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Are We All Just Lazy?

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Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Are We All Just Lazy?

A. Michael Noll

December 11, 2017

© 2017 AMN

How many of our new products and services are motivated mostly by our laziness? However, the marketing folks would claim that they are just making life easier for us.

Television sets of the past had tuners with knobs. To change a channel, we had to get up from our sofas and go to the TV set to turn the knob to a different channel. This was so much effort that we usually just left the TV set on a single channel for the entire evening. And then the TV remote was invented. Now we could relax in our sofas and simply press a button to flip from one channel to another – the height of laziness.

Today we have voice-assisted products. All we have to do is simply speak to it to obtain information or to turn on a lamp. No longer do we have to search the Internet by typing on a keyboard. We just speak to our computers and voice-assistants.

Decades ago, AT&T was attempting to market its video teleconferencing service. But people thought it was easier to take the train than to schedule and walk across the street to a teleconferencing room.

It takes physical energy and effort to speak – it can be tiring. Somehow it is easier just to type or text a message. Perhaps it simply takes less physical effort and is less tiring. But if we do not have a keyboard immediately available, then speech is the way to go.

A. Michael Noll

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Media & Communication Research and Policy Panel

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Monday, December 4th, 2017

On Wednesday, November 29, the Quello Center hosted a discussion advancing policy and governance as a College focus area. This college-wide panel on media & communication research and policy discussed how policy is related to and involved in research activities across the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, as well as what kinds of synergies we can leverage across the college. The discussion served as an opportunity to bring together faculty and students with an interest in policy and governance as an important focus area for the College.

Moderator: Johannes M. Bauer, Department of Media and Information

Panelists: Daniel Bergan, Department of Communication; Dave Ewoldsen, Department of Media and Information; Keith Hampton, Department of Media and Information; Natascha Just, Department of Media and Information; Bibi Reisdorf, Quello Center.

 

 

Panelists (from left to right) Dave Ewoldsen, Department of Media and Information; Daniel Bergan, Department of Communication; Bibi Reisdorf, Quello Center; Natascha Just, Department of Media and Information; Keith Hampton, Department of Media and Information

 

Attendees: Shelia Cotton, Laleah Fernandez, Maria Lapinski, Dar Meshi, Jef Richards, Nora Rifon, Ashly Sanders-Jackson, Ruth Shillair, Rick Wash, Aleksandr Yankelevich

Unable to attend, but mentioned interest: Rachel Mourao, Kjerstin Thorson

*The following summary is organized by themes rather than chronological.

How can we make sure policy issues get the attention they deserve in both research and teaching?

Panelists and attendees discussed a broad range of tactics and strategies for gaining attention on policy topics ranging from informal (yet centralized) information sharing through the Quello Center to PhD training and culture changes at the college level (e.g. valuing policy-directed output for the tenure process). For example, better sharing of information, more cross departmental collaboration, and making everyone more aware of the policy implications of their research.

One panelist started the conversation by saying that perhaps it shouldn’t be the goal of research to gain attention because such efforts can jeopardize the objectivity of the research we do. From this view, the appeal of political gain, financial gain, and media attention have the capability of casting an academic into the role of being an “expert” even in areas that fall outside the boundaries of his/her expertise. In these cases, academics can do more damage than good or lose academic credibility.

One panelist suggested that we begin by finding a common ground, proposing the Quello could serve as a basis for that common ground. She pointed out that it is important to harness the reputation of the Quello Center and the College and to create the value of policy research. She warned that finding a common ground for policy research is not an easy task, pointing out “we all have different mind sets about how to engage in policy,” for example, describing policy or advocating are two very different approaches and the way we ask questions when policies are the object of analysis are different from questions that analyze something societal that might be relevant for policy. The starting point, therefore, might be the distinction between policy-focused research and policy-relevant research.

One panelist provided very pragmatic answers to this question. She noted a number of opportunities available through the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR) ranging from the Michigan Applied Public Policy Research grant to policy-focused learning opportunities for new and existing lawmakers as well as faculty. The IPPSR, for example, runs regular workshops for faculty who want to make their research more applicable to the policy realm. At the federal level, she suggests a college-wide effort to boost presence at the TPRC Research Conference on Communications, Information and Internet Policy in Washington D.C. as well as other similar conferences that bring together researchers, industry and policymakers.

