Talks in Europe on Quello Center’s Search and Politics Project

I had a fascinating and challenging week in Europe speaking about the Quello Center’s work on search and politics. The findings of our project, called ‘The Part Played by Search in Shaping Public Opinion’, suggested that concerns over fake news, echo chambers, and filter bubbles is ‘overhyped and underresearched’. The project was supported by Google, and the findings and methodology are publicly available online (see references), along with the slides I adapted for each of the particular talks. The slides are posted here:

In Paris, on the 10th and 11th, I was able to speak at a UNESCO Knowledge Café for a seminar chaired by the Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, Guy Berger, for UNESCO staff, which included UNESCO’s Xianhong Hu. I then met with members of the French Audio Visual Regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA); and then members of the Ministère de la Culture (Ministry of Culture); and gave a lecture at Sciences Po, which was jointly organized by Thierry Vedel for the MediaLab and CEVIPOF. I was also able to meet over lunch with a former colleague in the President’s office at the French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL), which is central to data protection in France.

On the 12th, I was in Rome, where I first spoke at a roundtable over a wonderful lunch at the Centro Studi Americani – the Center for American Studies. That evening, I spoke on the Terrazza dei Cesari with members of YouTrend, an organization of political communicators in Italy, which was picked up by over a thousand on a Facebook Live video stream. The talk was sandwiched by an aperitif and dinner, and sequentially translated.

Centro Studi Americani

My last stop was in Berlin, where I was able to meet at the Ministry for Culture with representatives of the state media authorities, representing the German Lander. I finished my talks with a roundtable at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute für Internet und Gesellschaft (HIIG – Germany’s first Internet Institute), chaired by Professor Dr. Wolfgang Schulz and joined by Professor Dr. Dr. Ingolf Pernice. As a member of HIIG’s Advisory Committee, it was great to end my trip with a sense of the quality and diversity of faculty, fellows and visitors at the Institute.

This week was an incredible opportunity for me to convey the results of our research. I want to thank all of those who helped organize and attended these events; thank my colleagues on the project, including Grant Blank, Elizabeth Dubois, and Bibi Reisdorf, along with our graduate assistants, Sabrina Ahmed and Craig Robertson; and thank our colleagues at Google for their confidence in our project.

I must say that I was unable to convince many of those involved in these talks that the panics over fake news, filter bubbles and echo chambers have been overhyped. Despite evidence on the many ways that Internet users are likely to mitigate these problems, such as in consulting multiple sources of information about politics, many politicians, regulators and scholars remain very concerned.

I spoke to each group about the ways evidence can fail to change views on these issues as an example of how many divisions in society are not due to filtered or biased information, but to real divisions in opinion. These panics are powerful for several reasons, including the attraction of technologically deterministic perspectives, the role of a confirmatory self-selection or dismissal of evidence, and the role of the third-person effect – I’m okay, but others are likely to be fooled.


Dutton, W. H. Talking Points that Formed the Basis for the Talks in Europe:

Dutton, W.H., Reisdorf, B.C., Dubois, E., and Blank, G. (2017), Search and Politics: The Uses and Impacts of Search in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the United States, Quello Center Working Paper available on SSRN:

Dutton, W.H. (2017), ‘Fake News, Echo Chambers, and Filter Bubbles: Underresearched and Overhyped’:

Dutton, W. H. (2017), ‘Bubblebusters’, NESTA.


Nominate an Inspiring Digital Social Innovation: Deadline 16 August 2013

 I am trying to help colleagues identify some of the most inspiring social innovations supported by the Internet and related digital technologies. Are there critical social challenges that are being addressed through digital innovations? Help us identify them.

The innovations selected will become part of a on-going public database on digital social innovations that might inspire related projects, while recognizing the innovators. There is a good overview of the idea in Wired. To submit a nomination, just send Nominet Trust 100 a URL (nothing else is needed) in an email or a tweet with the hashtag #NT100.

The selection process is being supported and organized by The Nominet Trust, a trust established in 2008 by Nominet, the UK’s domain name registry. Nominet Trust set up the Trust to ‘invest in people committed to using the internet to address big social challenges.’ To accomplish this, they set up a steering committee, headed by Charles Leadbeater, to help create a list of the 100 ‘most inspiring applications of digital technology for social good …’.

I am delighted to be part of that committee and would appreciate your thoughts on any application that you have found to be creatively addressing a social challenge. You can read more about the process, called Nominet Trust 100, but before you move on to other activities, I really hope you can share your own perspective on what you believe to be an inspiring digital social innovation. Don’t hesitate to nominate a project with which you are associated. Nominations will be a very important part of the selection process, but they will be reviewed and discussed by the steering committee. There are only a few more days before the nomination process closes.

