Digital Scholarship: Three Decades in Internet Time by Christine Borgman

Oliver Smithies Lecture MT 2012

Professor Christine Borgman

Oliver Smithies Lecture, Michaelmus Term 2012

Wednesday 28 November at 5pm in Lecture Room XXIII, Balliol College

Digital Scholarship: Three Decades in Internet Time

by Christine Borgman


“In a few short decades, the practices of scholarship have been transformed by the use of digital resources, tools, and services. Some shifts are obvious, such as seeking, reading, and publishing research online, often to the exclusion of print. Other shifts are subtle, such as data being viewed as research products to be disseminated. Research objects are more atomized, yet aggregated in new ways. Digital technologies offer opportunities to innovate in scholarly practice, collaboration, and communication – from the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts to technology and medicine. Externalities such as Internet economics and research policy pose constraints on scholarly work. Underlying these opportunities and constraints are four trends in scholarly communication, information technology, policy: (1) the transition from a closed scholarly world to the open Internet, (2) the evolution from static to dynamic forms of information, (3) changes in the roles of scholars as readers and as authors, and (4) the growing value of data as new forms of publication. These four trends are explored, leading to a discussion of the challenges facing 21st century scholars.”

China and the New Internet World at Oxford University: 13 and 14 June 2013

The OII is involved with a wide range of collaborating partners in the organization of two joined events focused on China and the New Internet World.

Running over two days, the first event on Friday, 14 June 2013, will be an pre-conference to the 2013 International Communication Association’s Annual Conference. The preconference will be held in Oxford at the OII and other units at the University of Oxford, while the following ICA Conference will be held in London. The call for papers invites academics to address how the phenomenal rise of China and the Asian region on the Internet could be reshaping the global Internet, but also how the global Internet is reshaping communication and media in China and the Asian region. Information about travel and lodging for the ICA preconference is at The call for papers for this ICA preconference is at

The preconference will be followed by a dinner at Balliol College on the 14th. This is a separate event, but those who attend the ICA preconference or the following day’s event may enquire about space at the dinner at events at The dinner will close the preconference, but open the following day’s conference on China and the New Internet World as the 11th Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC).

On the next day, Saturday, we will be holding the Eleventh Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC11). This conference is open to a wider range of topics about the Chinese Internet, but we hope the two joined events will be as complementary as possible. We invite the submission of papers for this event. Instructions and more information about CIRC11 is available online at:

We hope that connecting events into a series will help to highlight one of the most significant developments around the New Internet World, one theme of OII research over the last years, as China and Asia continue to shift the centre of gravity of global Internet use.

Both events are being jointly organized by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) in collaboration with the Programme of Comparative Media Law and Policy (PCMLP) and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at the University of Oxford, in partnership with the Chinese Internet Research Conference (CIRC), the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at USC, the Center for Global Communications Studies at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, the Global Communication Research Institute at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research (C-Centre) at the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), the Department of Communication at the University of Macau, and Singapore Internet Research Center at Nanyang Technological University. We are also grateful to Taylor and Francis/Routledge, publishers of Information Communication and Society (iCS) and the Chinese Journal of Communication, among many other journals relevant to the study of the Internet and related media and communication technologies and society, for their sponsorship.

Thanks for considering your involvement. If you have questions, you may contact ‘events at’ about China and the New Internet World.

Robin Mansell’s ‘Imagining the Internet’

I had the honor of participating in a launch of Robin Mansell’s new book, Imagining the Internet (Oxford University Press, 2012). Here is a podcast of the launch, featuring an overview by Robin.
Download: Audio, Video, Slides – R MansellSpeaker(s): Professor Robin Mansell, Professor William H Dutton, Professor Robert Wade
Chair: Professor Sonia Livingstone

Recorded on 16 October 2012 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.

Big challenges face policy makers trying to balance conflicting interests in the information society. This lecture examines why digital information and complex networks make policymaking especially difficult.

Robin Mansell is professor of new media and the internet at LSE and author of Imagining the Internet.

William H Dutton is professor of internet studies at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.

Robert Wade is professor of political economy and development at LSE.


Global Perspectives on Freedom of Expression: A New Research Project

I’ve received a new grant from ictQATAR for extending my work with others on the Global Values Project to the Arabic world. This grant will build on my work with the World Economic Forum that led to the WEF report entitled The New Internet World. See: In addition, my colleagues, including Professor Soumitra Dutta, the new dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, and Ginette Law, an INSEAD/ISIS funded research assistant and former OII MSc student, are working with me on the next phase of the WEF project, fielding a new wave of surveys that will build on our earlier WEF study. The ictQATAR and WEF research efforts are complementary in furthering the aims of the Global Values Project, which explores the attitudes and behaviours of citizens around the world with respect to pervasive concerns such as privacy, trust, security and freedom of choice and expression. See:  

Cities and the Internet: New Perspectives

I’ve certainly been involved in research on the role of new information and communication technologies in shaping local and urban communities, such as with my work on Wired Cities from the late-1970s, when interactive cable communication was expected to support local and interactive communication in ways that would support community. Later I was involved with research on Santa Monica, California’s first electronic city hall, the Public Electronic Network (PEN), and I’ve followed work on information technology and communities since. However, in current discussions of future cities and superfast broadband and cities, I don’t have a clear sense of the dominant perspectives on the societal implications of new technologies. Are they similar to before, but with new technologies, or is there a different perspective on the role of new technology in communities?

