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This past summer, as my colleagues surveyed France’s fine frontiers or motored through the American Midwest, my own sojourn took me to a similarly fanciful destination: Hogwarts.
Well, sort of.
The historic university city of Oxford, U.K. is well-regarded, not only for its academic prowess, but also, more recently, for being a source of inspiration for the internationally-renowned series of Harry Potter films.
True to my own character, as the NNC’s self-appointed ‘resident nerd’, I was fascinated at how the city was able to integrate the supposed juxtaposition of its often overlapping ‘old’ and ‘new’ cultural hallmarks.
My reason for traveling to Oxford, however, was not to walk in the steps of characters such as Harry, Hermoine, or Ron; although, mind you, the common iconic gothic backdrop was nice.
I was there to contemplate — and ultimately face up to — some of the most pressing questions confronting the world of journalism today.
The topics analyzed during the Annenberg-Oxford Fellowship in Media, Law, and Policy were, indeed, far from fiction.
With fellows drawn from every continent on the planet, the parameters of the discussion were international in scope. Headline topics included the emerging concerns about the Right to be Forgotten in Europe and its potential to soon cross the Atlantic; to the challenges of regulating hate and unpopular political speech; and how to help immunize society from the perilous effects of misinformation and so-called ‘fake news’.
Admittedly, the challenge in finding common policy or legal ground to any of these grand ideas is restricted by overarching questions of sovereignty. For example, how does a social media company, such as Facebook or Twitter, establish content regulation policies when those policies may either exceed or fall well-short of a country’s laws on defamation or the policing of hate speech?
While these daily performances of intellectual gymnastics — for a layman journalist like me, at least — were enlightening, the fellowship did provide an excellent forum to reflect more deeply upon the many issues we face every day at the National NewsMedia Council.
Two of the largest themes of relevance to the NNC that surfaced from discussions were the challenges of how to support local news, and the role that quality and accurate journalism plays in the formation of good citizens.
As we heard from several experts who study media localism, the challenge in implementing public policy responses to questions of expanding news deserts is highly conceptual.
Although the phrase is often on the tips of our collective tongues, what exactly is meant when we talk about ‘local news’?
It is something that should be measured purely based on geography? Is it a topic of interest to a specialized set of readers — or even an imagined community? Or is it some combination of all of these categories melted into one?
Certainly, these are very technical questions that deserve to be fleshed out in greater detail. That’s one of the objectives we hope to achieve in our collaborative study with Ryerson University on local news that will be released in January 2019.
Another major area of concerns was how to effectively equip citizens with the foundational news literacy skills required given the power and influence of algorithms to influence one’s consumption of news.
Some suggestions for solutions focused on different combinations of regulation (either by government, or, self-regulation), increasing the burdens of editorial responsibility, and/or news and media literacy campaigns.
When taken as a whole, however, the discussion underscored how a so-called ‘quick fix’ is not the right answer to any of these problems.
As we’ve seen in the overwhelming offensive to push back against the deleterious effects of so-called ‘fake news’, the percolating sense of moral panic across society has been informed by scant information. To date, for example, there is a paucity of information on how exactly algorithms curate and package information into our Facebook or Twitter feeds for ready consumption.
Having been privy to these fulsome discussions over a period of two weeks, I’ve realized that there is a lot we don’t yet know. In order to build a more sustainable news ecosystem in Canada, however, there needs to be a stronger dialogue between the thinkers and practitioners of news.
Every day, the relationship between journalism and society evolves. Over the coming months, I’m looking forward to working with the NNC to build stronger partnerships with colleges, universities, industry associations, and other important groups who can address these challenges.
Well, because as one expert said so eloquently (under strict Chatham House Rules!): “the health of democracy and journalism are wholly intertwined”.
— Brent Jolly is the NNC’s director of communications, research and community management. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the original article and more news from the NNC please click here.
If the digital revolution is to democratize knowledge, it must include the voices of marginalized communities, say Anasuya Sengupta, Siko Bouterse and Kira Allmann.
In 2014, Grace Banu joined Sri Krishna College of Engineering and Technology in Sugunapuram, India, to study electrical engineering. This would be an important achievement for anyone, but Grace’s admission was particularly noteworthy.
She comes from the Dalit, a community in India of more than 200 million people that has been shunned for centuries. Formerly and pejoratively known as the ‘Untouchables’, Dalits have been marginalized. They exist outside India’s hierarchical caste system, and have a traditional role as scavengers, cleaning up faeces and removing corpses. Furthermore, Grace is transgender, and until a few months ago, India kept the trans community on the edge of fear and criminalized homosexuality.
