William H. Dutton
William H. Dutton is the Quello Professor of Media and Information at MSU, where he directs the Quello Center. Bill’s research is focused on Internet Studies, and the elaboration of his conception of ‘The Fifth Estate‘ of the Internet realm, which has generated new research projects and a book in progress. Prior to arriving at MSU, Bill was the Professor of Internet Studies, University of Oxford, where he was the Founding Director of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and Fellow of Balliol College. Before coming to Oxford in 2002, he was a Professor in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, where he remains an Emeritus Professor. In the UK, he was a Fulbright Scholar 1986-87, and was National Director of the UK’s Programme on Information and Communication Technologies (PICT) from 1993 to 1996.
Monday, February 13th, 2017
A BBC reporter, Rachel Nuwer, wrote a nice piece on what would it mean to people if the Internet stopped working. It was entitled “What if the Internet Stopped for a Day“. I stressed that there are some empirical cases, such as a power outage in NYC, and the pager blackout across the US, that provide some concrete evidence of possible outcomes, and I was impressed how well she embedded these cases and more in a well developed article. I recommend it.
Wednesday, January 25th, 2017
Professor Bill Dutton, Director of the Quello Center, in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, has signed a contract with Oxford University Press for a book on his concept of the Fifth Estate. He has been speaking and conducting research over the last decade on the role of the Internet in empowering a Fifth Estate that can hold other ‘estates’ accountable, including the press, as the Fourth Estate.
The book will develop the concept of the Fifth Estate, provide empirical evidence of its rise, and its implications across nearly every sector of society. While a growing tide of criticism is focused on the role of social media and the Internet in fueling everything from populism to fake news, the Fifth Estate provides a powerful response to the critics. Bill’s work shows the many strategies of individuals of the Fifth Estate for enabling greater accountability and communicative power to create a more pluralistic structure of social control not only in politics, but also, in nearly every institutional setting of everyday life.
Tuesday, January 24th, 2017
From discussions in courses and within the Quello Center Advisory Board, the Center has been developing a set of key issues tied to media, communication and information policy and practice. We’d welcome you thoughts on issues we’ve missed or issues noted that do not merit more sustained research and debate. Your feedback on this list would be most welcome, and will be posted as comments on this post.
I. Innovation-led Policy Issues
New Developments around Robotics and Artificial Intelligence: What are the implications for individual control, privacy, and security? Security is no longer so clearly a cyber issue as cyber security increasingly shapes the physical world of autonomous vehicles, drones, and robots.
Internet of Things (IoT): With tens of billions of things moving online, how can individuals protect their privacy and safety and well being as their environments are monitored and controlled by their movement through space? There are likely to be implications for urban informatics, transportation and environmental systems, systems in the household, and worn (wearables above). A possible focus within this set would be on developments in households.
Wearables: What appears to be an incremental step in the IoT space could have major implications across many sectors, from health to privacy and surveillance.
The Future of Content Delivery: Content delivery, particularly around broadcasting of film and television, in the digital age: technology, business models, and social impact of the rapidly developing ecosystem, such as on localism, diversity, and quality.
Free (and Open Source) Software: The prominence and future of free as well as open source software continues to evolve. Are rules, licensing, and institutional support, such as around the Free Software Foundation, meeting the needs of this free software community?
Big Data: How can individuals protect their privacy in the age of computational analytics and increasing capture of personal data and mass surveillance? What policies or practices can be developed to guide data collection, analysis, and public awareness?
Encryption: Advances in encryption technologies at a time of increasing threats to the privacy of individual communications, such as email, could lead to a massive uptake of tools to keep private communications private. How can this development be accelerated and spread across all sectors of the Internet community?
Internet2: Just as the development of the Internet within academia has shaped the future of communications, so might the next generation of the Internet – so-called Internet2 – have even greater implications in shaping the future of research and educational networking in the first instance, but public communications in the longer-term. Who is tracking its development and potential implications?
Other Contending Issues: Drones, Cloud computing, …
II. Problem-led Initiatives
Transparency: Many new issues of the digital age, such as concerns over privacy and surveillance, are tied to a lack of transparency. What is being done with your data, by whom, and for what purposes? In commercial and governmental settings, many public concerns could be addressed to a degree through the provision of greater transparency, and the accountability that should follow.
Censorship and Internet Filtering: Internet filtering and censorship was limited to a few states at the turn of the century. But over the last decade, fueled by fear of radical extremist content, and associated fears of self-radicalization, censorship has spread to most nation states. Are we entering a new digital world in which Internet content filtering is the norm? What can be done to mitigate the impact on freedom of expression and freedom of connection?
