November 20th, 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.
After what was arguably an Annus Horribills for MSU in several respects, the new academic year begins with news that bodes well for the new academic year. It could herald a real Annus Mirabilis.
Namely, Michigan State University (MSU) is doing a terrific job at what a public university is supposed to do.
First, it is educating a huge number of Michigan students. Its enrollment is over 50,000 students, and this year saw MSU’s largest class in its history – 8,000 first-year students, plus 1,550 transfer students (Lansing State Journal 8/28/17). And most (72%) are Michigan students, with MSU being the top destination for public high school graduates in Michigan.
Second, it is a diverse class. For example, we have the largest intake of African-American students of any Big Ten university. 610 African-American students in the first year cohort. MSU is contradicting worrisome trends in diversity across the US.
Thirdly, students are getting jobs. MSU has been tenth in the nation in its job placement rate http://www.onlineschoolscenter.com/30-colleges-impressive-job-placement-rates-career-services/ It has since risen to third. Incredible.
Add to this news that MSU was named at one of the world’s 50 powerhouse universities by the Times Higher Education supplement. This means it is one of the top 50 universities in the nation that is likely to challenge the Ivy League universities in the coming years.
So the new academic year is looking good for MSU Spartans.
I was honored to take part in a celebration of the many endowed faculty at MSU. From the College of Communication Arts and Sciences #comartsci, a medallion was given to me – Bill Dutton – as the James H. and Mary B. Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy, in the Department of Media and Information, and John C. Besley, the Ellis N. Brandt Chair in Public Relations, and noted among many other things for his work on public attitudes toward science and scientists. Dean Prabu David was on hand to congratulate us.
My major take away from this event is the need and value for the College #comartsci to attract more endowed professorships. They are indeed one way to attract faculty to the university and a terrific way to recognize alumni and others who give to the university. The best news of the event was a reminder that MSU was named at one of the world’s 50 powerhouse universities – so much potential for colleagues to fulfill in the coming years.
The Quello Center is off and running in creating a digital archive of James H. Quello’s papers. Our archive team includes myself, having never created such an archive, plus Anne Marie Salter at the Center, Valeta Winsloff from Media and Information who supports our design work and blogging, Scout Calvert with the MSU Library, who is orchestrating this project, and Lauren E. Lincoln-Chavez, who has hands on experience in developing archives and special collections, and is based in Detroit.
The collection contains over 1,000 papers, including speeches, statements, letters, and remarks by James Quello during his long tenure as an FCC Commissioner. To this we will be adding our collection of photographs, and videos, as well as photos of his many awards and honors. This promises to be another of the many fun and rewarding projects of the Center.
The archive will be part of our WordPress blog and publicly accessible to anyone who might want a view of over two decades at the FCC through the words of one of its longest serving and most colorful commissioners. I read one of his papers from 1974 saying the he is willing to forgive journalists for getting things wrong at times (before there was a term ‘fake news’) in order to protect freedom of the press, and I imagine he would say the same thing about the users of social media today.
Generally, sifting through this collection is addictive as you follow the history of such issues as the fairness doctrine, cross-ownership rules, and more. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
Johannes Bauer on Meaningful Play 2016
Thanks to Brian, Casey and Carrie (the three co-chairs of Meaningful Play 2016) as well as all other faculty and students (among them Valeta, Will, Andrew, Luke, Jeremy, Ricardo, Robby, Wei, Constantinos, and many others) who were involved in organizing the conference, the program committee, and the onsite logistics! Beth gave an inspiring keynote that concluded the conference on a high note! I was equally impressed by the quality of theoretical and applied research and the innovative nature of the many game projects reported and exhibited.
The conference was a great forum for the growing number of MSU researchers with a shared interest in games to interact and network with other MSU researchers and with the attendees from the US and abroad. Until this conference, I was not fully aware of the size and diversity of the group of MSU researchers. I interacted with individuals from the Colleges of Social Science; Education; Arts and Letters; Lyman Briggs; and our college (and am sure there probably were more). Also rewarding to see that several of them are graduates of the Serious Games Certificate Program.
