A University Network that Worked: Universitas 21 Graduate Research Conference (U21)

I just participated in a Universitas 21 Gradudate Research Conference – this one held around the topic of our digital future and held at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), China, from 9-12 June 2015. It was organised by SJTU’s School of Media and Design in collaboration with the university’s Division of Cooperation and Exchange.

It was the first experience I have had with this scheme, even though it has been in operation since 1997. I left very impressed with the idea and its implementation. It brought together a strong international set of graduate students from an amazingly diverse range of disciplines, from Internet studies to chemistry.

Essentially, some 29 universities collaborate in this U21 network. Members propose topics for conferences that they will administer, and SJTU proposed a topic for this particular meeting on our ‘Digital Future’. Once a theme or topic is accepted, each university in the network solicits proposals from graduate students across their respective universities. Each university then reviews the proposals and selects one to three students, for whom they support travel to attend the conference. The hosting university then provides facilities and support for local food and lodging.

Given an increasing focus on interdisciplinary issues, such as digital futures, this scheme merits consideration. Most other seminars and conferences I’ve attended around similar topics are more confined to a few disciplines or fields, as they are more likely to be organized by networks within particular fields. This university-centered, rather than disciplinary-centric, approach seemed to have yielded a truly interdisciplinary set of students of high quality. Chosen by their respective universities, it was apparent that they were excellent presenters and model students to the person.

Of course, so much depends on the topic, the location, the timing, management, and much more, but the approach of this U21 network merits consideration.

I am not part of this network, beyond speaking at this particular conference, but more information about Universitas 21, which calls itself ‘the leading global network of research universities for the 21st century’ is available online, of course, at: http://www.universitas21.com

Media & Design at Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Media & Design at Shanghai Jiao Tong University
U21 Poster and Participants
U21 Poster and Participants

Multistakeholder or Multilateral Internet Governance?

Global debate over alternative approaches to governing the Internet has been wide ranging, but increasingly has pivoted around the wisdom of “multistakeholder governance.” This paper takes controversy around a multistakeholder versus an alternative multilateral approach as a focus for clarifying the changing context and significance of Internet governance. A critical perspective on this debate challenges some of the conventional wisdom marshaled around positions on the history and future of Internet governance. By providing an understanding of the dynamics of Internet governance, this paper seeks to illuminate and engage with issues that are of rising importance to the vitality of a global infrastructure that is becoming more central to economic and social development around the world. Based on the perspective developed in this paper, a multistakeholder process appears best suited for helping a widening array of actors, including multilateral organizations, to connect a worldwide ecology of choices that are governing the Internet.

My paper is being posted on SSRN and I’ll be speaking at the Digital Futures Conference at Shanghai Jiao Tong University this week.

ICA Fellow Award at 2015 Annual Meeting

I was very fortunate to have been selected as an ICA Fellow at the 2015 ICA Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was among wonderful and international company, including Lance Bennett, Noshir Contractor, Hans Mathias Kepplinger, Hak-­Soo Kim, Malcolm R. Parks, and Steven R. Wilson.

The College of Communication Arts & Sciences at MSU put together a terrific blog about the award, which follows:

Quello Center Director Elected ICA Fellow

William Dutton, Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and Director of the Quello Center, recently was inducted into the prestigious group of International Communication Association (ICA) Fellows in recognition of his distinguished scholarly contributions to the field of communication.

“William Dutton is the outstandingly successful founding Director of the Oxford Internet Institute, as well as an Oxford Don and currently channeling scholarly input into Washington in the area of telecommunications policy,” the ICA said in a statement. “He has been exceptionally productive and influential in a variety of areas concerning communication and information technologies and communication policy for nearly four decades.

“His contributions range from research on implications of computing and the Internet for society, his international collaborations, and his highly influential development of and commitment to institution-building, through journals (especially helping to found and edit Information, Communication and Society), the Oxford Internet Institute, and now the Quello Center.”

