Professor Bill Dutton, Director of the Quello Center, in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, has signed a contract with Oxford University Press for a book on his concept of the Fifth Estate. He has been speaking and conducting research over the last decade on the role of the Internet in empowering a Fifth Estate that can hold other ‘estates’ accountable, including the press, as the Fourth Estate.
The book will develop the concept of the Fifth Estate, provide empirical evidence of its rise, and its implications across nearly every sector of society. While a growing tide of criticism is focused on the role of social media and the Internet in fueling everything from populism to fake news, the Fifth Estate provides a powerful response to the critics. Bill’s work shows the many strategies of individuals of the Fifth Estate for enabling greater accountability and communicative power to create a more pluralistic structure of social control not only in politics, but also, in nearly every institutional setting of everyday life.
I was able to spend 14 March at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to deliver their Windsor Lecture for the Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences (soon to be called the School of Information Sciences). I spoke on my conception of a 5th Estate, as a perspective on power shifts, bringing in some new ideas on my work in this area, along with a new case study developing around the Flint Water Crisis. Flint raises issues about the role of the 4th (the press) as well as the 5th Estate, and this case certainly struck a chord with the audience, stirring speculations on why the alarms from residents, including networked individuals posting about their concerns, were not headed earlier in this crisis.
Of course, one of the valuable features of doing lectures like this is the opportunity to catch up with former colleagues and meet new faculty. My host, Professor Les Gasser, briefed me on his social informatics course, which introduces undergraduates at UI to competing perspectives on the social shaping of information technologies. I was able to see Dan Schiller, now an Emeritus Professor, whose work on the geopolitics of information is widely recognized and something I should definitely include in the course I plan to teach in the Fall on the New Internet World. I also met with David Tewksbury, a masters’ student of mine from the Annenberg School at USC, who is head of the University’s Communication Department. I warned him (in jest) that despite taking only two courses of mine, I have long taken credit for the incredible success he has had throughout his career.
I also met many students and faculty I had not known. One was Jon Gant, Director of the Center for Digital Inclusion, who we need to bring to MSU for a talk. He has been central to much of the research on digital infrastructures and inclusion initiatives across the US, which are directly and immediately relevant to ongoing work of the Quello Center.
Ipaidabribe.com was an innovator in the development of bribery websites that enable individuals to report bribery in ways that can be used to create information at the level of specific offenders but also aggregated information to identify the kinds of services and regions of a nation that are most plagued by corruption in the form of bribery. Bill Dutton has used this web site as an example of the potential of the Internet to support a ‘Fifth Estate’.
In this video, Venkatesh Kannaiah, a senior editor for Ipaidabribe.com provides a clear overview of how this site operates and plays a role in increasing accountability for corruption across India. and particularly in Bangalore, where the site is based. Venkatesh Kannaiah is a senior editor from India with wide-ranging experience working at news agencies, print outlets and online publications. He was a Knight International Journalism Fellow for India working to build networks of journalists and ‘right to information’ activists in south India. He has headed editorial teams at Sify.com, AOL India, MSN India and is now working as Head of Content for Ipaidabribe.com and Ichangemycity.com – part of a non-profit, Janaagraha, based out of Bangalore, the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship & Democracy.
You can watch the video of his 20 July 2015 seminar at:
Your comments are welcomed.