Grace overcame these multiple forms of oppression to become the first Dalit transgender person to be admitted to an engineering college in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. She continues to fight for recognition and respect for herself and others today — including online. In 2018, we supported the efforts of the Dalit community to bring Grace’s biography to Wikipedia so others might be inspired by her. But establishing her presence — and keeping it there — was almost as much of a challenge as it was for her to become an engineer.
Despite being in the numerical majority, women, people of colour and those born in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East are marginalized through pre-existing structures of power and privilege. This is true in the physical world, and it is true online. We are the majority of everyday Internet users, but our perspectives and histories are not well represented on the Internet. Technology is often said to be a democratizing force, but those in positions of power and privilege control what knowledge is visible and retained for posterity.
Internet access remains unevenly spread, but it is more ubiquitous than many people realize: 45% of women in the world are online today, and 74% of the online population is connecting from outside North America and Europe. But the content published on the Internet is deeply skewed. On Wikipedia — the fifth-most-visited website in the world and a good indicator of the world’s online knowledge — fewer than one-quarter of all biographies are of women. And although the population of Africa is more than one-and-a-half times greater than that of Europe, only 15% of the articles available on Wikipedia focus on it. There are more articles written about Antarctica than about many parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. These biases reflect the make-up of the site’s editors: 80% of Wikipedia is created and maintained by people from North America and Europe — a demographic that accounts for less than 20% of the world’s population. It is estimated that only 10% of Wikipedia editors identify as female.
Even within North America and Europe, knowledge on platforms such as Wikipedia is narrated from privileged perspectives to the detriment of those from marginalized communities. For many years, the Wikipedia entry for the California Gold Rush — a page viewed by hundreds of thousands of people seeking to understand the event each year — illustrated a section about the impact on Native Americans with an image showing Native Americans violently attacking white settlers (see ‘A tale of two images’). At a Wikipedia conference in San Diego, California, in October 2016, Michael Connolly Miskwish, a member of the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, spoke of the need to remember the systematic genocide of Native Americans that took place at the time. During the conference, a group of Wikipedians worked with Miskwish to change the image. It now depicts white settlers’ aggression towards Native Americans — a more realistic picture of events.
This work to challenge gaps in knowledge and to better represent the perspectives and experiences of marginalized communities online is crucial and urgent, and people all over the world are taking up the fight. Our multilingual global campaign, ‘Whose Knowledge?’, is part of an effort involving many groups and communities that are working to build a more equitable Internet. But there are many challenges ahead, and if the Internet is to reflect the plurality, depth and breadth of human knowledge, we need significant support in several key areas.
Expand non-textual knowledge online. The huge gaps in the world’s recorded knowledge can be filled by curating and sharing oral, visual and other non-textual knowledge. Community-led oral archives are already bringing new voices online. For example, the Kvir Arhiv website documents, in their own words, the experiences of activists from the queer community of Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Bosnian War in the 1990s. And the People’s Archive of Rural India is the first online repository of visual, oral and textual material on the diverse range of communities and languages that represent rural India.
Researchers, archivists and librarians, in particular, should seek to form partnerships with community organizers to preserve and amplify knowledge in multiple forms beyond the written word. To succeed, these initiatives must be driven by the priorities of the marginalized communities whose knowledge is being shared.
Improve tools for the preservation and expansion of language.Language is one of the best proxies for culture and knowledge, and much is lost in translation when we cannot communicate in our own language. And when languages are lost, we also lose other forms of embodied knowledge.
Important efforts are under way to protect the world’s linguistic diversity. The Endangered Languages Documentation Programme at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London is creating audio and video recordings of speakers of endangered languages and making them freely available online. And technologists such as those at the O Foundation are working to build new tools to better translate and display less-widely spoken languages on digital devices. More collaboration of this nature — between technologists, linguists and native-language speakers — is needed to expand access to these languages online in a way that is both useful to, and respectful of, the communities that speak them.
Highlight the contributions of women and other marginalized communities online. Right now, the lives and deeds of the majority of the world’s people are largely missing from the Internet’s record of human knowledge. Groups such as Wikimujeres, AfroCROWD, the Black Lunch Table, Art+Feminism, Women in Red, and Dalit History Month are bringing the knowledge of women and other marginalized groups onto Wikipedia by encouraging people to participate in producing and sharing content.
In March 2018, for example, Whose Knowledge? launched a campaign called Visible Wiki Women to make images of women, including scientists and technologists, available to use in articles. These images can be used by Wikipedia editors and community groups to improve existing articles, and to create articles about notable women who previously had no presence on the site.
Whatever our expertise, we need to be more conscious of whose contributions we acknowledge and make visible. Scholars, researchers and publishers, in particular, need to actively support the creation and curation of these missing histories and knowledge bases.