I’d welcome tips on where to look, recent work, etc.

Journals are in the Conversation

I spoke this morning (14 March 2012) at the OUP’s Journals Day conference, giving a talk entitled ‘Digital Academe: A Perspective from Digital Social Research‘.  My colleague, Eric Meyer at the OII followed me with a report on his research on digital research in the humanities and physical sciences, which featured a great set of case studies from diverse fields that illustrate the diversity across disciplines. I was pleasantly surprised to see:

First, the entire conference was very much dealing with online media, social media, and getting editors and authors into the conversation in cyberspace. For example, the conference ended with a panel discussing initiatives in the use of social media to complement particular refereed journals.

Secondly, I heard many discussions and questions that take for granted the complementarity of online and social media with refereed journal publication. There were very few concerns raised about reputation, or competition between these media, but some very reasonable questions about the return on investment — what are the costs in time and effort to take part in the competition for attention in the online world, and does this have an impact on readership, subscriptions, and other goals of the journals?

Oxford University Press publishes a large number of academic journals – at least 238, as that is what they offer in a single package to libraries, so seeing this progressive thinking about the online media as complements to refereed journals, rather than threats, is heartening.I felt like I was preaching to the converted.




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:

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; she can be reached at

The Risk of ‘Privacy Impact Assessments’ – PIA in the Sky

I’ve run across the promotional material for a new book by David Wright and Paul De Hert, Privacy Impact Assessment, Springer, Dordrecht, 2012. They argue that the book ‘is timely as the European Commission’s proposal for a new Data Protection Regulation would make privacy impact assessments mandatory for any organisation processing “personal data where those processing operations are likely to present specific risks to the rights and freedoms of data subjects”. I find the whole idea of PIA to be far too uncritically accepted by far too many within the privacy community.

Stop the PIA

My own sense is that this sounds good, parallel to an ‘environmental impact assessment’ (EIA). But the history of EIA should clearly alert us to the risk that impact assessments are unlikely to prevent risks to privacy and data protection. To the contrary, they are likely to cover the backside of actors who can say they submitted a risk assessment, be limited to primarily a symbolic victory for privacy, and clearly raise the costs of all software and systems developments, creating a new set of businesses employed to write PIAs for organizations.

The concept of a privacy impact assessment is one of those initiatives that sounds good, and rings all the right bells to be politically popular, but that will not accomplish its intended aims and undoubtedly have negative, unintended consequences. I hope the privacy community takes a more critical look at the rhetoric in support of this bureaucratic silver bullet that carries its own risks.

Happy to receive comments, as I am sure my view is a minority opinion, but every discussion of the issue convinces me all the more that the PIA is a mistake. I hope some bright students begin to evaluate the actual impact of the PIA.

The Internet in Poland 2011 – Bill Dutton

[The following is a penultimate version of my introduction to the 2011 report of the World Internet Project (WIP) Poland. I recommend the report to those interested in the WIP and the diffusion and impacts of the Internet in Poland and other European nations. The full report is available at:] A transcription of the discussion that took place is also available online at:

This report provides a richly detailed and reliable account of who uses the Internet in Poland, who does not, and what difference it makes for everyday life and work. It is based on high-quality data – face-to-face interviews with a probability sample of individuals that permits the authors to project to the population of Poland as a whole. It is a valuable resource for the country on its own terms, but has added value for being part of the World Internet Project (WIP). The findings can be compared with those of over 30 other nations that have joined this collaborative WIP project.

You will find in these pages that the Internet makes a difference that is truly distinctive. It is not television, or radio, or a phone, but complements all of these related communication technologies. It is not a book or a newspaper, but complements these and other information technologies. As it does, the Internet is bit by bit reshaping access to information, people, services, and technologies, such as making millions of computers around the world accessible to anyone with a personal computer or smart phone linked to the Internet. It changes how we access information, but also what we know. It changes how we communicate with people, but also with whom we communicate. These are implications that can transform everyday life and work, but also once in a lifetime decisions.

What do the people of Poland think about these changes?

You will see that the authors provide a descriptive account that does not try to prove a pre-determined point of view or either promote or undermine the Internet as an innovation. This report is crafted for the reader to draw conclusions of relevance to their own interests and questions. However, several general themes emerge from the findings of this report, and I am sure that readers will find even more as they look for patterns across the various topics explored in the following pages. But let me point to themes that you might wish to consider as you develop your own interpretation of the meanings and significance of the results.

First, Poland has clearly joined that league of nations that have widely adopted the Internet, with two-thirds of the county over the age of 14 having access to this technology. And most (three-quarters) of those with Internet access use broadband, enabling always on access. As in most other nations with widespread adoption, use is anchored primarily in the household, and through a personal computer.