More information on the Nominet Trust 100 at


Web Science Conference 23-26 June 2014 at Indiana University

I have agreed to co-chair the next Web Science Conference, Web Science 2014, which will be held in 2014 at Indiana University. The lead chairs are Fil Menczer and his group at Indiana University, and Jim Hendler at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and one of the originators of the Semantic Web. The dates are 23-26 June 2014.

My mission is to help bring social scientists and humanities scholars to this conference to ensure that it is truly multi-disciplinary, and also to help encourage a more global set of participants, attracting academics from Europe but also worldwide. IU_H_P2_S1_T1

For those who are not quite sure of the scope and methods of Web Science, let me recommend a chapter in my handbook by Kieron O’Hara and Wendy Hall, entitled ‘Web Science’, pp. 48-68 in Dutton, W. H. (2013) (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.The core of the Web Science community sometimes view this as a field or discipline on its own, while I would define it as a topic or focus within a broader, multdisciplinary field of Internet Studies.

In any case, I will be adding to this blog over the coming months as the conference planning progresses, but please consider participating. Information about the conference is posted at:


Collaboration on Social Networking for Health: Dr Huipeng SHI’s Visit to Oxford

There are a growing number of older people who have been injured from falls, often with factures or other orthopaedic problems caused by the fall. The UK has Fall Nurses that visit homes and advise patients and families. The numbers in China make this less feasible, and large numbers of victims from falls have a recurrence. Dr Huipeng SHI is visiting Oxford through our Heath Collaboration Network, and working with us to discuss the feasibility of developing a social network that would enable people who have suffered a fracture to gain more support in their home or care centre. An orthopaedic doctor is most often the first source of information when they reach a hospital, maybe the only source, but it should not be the only source, and nurses are also a scarce resource. Can patients and their families help each other more online?

Dr SHI is experimenting with ways to develop a network community in China, over the Internet, perhaps organized by an orthopaedic unit, that would enable physicians to guide patients over an extended period of time. Older patients, often living at home or alone, could help themselves through such a network, complemented by other activities. They can share their personal experiences of participating in training to strengthen their limbs and suffering another fall. Such a network might also help prevent them from isolation, loneliness or boredom, and create a bridge to other networked communities and services.   

Dr SHI is first medical professional to participate in the OII’s Health Collaboration Network: SHI’s profile is online at:

Bill Dutton and Dr SHI
Bill Dutton and Dr SHI



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


 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.




Internet Studies: Perspectives on a Rapidly Developing Field

Internet Studies: Perspectives on a rapidly developing field

Charles Ess, William Dutton

doi: 10.1177/1461444812462845

New Media & Society, April 29, 2013


To quote from the introduction – which is available as a free download – We have organized the contributions to this issue such that they flow across four general areas. The first focuses on the field as a whole, and is filled by our lead article, by Tai-Quan Peng, Lun Zhang, Zhijin Zhong and Jonathan JH Zhu, ‘Mapping the Landscape of Internet Studies: Text mining of social science journal articles 2000–2009’. We then shift focus to specific Perspectives from Different Arenas, beginning with Jingyan (Elaine) Yuan’s ‘culturalist critique of “online community” in new media studies’, followed by Heidi Campbell’s ‘Religion and the Internet as a microcosm for studying trends and implications within Internet Studies’, then an article by Jessie Daniels, ‘Race and racism in Internet Studies’, and Michel van Eeten and Milton Mueller’s ‘Where is the governance in Internet governance?’.

The next set of articles focus more on Methodological Perspectives, beginning with Juliette De Maeyer’s ‘Towards a hyperlinked society: A critical review of link studies’, followed by Niels Brügger’s ‘Web historiography and Internet Studies: Challenges and perspectives’. The two final articles are both tied to Critical Perspectives on User Empowerment, a cross-cutting theme of Internet research across various research arenas. Anja Bechmann and Stine Lomborg’s article is entitled ‘Mapping actor roles in social media: Different perspectives on value creation in theories of user participation’, and this is followed by Christian Fuchs and Nick Dyer-Witheford’s challenge to Internet Studies, entitled ‘Karl Marx @ Internet Studies’.

We conclude with a more general account of what we have learned about this evolving field from this special issue in light of work on our respective handbooks.

Several of the articles are already published online; the print version of the complete issue will appear later this year.


We would also like to express our gratitude to numerous reviewers and to Editors, Steve Jones and Nickolas Jankowski, for their constant support and assistance in developing and bringing this special issue to fruition.


Charles Ess and Bill Dutton