OeSS Seminar at the OII: The Town Hall in the Digital Era of Social Media: 5 March 2012 from 14.00-15.00

Andrea Kavanaugh from the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech will be visiting the OII on Monday 5th March and will be giving a talk between 14:00 and 15:00 in the Meeting Room at 1 St Giles. If you would like to attend, please drop an email to: events@oii.ox.ac.uk

Andrea’s talk will be entitled: ‘Participation in the Town Square in the Era of Web 2.0’. It is a unique case study of using computational approaches – eResearch – to enhance community discussion. Here is a brief abstract:

Collective decision-making is central to the quality of life in communities, towns, and city neighbourhoods throughout the US whether it is routine and long term planning or timely and critical follow up to crises. How can social software together with network analysis and data mining help to harness and model these myriad online resources and social interactions to support and foster broader and more diverse civic participation in America’s communities? We envision a single unified and comprehensive site – what we are calling a Virtual Town Square based on an automated, continuous aggregation of locally relevant online content generated elsewhere by others with aggregated and built-in social interaction and discussion. Our research objectives are to: 1) design, build and investigate a virtual town square (VTS) for geographic communities; 2) model communication behaviour and effects related to the use of social software, including VTS, by diverse users (e.g., civic participation, social interaction, political/collective efficacy); 3) conduct computational analyses on complex data derived from content in VTS and related uses of social software to identify and analyze implicit social and information networks, and to track and model the flow of information throughout the community.

Andrea Kavanaugh

A Fulbright scholar and Cunningham Fellow, Andrea Kavanaugh is Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director of the interdisciplinary research Center for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Her research lies in the areas of social computing and communication behavior and effects. Dr. Kavanaugh leads research on the use and social impact of information and communication technology funded primarily by the National Science Foundation. Prior to joining the HCI Center in 2002, Dr. Kavanaugh served as Director of Research for the community computer network known as the Blacksburg Electronic Village (BEV) from its inception in 1993. She holds an MA from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in Environmental Design and Planning (with a focus on the telecommunications sector) from Virginia Tech.  She served on the Board of the International Telecommunications Society (2002-08) and currently serves as Treasurer (formerly Secretary) on the Board of the Digital Government Society (DGS). More detail at http://www.cs.vt.edu/user/kavanaugh; she can be reached at kavan@vt.edu.

Innovations in University Outreach: Join the Competition across Europe

European Competition for Best Innovations in University Outreach and Public Engagement

As part of the EC-funded ULab project, the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford is organizing an online competition to identify the most innovative outreach and public engagement activities carried out by European Universities. Both individuals and groups may apply for awards.

Competition submissions must be for an activity that has been initiated and sustained at any university or higher education institution within the 27 EU member states, including projects that might have involved collaboration with institutions outside the EU. The entry can be from one or a number of cooperating universities.

The three winning entries will each receive a 5000 EUR prize for their institution as well as funding for a representative to attend the award ceremony at the University of Oxford on 8 June 2012.

Criteria

Entries will be judged on the following equally weighted criteria:

  • Clarity of purpose: Clear definition of the objectives of the initiative; awareness of, and strategies to meet, the needs of different target audiences (25%).
  • Impact: Reporting and evaluation of the impact of the initiative; making use of quantitative measures (such as attendance rates, web traffic, surveys) and / or qualitative ones (such as interviews, focus groups) (25%).
  • Originality: Evidence of creativity and originality, including innovative ways of measuring impact (25%).
  • Sustainability: Evidence of sustainability for future use of the initiative by your own institution or by others (e.g. through open access, open licencing) (25%).

Application Procedure

Entries should be submitted online at http://www.engageawards.org by 15 March 2012.

For each entry, please submit:

  • 1,000 word description and evaluation (in English) of your outreach and public engagement initiative, making sure you address all of the assessment criteria (listed above), including links to any relevant information (which can be in any European language).
  • 150 word abstract in English.
  • A letter from your host institution, indicating their agreement for the case to be submitted to the competition.

The three winning entries will be announced on the 23rd of April 2012.

The competition is open to anyone from any European university or higher education institution. Awards will be made to institutions (or units) rather than to individuals. All entries will be made public on the website, forming part of an online repository of good practice in outreach.

More information

For more information about the judges and the awards ceremony see www.engageawards.org. For specific enquiries please email engageawards@oii.ox.ac.uk.

