A Whole New Class of Faculty at the Quello Center

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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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Quello’s Aleks Yankelevich invited as an Adjunct Professor in MSU’s Department of Economics

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    The Quello Center’s Assistant Research Professor, Aleks Yankelevich, has been appointed to an Adjunct Professor position by the Department of Economics at MSU. As the Chair of the Department of Economics, Professor Tim Vogelsang, the Addy Chair of Economics, put it:

    “After obtaining his PhD in Economics from Washington University (2011) and working as an industry economist at the FCC, he joined the Quello Center in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University as a Research Assistant Professor this past Fall.

    Aleks is currently serving as a member on a dissertation committee of one of our PhD students and he has further taken an active interest in the development of many of our other PhD students with an interest in media, the internet, and platform markets, having spent considerable amounts of time working together with them on their research topics.”

    The Quello Center values the role Aleks has developed with Economics, where he is a regular and active contributor to their theory seminars. As the Center seeks to become a hub for Internet and digital policy and regulatory research across the university, such connections become increasingly valuable.

    Aleks at Quello Seminar

    Aleks at Quello Seminar

    You can find more information about Aleks on our Web site, and here: https://aleksyankelevich.com/

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    Three New Positions in Media and Information at MSU

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    The Department of Media and Information at MSU is recruiting for three tenure-track positions. They are in the areas of:
    – media/information theory/research http://bit.ly/cas-theory
    – Internet economics http://bit.ly/cas-ie
    – health and data science http://bit.ly/cas-data
    Moreover, these are three of 15 academic positions opened across the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. See: http://cas.msu.edu/places/cas-deans-office/jobs/

    Please let colleagues know of these positions, and please consider any of these positions for your own career future.

    Regards,

    Bill Dutton

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    Rejuvenating Policy Research and Practice by Johannes M. Bauer

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    I often hear laments about the lack of attention of policy-makers to disciplines such as communications, Internet studies, political science, and sociology. Indeed, often it is scholars and advocates arguing from an economic, engineering and law perspective, who are heard. In my view, these disciplines have an inherent “epistemic advantage” over others because one of their driving questions is how to improve (or even “optimize”) the working of a system, either analytically or by trial and error. A classic example is David Clark’s motto, articulated at an IETF conference in the early 1980s, calling upon the community of Internet engineers to develop “running code and workable compromise”. Consequently, the approaches used by engineers and economists lend themselves easier to derive prescriptive statements, which are a necessary prerequisite to develop solutions to a policy problem. Law (especially jurisprudence) does not seek to “optimize” but naturally has a strong normative tradition (e.g., testing whether a proposal is compatible with constitutional principles or by starting from some conception of rights). Thus far, the normative conclusions from communications, political science, and sociology have been less successful in finding their way into the practical policy and governance discourses, although they have an important role to play.

    In an era when governmental policy-making faces a deep crisis of public trust, scholars and practitioners need to coalesce to develop a new shared vision of “policy”. It would be regrettable if public distrust and skepticism led to disengagement with collective choices, as they have important consequences for the design, working, and effect of media and information technology and services. Since the late 1960s the research community has developed a broader understanding that government policy is only one coordination mechanism for socio-technical systems. In our field (as in many other areas) other forms of governance (repeated interactions among stakeholders from which norms emerge, voluntary coordination, de facto leadership by a player—see WiFi which is essentially an Intel creation) are very relevant and influence outcomes. Governance measures can affect a system at various levels and intervention points: technological design choices, incentives and nudges targeted to individual players, laws and regulation that affect an entire sector or society at large, they can be regionally targeted, etc. etc.). Not all of these choices are necessarily made with a governance perspective in mind (remember Lessig’s Code and other laws of cyberspace).

    Given the interdisciplinary talent of faculty in our department of media and information and the Quello Center, our opportunity is to theorize and study (empirically, experimentally, and computationally) how such different forms of governance affect the socio-technical systems we are interested in. As well, we can endogenize these choices to examine how these forms of governance are shaped by society. That is where I see the cutting edge of theorizing and research and also a great opportunity for us and the larger community of scholars and advocates.

    Johannes Bauer, Professor and Chair, Department of Media and Information

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