Johannes Bauer, Chair
Department of Media and Information
With the start of a new academic year, the Quello Center is progressing on many fronts, but particularly in the development of new research. Given awards for two recent projects, one on wireless access for the last mile, and another on the role of search in shaping political opinions, based on cross-national comparative research in North America and Europe, our set of projects continues to grow. It is wonderful to see our team so fully occupied with research projects and proposals.
This has been possible through the hard work and creative ideas of our core research team, all of who remain in place for the coming year. These researchers include:
Dr Bianca Reisdorf, first hired as a Quello postdoctoral researcher last year, has been promoted to Assistant Director of the Quello Center, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Information. Bianca began research on digital inequalities while a DPhil student at the OII at the University of Oxford, and is continuing this stream of research here at the Quello Center in work on digital divides in Michigan and across the US, as well as on our survey components of our comparative study of the use of Internet search in politics.
Dr Aleksandr Yankelevich, our Research Assistant Professor, who joined the Quello Center after four years at the FCC, which won him the FCC’s Excellence in Economic Analysis Award. He is leading research on wireless innovation for last mile access (WILMA), where he is focused on analysis of the use of spectrum for the last mile, and the policy are regulatory constraints they entail. And he has developed a proposal with Professor Johannes Bauer to deepen our research on the actual impacts of network neutrality, focusing on investment patterns within the communication industry.
Mitch Shapiro, is a Quello researcher, currently focused on the WILMA project, undertaking case studies of initiatives at providing last mile access across the US. He brings to the Quello Center his extensive experience working as a consultant for academic institutions, such as Harvard’s Berkman Center, and industry, such as with Strategic Networks Group and Pulse Broadband; Pike & Fischer, a unit of the Bureau of National Affairs (now Bloomberg BNA); Pangrac & Associates, Probe Reseach and Paul Kagan Associates.
Based on the accomplishments of this core team over the past year, we have been able to open a new position for a post-doctoral researcher that we will be advertising shortly. In addition, we have been able to complement this team with part-time researchers based in Detroit, who are helping with interviews of a sample of over 1,300 nonprofit organizations working to support the development of a city that some have called the New Berlin. Our interviews are shedding light on the role of the Internet and social media in the activities of organizations so embedded in interpersonal networks across the city.
So the new academic year is promising more research to build on the strength of our last year. If you are asking ‘What is all this research about?’ the answer is to inform and stimulate debate on media and information policy and practice in our digital age.
Follow us and join our seminars and lectures as time permits.
The Quello Center congratulates Dr. R.V. Rikard on his promotion to a Senior Research Associate in MSU’s Department of Media and Information. Over the last two years, Dr Rikard has become a highly valued – go to – colleague for our Center. He has helped on grant proposals in the areas of big data, complex data management, and more. In announcing this promotion, Professor Johannes Bauer, Chair of the Department, praised R.V.’s excellence in methods and statistics, which he brings to his work on Trifecta (Technology and Innovation for Health), with Professor Shelia Cotten, but also shares to the entire department.
Intellectually curious, R.V. is a regular participant in Quello Center lectures, seminars, and events, bringing his sense of humor and sharp wit into the academic climate of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. He is a strong contributor to our academic community. He even follows us on Twitter @QuelloCenter and Facebook.
So keep retweeting, R.V., and congratulations. Seriously well done. All of us at the Quello Center look forward to continuing our collaboration. You can count on us to keep darkening your door.
Bob LaRose is giving a leaving lecture entitled ‘The Challenge of Media Habits’ on April 4th at 1:30PM in CAS Rm 145 at MSU. Bob is a distinguished professor at MSU, and possibly most widely known for his multi-edition text with Joseph Straubhaar and Lucinda Davenport, entitled ‘Media Now‘ – which is now in its 9th edition. He has been one of the early pioneers in research on new media, being one of the first graduates of the Annenberg School of Communication at USC, when the late Fred Williams, the founding Dean, launched the School with a new media focus. Traditions in the study of the media infuse his work on new media, leading him to address topics around effects, and habits, that are less prominent among the born new media researchers. That said, you can increasingly recognize developing habits around the use of such new media as social media and Twitter, so the old and new media research traditions are beginning to connect.