ULab is an innovative think-tank of five leading Technical and Research-intensive European Universities: the Technical University of Madrid, the Polytechnic University of Turin, the Technical University of Munich, the Paris Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford. It is a two year project funded by the EC http://www.ulab-fp7.eu/

Digital Literacy and Self-Regulation Online: Insights for Policy: Event on Friday, 18 November 2011, University of Leicester, UK

ESRC Seminar Series: ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights’ (RES-451-26-0849) 2011-13

‘Digital Literacy and Self-Regulation Online: Insights for Policy’
Friday November 18 2011, University of Leicester, UK

(Hosted by the Department of Media and Communication)

This seminar explores different understandings and roles of digital literacy and issues of online self-regulation. It works against the background of shifts towards individualization in the digital economy and the implications for policy. It approaches policy in the broad sense recognizing the role of varied stakeholders including nongovernmental actors and organizations and the importance of informal as well as formal processes. It considers the nature of online technologies and access and their fast changing nature and the impacts on regulatory environments, and specific contexts within which regulation can and should take place.

The seminar will address a range of issues related to digital literacy – what it is, where it should be developed, who should be responsible for it? How and what kinds of organizations and processes are relevant to it now, as well as what kinds of developments should there be in the future? Other questions will include: what does online safety mean and what are its key components; is there too much emphasis on technical rather than informational literacy; how do market drivers affect self-regulation; what are the generational issues that need to be addressed? The seminar will examine the nature of self-regulation online including in relation to the broader regulatory environment and other actors engaged with it.

Confirmed speakers include: Brian Simpson (University of New England, Australia), Peter Lunt (University of Leicester), Gillian Youngs (University of Wales, Newport), Dr Martin L Poulter (Wikipedia) and Josie Fraser (Social & Educational Technologist and consultant)

Call for Papers

We still have room for more papers and would welcome proposals from PhD students, academics and media and other practitioners and policymakers working in this area.

Participation

We have a limited number of places for the seminar so would like to hear from anyone who would like to take part as soon as possible. There is no charge for attending and lunch will be provided. We can meet UK travel costs (standard rail fare) for speakers and PhD students. Contact

Paper proposals and requests to participate should be sent to Tracy Simmons (tas11@le.ac.uk) who is organizing this seminar as soon as possible. The seminar series is led by Gillian Youngs (University of Wales, Newport) in collaboration with Tracy Simmons (University of Leicester), William Dutton (Oxford Internet Institute) and Katharine Sarikakis (University of Vienna). Weblink for seminar series: http://www.newport.ac.uk/research/researchcentres/Institutes/iab/projects/ESRCSeminarSeries/Pages/default.aspx

YouTube clip http://www.youtube.com/user/DigitalPolicyUWN.

Moving Content Control Closer to the Household: Who is doing the research?

News of the launch of ParentPort should be of interest to all following communication issues, as it aims to provide an integrated, single site, to help households complain about content or material they feel is inappropriate for children, such as by helping to direct them to the appropriate regulator. This complements initiatives by the largest ISPs in Britain to provide new customers with the ability to have access to software for filtering content, and blocking content deemed inappropriate to children. Some provide software for PCs, others control at the ISP level. An overview of these initiatives is online here.

These are early days in the development of such facilities, but they seem to be the most responsible response to increasing demands for content regulation. The closer decisions can be moved to the user and the household, the more appropriate the are the controls from most perspectives on the rights of Internet users. Enabling more effective self-regulation by users and households might take some pressure off policy-makers and regulators to apply Internet filtering regimes. Earlier efforts have not been a great success, such as the US Violence-Chip or V-Chip, during President Clinton’s administration. However, these initiatives deserve support and research to determine how they can be good enough to head off far blunter approaches that take control away from users and households.

I am not aware of research on these measures, but would encourage it and would be delighted to hear from any experts and researchers focusing on this area. The OII is doing some work on the home hub, in a study of future home networks and services, which is a promising locus for content controls in the future, and I would be particularly interested in any related work with this focus.

 

 

Selected Responses to Jeremy Hunt’s Open Letter

I worked with several colleagues at the OII (Victoria Nash, Monica Bulger, and Alissa Cooper) to pen responses to Jeremy Hunt’s Open Letter, requesting feedback of relevance to the new communications bill. They were submitted under my name as director of the OII, but also as a Co-Principal Investigator of the ESRC Seminar Series, entitled ‘Digital Policy’. In fact, all of these responses were shaped to some degree by discussions that took place at the OII Forum, entitled ‘Digital Policy Issues of the New Communications Bill’, held at the OII on 24 June 2011. A summary of that forum will be distributed in due course. In the meantime, these responses provide some sense of what my colleagues and I took away from the forum.

Question 1

What could a healthier communications market look like? How can the right balance be achieved between investment, competition and services in a changing technological environment?

