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Path of a Lecture and Interview with Richard Stallman

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Saturday, April 15th, 2017

Irem Gokce Yildirim, a masters student at MSU in my course on media and information policy, interviewed Richard Stallman after his Quello Lecture at MSU. It was her first interview, and she did a great job, with support from her husband, Ustun. Both are from Turkey and both are associated with the Free Software Foundation, for which Richard is the President and Founder.

RMS and Dutton at Auction of GNU at End of Lecture

The back story on how this happened is interesting to me. Ustun, pictured getting an autograph from Stallman, alerted Irem to an early visit by Richard to Michigan. Irem alerted me in class and suggested we invite Richard. This kicked off communications to get Richard Stallman to MSU for a Quello Lecture, and to asking Irem to play an important role in conducting the interview.

Irem and rms

Her interview and Richard Stallman’s lecture will be posted on the Quello site in due course, but this is how it all happened. Thanks to Irem and Ustun for enhancing the academic climate at the Quello Center and MSU’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences.

Ustun and rms

Post Script: Ustun won the GNU in the auction, and the photo is showing Ustun getting rms’s signature on the GNU. First auction at any Quello event, I believe.

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Stimulating Perspective on Free Digital Society by Richard Stallman: Not So Free?

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Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Yesterday afternoon, April 11, Richard Stallman, President and Founder of the Free Software Foundation gave a rather comprehensive and critical perspective on the ways in which our digital society is not meeting his definition of a free society. His talk, entitled ‘A Free Digital Society’ began with a focus on free software, meaning software that does not control the user – as users control free software. He developed a set of criteria for the requirements underpinning free software over the first hour of his talk, what he called the four freedoms. To Stallman, free software is a basic human right.

During the second hour, he moved through a litany of other problems with a free digital society, including surveillance, censorship, Internet services, which collect personal data, electronic voting, and the war on sharing around copyright – all of which paint a pretty grim picture of our not so free digital society. I found this to be quite stimulating since we have had decades of discussions about computer-based communication and information technologies like the Internet as ‘technologies of freedom’. It is so important for these widely accepted views to be challenged by critics as sharp as Richard Stallman.

Richard Stallman Lecture

His talk filled our large lecture hall to standing room only, and we had more people lined up for autographs of his book at the end of his two and half hours of his talk and Q&A that attend most lectures. We will post the talk online in due course.

Richard Stallman graduated from Harvard University with a bachelors degree in physics, and went on to work for the AI Lab at MIT before founding the Free Software Foundation. He has won many honors and awards, from honorary doctorates to a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. He has been a pioneer not only in free software, but also in coining the term ‘copyleft’. I had a fascinating discussion with him about Joe Weizenbaum, the author of Computer Power and Human Reason, who wrote about the ‘hackers’ in the AI lab, when the concept of the hacker was defined by their work ethic and not at all by security.

Standing Room Only

Bill Dutton

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James Quello on ‘Common Sense’ in 1988

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Friday, April 7th, 2017

“I find great wisdom and guidance in a quote expressing Franklin Roosevelt’s view of the role which administrative agencies should play in government. The great President said: ‘A common sense resort to usual and practical sources of information takes the place of archaic and technical application of rules of evidence, and an informed and expert tribunal renders its decisions with an eye that looks forward to results rather than backward to precedent and to the leading case. Substantial justice remains a higher aim for our civilization than technical legalism.’ By taking this action today, we elevate substantial justice over technical legalism and best serve the overall public interest.”

The Honorable James H. Quello
July 20, 1988

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A Whole New Class of Faculty at the Quello Center

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Sunday, March 26th, 2017

One major outcome of the new faculty joining the Department of Media and Information this academic year that been a coming together of a critical mass of very strong faculty key to social scientific research on the digital age. Suddenly, the Quello Center can enjoy a dramatic rise in the strength of faculty that can inform research, policy, and practice central to the Center’s focus on policy for the digital age.

To ensure that these faculty are visible and recognized from afar, the Center has begun a new category of faculty, entitled Quello Research Fellows. The first four Fellows include three new faculty, Keith Hampton, Natascha Just, and David Ewoldsen, and one long-term member of the Quello faculty, Johannes Bauer. They bring major strengths in Internet studies, sociology, economics, social psychology, and policy into the Quello Center’s multidisciplinary team.

Together with our research team, associate faculty across the university, and graduate student researchers, these new Quello Research Fellows boost the capacity of the Quello Center to tackle an ever-wider range of research of importance to policy and practice for the digital age.

I fully expect this new class of faculty to help inform and lead debate over policy and practice that responds to the societal implications of the Internet and related digital media, communication, and information technologies.