The moderator pointed out that one challenge in the department is communicating clearly when the competition over ideas gets complicated. He added that politically some groups are doing a better job in that space, while academia appears to be generally unsure of their role. One attendee said that academics have a long tradition of playing an advisory role, and as long as technology is advancing new policy will be created, reactively. There is a space for academics to fill here. Another approach, as suggested by one panelist, is training the PhD students to appreciate how their work is important to potentially impacting policy. This concept could be included as we are currently restructuring the PhD program.

What is the difference between policy-relevant research and policy-research and why does it matter?

Concern over a lack of definition, ambiguous definitions and a negative connotation associated with the term policy research was echoed throughout the discussion. One attendee noted that the definition of policy-relevant research and policy research is very much a function of one’s position, perspective or discipline. Thus, all the research in the building is policy relevant, from these varying positions. His suggestion: work toward a shared definition, or change the terminology. The need for changed terminology is rooted in the stigma associated with the term “policy research” (with some colleagues in the communication field).  One panelist similarly suggested that not only are definitions based on discipline, but so are the questions that are asked. She added that these questions of policy apply to multiple levels, and there are different areas of policy to consider.

Another atendee later added that it is difficult to move issues forward with a lack of consensus. Her suggested solution is to examine models for engaging with policy centers and advocating for engaged scholarship. Another attendee added that we figure out ways to keep our thumb on the pulse in terms of advocacy work, more specifically, she called on faculty to “know what the advocates are trying to figure out,” to help guide our research. One panelist warned that mixing advocacy and research had the potential to muddy objectivity. One attendee countered that it is possible to balance both, admitting that in her own research her ultimate goal is to see the world become a little better.

While a shared definition of policy-relevant and policy-focused research was not explicitly agreed upon there was consensus among panelists and participants that in some way everyone was doing work that was policy relevant. In other words, policy can be expressed at multiple levels, in countless contexts and through various lenses – it can mean law making, it can mean interpreting existing law, it can be normative behaviors and cultures, it can be pre-emptive or reactive. As such, in our research an organic expression of and relationship to policy tends to emerge, even in the absence of intention. This idea, therefore, lends itself to ways to deliberately nurture and articulate that policy relevance by devising shared techniques and best practices.

One attendee noted that, for some, policy includes law, regulation, code, social norms and culture. From this perspective, law is used as a back-up when norms and culture don’t work. Other attendees and panelists echoed this idea noting that American politics do not necessarily combine studies of a sociological nature with policy decisions, whereas other countries throughout Europe do.

What is the role of communication arts and sciences in policy (relevant) research?

The role of communication arts and sciences in policy research was another area that was highly dependent on one’s discipline, training, goal and comfort level. For example, one panelist pointed out that some communication scholars are sociologists, and from his perspective there is “no natural entry point” for policy focused research, adding that there is a difference between advocates and academics. However, even in the absence of advocacy work there is a place for communication scholarship in the production and distribution of data in multiple public outlets. He added that there are risks associated with aligning our research interests to policy issues because you may be called upon to speak to related issues — not necessarily within your area of expertise. He asks “do you become a communicator of ideology” or “stay in your lane, acknowledging the borders of your expertise?” This panelist asked others, if we head down this road “are we vulnerable to stepping beyond our safe spot?”

However, another panelist pointed out that in communication studies the focus on psychology has a history of policy implications. For example, the role of psychology in understanding the impact of information on people and policy implications of such impacts. This relationship is evident in areas of study such as media policy, press restraints and the public’s reaction to such restraints, and product placement research. This panelist added that there are a number of models and theories in the field that can be and are used to understand and predict public reaction to information, and used to influence policy. One specific example described to illustrate these points is a study of the under reporting of the media on the impact of alcohol in criminal behavior.

While some panelists and attendees shied away from the idea of expressing their research expertise in addressing policy issues, others quickly and deliberately position themselves to be heard by decision makers. One attendee summarized by saying “policy will happen regardless of whether we weigh in or not, best to contribute what we know,” to help informed decision making. He noted the value of the advisory role as academics and noted that research focused on the process of technology development (or restriction of development) is particularly relevant to policy research. More specifically, “understanding how tech gets built, or restricted” leads to a better understanding of influencing factors related to policy outcomes.