Psychological Manipulation: Citizen and consumers are increasingly worried about the ways in which they can be manipulated by advertising, (fake) news, social media and more that leads them to vote, buy, protest, or otherwise act in ways that the purveyors of the new propaganda of the digital age would like. While many worried about propaganda around the mass media, should there be comparable attention given to the hacking of psychological processes by the designers of digital media content? Is this a critical focus for consumer protection?
(In)Equities in Access: Inequalities in access to communication and information services might be growing locally and globally, despite the move to digital media and ICTs. The concept of a digital divide may no longer be adequate to capture these developments.
Privacy and Surveillance: The release of documents by Edward Snowden has joined with other events to draw increasing attention to the threats of mass unwarranted surveillance. It has been an enduring issue, but it is increasingly clear that developments heretofore perceived to be impossible are increasingly feasible and being used to monitor individuals. What can be done?
ICT4D or Internet for Development: Policy and technology initiatives in communication to support developing nations and regions, both in emergency responses, such as in relation to infectious diseases, or around more explicit economic development issues.
Digital Preservation: Despite discussion over more than a decade, it merits more attention, and stronger links with policy developments, such as ‘right to forget’. ‘Our cultural and historical records are at stake.’
III. Enduring Policy Issues Reshaped by Digital Media and Information Developments
Media Concentration and the Plurality of Voices: Trends in the diversity and plurality of ownership, and sources of content, particularly around news. Early work on media concentration needs new frameworks for addressing global trends on the Web, with new media, in print media, automated text generation, and more.
Diversity of Content: In a global Internet context, how can we reasonably quantify or address issues of diversity in local and national media? Does diversity become more important in a digital age in which individuals will go online or on satellite services if the mainstream media in a nation ignore content of interest to their background?
Freedom of Expression: New and enduring challenges to expression in the digital age.
IV. Changing Media and Information Policy and Governance
Communication Policy: Rewrite of the 1934 Communications Act, last up-dated in 1996: This is unlikely to occur in the current political environment, but is nevertheless a critical focus.
Universal Access v Universal Service: With citizens and consumers dropping some traditional services, such as fixed line phones, how can universal service be best translated into the digital age of broadband services?
Network Neutrality: Should there be Internet fast lanes and more? Efforts to ensure the fair treatment of content, from multiple providers, through regulation has been one of the more contentious issues in the USA. To some, the issue has been ‘beaten to death’, but it has been brought to life again through the regulatory initiatives of FCC Chairman Wheeler, and more recently with the new Trump Administration, where the fate of net neutrality is problematic. Can we research the implications of this policy?
Internet Governance and Policy: Normative and empirical perspectives on governance of the Internet at the global and national level. Timely issue critical to future of the Internet, and a global information age, and rise of national Internet policy initiatives.
Acknowledgements: In addition to the Quello Advisory Board, special thanks to some of my students for their stimulating discussion that surfaced many of these issues. Thanks to Jingwei Cheng, Bingzhe Li, and Irem Yildirim, for their contributions to this list.
Tuesday, January 24th, 2017
What is a cyber security mindset and why is it important?
Quello’s Professor of Media and Information Policy has just published an article in Internet Policy Review, a journal on Internet regulation, entitled ‘Fostering a Cyber Security Mindset’. It seeks to introduce the concept and suggest ways in which research on who has such a mindset and what difference it can make to cyber security can be furthered. It is available free online at: https://policyreview.info/articles/analysis/fostering-cyber-security-mindset
Dutton, William. (2017), ‘Fostering a Cyber Security Mindset’, Internet Policy Review, 6(1): DOI: 10.14763/2017.1.443
Saturday, January 7th, 2017
Ruth Shillair is joining the Quello Center’s research team as a Research Assistant in this Spring Semester to support our work on cybersecurity, which is linked to the Oxford Global Cyber Security Capacity Center (GCSEC). She is working with Bill Dutton on an analysis that builds on his concept of a cyber security mindset and another analysis that focuses on the outcomes of national cyber security capacity building: Can we see capacity having a positive, independent impact on cyber security?
Ms. Shillair is a doctoral student in the Media and Information Department at MSU. Her research has focused on cyber security, such as in working with the Online Safety for the Ages (OSA) project with Professors Bob LaRose, Nora Rifkin, Saleem Alhabaash, and Sheila Cotten, which focuses on generational differences in online safety behaviors, particularly in the area of online banking.