Natascha Just

Esther Thorson and David Ewoldsen speaking at Fake News Roundtable

Keith Hampton and Rachel Mourao at the Fake News Roundtable

Johannes Bauer

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A Click Away from the Quello Center: Founding Director Steve Wildman

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Saturday, March 25th, 2017

Emeritus Professor Steve Wildman, who held the Quello Chair of Telecommunication Studies at MSU, and was founding Director of the Quello Center, may be away, but he has certainly not stopped contributing to studies of policy and practice. He remains active in our Advisory Board, contributes as an affiliated faculty member to the Silicon Flatirons Center where he is also a Visiting Scholar in the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

This spring, Steve will be teaching a two-week graduate class in information technology and the organization of economic activity at the University of Cologne. The class runs during the weeks of May 15 and May 22.

Steve Wildman at the Quello Center

The invitation to teach at Cologne was arranged by Professor Christian Wellbrock, a Professor of Media Management at the University of Cologne. He moved to Cologne recently from the University of Hamburg, where Steve had been teaching a similar course over the previous three summers. Christian Wellbrock is one of a number of Quello Center ‘alums’, having been a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Information (then the department of Telecommunications, Information systems and Management (TISM) in 2012, which enabled him to also serve as a visiting scholar with the Quello Center.

The students Steve will be teaching are masters’ students in the business school at Cologne. He says he will be “emphasizing recent research on platform management”, a topic that connects to work he undertook at MSU on social media, such as with the Quello Center’s Governance of Social Media Workshop at Georgetown University in 2011.

The week before his course begins, he will be presenting a paper at an annual meeting of the European Media Management Association (EMMA), which will be held in Ghent, Belgium. The title of his paper is: “The Competition is Only a Click Away? The Behavioral Economics of Lock-in and Leveraging for Online Services.” With apologies for the pun, we are delighted that Steve remains only a click away from the Quello Center.

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Best Wishes to Visiting Fellow, Dr Jingwei Cheng

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Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Our Visiting Fellow from China over the past year, Dr Jingwei Cheng, has left to return to her position as an Associate Professor in the School of Economics and Management, Communication University of China, where she is the Vice Director of the School. With a doctorate in media economics, Jingwei Cheng has been studying the theory and regulation underpinning the media industry in China, such as through focusing on the impact of regulation on the diversity of programming on television in China. In addition to work on broadcasting, she has done research on China’s cable industry and mobile communication. Professor Cheng Jingwei was supported at the Quello Center through a State Scholarship Fund supported by the China Scholarship Council. One of many valuable commentaries before her departure, Jingwei Chen remarked on the serious levels of poverty she saw in the US, and wondered why so little attention is provided to this issue by the media, in comparison to Tweets and other issues surrounding the President, Donald Trump.

Bill Dutton and Jingwei Chen, 2017

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Talking about the politics of the Fifth Estate with students in Lisbon

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Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Talk on the politics of the Fifth Estate at University Institute of Lisbon, March 2017

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Fake News Roundtable is Available for Viewing

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Monday, March 6th, 2017

You can hear MSU’s roundtable on Fake News here:

Fake News: A Roundtable Discussion from Quello Center on Vimeo.

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Fake News Roundtable: Featuring Approaches to Academic Research

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Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

On March 3, the Quello Center co-hosted a roundtable on Fake News with the Department of Media and Information and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. Talks by Winson Peng, Esther Thorson, David Ewolsen, Keith Hampton, and Rachel Mourao kicked off a wide-ranging discussion. Each colleague seemed to approach the topic from their theoretical or methodological home, whether data science, journalism, social psychology or Internet studies, so I was left hoping for this discussion to help foster more inter-disciplinary collaboration. That said, the unique perspective of each academic was stimulating.

From a Quello Center perspective, I asked how we can reframe this discussion and their various research topics in ways that will have a longer shelf-life and impact on policy and practice. When fake news fades as a hot button issue, how will their research continue to be viewed as relevant. My own sense is that the real issue is the more enduring one of quality news, and how to define it, produce it, and support its consumption.

We hope to have more roundtables like this one, which drew colleagues from across the College. Many thanks to Dean Prabu David, Department Chair Johannes Bauer, and other heads for supporting this, and for the many doctoral students who attended. Our Assistant Director, Dr Bibi Reisdorf, expertly moderated the discussion and summarized key points. Thanks to all.

Bill Dutton

Fake News: A Roundtable Discussion from Quello Center on Vimeo.

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Missing the Internet

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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.

Bill Dutton

See: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170207-what-if-the-internet-stopped-for-a-day

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