Panelists suggested a number of areas where communication and media research could contribute including: changes of values, networking, regulations of Internet platforms, tolerance, diversity, digital inequality, role of technology in inequities, how technology is altered and exasperated by policy, how social media change policy, understanding how tech are being created and how people use technology.

Some specific examples of ongoing work in these areas, as cited by attendees and panelists included: research around algorithms to improve social outcomes; the role of communication studies related to perceptions of the world through the lens of social media, and how that perception by lawmakers influences policy. Another example is how major digital companies, such as Amazon, intentional and directly influence policy. Another panelists concluded by saying “policy research can also be used to call B.S. on existing arguments.”

How can we create a thematic focus in the college to increase impact?

The group as a whole agreed that continued discussions and long-term effort with this goal in mind are necessary to create this thematic focus. Such efforts could and should be directed and overseen by the Quello Center.

One attendee said such a thematic focus should consider ways to influence people who have questions in order to create better interventions. Another attendee said college-wide collaboration from multiple perspectives will provide a starting point for this goal. Another attendee suggested the model used by the Health and Risk Communication Center (HRCC). More specifically, she described a rotating research core that involved policy research that brings in tangential people to focus activities more closely to policy relevance and social translation. She also reminded attendees and panelists that Michigan Environmental Science program, and infrastructure, is readily accessible yet under-utilized source for CAS faculty.

One panelist suggested that an overall awareness of policy relevance is a reasonable first step. More specifically, he proposed that the recognition that there are policy implications to the research that we are already doing is one way to start developing this theme. For example, research that looks at how to handle people playing Pokémon Go might result in the restriction of public spaces from your research perspective, whereas another researcher might say it is better to facilitate this gathering in public spaces for the sake of democratic deliberation and encouraging a public sphere. This example prompted one attendee to chime in by saying, from his perspective, research into the constitutionality of restricting such spaces is yet another perspective. This dialogue further emphasized the ubiquitous nature of policy research and the varying definitions based on individual perspectives.

Some discussed the need to prioritize. One attendee conceded that through our research we can get a fairly descriptive picture of policy and social issues, but having a perfect models doesn’t allow people to make good decisions. From a pragmatic perspective, she adds, we have to prioritize areas of greatest concern.

The moderator brought up the challenge of the dynamic nature of socio-technological systems. He cautioned against the assumption that components of such systems are stable, citing the instance of Smart Cities research and traffic jams. One panelist said that some models can account for that type of change or instability.

In terms of next steps, one attendee suggested that we focus on translation and bring together faculty to discuss and decide upon models that are most effective. The idea here is to move research into the hands of people who can use it. She suggested that events like Brews and Views have been successful in other areas of research and might work for our purposes as well.

How can we improve our presence in policy (relevant) research across MSU?

Formal and informal information sharing networks, in combination with ongoing discussions, led by the Quello Center, are necessary to improve our presence. The moderator suggested that Quello take the lead in bringing together people of practice and policy.

One panelist suggested that we leverage existing resources at the University, specifically utilizing connections with the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR). This center has a number of mechanisms for direct interaction with law makers including: monthly forums and round tables to inform current legislators and staff of timely issues and research at MSU, learning opportunities for new lawmakers, and small grants available for policy relevant research that is shared with lawmakers upon completion. One attendee echoed this call, noting that she makes a deliberate effort to interface with decision makers whenever possible through her internal network of contacts and strategic choices about conference attendance. More specifically, she chooses conferences in which she knows that lawmakers, and agency heads will be attending. She adds that the academic culture is not exactly conducive to this approach of information sharing and collaboration, in fact, within academic circles she has been criticized for her choice to interface and engage regularly with policy makers.

Another attendee suggested using HRC workshops to communicate research and draw attention. She also noted that additional forums to talk about the ways to communicate research and draw attention and developing or identifying better resources to get the word out.

One attendee shared efforts (pre-2016 election) to collect information directly from FTC employees and compile a book of issues that “kept them up at night.” Despite the utility of this information, she noted that there currently is not an appropriate or useful venue to share this with colleagues or faculty that might find it useful for their own research, asking “where are the platforms to share this information?” She noted that focusing on public policy and marketing conferences might be one way to reach the intended audience and boost presence in this area.

One attendee said it is necessary to make strategic decisions about where we publish, aiming to publish in journal and publications with a policy-oriented audience rather than a strictly academic audience. She emphasized the importance of translation in academic work, particularly among those in government with questions who are designing interventions. The moderator echoed that it is worth re-examining the way we value published research in the tenure and promotion processes.

One attendee said that we should consider stepping away from the idea that research in this area needs to be cutting-edge and instead think about things that everyone in the field or discipline already knows. Perhaps, these tried and true approaches and models are best applied if we are able to translate for policy purposes. Another attendee added that while our research may not have all the answers, at least it is thoughtful and generally fact driven.

One attendee suggested that we create a pipeline to funnel translated research to broader audiences such as through the New York Times. She added a dedicated journal is also worth considering. Another attendee pointed out that Quello has the potential to be a pipeline, however, it is important to respect relationships that others have developed with policy-makers, public officials or agencies in any such type of information-sharing endeavors.

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Steve Wildman Keynoting ICMC 2018 in Abu Dhabi

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Friday, November 24th, 2017

The 1st INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON MEDIA AND COMMUNICATION (ICMC 2018), hosted by the Department of Communication Studies of Abu Dhabi University, will be held on March 19-21, 2018 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE. The former director of the Quello Center, Emeritus Professor Steve Wildman, will be presenting one of two keynotes.

The Aims and Objectives of ICMC 2018 are to exchange best practices and promote international partnership and cooperation among academia and media practitioners worldwide and to create an international forum to present, discuss and exchange the latest academic research in media and communication.

Dr Mike Friedrichsen, President, Berlin University of Digital Sciences, Germany, will be presenting the other keynote.

Steve Wildman at the Quello Center

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AT&T Goes Hollywood by A. Michael Noll

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Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

AT&T Goes Hollywood

A. Michael Noll
© Copyright 2017 AMN

AT&T wants to purchase Time Warner — the White House and the Justice Department correctly oppose the acquisition. The acquisition would create a huge vertical integration of content and conduit that would not benefit consumers, in my opinion. But the local telephone companies have a long history of lusting after content and Hollywood.

Today’s AT&T is really a former local Bell company: the past Southwestern Bell that then became SBC Communications which then acquired AT&T and then wrapped itself in the AT&T identity.

Over two decades ago, the local Bell companies chased after the entertainment industry. And now again one of the remaining of the two super Bells – AT&T – is again inflicted with Hollywood fever.

AT&T is a conduit company, providing the cables and wireless paths over which consumer access various services. In 2015, AT&T extended its control over conduit through its acquisition of DirecTV for nearly $50 billion, delivering video over satellite to homes. But throughout history, the old Bell operating companies have lusted after also providing the content that their customers want to access over the conduits.

The telecommunication conduit business in the United States has become mostly a duopoly. AT&T and Verizon dominate wireless. Either AT&T or Verizon and a CATV company dominate wired access. Duopolies inherently adjust “competition” so that markets are shared and profits maximized, without attracting government attention. In the late 1940s, the studios were forced to divest their vertical integration of movie theaters. So today If AT&T wants to become a content company, it should be required to divest its wireless and wireline conduit businesses.

AT&T knows little of Hollywood and the news and entertainment businesses. It should stick with its strengths in providing wired and wireless conduits, as I wrote in 1993.* One might argue that if AT&T wants to lose its shirt chasing Hollywood, then let it. However, like decades ago, now is still not the time for AT&T to go Hollywood.** “Hollywood” might well end up as “Follywood” for AT&T.

*“Baby Bells Should Stick With Strengths,” by A. Michael Noll, Los Angeles Times, October 22, 19933, p. B15.

**“The phone company has gone Hollywood,” by A. Michael Noll, Morris County Daily Record, January 7, 1994, p. A11.

November 22, 2017

A. Michael Noll

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Quello Chair in Media and Information Policy, Michigan State University

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Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

The Department of Media and Information (MI) at Michigan State University invites applications for a tenure-system faculty position at the rank of Associate or Full Professor in the area of media and information policy. We seek a visionary leader with an innovative research program and/or industry or policy-making experience who will develop the Quello Center to the next level of prominence, addressing critical issues of media and information policy in a digital economy. The successful candidate will have a strong record of obtaining grants, contracts, and/or other types of external funding in support of research and outreach.

