I had a quick but engaging trip to Portugal to speak with students and faculty at CIES at the University Institute of Lisbon. I have given a number of talks on my concept of the Fifth Estate, but there are always new issues emerging that enable me to help students see the transformations around the Internet in light of current developments. In this case, they were most interested in the election of Donald Trump and the implications for Europe of his Presidency. I will post a link to the slides for my talk.
It was so rewarding to speak with the students, who were most appreciative. I don’t think students realize how much people like myself value hearing from students who have read their work. So, many thanks to my colleagues and the students of the University Institute of Lisbon for their feedback. You made my long trip even more worthwhile.
I also had the opportunity to meet with my wonderful colleague, Gustavo Cardosoa, a Professor of Media, Technology and Society at ISCTE – Lisbon University Institute. I met Gustavo when he was the adviser of information society policies for the Presidency of the Portuguese Republic from 1996-2006, and continued to work with him through the World Internet Project and more, such as his contribution to the Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies (OUP 2014).
On the anniversary of 9/11, and in light of the many recent stories about completion of the 9/11 memorial for Flight 93, I was reminded about my experience in reporting research on this tragedy, when I should have probably given a warning so that members of the audience might have avoided my talk.
Of course, it is well known that Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing all onboard, and inspired much writing and even movies about the heroic efforts of those onboard to stop the hijacking. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, I was struck by the reported use of wireless communications, cell phones and in-flight phones, in this disaster, as well as at all the crash sites, such as calling their families to say “goodbye”. So much was reported that I worked with a student to collect as much publicly available information as possible about the use of wireless phones at all the crash sites during the 9/11 tragedy. Our paper was published* and is available online on SSRN.
I spoke about my study at a few conferences and events in the year following 9/11, and for the first and last time in my career, I experienced individuals leaving during my talk in tears. I hadn’t appreciated the degree that discussion of the events on 9/11 would be so upsetting to individuals who had lost friends or family or had personally experienced events on that day. Perhaps academics can distance themselves from events through their studies. Study of the events was one way I felt I could respond, as an academic.
But I am reminded of those upset by my talks in the aftermath of 9/11, well before the concept of a trigger warning or safe space was a public issue. Perhaps this is a different issue, and in every case, the circumstances are often very different, but if I were to do a talk today, in an analogous situation, I would probably make an effort to warn students, who might not want to listen. I don’t think that would be coddling, but an opportunity to avoid exposing any individual to unwanted reminders of something that could be traumatizing.
Delighted to be on the Advisory Board of a new ESRC Project, entitled ‘Ways of Being in a Digital Age: A Systematic Review’.
The project is led by the Institute of Cultural Capital at the University of Liverpool in collaboration with 17 other partner Universities and organizations. It is a scoping review designed to inform potential future ESRC initiatives in this area.
This scoping review will focus on how digital technology mediates our lives, and of the way technological and social change co-evolve and impact on each other. The project will undertake: a Delphi review of expert opinion; a systematic literature review; and an overall synthesis to identify gaps in current research. The project will also run a programme of events to build and extend networks among the academic community, other stakeholders and potential funding partners. The project pulls together an impressive interdisciplinary research team with experience in running digital projects with partners across the social sciences, arts and humanities, engineering, physical sciences and health, representing 16 universities from the UK, EU, USA and Singapore. The core team of co-investigators from eight UK universities will provide expertise across a range of social science, arts, engineering and science backgrounds. The team also includes a broader international steering group, of which I am a member.
Its initial plans are to focus on seven domains:
Citizenship and politics
Communities and identities
Communication and relationships
Health and wellbeing
Economy and sustainability
Data and representation
Governance and security
For each domain the project will undertake:
A Delphi panel review of international experts’ opinions on the state of the art in digital facing social research.
A ‘concept mapping’ of identified literature using digital humanities tools
A systematic review of a sample of the literature
Engagement events with non-academic stakeholders from the public and private sectors
An assessment of the theory and methods applied in each domain
The project will also conduct a feedback questionnaire on the findings, run workshops throughout, and hold sessions at a number of international conferences. The project will conclude with a symposium to feedback the findings and to discuss the future of digital research in the social sciences.
I was very fortunate to have been selected as an ICA Fellow at the 2015 ICA Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was among wonderful and international company, including Lance Bennett, Noshir Contractor, Hans Mathias Kepplinger, Hak-Soo Kim, Malcolm R. Parks, and Steven R. Wilson.
The College of Communication Arts & Sciences at MSU put together a terrific blog about the award, which follows:
Quello Center Director Elected ICA Fellow
William Dutton, Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences and Director of the Quello Center, recently was inducted into the prestigious group of International Communication Association (ICA) Fellows in recognition of his distinguished scholarly contributions to the field of communication.
“William Dutton is the outstandingly successful founding Director of the Oxford Internet Institute, as well as an Oxford Don and currently channeling scholarly input into Washington in the area of telecommunications policy,” the ICA said in a statement. “He has been exceptionally productive and influential in a variety of areas concerning communication and information technologies and communication policy for nearly four decades.
“His contributions range from research on implications of computing and the Internet for society, his international collaborations, and his highly influential development of and commitment to institution-building, through journals (especially helping to found and edit Information, Communication and Society), the Oxford Internet Institute, and now the Quello Center.”
Dutton was the first Professor of Internet Studies at the University of Oxford, a position he held from 2002 to 2014, where he was Founding Director of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and a Professorial Fellow of Balliol College. He also is a Professor Emeritus at the Annenberg School at USC, where he was elected President of the University’s Faculty Senate.
“This is a well-deserved recognition for pioneering research on the Internet and a wealth of contributions to the field,” said Prabu David, Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “This is a great honor. Less than 2 percent of current ICA members are fellows.”
Dutton has received numerous grants for his research and is widely published. His research interests include a wide range of issues concerning the Internet and society, policy and regulation, such as initiatives around digital divides, the role of networked, distributed collaboration and digital social research, and politics and the Internet, including his influential conception of the Internet’s Fifth Estate.
“His long and distinguished career in the areas of ICTs (information and communication technology) and policy is also distinguished by his early promotion of the socio-technical systems approach, public policy issues involving ICTs, the critical understanding of ‘wired cities,’ and the ‘ecology of games’ theory. Notably, he early on highlighted a more international perspective on ICT research and policy,” the ICA said in its statement.
Dutton currently is the principal investigator of an MSU research team working on a Net Neutrality Impact Study. The goal of this research is to provide a non-partisan, unbiased assessment of the short-, medium- and long-term implications of the FCC’s new order approving rules that support net neutrality. He also is leading a Quello Center team focused on the use of the Internet for the social and economic revitalization of Detroit, and is a co-principal on an Oxford cybersecurity project.
Dutton was recognized as an ICA Fellow at the International Communication Association annual conference May 21-25 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He expressed his appreciation of this recognition, saying: “I thank ICA for this honor as well as the many colleagues in our burgeoning global field of communication arts and sciences who have supported my work on the policies and practices shaping the Internet and its societal implications. I believe James H. Quello would be proud of his center.”
ICA 2015, Jan Juan, Puerto Rico
Colleagues Remember Mark R. Levy
Sat, May 23, 18:00 to 19:15, Caribe Hilton, Salon Del Mar
The Journal of Communication
Michigan State University College of Communication Arts and Sciences
Nanyang Technological University Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
University of Maryland Department of Communication
University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism
Please join a special session at the ICA conference in San Juan honoring Professor Mark Levy, who died on Saturday, February 7, 2015. Levy served on the faculty at Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences for more than 15 years. Prior to coming to MSU, he served as Associate Dean and Professor of the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. He also had taught at the State University of New York in Albany, Columbia University in New York City, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Levy’s research focused on the use and impact of communication technologies on individuals and on economic and social development. He was the author, co-author, or editor of 10 books and more than 100 refereed journal articles and conference presentations. From 1991 to 1996, he was Editor of the Journal of Communication.
Chair and Speaker: Edward L. Fink, University of Maryland, USA
Akiba A. Cohen, The Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, ISRAEL
Johannes M. Bauer, Michigan State University, USA
Frank Biocca, Syracuse University, USA
Maurine Beasley , University of Maryland, USA
Ang Peng Hwa, Nanyang Technological University, SINGAPORE
Benjamin H. Detenber, Nanyang Technological University, SINGAPORE
I am just back from a stimulating symposium at Northwestern University focused on rethinking scholarship on online news, which led me to reflect on the value of such events, and a related seminar series we have an MSU for the Media and Information Department. Of course, the Quello Center that I direct organises many seminars, roundtables and lectures as well. While I appreciate these experiences, their very success leads me to worry about how to sustain a culture of academic engagement in the face of a developing – what should I call it – production culture. We might not fully appreciate and need to continually reinforce the significance of such opportunities for academics to engage each other face to face in constructive debates about issues and research.
Academics continue to enjoy a wonderful work environment, in my opinion, but we sometimes take these opportunities for listening to our colleagues, and discussing issues, theories and methods as just another event on our calendars. Instead, these occasions are an important part of the lifeblood of a university – something that makes the university and its academic units worth their existence. When academics are facing metrics on a number of fronts – publications, citations, outreach, impact, course evaluations, papers delivered and more – it is easy to view the seminar or conference as a distraction from the real work. You can almost hear colleagues thinking: ‘I better stay in at my computer screen and work on my paper / book / review / lecture.’
