political power to 

change thing.


So we know 

gerrymandering may be 

part of the issue and 

you know, you're in a 

different context here

than many other states

in the country, where 

your voters had a 

chance to say 

something different.

It is not possible to 

implement the solution



You know it may help.


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

We got a couple of

questions about Henry 

Wallace and 

agricultural extension

in the 1930s.

How do you think that 

factors in what we're 

seeing today.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Extension, I think

extension is immensely


Because when you think

about the universities

in particular and -- 

and -- and in my book 

I write quite a bit 

about a University of 

Wisconsin man 



the sentiment, you 

didn't listen, our 

kids can't get in, 

when they do you don't

understand them.

A way to remedy that 

is to have people of 

the university in the 

communities living 

with them, interacting

with them, knowing 

those folks and then 

getting you know 

creating relationships

which is an extension.

And when I started my 

study I learned 

thankfully that -- 

that our extension 

educators around the 

state are -- are 

people with -- with --

with -- with very deep

knowledge of the 

communities that they 


It was often extension

office I was calling 

to say, where in such 

and such Wisconsin do 

people go on a daily 

basis to visit with 

one another to shoot 

the breeze? 

That community rooted 

daily life information

that the extension 

folks know.

It is an extremely 

valuable part of a 

university, not just 

in terms of P.R. and 

not so it looks like 

we're involved in the 

communities at our 

state -- our 

universities serve.

But so we can actually

learn and hear what it

going on out there in 

the world in these 


We can discover what 

their concerns are are

and hopefully, not 

only improve our 

research but improve 

our ability to really 

to the students who 

come and learn from 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Was there a 

learning curve with 

your survey 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

It is -- since 

they're saying 

technology, I wonder 

if they're refusing to

the -- to the digital 


There's -- yeah, it is

a constant learning 

curve and thankfully 

it is -- it is -- so 

I'm learning that this

team of engineers and 

by their nature they 

are -- they -- they're

used to and trained in

creating things, like 

putting together as 

much knowledge as 

possible to create 

something and deploy 

it and then carefully 

attending to the 

feedback and then 

reviving it.

It has been an awesome


It is a different kind

of learning from 


It usually, in my 

previous work, I work 

on something and 

polish it as much as 

possible and then put 

it out there in the 


Put it out there as 

soon as you can and we

can learn and improve 


It is a constant 

learning curve.

I don't know if it is 

steep, it feels steep.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

What is the 

demographic of voices 

you're getting?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

It will depend on 

the community.

In Madison the typical

participant is as you 

might expect.

White, middle class, 

relatively educated 


There's a wide 


There's about -- about

-- about percent of 

our facilitators are 

people of color.

Most people are -- are

-- mostly facilitators

are upper income.

The participants it is

a little hard to say 

because we have not 

yet started collecting


information on people.

By choice, we the 

philosophy behind the 

local network voices 

we want people to see 

the nuance in each 


We have not.

We've been reluctant 

to ask people, we want

you to see and hear 

nuance in each other.

Could you put yourself

in -- in some boxes 

for us so that we can 

-- we can better you 

know, make sense of 

the data? 

So we're trying to 

figure out a way to 

give people a lot of 

leeway in describing 

who they are to us.

Yet capturing 

information on who the

participants are.

So -- so we think that

we're -- we're 

capturing -- engaging 

a live range of people

but I don't have the 

numbers to share with 

what I mean on that.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

The technology and

the potentials are 


Could it be alienating

and limits in terms of

the way people use it?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.


It is weird.

So many people wary of

technology and 

especially when we say

this -- this -- these 

things are recording 

what you're saying, 


Many people who are 

wary of participating 

in that.

So we -- we are.

That's the driver of 

trying to be as 

transparent as 


Trying to make it 

clear to people where 

the data going and how

we're protecting it, 

what the purpose is.

And we -- we recognize

-- I mean it is like 

good community 

organizing I guess in 

that it is -- it is --

it is understand that 

it is about 

relationship building 

and about people 

getting to know what 

the local voices 

network is and having 

experience in it and 

developing trust over 

time as they see what 

we do with it and what

the local journalists 

do with it.

Hopefully what -- what

local policy makers, 

what -- the good use 

that they can -- this 

can put it to.

So I hear -- I hear 


Another thing, though,

I'm surprised with 

just how much people 

do want their voices 

heard and recorded.

So on the other hand, 

there are many people 

who say, if my voice 

is going to be heard, 

yes, you need 

technology to amplify 


I'm happy to 

participate to get my 

voice out there.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Was it easy to be 

accepted into starting

ideological circles?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.



It was easy.

For people to be asked

do you mind if I sit 

do not and listen to 

what your concerns 


Once people know I'm 

genuine about that 

that that really is 

why I'm there, and not

trying to -- to fool 

them in any way like 

-- like I was telling 

the students earlier 

today, I'm not trying 

to sell you anything.

Not running for 


Not trying to tell why

you're wrong.

As soon as they 

understand that I 

actually -- my purpose

in being there is to 

listen people were 

very welcoming.

It didn't -- I guess 

it is a longer answer.

It didn't feel as 

though I had somehow 

magically passed over 

some threshold and got

myself invited into an

exclusive club.

Never felt like that.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

How have your 

beliefs changed since 

starting talking to 

other people?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

I think my -- very

rarely I think does 

listening change our 

beliefs and I would 

say that is not why I 

think listening is 


Instead what it does 

is it helps you see 

the humanity in the 

other people and helps

you probably better 

understand yourself.

My beliefs have 

changed I think I have

a stronger ception of 

what I value in this 

world and the kind of 

human interactions 

that I think are 

important and that I 

strive to -- to 

replicate or have 

around me.

But I don't think my 

position -- I don't 

think my think on any 

policy issue has 

really changed or my 

own -- my own 

political leanings.

I don't think that's 

what good listening 

usually results in.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

If you say you 

picked up racism in 

the conversations can 

you elaborate?

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.


So most common way is 

when people are 

talking about 

education and policy 

and they would be 

reflecting on where 

the school funding 

formula sends money in

the state.

People would talk 

about Milwaukee and 

talk about how -- how 

-- we sent that city 

so much money and look

at the schools and 


There would be 


Cultural policy 


More money is in the 

going to solve the 

problem because the 

problem is the way.

I'm not going to 

repeat it.

I rather not elaborate

on the staereo types I 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Can you elaborate 

on the people can get 


I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.



All you have to do is 

go to lbm.org.

Express interest and 

say local voices 

network, sounds pretty

interesting, could we 

possibly start up a 

chapter here? 

You could also but 

that would probably 

take some time and 

expanding -- there's 

no -- there's no real 

formula for what it 

means to open a new 


It may be some time 

before a chapter would

start up in Ann Arbor 

and you're Ann Arbor 

but you may volunteer 

to be a curator who is

a person that goes out

and lifts highlights 

and writes notes I 

think other people 

should hear this and 


You could e-mail me.

I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

Very good, thank 

you if you want to 

join me in thanking 

Dr. Cramer for her 



I'm Tom Ivacko with the Urban Policy.

If you like me 

want to talk to her 

more, we are lucky 

that she'll be in 

campus for a couple of

days and back in the 

building for breakfast

on Friday.

This is when the rural

America working group 

that close-up is part 


It is an 


group for -- for 

faculty and staff and 

students across campus

who have interest in 

-- in research 

interest in rural 

America and 

opportunity to get 

together and she'll 

join us then.

It is a small 

breakfast and we can 

add you to the list.

Thank you again, right

now we're ready -- 

there's a reception 

that we hope you'll 

join us for right 


Thank you.