A terminal degree in a discipline related to media and information policy is required, including but not limited to many disciplines in the social sciences, engineering, and law. We value experience in public policy or industry and a willingness to engage with stakeholders outside the academy. Teaching will include undergraduate and graduate courses in a vibrant multi-disciplinary environment.

The successful candidate will hold the endowed chair associated with the Quello Center and provide strategic direction and leadership for the Center. The Quello Center was established in 1998 to be a world-wide focal point for excellence in research, teaching, and the development and application of expertise in telecommunication management and policy. It has since evolved to policy issues in the digital economy, more broadly focused. It is dedicated to original research and outreach on current issues of information and communication management, law, and policy.

The Center is associated with the MI department, home to a world-class faculty known for its cutting-edge research on the design, uses, and implications of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Important MI research foci include communication economics and policy, social media, human computer interaction, digital games and meaningful play, ICT for development (ICT4D), and health and technology. MI faculty members also design media and develop socio-technical systems.

To apply, please visit the Michigan State University Employment Opportunities website (http://careers.msu.edu), refer to Posting #477204, and complete an electronic submission. Applicants should submit the following materials electronically: (1) a cover letter indicating the position you are interested in and summarizing your qualifications for it, (2) a current vita, (3) if appropriate, a URL to a website describing your current research/outreach activity, and (4) the names and contact information for three individuals willing to serve as your recommenders to the search committee. The search committee will begin considering applications on January 30, 2018. The search closes when a suitable candidate is hired.

Please direct any questions to Professor Charles Steinfield, Search Committee Chair, Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University, at steinfie@msu.edu.

MSU is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer. MSU is committed to achieving excellence through cultural diversity. The university actively encourages applications and/or nominations of women, persons of color, veterans and persons with disabilities.

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Bibi Reisdorf at the Global AI & Inclusion Symposium in Rio de Janeiro

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Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Global symposium on AI & Inclusion in beautiful Rio de Janeiro

The Museum of Tomorrow

Last week, I had the immense pleasure of participating in the Global AI & Inclusion Symposium at the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Global Network of Internet & Society Centers (NoC) invited a wide range of stakeholders toRio during November 8-10, 2017. Spearheaded and organized by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and the Institute of Technology and Society in Rio, the symposium brought together researchers, industry, NGOs, and other entities to discuss issues around inclusion and artificial intelligence (AI).

One of the key aspects of this symposium was the inclusion of perspectives fromnot only a wide range of areas and disciplines, but also from all regions across the globe. Each region was represented—however, more inclusion of underrepresented areas was noted as an area of action for future activities, as the discourse still saw a larger number of perspectives from Western backgrounds. As an example, although China is one of the key players regarding AI, only a small number of representatives were from China or provided a background on AI and inclusion in China.

The symposium was jam-packed with high-caliber talks, discussions, and activities. The symposium program can be found here. Whereas the first day focused on creating a common understanding of AI and inclusion as concepts and frameworks, the second day identified opportunities, challenges, and possible approaches and solutions to increase inclusion in AI, and the third day focused on areas for future research, education and interface building.

All speakers provided impressive background and knowledge on AI and inclusion to a multidisciplinary and multifaceted audience, which created a steep learning curve for me as a social scientist with (previously) little background in the technologies behind AI. However, the design of the symposium talks and activities facilitated a deep understanding of the issues around AI and inclusion for individuals from any disciplinary background.

Key issues in AI and inclusion 

Our cluster group’s suggestion on how to escape the AI Wild West and move toward unbiased (or less biased at least) AI

One of the key issues that stood out at this symposium is the bias and the exclusionary nature of AI through the way that AI is created and trained. For example, algorithms, which are an inherent part of AI, that are created through training datasets are only as good as those datasets. This means, if a training dataset—created by a human—is biased, the algorithm will be biased too. This became apparent quickly through a variety of examples, that included work from Desabafo Social, a non-profit that promotes social justice and youth participation in Brazil, which showed videos that revealed racist bias in search algorithms for a variety of photo sharing pages. An impressive example of their enlightening videos can be found here.

These issues of bias and exclusion at the creation stage do not just include race as a factor, but any underrepresented group. For example, the technology created for airport security prompts the security agents to choose whether a person is male or female before entering the millimeter wave scanner. Based on training datasets of typical male and female bodies, the scanner then decides whether there could be any objects hidden on those bodies. However, this AI technology (Automatic Target Recognition, ATR) only differentiates two genders, meaning that anyone who does not fall into these two categories will be marked as suspicious and will have to go through a secondary security hand search.