Challenge the status quo of both Internet architecture and its governance. If women, people of colour and other marginalized communities lead the design of online platforms and tools, the Internet will be more accessible to all the world’s peoples, and will be a richer resource as a result.
However, although the Internet is theoretically international, such choices commonly emanate from the monocultural landscape of Silicon Valley. Information and technology networks such as the Association for Progressive Communications are challenging policymakers to change how decisions around Internet architecture and governance are made, and to allow people everywhere to contribute to the rules and structures of our increasingly interconnected world. Technology companies and states need to recognize the opportunities that diversifying design and governance can offer, and the ethical imperatives that underlie them.
The Internet is claimed to be an emancipatory and democratic space where everyone can participate in the production of knowledge and have their contribution recognized. But it can never fulfill its transformational potential without much greater diversity of content, contributors and forms of knowledge. Achieving this will require everyone’s combined efforts. Let’s build an Internet that is truly for, and from, us all.
Nature 563, S147-S148 (2018)
Last week, PCMLP Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Eleanor Marchant, attended the 61st annual African Studies Association conference held in Atlanta, Georgia, and presented recent findings from her doctoral thesis, Anyone Anywhere: Narrating African Innovation in a Global Community of Practice. The African Studies Association brings together thousands of scholars every year from disciplines as diverse as anthropology, law, communications, history, English literature, and political science from universities across the United States and Africa to discuss contemporary issues in African politics and society. This year’s conference revolved around the theme “Energies: Power, Creativity, and Afro-Futures” and featured presentations that ranged from Black Panther to Chinese involvement in Africa to the role of race in African studies. Among them was a paper titled “Afro Techno Visionaries: The narrative construction of Nairobi’s technology producers” presented by our postdoc, Eleanor on a panel focused on the theme of “Making Futures in Urban Africa.” In her presentation, she illustrated the experiences of two Kenyan entrepreneurs working on new software and hardware developments aimed at helping small Kenyan businesses grow. Eleanor’s in-depth ethnographic work in Nairobi with these and other entrepreneurs showed how narratives about Africa, about new technologies, and about the entrepreneurial spirit both create barriers and openings for these entrepreneurs as they seek to raise money and gain legitimacy among investors and other technology entrepreneurs around the world. For one entrepreneur, narratives about Africa as a continent “in need of help” led him to feel pigeonholed by international investors who saw him only as a “social impact entrepreneur” and not as a “serious businessman”. While the other entrepreneur was able to leverage narratives about entrepreneurial failure and success common in Silicon Valley as well as the startup pitch style popularized by Shark Tank and Y Combinator to construct a narrative for herself as a successful technology entrepreneur from Africa.
This article examines two apparently contradictory uses of digital media during elections: in 2005, when still nascent digital tools were employed by Ethiopians to contest power in ways that pre-configured tactics later adopted by protesters elsewhere in Africa and globally; and in 2015, when digital publics displayed disenchantment towards an election with a foregone outcome. Relying on a mixed-methods approach, combining interviews with some of the very actors that shaped Ethiopia’s information society and the analysis of more than 3,000 statements posted on Facebook 3 months before and 1 month after Ethiopia’s elections on 24 May, the article offers an empirical examination of this contradiction, and how an authoritarian state has sought to influence online public discursive spaces. The findings suggest interpreting the effervescence of 2005 and the apathy of 2015 not as disjointed examples of active and passive uses of digital media. Especially when read against the background of the protests that erupted in the years following the elections, when digital media were embraced again as tools for mass mobilization, we propose reading the “digital apathy” of 2015 rather as a critique moved towards the fictitious apparatus for political participation erected in 2015, one that concurrently challenges the EPRDF’s hegemonic project, and the obsession of the international community towards elections as a tool for political change.
By Nicole Stremlau, Iginio Gagliardone, Gerawork Aynekulu
Published in a special issue on ‘Rethinking Publics in Africa in a Digital Age’ in the Journal of Eastern African Studies on 20 November 2018
For the full article please click here.
Prof. Yu-li Liu is a Distinguished Professor of Communications at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taiwan. She was the former VP for Research and Development of NCCU. She also served as the Director of International Master’s Program in International Communication Studies (IMICS) of NCCU from 2010 to 2013 and chairperson of the Radio and TV Department of NCCU from 1994 to 1996.
Prof. Liu earned her Ph.D. degree in telecommunications at Indiana University in 1992. She has been teaching at NCCU for 26 years. In addition to teaching, Prof. Liu had experiences of working for the government and the media. She served as one of the first-term Commissioners of the National Communications Commission (equivalent to the Federal Communications Commission in the United States) from 2006 to 2008. She was a Fulbright scholar and Visiting Professor of the Graduate Telecommunications Program of George Washington University, School of Journalism of Fudan University (Shanghai, China), School of Journalism of Renmin University (Beijing, China), Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information of Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), Keio University (Japan), Department of Media and Communication of City University of Hong Kong, College of Communications of Boston University, and Centre for Socio-Legal Studies of University of Oxford.