It seems clear that Bob LaRose has had a major influence on the Department of Media and Information at MSU, which seeks to bring together the study of media and information technologies and society. He will be missed in the Department and at the Quello Center, where he led some roundtables on such issues as social media effects, and also donated a couple of his paintings, which remain on the walls of the Center.
Michigan State University (MSU) held a lively forum on 4 January 2016 to discuss the pending decision by the university on whether or not to participate in the FCC’s spectrum incentive auction. A second forum will be held on the 11th of January at 7pm in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences.
What might sound like a technically and financially arcane set of issues came to life for many in the questions of the 300 some participants who packed the auditorium on the 4th of January. It appeared as if every-other person attending the forum had their hand up at some point to comment or ask a question. Credit to MSU for holding these forums, and to the University’s President, Lou Anna Simon (2015), for being interviewed on WKAR’s ‘Current State’ in December about the pending decision.
If MSU were to auction off its broadcasting spectrum, as explained at the forum, this would spell the end of over-the-air (OTA) broadcasting of WKAR public television. Not being over the air, it will lose its financial support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and its must carry status for cable and satellite providers. While it will not affect WKAR radio, it would threaten the existence of public broadcasting in the greater Lansing community, and similar communities, as well as the vitality of public broadcasting nationally (CPB 2014: chapter 3). Not surprisingly, the audience on 4 January was ‘overwhelmingly negative’ (Wolcott 2016).
Why do this?
As the auction suggests, the ‘incentive’ is financial. Potentially hundreds of millions of dollars for the University, with no strings attached on how it is spent. However, there are seriously hard questions that need to be addressed before deciding whether such eye-watering payoffs for the University would really be a windfall or even justified at this point in time.
First, the same spectrum is likely to increase in value in the near future. Wireless is the most dynamic, fastest growing infrastructure for the development of innovative approaches to connectivity generally, but also mobile Internet, the Internet of Things, and future sensor networks associated with intelligent cities and transportation (Dutton et al 2014). There is little question that wireless spectrum is poised to become far more valuable than it is now, and within a short space of time. There is almost no question that any price MSU receives now will be short of what it will be worth in the space of 5-10 years. So is this too soon to auction it off, even if viewed on purely financial terms?
Secondly, those in the community who depend on OTA television will lose access to public television, and WKAR in particular. Only about three-fourths of Michiganians are online. In central Lansing, this could be closer to fifty percent. And many residents of the greater Lansing community are dependent on over-the-air broadcasting. The elderly, minorities, rural residents, and the less well to do, are among the most dependent on OTA broadcasting, and most in need of good high-quality programming, educational, and public-oriented programming (Lawson 2015).
Many believe that the Internet and related digital media will compensate for this loss. The idea is that digital media, such as the Internet, can be used to replace lost spectrum. In the short-term (for the next 5-10 years at least) this is a false hope. There are a growing number of ‘cord-nevers’ (never subscribing to cable or satellite services) and cord-cutters (those who stop subscribing) because they rely more on Internet access and streaming video services. This will reduce the likelihood of cable and satellite providers carrying public broadcasting.
Moreover, the fact that more people are moving to view television and film content over the Internet is not to say that everyone is. The reality is far from this imagined future. Digital divides in access to the Internet have been persistent in developed nations, such as the United States, and will not be closed in the next five to ten years. Michigan is about average among states across the US in access to the Internet, but that covers up major variations across socioeconomic groups, where access is dramatically variable.