Another striking takeaway from the conference was the missing legal definition of AI and the absence of global standards in AI. For example, AI accuracy in face recognition is very high for white males, but low for black females. A good practice standard, for example a minimum accuracy requirement, does not currently exist, although a number of entities, such as the Mozilla Foundation, are aiming to create such standards as a “fair AI” badge—similar to the fair-trade badge—to remedy these issues.

Another area of concern in AI is privacy and surveillance, as AI relies on copious amounts of data to learn and improve its algorithms. However, users are often unsure of when, where, and how their data are collected and used for which purposes. Although some regulations have been passed to protect users’ privacy, these regulations are not global, and different regions apply different laws and regulations. Accordingly, there were calls for—first of all—a global legal definition of AI, which

The Berkman Klein and ITS Rio team who organized the symposium

would provide the basis for creating global regulations on inclusion, privacy, and other areas affected by AI. Again, the Mozilla Foundation made a number of suggestions on “fair AI” and they provide a “holiday buyer’s guide” on technology that will “snoop” on you—i.e., presents that you should probably not give to your loved ones… unless you’d like them to be snooped on…

Future Event on AI, bias, and inclusion at the Quello Center

Overall, the symposium left me personally with more questions than answers, but I am consoled by the fact that every single participant I spoke with felt invigorated and motivated to do something to move forward the cause of increasing inclusion in AI. For one, we all agreed to help make these issues a public conversation topic—this blog post is only the start. At the Quello Center, I will be organizing a discussion roundtable concerning issues around artificial intelligence, bias, and social exclusion, that will delve deeper into these issues based on the work that is happening here at MSU. Watch this space for a time and date during the spring semester 2018.

 

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Wayne State University Team Collaborating on Broadband to the Neighborhood in Detroit

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Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

The Quello Center’s Broadband to the Neighborhood Project is surveying residents in three areas of Detroit. We are delighted to be collaborating with the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University on the fielding of survey and putting their CATI system to work. Yesterday, prior to some focus groups in Detroit, we were able to visit the Center for Urban Studies and meet the team conducting our field research, led by Charo Hulleza (far left in photo), and her research assistant, John Jakary (far right in photo). Our thanks to them for their professional team work and collaboration on this project. They are an excellent team, see below.

Our team in the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University

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Tommy Edison’s Perspective on the Internet and Accessiblity: Advantage Smartphone!

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Friday, November 10th, 2017

My colleagues and I had a wonderful conversation with Tommy Edison, host of The Blind Film Critic, yesterday afternoon, following his presentation at UARC’s (MSU Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting) World Usability Day conference. Blind from birth, Tommy’s website describes him as the ‘Blind Film Critic, YouTuber, Radio Personality, Public Speaker’, and he truly is a master of all. We organized this conversation to discuss his life and work and particularly the lessons he has learned about disabilities and access to the Internet. As Tommy said, ‘too few people have any experience with a blind person’, and even fewer with how a blind person uses the Internet.

Laleah Fernandez, Tommy Edison, Valeta Wensloff, and Bill Dutton, 2017

The most important insight he provided was on the centrality of the mobile smartphone for enabling better access to the Internet for the blind. As he argued, computers, such as laptops, and the Internet have become more accessible since the early days for those born blind or having lost their eyesight, but there are still major hurdles. He had always found it difficult to deal with the computer screen, for example, even though the graphical user interface has of course been one of the key breakthroughs in helping sighted people use the Internet.

A breakthrough on the computer-based Internet has been text-to-voice advances, which he uses. But in this respect, he has found the smartphone to be the most major breakthrough as he can envision the keyboard of a smart phone through touch and therefore navigate the Internet far more easily. And he can touch a key once to hear the function, and twice to complete it.

I asked about the use of voice search, and whether this provided a similar breakthrough for him. However, his concerns over privacy trumped the value of voice search. So, as we increasingly design Web sites and blogs for mobile first access, we are often making the Internet more usable for those with impaired sight.