The last thing we need is another metric for participation in seminars. That would kill the real payoffs of academic engagement, which are largely tacit learning that stimulates and broadens your own thinking about your research and teaching. The traditional Oxford colleges can bring their fellows together everyday for lunch. A social scientist will be sitting by a physicist or Buddhist scholar, and explaining their work to each other. We don’t have such regular opportunities as most American universities, but we do have the department seminars and related academic events that bring us together to engage with colleagues from different perspectives.
Fight against the academic metrics of the production culture by pushing away from the computer screen to sit down with other colleagues and discuss, critique, support and otherwise engage with their work. The more distant from your own focus, the better to connect with ideas you never imagined to be of value to you and whatever sits waiting for you on the computer screen.
Thanks to my colleagues for organising the events that provide such opportunities.
On the day the FCC voted 3-2 for net neutrality rules, the Quello Center announced the launch of our ‘Net Neutrality Impact’ (NNI) study. After years of speculations and predictions about the implications of network neutrality, we will be able to study the actual consequences through a natural experiment created by the FCC’s ruling. So remember what you have claimed to the likely consequences of net neutrality, write them down, let us know, and follow our project at the Quello Center. Of course, we also welcome the involvement of other policy researchers who are as curious as we are about what will flow from this decision and how to capture these impacts in the most reliable and valid way.
Follow the project and the Quello Center on Twitter @QuelloCenter
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.
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.
I have just received my copy of a new and wonderful book, entitled Can the Media Serve Democracy? Essays in Honour of Jay G. Blumler (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), edited by Jay’s colleagues at Leeds, Stephen Coleman, Giles Moss and Katy Parry. What a fitting tribute to Jay. The volume focuses on the question that has driven Jay’s work over the decades, and the essays assemble some of the luminaries in the field, including Elihu Katz, Paulo Mancini, Denis McQuail, James Curran, David Weaver, and Sonia Livingstone, along with an interview with Jay himself.
The book was the centerpiece of a Festschrift held for Jay in Leeds this month, February 2015, organised by the editors. I could not be there, as I was attending a conference in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Comparative Communication Research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. You can imagine my pleasure when the first paper and panel of the conference provided a review and citation analysis of literature in this field and Jay G. Blumler was noted as perhaps the most prominent, and influential communication scholar of comparative media studies. Moreover, Jay continued to be praised throughout the conference, including his role as President of the ICA and an editor of Comparatively Speaking (1992). What great illustration of the global impact and longevity of his work? In sync with the message of influence provided at the Hong Kong conference, James Curran’s essay in the Festschrift book is entitled ‘Jay Blumler: A Founding Father of British Media Studies’.
This is a book that is must reading for any media and communication scholar. It grapples with the fundamental question of media studies, including studies of the Internet, social media and related new media. Jay stayed focused on the big questions, whether studying British election coverage, the emergence of wired cities, back in the 1980s with me, or the rise of new media since the turn of the century. And the range of contributions from key scholars in the field make this book one of the best contemporary treatments of the media and democracy available, not only for scholars of the field, but also for students, who can see through this book the potential of an individual to shape major fields of communication. My thanks to the editors for such an outstanding collection.
Blumler, J. G. (1992), Comparatively Speaking. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Coleman, S., Moss, G., and Parry, K. (2015), Can Democracy Serve Democracy? London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Evidence is only beginning to develop about what led to the disaster that beset Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 over the Eastern Ukraine. However, it is likely to be compared with other military and large technical system disasters, such as when the USS Vincennes accidentally shot down a domestic Iranian Airline, Iran Flight 655 on 3 July 1987. These have been called ‘information disasters’ by myself and colleagues, who have looked at studies of this and other related cases. See our chapter: Peltu, M., MacKenzie, D., Shapiro, S., and Dutton, W. H. (1996), ‘Computer Power and Human Limits,’ in Dutton. W. H. (ed.), Information and Communication Technologies – Visions and Realities, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 177-195. Specific treatment of the USS Vincennes is provided by Rochlin, G. (1991), ‘Iran Air Flight 655 and the USS Vincennes: Complex, Large-Scale Military Systems and the Failure of Control’, pp. 99-125 in La Porte, T. (ed.), Social Responses to Large Technical Systems. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
In the case of MH17, there seems to be mounting evidence that it was shot down by mistake. A domestic airliner was not the intended target. However, debate is huge over who shot the plane down, and who supplied the weapons. Needless to say, the analysis of such cases often deals with more than the specific information disaster – the mistake, such as in the earlier case: Why did the domestic Iran Flight 655 come to be perceived as a military aircraft descending toward the USS Vincennes, when it was actually climbing? In this respect, such studies do not always deal adequately with the broader political and military issues over responsibility. These broader questions have been the primary and immediate focus of debate over MH17. Rather than understand why MH17 was shot down, people worldwide are wondering who was responsible for putting particular weapons into the hands of the Russian separatists who are widely suspected of firing the missile that took down MH17.* But academics can and should devote their own talents to see if lessons can be learned from such disasters at any level of analysis.