Many of the questions in this review focus on aspects of competition and industrial policy, however it is our view that for the economic benefits of the Internet to be maximised, attention must also be devoted to closing the digital divide. Efforts such as Race Online 2012 demonstrate that the UK government realizes the significance of access to the Internet in supporting efforts to erase the digital divide, increase participation and enhance digital media literacy. Yet less than 30 percent of adults in the UK report receiving training in media literacy, even though training could promote participation among those with little to no experience (Ofcom, 2011; Livingstone & Wang, 2011). Our view is that access must be paired with understanding of options and risks to promote a healthier communications market.  Based on our 2011 OxIS survey findings, 73 percent of individuals in the UK use the Internet, leaving more than a quarter of the population off the Internet.  Efforts to increase Internet use among Britons has critical significance for 21st century economic and civic participation, but need adequate resources to promote understanding of the associated opportunities and risks.

For earlier OxIS figures see:

Dutton, W. H., Helsper, H. J., and Gerber, M. M. (2009), The Internet in Britain. Oxford: Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.

Livingstone, S. & Wang, Y. (20110) Media Literacy and the Communications Act. London: LSE.

Ofcom (2011b). UK adults’ media literacy. London: Ofcom.

Question 3

Is regulatory convergence across different platforms desirable and, if so, what are the potential issues to implementation?

This question was discussed at a recent policy forum convened by the Oxford Internet Institute, in which field-leading academics with media, communications and regulatory expertise were asked to consider the proposed Review of the Communications Act. This forum served to reinforce our view that it would be a significant mistake to seek regulatory convergence across platforms if this means imposing a model of broadcast regulation on the Internet. It is often assumed that the Internet is a modern era ‘Wild West’, lawless and unregulated. In fact, the opposite is true – there is already extensive regulation of Internet service provision, content and activities. We would argue that traditional regulatory models for broadcasting, common carriers (such as post or telecommunications) and the press cannot be imposed wholesale on the Internet without serious risks to its vitality and its contribution to the UK economy as well as potential chilling effects of speech. Further analysis of this point can be found in: Dutton, W. H. (2010b), ‘Aiming at Copyright Infringers and Hitting the Digital Economy’, Prometheus, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 385-388, December 2010. Available at SSRN:http://ssrn.com/abstract=1778422

Question 13

Where has self- and co-regulation worked successfully and what can be learnt from specific approaches? Where specific approaches haven’t worked, how can the framework of content regulation be made sufficiently coherent and not create barriers to growth, but at the same time protect citizens and enable consumer confidence?

Many different regulatory models have been applied to various aspects of the Internet. Mobile operators in the UK voluntarily adopted industry codes of conduct to limit Internet access to adult content to minors, and to limit the use of location-aware services. Similarly the UK-licensed Internet gambling industry has proved that age verification (at least for the 18 threshold) is possible, and further has been widely recognised to have implemented this so successfully that even the child protection lobby have registered their satisfaction with this system. The UK model for control of illegal content, such as child pornography and hate speech, could undoubtedly benefit from more transparency and judicial oversight, but has broadly proved an effective way to limit the distribution of such material. Such measures are almost all co-regulatory – individual businesses and industry bodies signing up to common codes of conduct or unofficial norms, with the backing (or threat) of legislation.

We do not believe that the Internet requires further heavy-handed regulation, and would propose two principles as a suitable basis for advance:

·       A presumption in favour of ‘democratised regulation’, namely pushing more control to the users and producers of communication and information services – the public. This is not simply another term for self-regulation, as it requires regulatory support at many levels (see below). A good example of democratised regulation would be the currently evolving system for content regulation whereby only extremely limited forms of illegal content (such as child pornography) might be blocked by mandate or on a centralized basis, with users having access to PC-based tools, a ‘home hub,’ or an ISP filtering system that enables them to choose how much content (if any) they want filtered. In this sense, parents, educators and users generally, could be given more control over their own communications infrastructure in a way that is low cost for government and industry.

·       A presumption in favour of regulation only where it is needed to ensure the preservation of a fair, accessible and open Internet, or to protect the most fundamental rights such as freedom of speech or protection from abuse.

I would also like to draw your attention to related post by Roger Darlington at http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/commswatch/?p=2900 Roger has been posting links to other submissions here: http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/commswatch/

Roger Darlington’s Website: http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/convergence.html

David Grahams’ Blog: http://www.attentional.com/david-grahams-blog/2011/05/a-new-communications-bill-is-coming/

Digital Policy Issues for the New Communications Bill

Digital Policy Issues for the New Communications Bill

A Meeting to be held as part of an ESRC Seminar Series entitled ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights

Location: Oxford Internet Institute (OII) Seminar Room, 1 St Giles’, Oxford

Time: 10.00-16.00 on 24 June 2011

An invited group of academics and practitioners will meet at the OII on 24 June 2011 to identify the key policy issues that should be considered in the UK’s new communications bill. Press coverage of the Oxford Media Convention, various interviews over the following months, and an open letter by the Minister, indicate that the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) plans to issue a green paper in the near-future – possibly by the end of the summer or early autumn 2011. Therefore is critical that debate over the key objectives and issues of the new communications bill begins early, before the initial green paper is published. The meeting will be one in an ESRC Seminar Series, entitled ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights’: http://idl.newport.ac.uk/digitalpolicy/ for which I am a co-principal. My colleagues and I are in the early life of this series, but one of our clear aims is to help shape and inform debate about digital policy. It is difficult to think of a more significant focus of a discussion of digital policy in Britain than the forthcoming communications bill. That said, we would define ‘digital policy’ broadly, in the spirit of increasing convergence across the ecology of media and related information and communication technologies, such as the Internet and mobile communication, that are shaping the quality and diversity of communication in the UK and worldwide.