Since 2013, Prof. Liu has been awarded the Distinguished Research Award by the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) every year. In 2013, she earned the Excellent Research Award by NCCU. In 2014, she earned the Best Service Award by NCCU. In 2014 and 2017, she was awarded the Distinguished Professor Position by NCCU (2014-2017)(2017-2020). Prof. Liu has received grants from U.S. Fulbright Foundation, Interchange Association of Japan, and Taiwan’s MOST (former name is National Science Council) for research projects in the areas of convergence, broadband networks, digital TV, telecommunications policy, OTT business model and regulation, and big data and consumer privacy in Taiwan.
Prof. Liu served as President of Chinese Communication Association (a worldwide communication association) for two years (2014-2016). Prof. Liu also served as the President of Taiwan Communication Society. She is also a board member of the International Telecommunication Society (ITS). She also served as a member of the editorial board at three SSCI journals (Telecommunications Policy, Asian Journal of Communication, and Chinese Journal of Communications) and International Journal of Digital TV. Prof. Liu’s research interests include digital broadcasting, broadband communications, telecom and media law and regulation, IPTV and mobile TV, OTT TV, convergence, big data, telecommunications and media management. She has published numerous books such as Policy and Marketing Strategy for Digital Media (co-edited with Robert Picard, published by Routledge), Big Data and Future Communication (in Chinese), OTT TV’s Innovative Services, Business Model, and Law & Policy (in Chinese), Multi-channel TV and Audience (in Chinese), Cable TV Management and Programming Strategy (in Chinese), Cable TV Programming and Policy in China (in Chinese), Radio and TV, Telecommunications (in Chinese), etc.
Prof. Liu also served as a member of the Consumer Protection Commission of the Executive Yuan. Before she was the NCC Commissioner, she served as one of the Commissioners of Cable TV Rate Commission of Taipei City Government for seven years. She also served as the consultant for different government agencies for different task forces such as Telecommunication Advisory Board of Directorate General of Telecommunication, Ministry of Transportation and Communication and TV Program Evaluation Commission of the Government Information Office. In 1997, she was the author of White Paper of Culture–Radio and Television for Council of Cultural Affairs in Taiwan.
Prof. Liu also had working experiences in the media. She was an English reporter of the Overseas Department of the Broadcasting Corporation of China (1983-1987) and executive producer, editor and reporter of Chinese Television System (CTS, 1987-1989). She was appointed as a Board Member of the Radio Taiwan International. Currently, she is a member of the Media Ethics Commission of CTS, TVBS, and Eastern TV Channel.
ConflictNET has launched its project website. Nicole Stremlau, head of the PCMLP, has received a 1.5 million euro European Research Council grant to fund and lead ConflictNET. The project examines how social media affect the balance between peace-building efforts and attempts to perpetuate violence in conflict-affected communities. Geographically, ConflictNET focuses on conflict related to religion and politics in Eastern Africa as an entry point to understand the complex relationship between social media and conflict.
The project will also establish the Social Media, Conflict and Migration Observatory as a unique platform to develop public and policy engagement and debate on critical issues related to social media, conflict, governance, and migration.
We are delighted to announce a new and exciting opportunity to join the PCMLP and CSLS as a postdoc in media law and policy. This research fellowship is an outstanding opportunity for early career researchers to pursue a research project and contribute to the Programme. Further details are available here.
The closing date for applications is 12 noon on Wednesday, 25 July 2018. Interviews are to be held on Tuesday, 21 August 2018.
In June 2018 we convened a workshop on internet shutdowns in Africa with the University of Johannesburg’s School of Communication. This workshop brought together scholars from across the continent to discuss internet shutdowns in comparative perspective. Elections, the role of civil society groups, and the political motivations for shutdowns were discussed in depth. A report of the workshop will be available soon. The agenda is available here.
Nicole Stremlau currently seeking two research assistants to join the project ConflictNet. This is a new 5-year project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) that examines the role of social media in conflict in Africa. The project will focus on questions social media and migration away from conflict; of online hate speech and the perpetuation of violence; and the efforts by companies, governments and individuals to shape and extend the internet in Africa. We will shortly be launching a new website for the project but in the meantime a summary is available here.
Further details about the Research Assistant positions please visit: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/content/research-assistant-conflictnet
Deadline date for applications is Thursday 26th April 2018.