Nor will the divide be fixed by other technical innovations. A digital switchover could provide better OTA broadcasting and more capacity, but that will not happen for years. New standards, such as ATSC 3.0 (Advanced Television Standards Committee 3.0), could diffuse as early as 2017. This new standard would improve the quality, spectrum efficiency, interactivity and mobile access, compared with current 1.0 standards, enabling a station like WKAR to broadcast content simultaneously receivable on phones, tablets, computers and home TV displays of standard, high definition and the ultra high def 4K video. ATSC 3.0 would be a ‘game changer’, but WKAR could not seize these opportunities if it lost this spectrum a year before they become active (Reid 2006). Moreover, the use of other platforms (e.g., Internet streaming, cable) comes with additional costs both for the content producer (should MSU continue to be) and the audience. An Internet provision of Lansing’s public television content would need huge funding to be competitive to viewers when TV remains the dominant media for news and entertainment. So again, with patterns of use still lagging far behind developments in new technology, is it too soon to cut off many in the community from over-the-air public broadcasting?
Thirdly, the spectrum was loaned to MSU for the purpose of providing public service broadcasting and information. All scenarios of this auction suggest that the funds received would be repurposed for other activities that might merit support on their own terms, but will not fulfill the public broadcasting purposes that formed the basis for MSU obtaining this spectrum. For example, the President of MSU suggested the proceeds could be placed into MSU’s endowment as a means to ensure its longevity, even though it is not a gift per se to the university (Simon 2015).
This is not a legal issue so much as one of public and community trust in the University fulfilling the spirit of public broadcasting or any other purpose for which money is given. The idea that the same content will be provided via other channels – meeting its obligation – is not plausible with the loss of PBS support and must carry status.
Finally, a number from the audience of the forum raised concerns over MSU losing a major platform for teaching. Many students are drawn to MSU to study broadcast production, and media production, generally. It is true that there are good universities, with strong schools of communication and media studies that do not have a public television studio and station. But why surrender one of MSU’s differentiating, strategic advantages in attracting and training its undergraduate students? It may be that more of a role in teaching could, and should, be made of WKAR’s presence at MSU, but auctioning off its OTA broadcast channel would undermine these opportunities.
In short, there are real issues revolving around the financial wisdom, public service obligations, the regional community, inequities, and educational opportunities tied to this decision. From my perspective, it is not simply an issue of either/or, but also of timing. I hope I am not seen as one of those so-called ‘naysayers’, to use Mark Bashore’s term in his interview with President Simon. Five to ten years from now, it is most likely that the spectrum will be far, far more valuable, and more people will be digitally connected, even if not online. Whether based on a matter of principle, or sound financial management, it might well be best to relinquish at this time.
So I am delighted that MSU is continuing to explore these issues. Perhaps there is good evidence to challenge each of these reservations I’ve outlined. In that spirit, I am looking forward to the second forum, and the potential to follow the Lansing case as a concrete, real world example of the opportunities, threats, and prospects for public broadcasting in the United States.
A personal perspective that does not necessarily represent the views of the Quello Center or any other organization.
CPB (2014), Corporation for Public Broadcasting, White Paper on Spectrum Auction and Repacking. 7 August. http://www.cpb.org/spectrum/reports/CPB-White-Paper-on-Spectrum-Auction-and-Repacking-Process.pdf?pdf=CPB-White-Paper
Dutton, William H. and Law, Ginette and Groselj, Darja and Hangler, Frank and Vidan, Gili and Cheng, Lin and Lu, Xiaobin and Zhi, Hui and Zhao, Qiyong and Wang, Bin, Mobile Communication Today and Tomorrow (December 4, 2014). A Quello Policy Research Paper, Quello Center, Michigan State University. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2534236 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2534236
Lawson, J. (2015), ‘Minority, public TV viewers face greatest threat in FCC auction’, 31 August: http://current.org/2015/08/minority-public-tv-viewers-face-greatest-threat-in-fcc-auction/
Reid, G. (2016), Comments at the MSU Forum, 4 January.
Simon, L.A. (2015), President Lou Anna Simon speaking on the future of WKAR-TV signal ‘to be determined in 2016’. Interview with Mark Bashore, 21 December 2015: http://wkar.org/post/pres-simon-future-wkar-tv-signal-be-determined-2016#stream/0
Wolcott, R.J. (2016), ‘Residents Concerned About Potential WKAR-TV Sale’, Lansing State Journal, January 5: 3A, 5A.