Biographical Sketch

Tommy Edison has been blind since birth and now producing videos online that reveal a glimpse into his life and the funny challenges that he faces daily. Tommy has showed us what it’s like for someone who is blind to use an ATM for the time and how some people who are visually impaired may organize their money. Plus, Tommy is living his dream of reviewing movies as the Blind Film Critic. With his unique and interesting perspective, Tommy says “I watch movies and pay attention to them in a different way than sighted people do. I’m not distracted by all the beautiful shots and attractive people. I watch a movie for the writing and acting.” In addition to being the Blind Film Critic, Tommy has been a radio professional for nearly 25 years, having spent the last 19 at STAR 99.9 FM in Connecticut as a traffic reporter. Tommy’s engaging personality, along with his on-air excellence and entertaining demeanor has garnered him much media attention.

Tommy Edison

The Center thanks the Quello Center’s Valeta Wensloff and Graham Pierce, the Assistant Director of Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting at MSU for helping to bring this conversation together.

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Sandi Smith Receives Recognition as MSU Distinguished Professor

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Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Professor Sandi Smith in the Department of Communication of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at MSU was named of the University’s few Distinguished Professors at a ceremony yesterday at the University Club. She joins Professor Bradley Greenberg, one of her mentors, who received this recognition in 1990.

Sandi and the other newly elected professors featured in a video about their research and teaching. I think everyone in the audience was ready to declare a new major and return to university to work with scholar-teachers like Sandi and the others honored yesterday. They were all seriously inspirational, talented, and dedicated academics.

Here is a photo of Sandi with Dean Prabu David and Professor Kami Silk, the College’s Associate Dean of Research. Sorry about the shading – the room was dark – but you can clearly see how pleased everyone was with the awards.

Sandi Smith, Prabu David, and Kami Silk at University Club 2017

Sandi receiving her award, photo by Dean David

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The Quello Center Appoints Vincent Curren to its Advisory Board

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Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

We are delighted to announce that Vincent Curren, principal of Breakthrough Public Media Consulting, Inc., has accepted our invitation to join the Quello Center’s Advisory Board. Given his experience in public broadcasting and his current focus on the future of broadcasting standards and their implications for the industry, his appointment helps reinforce the Center’s broadcast legacy tied to James H. Quello.

Vincent Curren

Recently, Vinnie visited the Quello Center and provided his perspective on the future of public broadcasting. He focused on the new IP-based standard created by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC), called ATSC 3.0. As he argues, this new standard is likely to enable real synergies between the Internet and broadcasting, and much much more, even helping to usher in the next generation of television.

As principal of his firm, Breakthrough Public Media Consulting, Vinnie is helping public media companies navigate today’s dynamic and competitive media world. More concretely, he is working with the Public Media Company to help public television stations leverage the power of ATSC 3.0, the next generation, broadcast television standard.

Before leaving to start his own firm, Vinnie served as Chief Operating Officer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a position that he held for nearly a decade. While at CPB, Vincent Curren had overall responsibility for managing station policy, grant-making and station support activities, ensuring that all Americans receive robust public media services for free and commercial-free. Prior to being named Chief Operating Officer, Vinnie was the Senior Vice President for Radio at CPB.

Vinnie has been a major market station general manager (WXPN, Philadelphia), has held programming, fundraising, and engineering positions in radio, been a commercial television producer/director, and has served on the boards of the Development Exchange (now Greater Public) and the Station Resource Group.

Vinnie holds a BA from SUNY Buffalo (Psychology) and an MS from the University of Pennsylvania in Organizational Dynamics. After Vinnie was invited to accept our invitation to join the Board, and had a chance to review its members, he spoke of the quality of the Board. He added that, coincidentally, he happened to have been a fellow graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1970s, with another member of our Board, Bob Pepper, now at Facebook, but formerly at Cisco, and who was a major figure at the FCC. Vinnie said Bob was the ‘star Larry Lichty student’, referring to Professor Lawrence W. Lichty, one of the foremost scholars of the history of broadcasting. In fact, when I first met Dr Pepper, he was a professor at the University of Iowa, and focused on the history of public broadcasting.

So it is wonderful to have Vinnie Curren, one of the nation’s leading thinkers about the future of public broadcasting, as well as his former colleague at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Bob Pepper, along with all the other prominent figures on the Quello Center’s Advisory Board. We are honored.

Bill Dutton
Director and Professor of Media and Information Policy

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