In the eighteenth century, the printing press enabled the rise of an independent press – the Fourth Estate – that helped check the power of governments, business, and industry. In similar ways, the internet and related digital media are enabling the empowerment of many ordinary individuals to form a more independent collectivity of networked individuals – a Fifth Estate. In my new book, The Fifth Estate, I argue that this network power shift is not only enabling greater democratic accountability in politics and governance but is also helping networked individuals to be empowered in their everyday life and work. My talk will put this power shift of the digital age into the context of my study of power shifts tied to the evolution of media, information, and communication technologies, from the early stages of data processing to recent innovations in AI and large language models.
William H. Dutton was founding Director of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and Oxford University’s first Professor of Internet Studies before joining MSU to direct the Quello Center as Professor of Media and Information Policy from 2014-18. Presently, Bill is an OII Senior Fellow and an Oxford Martin Fellow, supporting research of the Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC) in Oxford University’s Department of Computer Science. He is also Director of the Portulans Institute, Visiting Professor at Leeds University and Emeritus Professor at the University of Southern California. Bill’s latest book is The Fifth Estate: The Power Shift of the Digital Age (OUP 2023).
You can find The Fifth Estate here.