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.

UNESCO’s Connecting the Dots: Options for Future Action, 3-4 March 2015

UNESCO’s CONNECTing the Dots conference will reflect on a report of UNESCO’s Internet Study, entitled ‘Keystones to foster inclusive Knowledge Societies: Access to information and knowledge, Freedom of Expression, Privacy, and Ethics on a Global Internet’. Representatives from 180 Member States will be present to present and discuss the major themes of this report. It will be held at the headquarters of UNESCO at 7, place de Fontenoy, Paris, 75007, France. As a contributor to this study and the report, I will be there to help moderate, report, and summarize the conclusions of the two-day meeting.

My policy class at the Quello Center at MSU is reading the report, and will join the live stream of the conference. I hope you will do the same. Information about live streaming of the event will be on the conference Web site, so consider joining the conversation. UNESCO’s is doing all it can do to ensure that this is truly a multistakeholder consultation on how UNESCO can contribute to fostering an inclusive, global, open and secure Internet in the coming years.  UNESCO2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes:

Report available at: http://www.unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/internet_draft_study.pdf

Conference Web Site at: http://en.unesco.org/events/connecting-dots-options-future-action

Quello Center Launch of Network Neutrality Impact (NNI) Study

On the day the FCC voted 3-2 for net neutrality rules, the Quello Center announced the launch of our ‘Net Neutrality Impact’ (NNI) study. After years of speculations and predictions about the implications of network neutrality, we will be able to study the actual consequences through a natural experiment created by the FCC’s ruling. So remember what you have claimed to the likely consequences of net neutrality, write them down, let us know, and follow our project at the Quello Center. Of course, we also welcome the involvement of other policy researchers who are as curious as we are about what will flow from this decision and how to capture these impacts in the most reliable and valid way.

Follow the project and the Quello Center on Twitter @QuelloCenter

See our announcement of the launch at: http://quello.msu.edu/launching-the-net-neutrality-impact-study/

Celebration of Net Neutrality Vote at FCC
Majority of FCC Celebrates Their Vote for Net Neutrality

 

The Aftermath of Scottish Vote on Independence

Most of the handwringing over how the UK government can deal with the aftermath of the Scottish voting results seems unnecessary, perhaps done simply as a hook for news stories. The high share of the vote for independence was expected for years as there was a clear sense of the strength of national identities, particularly in Scotland, and the strong sentiment for the devolution of some responsibilities. As a result, many government and regulatory agencies have been hard at work on creative ways to better capture and reflect these sentiments.

For example, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) – the UK parallel to the FCC – created a Nations Committee several years ago. It brings together representatives of the devolved nations and England to discuss communication and regulatory issues in order to discover and react to different national perspectives on issues. As you can see from reading the blog of the Advisory Committees for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, called ‘Advice to Ofcom‘, these national issues are most often unifying. For example, nations such as Scotland have great concern for rural access to communication services, but discussion reveals that this concern is very much shared with the other nations, including England. Similarly, England has been concerned over how communication services, such as broadcasting, reflect the cultural diversity of England’s cities, with London being at the extreme, but discussion leads to the realization that this is an issue for cities across the UK.

In such ways, national perspectives are being built into some governmental and regulatory processes in ways that are likely to have very positive outcomes. The government is not being caught off guard, from my perspective. The mechanisms are not like the US federal system, so they might seem confusing to Americans, but they are developing incrementally in ways that are compatible with the pragmatic and pluralist traditions of the UK and Northern Ireland. Progress will not be easy, but it has been an evolving project. And the resulting debate can be fruitful for the UK as a whole.

The Nations of the UK and Northern Ireland
The Nations of the UK and Northern Ireland

Doctoral Studies in Media and Information Studies at MSU

The Media and Information Studies (MIS) PhD program at Michigan State University invites applications for its interdisciplinary program that joins the study of media, information and design across several departments within the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. Offered jointly by the departments of Media and Information, and Advertising & Public Relations, and the School of Journalism, the MIS PhD program gives students access to fifty PhD faculty with research interests that span important current and emerging issues in media and information studies. Students get involved early on in projects, complementing theoretical coursework with hands-on research experiences.

Current research of the faculty include: social media and social computing; human-computer interaction; interactive media and games; Internet for development and ICT4D; media effects; socio-technical systems, including a growing focus on ICTs and health; and media, communication and Internet policy and regulation, to name a few.

Over 90 percent of our current doctoral students are supported by graduate teaching and research assistantships with generous monthly stipends, tuition remission, and health benefits. University fellowships, dissertation completion fellowships, summer research fellowships, and stipends for travel to academic conferences round out the resources available for students.

More than three-fourths of our graduates are hired into faculty positions at four-year institutions at graduation. They are based in departments of mass media, journalism, advertising, public relations, and information studies across the United States and worldwide. Others have gone on to careers in public service and business.

The National Communication Association (NCA), in their most recent doctoral program reputation study, ranked MSU’s Ph.D. programs as No. 1 in educating researchers in communication technology, and in the top four in mass communication. Michigan State University ranked third in frequency of faculty publication in communication in a study reported in The Electronic Journal of Communication in 2012.

East Lansing and the greater Lansing area offer a welcoming academic and cultural environment with easy access to a variety of outdoor activities and the scenic beauty of our state year-round. Blending urban and sub-urban living, it is one of the nation’s most affordable places to complete a doctoral program in media and information studies.

If you want to learn more, take a look at the program’s web page, contact one of our faculty members, or visit us on Facebook.

OII Farewell

Thanks to all of my colleagues for such wonderful and creative farewell celebrations at the OII. The presentations by Vicki, Helen, Jay Blumler (with a song) and Dame Stephanie were unforgettable. Our staff dinner was exemplary of the team spirit and collaborative culture the Institute has developed and will never lose. It was great fun, but also it said so much about the Institute and how we are consistently grateful and appreciative of one another. The strap line of your card, ‘Things won’t be the same without you’, goes both ways, my friends. Thanks also for the mementos of my tenure – the amazing 19th century Big Ben; the OII mug, polo shirt and whisky glasses etched with our own flying super-hero (courtesy of Steve Russell); the Oxford tie, tea towel, and calendar; your words both in the Beach Boys’ song, so uniquely performed by the staff, and in the personal notes from students and staff, present and former, and more – a literal treasure chest.

I will never forget my tenure as the founding director of the greatest multi-disciplinary department of Internet Studies at a major university, which owes everything to the supportive and talented team we put together. My thanks again and best wishes to all of the many individuals who have contributed to our success over the last 13 years. You’ve established the traditions that will continue to keep the Institute at the forefront of research on the Internet and its societal implications.

OII Polo Shirt and Treasure Chest
OII Polo Shirt and Treasure Chest