Dutton was the first Professor of Internet Studies at the University of Oxford, a position he held from 2002 to 2014, where he was Founding Director of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and a Professorial Fellow of Balliol College. He also is a Professor Emeritus at the Annenberg School at USC, where he was elected President of the University’s Faculty Senate.

“This is a well-deserved recognition for pioneering research on the Internet and a wealth of contributions to the field,” said Prabu David, Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “This is a great honor. Less than 2 percent of current ICA members are fellows.”

Dutton has received numerous grants for his research and is widely published. His research interests include a wide range of issues concerning the Internet and society, policy and regulation, such as initiatives around digital divides, the role of networked, distributed collaboration and digital social research, and politics and the Internet, including his influential conception of the Internet’s Fifth Estate.

“His long and distinguished career in the areas of ICTs (information and communication technology) and policy is also distinguished by his early promotion of the socio-technical systems approach, public policy issues involving ICTs, the critical understanding of ‘wired cities,’ and the ‘ecology of games’ theory. Notably, he early on highlighted a more international perspective on ICT research and policy,” the ICA said in its statement.

Dutton currently is the principal investigator of an MSU research team working on a Net Neutrality Impact Study. The goal of this research is to provide a non-partisan, unbiased assessment of the short-, medium- and long-term implications of the FCC’s new order approving rules that support net neutrality. He also is leading a Quello Center team focused on the use of the Internet for the social and economic revitalization of Detroit, and is a co-principal on an Oxford cybersecurity project.

Dutton was recognized as an ICA Fellow at the International Communication Association annual conference May 21-25 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He expressed his appreciation of this recognition, saying: “I thank ICA for this honor as well as the many colleagues in our burgeoning global field of communication arts and sciences who have supported my work on the policies and practices shaping the Internet and its societal implications. I believe James H. Quello would be proud of his center.”

 

ICA Fellow Award
ICA Fellow Award

Honoring Mark Levy: A Special Session at ICA 2015

ICA 2015, Jan Juan, Puerto Rico
Colleagues Remember Mark R. Levy
Sat, May 23, 18:00 to 19:15, Caribe Hilton, Salon Del Mar

Sponsored by:
The Journal of Communication
Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences
Nanyang Technological University Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
University of Maryland Department of Communication
University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

Please join a special session at the ICA conference in San Juan honoring Professor Mark Levy, who died on Saturday, February 7, 2015. Levy served on the faculty at Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences for more than 15 years. Prior to coming to MSU, he served as Associate Dean and Professor of the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. He also had taught at the State University of New York in Albany, Columbia University in New York City, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Levy’s research focused on the use and impact of communication technologies on individuals and on economic and social development. He was the author, co-author, or editor of 10 books and more than 100 refereed journal articles and conference presentations. From 1991 to 1996, he was Editor of the Journal of Communication.

Chair and Speaker: Edward L. Fink, University of Maryland, USA

Speakers:
Akiba A. Cohen, The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, ISRAEL
Johannes M. Bauer, Michigan State University, USA
Frank Biocca, Syracuse University, USA
Maurine Beasley , University of Maryland, USA
Ang Peng Hwa, Nanyang Technological University, SINGAPORE
Benjamin H. Detenber, Nanyang Technological University, SINGAPORE

Social Dynamics of the Internet, Preparing for Fall 2015

This course focuses on the social shaping of the Internet and its societal implications. Students are introduced to issues surrounding the social impact of the Internet and related media, communication and information technologies, including social media, mobile and the Internet of Things. The course will cover major issues, including implications for democracy, collective action, social networking, the quality of news and information, privacy, freedom of expression and economic development. Perspectives on how people design, use, regulate and otherwise shape technologies are covered. An emphasis in course readings and discussion is placed on theoretical perspectives and empirical approaches to challenging conventional wisdom about the social impact of the Internet and related technologies, such as the social media, mobile Internet, and the Internet of Things.

