Path of a Lecture and Interview with Richard Stallman

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.

Fake News Roundtable: Featuring Approaches to Academic Research

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.

Quello Director Receives 2014 William F. Ogburn Career Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Bill Dutton, the new Director of the Quello Center, received the 2014 William F. Ogburn Career Achievement Award from the American Sociological Association, given by CITASA at the July 2014 ASA meeting. (CITASA is ASA’s section on Communication and Information Technology). A list of previous recipients is available at: http://www.asanet.org/sections/citasa_recipients_History.cfm

Bill was unable to attend the meeting, given the timing coinciding with his move to MSU, but he sent these words of appreciation:

“Dear Colleagues of CITASA,

I would like to convey my appreciation to the selection committee and CITASA for honoring me with this career achievement award. It is a privilege to be in the company of those who have received this recognition in past years, and to have such a wonderful link with William F. Ogburn and the ASA. I am delighted to be part of the community of scholars you are building.

It amazes me that even in the space of my own career, the sociological study of the Internet and related communication and information technologies has moved from the margins of sociology to become one of its most exciting fields of innovative research. At Oxford, and I am sure this will be the case at MSU, my colleagues are increasingly looking to sociology for some of the most promising researchers focused on society and the Internet.

My thanks to CITASA for helping to raise the stature of social research on communication and information technology, and for this wonderful recognition from the American Sociological Association.

Bill Dutton”

MSU’s Department of Media and Information – Early Reflections

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

I am just beginning my tenure in the Department of Media and Information at MSU – literally my first days. However, I can already sense tremendous potential stemming from key features of its faculty.

Most obviously, the department’s clear joining of media and information studies departs from a common albeit increasingly artificial division between schools of media and communication and schools of information. It makes no sense to separate broadcasting from social media or big data, for example. It is brilliant for these areas to be bridged within the department. To me, this represents one of the most strategically important features of the department.

Secondly, the department is decidedly multi-disciplinary or even inter-disciplinary in the sense of a focus on problems facing media and information, rather than puzzles within disciplines. It brings together computer scientists, sociologists, economists and communication scholars, to name a few of the disciplines represented. This commitment is underscored by faculty of the department, such as Shelia Cotten, taking a leadership role in academic initiatives that cross college and divisional boundaries, such as through what is called the ‘Trifecta’ initiative at MSU.

Thirdly, the department is embedded within a College of Communication Arts & Sciences, which assembles a large and diverse array of academics focused on topics of communication from the social sciences and humanities, including journalism and cinema and gaming. It is hard to imagine a student of communication not being able to find their interests represented by a number of faculty. The College builds on a long traditional of strength within the communication field.

Fourthly, it is global – decidedly international in the composition of its faculty, the scope of its research, the focus of its curriculum, its study abroad programs, and more. The department has a clear commitment to worldwide research and outreach.

Finally, the department has a strong academic commitment to shaping policy and practice. This is illustrated by its centrality to the gaming community, such as through its Meaningful Play Conferences, its role in the provision of public television (WKAR) and a ‘Media Sandbox’, and its ties to the communication policy community, such as through the Quello Center.

I’m sure I will discover additional aspects of the department of importance, but these seem to be promising aspects of my new home.

Bill Dutton, Director of the Quello Center

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