Second, the jury is still out on the Internet in Poland. Coming from outside the country, and looking through the lens of this survey, it appears that the public as a whole and Internet users have a healthy skepticism towards the Internet. Many have yet to make up their minds on whether or not the Internet will improve their lives. They do not demonstrate a blind trust in the Internet, or an overly optimistic perspective on its promise. Nevertheless, most people in Poland have integrated it into their life and work and are adopting new technologies that will enhance the role of the Internet in their lives.

Thirdly, Poland needs to address many of the same issues as other nations, including concerns over digital divides. A third of the population does not have access to the Internet and those without access are disproportionately concentrated among less well to do and the older and retired public. A quarter of users still do not have access to broadband Internet services. There is also an urban-rural divide in Poland that is less pronounced than in other nations, such as the UK.

Fourthly, I sense between the numbers and statistics that Poland is on the verge of crossing a tipping point at which the public will begin to value the Internet more, and integrate this technology more fully in their lives. Internet users in Poland have a good deal of experience online, but it will take longer for the nation to have a greater store of Polish language content, and applications focused on their particular needs and interests. Already, however, younger users in Poland are more engaged in living an Internet-style of life, with more positive attitudes toward the Internet. Three-quarters of users visit social networking sites, a proportion higher than Britain and many other nations. And it is already apparent that many users are moving into the next generation of access to the Internet by adopting more devices, such as laptops and smart phones that complement the household personal computer as the central point for access and enable greater mobility.

Finally, the report shows that users are concerned about issues surrounding their freedom of expression and privacy online. It is critical that government and Internet Service Providers in Poland focus on ensuring that users trust the Internet as a space for democratic expression, open communication, and access to trusted sources of information. The continued economic and social development of Poland depends in part on the vitality of the Internet, and inappropriate or over-regulation of the Internet could undermine that vitality. Too many users believe that government and corporations watch what they do online.

Poles love television, and are wary of new information and communication technologies. They are not excited about the Internet transforming their lives. Nevertheless, the Internet is evolving in Poland in ways that will empower individual users and reach a point in the near future that will be transformative for users and the nation. As it does, issues over digital divides, the quality of the infrastructure, and regulation of the Internet will become more critical to the future of the Internet in Poland. This longitudinal study of the Internet in Poland will help the nation describe and understand these transformations and address the problems that they raise.

I urge you to use this report to develop your own perspective on the role of the Internet in Poland. It is one of the most significant technological innovations of the 21st Century and how Poland adopts, uses, and governs this new infrastructure will shape the communication power of individuals and the nation in an increasingly networked world.

William Dutton, Oxford, October 2011

In Warsaw, I was interviewed about my talk at the WIP Poland Event. My interview is available online as well as another more general WIP Poland video,  which provides a nice overview of the event, primarily in Polish. It can be found here:


Comments or alternative perspectives on any of my points would be most welcome. Thank you.


Internet Governance and National Digital Policies, Paris, 9-10 November 2011

Internet Governance and National Digital Policies

Paris, 9-10 November 2011 (noon on 9 November – noon on 10 November)

International Diplomatic Academy

A UK ESRC Digital Policy Forum in Collaboration with the International Diplomatic Academy, Paris, organized by the International Diplomatic Academy and the Oxford Internet Institute as one of a series of seminars on ‘Digital Policy’. This seminar is supported by Afilias and the ESRC Seminar Series, entitled ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity & Rights’[1].


Digital policy initiatives are emerging in nations across the world amidst a transnational effort to coordinate Internet governance, most prominently through the Internet Governance Forum. This seminar brings together key participants in global and national initiatives to govern the Internet. The seminar will seek to describe the state of developments within the IGF, and discuss the ways that national developments interact with transnational efforts, such as the IGF.  Each aspect will be addressed in one of the half-day sessions.

Outline Agenda

1 – Evolution of the global IGF

The meeting will begin at noon on 9 November, with a first half-day session focusing on developments within the IGF, reflecting on the 2011 IGF in Nairobi. It will discuss the differing views regarding how much change can be brought to the IGF without losing what makes its value, at what speed such improvements can be introduced, and the role of the IGF within the larger ecosystem of organizations and actors dealing with Internet-related issues, particularly the UN, ITU, or ICANN. The session will not aim at developing a consensus, but seek to inform and stimulate debate about the future of the IGF.

Discussion will continue informally over a reception and dinner.

2 – National Internet Governance and Policy: Recent Initiatives and their Implications

The second half-day session on 10 November (9am to noon) will focus on national developments, including the role of national IGFs, but include any initiatives in policy or governance of the Internet. The objective is to understand the possible implications of national efforts to govern the Internet and their impact on international efforts.


Participation in the seminar will be limited to about 25 invited participants, but a summary of the discussions will be prepared for a wider audience. All participants will be encouraged to prepare a very short (1 page) position paper on each of the two topics that will be explored.


William Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies, OII

Bertrand de La Chapelle, Program Director at the International Diplomatic Academy and member of the ICANN Board of Directors

Desiree Miloshevic, Senior Public Policy Adviser at Afilias, ISOC Advisory Council Co-Chair, Afilias, and Visiting Industry Associate, OII

[1] (RES-451-26-0849) 2011-13