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

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

James Quello on ‘Common Sense’ in 1988

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

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

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.

Best Wishes to Visiting Fellow, Dr Jingwei Cheng

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

Fake News Roundtable is Available for Viewing

Monday, March 6th, 2017

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

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

Media and Information Policy Issues

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.

Quello Advisory Board Meeting

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?

Privacy and Privacy Policy: Efforts to balance security, surveillance and privacy, post-Snowden, and in wake of concerns over social media, and big data. White House work in 2014 on big data and privacy should be considered. Policy and practice in industry v government could be a focus. Is there a unifying sector specific perspective?

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.

Ruth Shillair Joining Quello Research Team

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?

Ruth Shillair

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.”

Colleagues Toast Completion of WILMA Reports

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.

Consider MSU for an Interdisciplinary Information and Media Doctoral Degree

Monday, November 21st, 2016

The Information and Media PhD program at Michigan State University seeks outstanding students who wish to join a unique interdisciplinary program of study at the intersection of the social sciences and technical systems. The faculty develop and apply research about media and society and evolving information and communication technologies to important problems. The program engages students to become active scholars, teachers, and leaders in the media and information fields.

The PhD program is offered jointly by the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, the School of Journalism, and the Department of Media and Information, and gives students access to fifty PhD faculty with research interests that span important current and emerging issues in media and information studies. Students get involved early on in projects, complementing theoretical coursework with hands-on research experiences. imgres

Particularly strong research interests of our faculty include:
• Internet Studies
• Social media and social computing
• Human-computer interaction
• Socio technical systems and collective intelligence
• Management information systems
• ICT and health
• Information and Communication and Development (ICTD)
• Games and meaningful play
• Media effects on individuals and society
• Media, information and Internet policy, with links to Quello Center

The deadline for applications for the Fall 2017 cohort is January 1, 2017. In addition, we invite applications throughout the year as we accept students into the PhD program on a rolling basis. Steps to apply are detailed at http://cas.msu.edu/misphd/.

All of our current students are supported by graduate teaching and research assistantships with generous stipends of $2000+ per month, tuition remission, and health benefits. University fellowships, dissertation completion fellowships, summer research fellowships, and stipends for travel to academic conferences are available for students.

Over three-fourths of our graduates are hired into faculty positions at four-year. They are found in departments of mass media, journalism, advertising, public relations, and information studies across the United States and around the world. Others go on to careers in public service and business.

The 2015 QS World University rankings place MSU 6th in the world and 5th in North America in communication and media studies. The National Communication Association (NCA), in their most recent doctoral program reputation study, ranked MSU’s Ph.D. programs as No. 1 in educating researchers in communication technology, and in the top four in mass communication. Michigan State University ranked third in frequency of faculty publication in communication in a study reported in The Electronic Journal of Communication in 2012.

East Lansing and the greater Lansing area offer a vibrant cultural environment with easy access to a variety of outdoor activities and the scenic beauty of our state year-round. Blending urban and sub-urban living, it is one of the nation’s most affordable places to complete a doctoral program in media and information studies.

To learn more, see our web page, at: http://cas.msu.edu/programs/graduate-studies/apply/

Congratulations to Advisory Board Member James D. Spaniolo

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

James Spaniolo is moving back to Texas, accepting the position as President and CEO of the North Texas Commission, a public/private partnership composed of 300 members including, private companies, cities, chambers of commerce and higher education institutions. While he will be in Texas, he will remain an active member of the Quello Advisory Board.

James Spaniolo

James Spaniolo

Well before this appointment, Jim has been highly regarded in Texas. He recently stepped down as the President, Professor of Communication and Professor of Public Affairs at University Of Texas at Arlington. Before going to UT Arlington in February 2004, he was Dean of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences (from 1996 to 2003). As Dean, Professor Spaniolo oversaw an enrollment increase of more than 1,000 students and helped establish the James H. and Mary B. Quello Center, raising more than $3.5 million, which has grown to $5 million. Mr. Spaniolo was also a Professor in the School of Journalism and taught courses on the First Amendment and communications law. Before his tenure at Michigan State, Mr. Spaniolo was Vice President and Chief Program Officer of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the largest media-related private foundation in the United States with more than $1.5 billion in assets. Mr Spaniolo graduated with high honors from Michigan State in 1968 with a B.A. degree in political science. He then earned a law degree from The University of Michigan Law School in 1975 and a master’s degree in public administration from The University of Michigan Institute of Public Policy Studies (now the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy).