Visiting Leeds University and Jay G. Blumler

I had a short but pleasant visit to the School of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds that provided me an opportunity to catch up with new and old colleagues. The School has made some brilliant new hires, such as Christopher Anderson. Chris is finishing his first year at Leeds with a new and timely book, forthcoming in 2018 through Oxford University Press, entitled Apostles of Certainty: Data Journalism and the Politics of Doubt.

The University of Leeds is also home to one of my oldest and enduring colleagues, mentors and friends in the UK, Professor Jay G. Blumler.  Jay first took a position at Leeds as Granada Television Research Fellow in 1963, going on to direct his Centre for Television Research. He has taught at a number of universities since, but continues his affiliation with Leeds today as an Emeritus Professor.

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Jay and Bill, 2018

On my very first trip to Leeds in the early 1980s, I stayed at Jay’s home, and recall watching Top of the Pops with his family. Lo and Behold, a rerun of that classic was on television decades later, when I walked back into Jay’s home after dinner this past Friday evening. But a more important, enduring feature of my return, was Jay’s continuing pursuit of creating – not just listening to – music, a charming aspect of his entire career. For example, Jay often entertains his academic audiences with brief refrains from a wide range of songs. He has a clear, baritone voice that led to him being involved in, and most often organizing, all sorts of singing groups throughout his life – a topic we discussed that evening.

Even before I was born (if you can imagine that), in 1944, Jay was part of a quartet of American servicemen studying Russian language at Georgetown University. They called themselves ‘The Four Freedoms’, playing off of FDR’s Four Freedoms speech, given in 1941.  A colleague who heard them sing arranged for Jay and his quartet to perform at a recording session for the Folk Song Division at the Library of Congress (photo below).

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In 1946, while still stationed in Berlin, Jay was Chair of the American Veterans Committee, a group he helped found and organize in Berlin. In that role, he was invited to have tea with Eleanor Roosevelt when she visited the city. She had heard of some of the charity work the committee had done and asked to meet with them. A diary of her day in Berlin mentions her conversations at a ‘soldiers club’ in the last paragraph.

After the service, Jay taught Social and Political Theory at Ruskin College, Oxford, serving several years as Resident Tutor at the Rookery, later called the Ruskin College Academic Building. As the tutor, he formed another group, called ‘Jay and the Rooks’ (photo below).

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Jay and the Rooks

If you ever have the opportunity to visit with Jay, don’t hesitate to ask him if an appropriate tune comes to mind. It will. I am delighted that Jay decided to pursue an academic rather than a singing career, as he has done so much to advance the field of communication, such as in serving as President of the ICA, and advancing studies of political communication in particular. However, I am so happy that he has found ways to spice up his and others’ academic presentations with an occasional song.

Notes

Jay G. Blumler on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Blumler

Bringing Data Down to Earth: Christine Borgman’s New Book

I interviewed Professor Christine Borgman last year for Voices from Oxford about issues covered in her forthcoming book, which has now been published. Entitled Big Data, Little Data, No Data: Scholarship in the Digital Age (OUP 2015), it represents a very clear eyed, mature, and incredibly informed perspective on the real opportunities and problems facing the treatment of data across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. I have a personal interest in Christine’s work, as she was a Visiting Fellow at the OII and then an Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow at Balliol College during my time at these Oxford centers for scholarship. Moreover, she critically looks at OxIS, the Oxford Internet Surveys, which I helped shape. But you don’t need my endorsement. Her book has glowing endorsements from major figures in the field, including Jonathan Zittrain, John Leslie King, and Gregg Gordon, President and CEO of the Social Science Research Network.

Prof Borgman at the OII
Prof Borgman at the OII

I may not agree with every aspect of all of her key arguments, but these issues are genuine points of controversy within the scholarly community, such as around appropriate standards, and trivial in relation to her basic thesis, which is brilliant. What I would like to point out are two truly remarkable aspects of her book.

First, she has provided one of the first and only books that offer a critical perspective on big data at a time when this subject remains high on the hype cycle, dominated by breathtaking perspectives on the future prospects of mining this new resource. Borgman certainly does not dismiss the real value of big data, but she provides a methodologically and information-science informed perspectives on the problems confronting the effective use of big data, which is juxtaposed with other kinds of research, even research that does not claim to use any data. Very few critiques of big data have the breadth of comparative coverage across all kinds of data, from ethnographic to survey to big data sets. Most of us are steeped in one or the other approach, but all of us should welcome insights that flow from looking across the range of data used in scholarly research.

Secondly, Professor Borgman is able to cover the humanities, social sciences and sciences in equally informed ways. As an information scientist with tremendous breadth and experience, she is able to speak with as much authority on issues of the digital humanities as on digital social research and e-Science. But its broader than that: Think of the matrix of methods covering all kinds of data in the humanities, social sciences and sciences and start naming the authorities who could give keynotes in each field. Christine will be one of the few on your list. As Christine points out, even C. P. Snow left out the social sciences. (Thanks, Christine, for covering the social sciences, and in such an equivalent way.)

