From early 2019, my research began to focus on four key areas.
First, I continue work on my book on the Fifth Estate. Nearly all of my other research feeds into this project, such as an analysis of data from seven nations on the role played by different media in shaping access to information about politics – the so-called disinformation problem. I recently completed my best book on this topic: The Fifth Estate: The Power Shift of the Digital Age (OUP 2023).
Secondly, I continue as a researcher on the UK FCO supported Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC) in the Department of Computer Science at Oxford, where I am focused on the social and cultural dimensions of cybersecurity. My work on a cybersecurity mindset falls into this area, for example. I am working with colleagues to gather and analyse cross-national data on cybersecurity practices and policies and what difference they make.
Thirdly, I am working with colleagues at the OII on the 2019 Oxford Internet Survey (OxIS), with support from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), BT, and Google. We are focusing on digital divides in the UK, but also on issues related to access to information, privacy, and freedom of expression in the online world.
Most recently, I have begun research on the implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on global geopolitical information and communication environments. I am hoping to develop this work with all of my colleagues at the GCSCC, OII, and the Portulans Institute. Initially, my focus is on researching this as a case study that will identify themes and issues to drive further research.
Prior to retiring from MSU, where I was Professor of Media and Information Policy at MSU, my research focused on developing my concept of the Fifth Estate, such as a study of disinformation, in addition to continuing to work with the UK FCO supported Global Cyber Security Capacity Project.
Prior to coming to MSU, my role as Founding Director and Professor of Internet Studies at the OII at the University of Oxford was my most challenging and rewarding collaborative and international research experience. The Institute’s Web site provides an excellent overview of the research, collaboration, teaching, and what we coined ‘net-working’, before collaborative network organizations became commonplace. www.oii.ox.ac.uk
Prior to joining the OII, from 1980 to 2002, I pursued research on the social aspects of information and communication technologies at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. I remain associated with the Annenberg School as an Emeritus Professor at USC.
While at Annenberg, I took a leave for a Fulbright Scholarship in the UK, and later to serve as National Director of the UK’s Programme on Information and Communication Technologies (PICT) from 1993 to 1996. PICT was a social science research programme dedicated to shaping policy and practice, supported primarily by grants from the Economic and Social Research Council of Britain to six university research centres, at Brunel, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Sussex, Westminster,and the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. Research from this project is covered in two books, including a collection edited by me and Malcolm Peltu, Information and Communication Technologies: Visions and Realities (OUP 1996, reprinted in 2001), and my book entitled Society on the Line: Information Politics in the Digital Age (OUP 2001).
Post-PICT, I consulted for the Economic and Social Research Council to develop a proposal for a new research initiative on “The E-Society” that would follow earlier programmes, such as PICT and The Virtual Society? Programme. This proposal enabled the ESRC to support new social and economic research aimed at understanding the restructuring of practices and institutions in the digital age from 2002 in two three-year phases to 2007.
However, my first truly collaborative experience was with an NSF-supported Evaluation of Urban Information Systems (URBIS), conducted by the Public Policy Research Organization (PPRO) at the University of California, Irvine, in the late-1970s. The team was led by Ken Kraemer, at UC Irvine, and included the late Rob Kling, Jim Danziger and myself, along with John Leslie King, Walt Scacchi and others, such as Dick and Linda Hackathorn, all who were central to this ‘Irvine Group’. This project led me away from the study of urban politics and policy – the focus of my graduate study – to focus my work on the social and political aspects of information and communication technologies. The most cited book arising from our work was Computers and Politics (1982).