Ruth has been recognized at MSU, such as in being awarded with one of the Department’s PhD Academic Merit Awards, and an ‘outstanding doctoral student research’ award. She also participated in the Oxford Internet Institute’s (OII) Summer Doctoral Program (SDP). As Bill Dutton, Director of the Quello Center noted: “We are very lucky to have Ruth onboard as her expertise in cyber security and quantitative analysis is going to help us leap ahead on our cyber security research.”
Thursday, December 29th, 2016
Is Apple Lost?
A. Michael Noll
December 29, 2016
© 2016 AMN
Has Apple been too successful – and overly arrogant in believing only it knows what is best for its customers? Will Apple become the next Yahoo, slowly sinking into oblivion?
Has innovation for Apple become abandoning things, such as leaving out the audio mini-jack in its iPhones? The original iPod was a great music player with its fabulous click-wheel interface – ingenious. But Apple abandoned the iPod click-wheel, rather than updating this product with solid-state storage. Will Apple soon abandon all its iPods? If so, it would be a great opportunity for Sony to acquire the iPod product line and continue to innovate with new features and storage.
The iTunes program tries to do everything: music player, iPhone synchronizer, and iTunes store access. It is challenging to do all these well in one huge program. The different purposes should be different programs, but with sharing across them.
The iWatch promised much – but what did it deliver? I have yet to see someone using one. And the need to recharge it every day is a big chore. The iWatch seems to be just an extension of the iPhone.
Apple has become a one-product business: the iPhone. It is challenging to survive today as a one-product company. Apple’s complete product line (other than the iMac) would easily fit in a backpack. Apple is not a diverse product company – it has become a niche company.
Amazon, meanwhile, is innovating and expanding, such as its new voice-activated Echo product. This clearly is the kind of innovative product I would have expected from Apple. Meanwhile Apple’s iTV remains a challenge to discover what it actually does and how to use it.
Has the Apple that was the past innovator become today a copycat, such as the rumors that it too is working on a driverless car? More significantly, is Apple itself driverless and has it lost its way? Apple possibly needs new directions – a return to innovation – or a re-invigoration of the current paths.
Apple should renew a commitment to legacy products, such as the click-wheel iPod, updating them with newer technology and enthusing their original excitement. Give consumers more control over how things are displayed and used; and change the attitude that Apple knows best.
Sunday, December 18th, 2016
“You may have heard that an engineer is a person who knows a great deal about very little, and who goes along learning more and more about less and less until finally he knows practically everything about nothing. A salesman, on the other hand, is a person who knows very little about many things and keeps learning less and less about more an more, until he knows practically nothing about everything. Of course, a station manager starts out knowing everything about everything, but ends up knowing nothing about anything, because of his association with engineers and salemen.”
– James H. Quello, 11 October 1974
Saturday, December 17th, 2016
Aleks Yankelevich and Mitch Shapiro toast (with new Quello mugs!) the completion of their two reports, both of which were central to a major Quello Center project on Wireless Innovation in Last Mile Access (WILMA). Aleks led the report on regulatory issues surrounding key spectrum of value to wireless, and Mitch led the report on business strategy case studies of wireless initiatives. Both reports will be released in the coming months when reviews are completed.
Thursday, December 8th, 2016
The Quello Center is off and running in creating a digital archive of James H. Quello’s papers. Our archive team includes myself, having never created such an archive, plus Anne Marie Salter at the Center, Valeta Winsloff from Media and Information who supports our design work and blogging, Scout Calvert with the MSU Library, who is orchestrating this project, and Lauren E. Lincoln-Chavez, who has hands on experience in developing archives and special collections, and is based in Detroit.
The collection contains over 1,000 papers, including speeches, statements, letters, and remarks by James Quello during his long tenure as an FCC Commissioner. To this we will be adding our collection of photographs, and videos, as well as photos of his many awards and honors. This promises to be another of the many fun and rewarding projects of the Center.
The archive will be part of our WordPress blog and publicly accessible to anyone who might want a view of over two decades at the FCC through the words of one of its longest serving and most colorful commissioners. I read one of his papers from 1974 saying the he is willing to forgive journalists for getting things wrong at times (before there was a term ‘fake news’) in order to protect freedom of the press, and I imagine he would say the same thing about the users of social media today.
Generally, sifting through this collection is addictive as you follow the history of such issues as the fairness doctrine, cross-ownership rules, and more. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
Thursday, December 1st, 2016
As a member of their advisory board, I would also like to invite scholarly and original submissions that broadly relate to the 2017 conference theme on “Social Media for Social Good or Evil.” The organizers welcome both quantitative and qualitative work which crosses interdisciplinary boundaries and expands our understanding of the current
and future trends in social media research. See the call for proposals at