I hope this book is incorporated in courses beyond the information sciences, and include methods courses across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. It could be a key book for courses on the philosophy of science as it provides a rich understanding of how scholars actually do their work across these contrasting substantive and methodological fields.

See my VOX interview with Christine at: http://www.voicesfromoxford.org/video/data-in-the-digital-domain/228

 

The Fifth Estate: Not the Movie

A number of colleagues have brought my attention to the popular launch of a movie, entitled The Fifth Estate. It is not unrelated to my work on the Fifth Estate, as it focuses on WikiLeaks, and such whistle-blowing Web sites are one of many ways in which networked individuals can hold institutions more accountable. For those who like the movie or the idea of a Fifth Estate, I invite you to read more. It is actually used by me as a means to convey the significance of the Internet as a means for empowering networked individuals in ways comparable to the Fourth Estate, the press, of an earlier era. See, for example:

Dutton, W. H. (2007), ‘Through the Network (of Networks) – the Fifth Estate’, Inaugural lecture, Examination Schools, University of Oxford, 15 October. Available online at: http://webcast.oii.ox.ac.uk/?view=Webcast&ID=20071015_208

 

 Dutton, W. H. (2009), ‘Democracy on the Line: The Fifth Estate?’, Oxford Today, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 12-15.

 

 Dutton, W. H. (2009), ‘The Fifth Estate Emerging through the Network of Networks’, Prometheus, Vol. 27, No. 1, March: pp. 1-15.

 

Dutton, W. H. (2010), ‘Democratic Potential of the Fifth Estate’, PerAda Magazine, http://www.perada-magazine.eu/pdf/003003/003003.pdf

Dutton, W. H. (2010), ‘The Fifth Estate Emerging Through the Internet and Freedom of Expression’, pp. 22-25 in A News Future and the Future of the Journalism Profession: An IPI Report. International Press Institute and the Poytner Institute.

 

 Dutton, W. H. (2010), ‘The Fifth Estate: Democratic Social Accountability through the Emerging Network of Networks’, pp. 3-18 in Nixon, P. G., Koutrakou, V. N., and Rawal, R. (Eds), Understanding E-Government in Europe: Issues and Challenges. London: Routledge.

 

Dutton, W. H. (2011), ‘A Networked World Needs a Fifth Estate’, Wired Magazine, 22 October, http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2011/11/ideas-bank/william-dutton  

 

 Dutton, W. H. (2012), ‘The Fifth Estate: A New Governance Challenge’, pp. 584-98 in Levi-Faur, D. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Newman, N., Dutton, W. H., and Blank, G. (2012), ‘Social Media in the Changing Ecology of News: The Fourth and Fifth Estates in Britain’, International Journal of Internet Science, 7(1): 6-22.

 

 Dutton, W. H. (2013), ‘The Internet and Democratic Accountability: The Rise of the Fifth Estate’, pp. 39-55 in Lee, F.L.F., Leung, L., Qui, J. L., and Chu, D.S.C. (eds), Frontiers in New Media Research. Abbingdon: Informa, Taylor and Francis/Routledge.

 

 Dutton, W. H., and Dubois, E. (2013), ‘The Fifth Estate of the Digital World’, pp. 131-43 in Youngs, G. (ed.), Digital World: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights. London: Routledge.

 

 Dubois, E., and Dutton, W. H. (2013), ‘The Fifth Estate in Internet Governance: Collective Accountability of a Canadian Policy Initiative’, Revue française d’Etudes Américaines RFEA, forthcoming.

 

 

Scholarship in the Networked World, Professor Christine Borgman, 6 June 2013, 5pm at Balliol College

 Scholarship in the Networked World

Oliver Smithies Lecture

 6 June 2013, 5pm

 Lecture Room XXIII, Balliol College

Christine L. Borgman

 Professor & Presidential Chair in Information Studies

 University of California, Los Angeles

 and

 Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow and Lecturer

 Balliol College, University of Oxford

Scholars are expected to publish the results of their work in journals, books, and other venues. Now they are being asked to publish their data as well, which marks a fundamental transition in scholarly communication. Data are not shiny objects that are easily exchanged. Rather, they are fuzzy and poorly bounded entities. The enthusiasm for “big data” is obscuring the complexity and diversity of data and of data practices across the disciplines. Data flows are uneven – abundant in some areas and sparse in others, easily or rarely shared. Open access and open data are contested concepts that are often conflated. Data are a lens to observe the rapidly changing landscape of scholarly practice. This talk is based on an Oxford-based book project to open up the black box of “data,” peering inside to explore behavior, technology, and policy issues.