If you would like to join this discussion, please comment on this blog or send a note to <events@oii.ox.ac.uk> at your earliest convenience. We are trying to limit numbers but should be able to bring in individuals that can add to the mix of expertise we wish to assemble on the day. Whether or not you can attend this session, you are invited to send a one-page position paper before the 17th of June, which we will use to identify the key issues. I will edit and collate these for participants on the day, and use them to shape the agendafor the seminar. A key outcome of this meeting is the identification of key issues, but we also hope this meeting will suggest follow-ups to this discussion, which can be organised by the ESRC Seminar Series, or by others, as we seek to broaden and deepen discussion of the communications bill.

A short summary of the seminar will be posted in due course, but do let me know if you wish to attend, and please post or send your thoughts on critical issues. Also consult the event page on the OII Web site for further details at: http://oii.ox.ac.uk/events/?id=445

Digital Wales: A Segue into Wide-ranging Discussions of Policy Issues

The launch seminar of our ESRC Seminar Series, ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights’, was held Friday, 1 April 2011. This first seminar was held at the Centre City Campus of the University of Wales in Newport and hosted by the School of Art, Media and Design. Professor Gillian Young, recently appointed at the University of Wales, and Principal Investigator of the ESRC Seminar Series, chaired the launch. The Web site for the series is at: http://idl.newport.ac.uk/digitalpolicy/

This first seminar was entitled ‘Digital Wales: Inclusive Creativity and Economy’ to take full advantage of key speakers and participants from Wales, including: Cardiff University Professor Ian Hargreaves, one of the founding members of the Ofcom Board; David Warrender, Director of Digital Wales for the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG); Alan Burge, Communities Directorate for the WAG; and Rhodri Williams, Director Ofcom Wales. This worked well, in part because Wales has placed a real priority on a set of initiatives around a ‘Digital Wales’, focused largely on the creative industries, but also on access to next generation Internet infrastructures. http://wales.gov.uk/topics/businessandeconomy/publications/heartofdigitalwales/?lang=en

The discussion was wide-ranging and engaging – too broad to be summarized here, but it will be summarized in due course on the series Web site. However, Professor Young has posted a short overview of the objectives of the series online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzKZF6Ff7JY

I came away from the launch seminar more fully convinced of the value of having a focus on specific local, regional and national initiatives, such as Digital Wales. It anchors the discussion in a specific setting and provides an impetus to discuss specific projects, such as initiatives in video production across Wales. My own contribution to the forum focused on providing one perspective on the agenda for the series as a whole. I argued that the series could make a contribution by focusing on the UK context and the particular issues raised for nations, and such issues as rural access, the vitality of small businesses, and emerging debate over the ‘big society’. In addition, I thought we should focus on clarifying distinctions between initiatives relevant to network individuals, as well as networked institutions. And of course we need to address key issues of infrastructure, content regulation and new policy, such as the drafting of a new communications act for the UK.

My other point was the there were several ways in which academic participation in this policy discussion could add value. One was the role we could play in assessing alternative policy initiatives from the perspective of connectivity, creativity and rights, among other criteria. We should be particularly well equipped to bring evidence and empirical research to bear on these issues, and be well positioned to question taken-for-granted assumptions about the impact of policy. Secondly, we should be well positioned to provide a neutral meeting ground for discussion among a full range of stakeholders. We may have interests and preferences ourselves, but our primary incentive is to be open, and accountable as academics. If we do not provide a neutral meeting ground, our reputation is at risk. Thirdly, we should have a special role in putting local developments, whether in Wales or Britain as a whole, in a broader context, whether that be global trends or the broader ecology of particular policy areas. I used my work on the ecology of choices shaping freedom of expression as an example. Finally, I hope that the participation by academics opens up discussion of the policy process in Britain. Is the policy process providing adequate opportunities for debate? Is it sufficiently transparent and publicly accountable? Is government tapping the expertise of citizens? My own sense is that progress could be made on all of these fronts.

Slides for my own presentation are posted on Slideshare at: http://www.slideshare.net/WHDutton/towards-an-agenda-on-digital-wales-2011