Prospective Readings Include:

Graham, M., and Dutton, W. H. (2014) (eds), Society & the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing our Lives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Keen, A. (2015), The Internet Is Not The Answer. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.

Rainie, L., and Wellman, B. (2012), Networking: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Additional for Graduate Students

Dutton, W. H. (2014) (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies, paperback edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Further Readings

Doctorow, C. (2014), Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age. San Francisco: McSweeney’s.

Hartley, J., Burgess, J., and Bruns, A. (2013) (eds), A Companion to New Media Dynamics. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

The Pleasures of Teaching

I am coming to the end of my first graduate seminar since moving to MSU, and finding the experience particularly rewarding. Perhaps many stars aligned, such as having a small seminar, or as I get more experience in the classroom, I simply enjoy the experience more, but this semester was terrific.

My class was on Media and Information Policy. It covered a wide range of broad topics, such as privacy and surveillance, intellectual property, access and more (850 Course-22JAN15). The students could then do presentations related to the topics of most interest, and write their paper on one particular topic, allowing them to go into depth on what interested them most. This is pretty standard, but what a pleasure to spend three hours a week talking about topics that I find valuable to my own work with students who are bright and engaged, and writing papers on such issues as interesting and diverse as the right to be forgotten, municipal broadband, copyright in the music industry, cybersecurity, and media concentration, focusing on the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger? During the term, one of the students won a Presidential Fellowship to pursue these issues, while another arranged the music for a parody music video of the MSU basketball team that generated tens of thousands of views. Looking forward to seeing the completed papers this week. On top of that, I had a couple of doctoral students auditing, and a Visiting Fellow from Israel, Dr Avsha Ginosar, sitting in and adding to the mix of perspectives. Great to be back in the classroom.

Our class in the Quello Meeting Room
Our class in the Quello Meeting Room
A Blog from a student about a 'typical' class
A Blog from a student about a ‘typical’ class
Another blog from the classroom
Another blog from the classroom
Avsha Ginosar
Avsha Ginosar

In Praise of Academic Engagement

I am just back from a stimulating symposium at Northwestern University focused on rethinking scholarship on online news, which led me to reflect on the value of such events, and a related seminar series we have an MSU for the Media and Information Department. Of course, the Quello Center that I direct organises many seminars, roundtables and lectures as well. While I appreciate these experiences, their very success leads me to worry about how to sustain a culture of academic engagement in the face of a developing – what should I call it – production culture. We might not fully appreciate and need to continually reinforce the significance of such opportunities for academics to engage each other face to face in constructive debates about issues and research.

Academics continue to enjoy a wonderful work environment, in my opinion, but we sometimes take these opportunities for listening to our colleagues, and discussing issues, theories and methods as just another event on our calendars. Instead, these occasions are an important part of the lifeblood of a university – something that makes the university and its academic units worth their existence. When academics are facing metrics on a number of fronts – publications, citations, outreach, impact, course evaluations, papers delivered and more – it is easy to view the seminar or conference as a distraction from the real work. You can almost hear colleagues thinking: ‘I better stay in at my computer screen and work on my paper / book / review / lecture.’

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The last thing we need is another metric for participation in seminars. That would kill the real payoffs of academic engagement, which are largely tacit learning that stimulates and broadens your own thinking about your research and teaching. The traditional Oxford colleges can bring their fellows together everyday for lunch. A social scientist will be sitting by a physicist or Buddhist scholar, and explaining their work to each other. We don’t have such regular opportunities as most American universities, but we do have the department seminars and related academic events that bring us together to engage with colleagues from different perspectives.

Fight against the academic metrics of the production culture by pushing away from the computer screen to sit down with other colleagues and discuss, critique, support and otherwise engage with their work. The more distant from your own focus, the better to connect with ideas you never imagined to be of value to you and whatever sits waiting for you on the computer screen.

Lisa Nakamura's Lecture
Lisa Nakamura’s Lecture

Thanks to my colleagues for organising the events that provide such opportunities.