Christine L. Borgman is Professor and Presidential Chair in Information Studies at UCLA. Currently (2012-13) she is the Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at Balliol College, University of Oxford, where she also is affiliated with the Oxford Internet Institute and the eResearch Centre. Prof. Borgman is the author of more than 200 publications in information studies, computer science, and communication. Her monographs, Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet (MIT Press, 2007) and From Gutenberg to the Global Information Infrastructure: Access to Information in a Networked World (MIT Press, 2000), each won the Best Information Science Book of the Year award from the American Society for Information Science and Technology. She conducts data practices research with funding from the National Science Foundation, Sloan Foundation, and Microsoft Research. Current collaborations include Monitoring, Modeling, and Memory, The Transformation of Knowledge, Culture, and Practice in Data-Driven Science, and Empowering Long Tail Research.

 

The Library of Congress and The John W. Kluge Center

I spent two stimulating days at the Library of Congress (LC) last week. The first involved meeting with staff of the LC who are involved in thinking through short and long-range plans for the Library’s future, everything from space to holdings that will help the LC take a leading position in the US and globally through its many initiatives and collaborations. All that I could imagine the library doing seemed already on-track in one or more of their many new and existing programs and planned initiatives, leaving me with a positive sense about their direction of change. Staff members are engaging their colleagues in wide-ranging discussions about shaping the LC for the digital age in ways that nevertheless respects what the Librarian defines as the ‘culture of the book’. All the many themes emerging from our Oxford lecture series on ‘innovation and digital scholarship‘ are coming into play in their discussions.

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

 

The second day of meetings shifted to whether and how The John W. Kluge Center of the LC might develop a new program around Digital Studies or Internet Studies – the exact nature of their prospective program has yet to be decided. The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies (OUP 2013) helped secure me a seat for a wonderful debate over what the Center might do that would be unique and have major global implications, but also help the Library shape its holdings and activities for 21st Century digital research and scholarship. With the support of the Librarian and the ability to bring in scholars on the forefront of the field, such as Professor Manuel Castells, who the was the LC’s Kluge Chair in Technology and Society, during the summer of 2012, and continues as a member of the Library’s Scholars Council. I am quite optimistic about their prospects. The Center is developing an innovative program that will help build the larger field of Internet Studies, as I would define it, as well as support the LC.

 

I left with the impression that the LC does not trumpet its own work as much as we might do in academia, but they are involved in major initiatives at a scale most universities could not match. Academics should be tracking the Kluge Center and the LC over the coming years as its initiatives around the digital age take shape.

 

 

 

Ada Lovelace Conference: A Call for Papers

While I have no involvement in this conference, I want to help draw attention to this CALL FOR PAPERS:
Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace
18 October 2013
Stevens Institute of Technology, College of Arts and Letters

An interdisciplinary conference celebrating the achievements and legacies of the poet Lord Byron’s only known legitimate child, Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), will take place at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, New Jersey) on 18 October 2013.  This conference will coincide with the week celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, a global event for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).  All aspects of the achievements and legacies of Ada Lovelace will be considered, including but not limited to:
-Lovelace as Translator and/or Collaborator
-Technology in the Long Nineteenth Century
-Women in Computing: Past/Present/Future
-Women in STEM
-Ada Lovelace and her Circle

-Please submit proposals or abstracts of 250-500 words by 14 May 2013 to: Robin Hammerman (rhammerm@stevens.edu).
-Visit the conference website: http://www.stevens.edu/calconference

Ada Lovelace

Tutorial on Mobile Painting Apps by Jeremy Sutton

We were very lucky to have a wonderful tutorial at the OII on mobile painting apps, given by Jeremy Sutton. Jeremy is a natural teacher and spent the hour plus overtime describing the tools he uses for mobile painting on a tablet computer, focusing on iPad apps, all the time demonstrating the use and functionality of different tools – from brushes to apps – by involving the audience in his various sketches. He created a very useful Web page for the talk which provides his recommendations of tools for mobile painting, see: http://www.paintboxtv.com/ipad-art-tools

Other URLs for painting on an iPad on Jeremy’s site include:

http://www.paintboxtv.com/ipad-art

http://www.paintboxtv.com/inspired-by-hockney

I met Jeremy when he was a physics student at Oxford, and I was a professor in LA in the early 1980s. After a career of over a decade at Oxford Instruments, he followed his love of sketching and painting after he sat down at a conference on computer painting and delighted the conference goers by demonstrating what could be done on a computer screen. He has been creating and selling his work, teaching classes and demonstrating the art and craft of painting with a computer ever since. He was off from our session to spend a day in the Apple Store in London. Now Jeremy is in California with a studio in San Francisco, and I’m in Oxford.

Take a look at his tips, and his Web site. He’ll either inspire you to try it, or provoke your thinking about the implications of computing in the production and access to art.

Jeremy demonstrating use of an app
Jeremy demonstrating use of an app
Bill and Jeremy at OII
Bill and Jeremy at OII