The ESRC has awarded my colleagues and I support for a seminar series on ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity, and Rights’. This will involve: me and colleagues at the OII, University of Oxford; Dr Gillian Youngs, the principal applicant, recently appointed to a professorship at the Newport School of Art, Media and Design at University of Wales; Dr Tracy Simmons at the University of Leicester; and Professor Katherine Sarikakis at the University of Vienna (2011-13). [ESRC RES-451-26-0849] The project Web site is at: http://idl.newport.ac.uk/digitalpolicy/
Digital policy is high on political, communications and commercial agendas currently with the Digital Economy Bill (BIS 2009-10) currently going through Parliament following on from the Digital Britain Final Report in June 2009 (BIS 2009). While the digital revolution is already well underway in the UK in terms of business developments and changes in daily life, these transitions mark a major policy and legislative push towards Britain’s digital future. Controversial areas such as copyright infringement, the future and functions of public service content, and the role of Ofcom are core to these changes. In broader terms the potential for economic transformations and growth through the digital economy, new skills, innovation and creativity, are key concerns.
The three core areas of focus of the seminar series offer an original synthesis bringing together consideration of connectivity, creativity and rights to encourage links between technical, political and economic issues. The series will consider connectivity from social and skills-based as well as infrastructural and technical perspectives. Creativity will be examined in a wide sense including creative and media industries, transitions in public service and other forms of content, new knowledge and networking and political and commercial innovations. Rights points not only to the importance of digital inclusivity but broader concerns of digital empowerment through access not only to digital technologies but to the knowledge, skills and motivations that are required to use in imaginative ways and to their full potential. The benefits to individuals and communities as well as to the economy at large are at stake here. Across the seminar series different aspects of the digital knowledge economy, knowledge work and skills and rights issues will be addressed including from critical perspectives.
An innovative approach of the series will be to examine these areas through multi-stakeholder engagement to identify the practical implications and challenges as well as critical debates about winners and losers in the digital game. It will bring policymakers and politicians at different levels together with academics, regulators, communications, media and creative industry representatives as well as members of NGOs, social and digital entrepreneurs and innovators.
The organizers of the series recognize that at this moment of profound digital change an inclusive debate of the kind that can only be stimulated by bringing actors with contrasting interests together is crucial. Not least to identify major tensions and concerns as well as opportunities, but also any areas requiring a particular policy focus, including in relation to complex issues of access and digital rights at collective and individual levels. What kind of digital future is envisaged in Britain? Who continues to be left out or at risk of being left out of this digital future? What can be done to overcome major technical, knowledge and skills barriers to this? How much control needs to be exerted to achieve a safe online environment including for the most vulnerable? What new kinds of creativity and innovation are being unleashed by digital change and how can these be expanded? How is the public service ethos being tested and enhanced in the digital environment? These are the kinds of questions that are central to this series.
There will be at least five seminars, with additional seminars possible through support from other sources. The first will be held over two days to launch the series and explore the linking themes in some depth, and then four one-day seminars to focus in detail on separate areas. The aim will be to have some core participants who will attend a number of the seminars and then participants related to each theme for the individual seminars. All seminars will have a mix of stakeholders, ranging across policy, business and civil society, in addition to academics to generate theory/practice connections in fresh and productive ways. The aim will be to involve between 30 and 40 people in each seminar including core group participants (regular attendees) and guest speakers and participants.
The series is international. First it aims to examine digital Britain in its global context. Secondly, it aims to do that in part through the direct participation in the series of leading scholars from North America, Canada, Europe and East Asia. Finally, it aims to harness digital media in its own methodology in engagement and outreach terms, such as by using the Internet to extend cost effectively the number of international speakers who can be invovled in the series, and by using the web to enable worldwide access to the series. By experimenting with popular social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, the series also aims to contribute to new models of academic practice.
The international contributions to the series are vital when digital communication and problems and challenges affecting it have national dimensions and characteristics but also go well beyond them in creating an era of everyday global communication for leisure as much as work, consumption as much as production. The international aspects of the series will stimulate interesting comparative questions for research, contrasting areas of good practice, varied perspectives on issues such as risk, and different sets of policy priorities and objectives. The international character of the series will also significantly enhance its outputs, both in terms of the text and audiovisual material to be mounted online, but also the academic publications from the series. It is also anticipated that new international networks will develop out of the series which will give academics at all levels of experience and others involved access to knowledge outside of the UK context. The in-depth quality of the seminars will offer plenty of opportunity for new research collaborations to be generated.
The ESRC Research Seminar Series ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights’ (RES-451-26-0849) runs from 2011 to 2013 led by Prof. Gillian Youngs, University of Wales, Newport, with Dr Tracy Simmons, University of Leicester, Prof. Bill Dutton, Oxford Internet Institute, and Prof. Katharine Sarikakis, University of Vienna.