11/30: Samuel Woolley on Political Bots

Another great event (if I do say so myself) in the Technology & Society lecture series, Monday 11/30 at Lincoln Center!

Woolley Poster

The Technology & Society Lecture Series Presents:

Political [Bot]any:
Using Code to Manipulate Public Opinion

Samuel Woolley
University of Washington

November 30, 2015

11:30am – 12:45pm
Fordham Lincoln Center, Lowenstein South Hall

Political actors around the world are beginning to use social bots—automated software programs designed to interact with and imitate human users–to manipulate public opinion. Social bots have been used across numerous online platforms to spread various forms of propaganda, flood newsfeeds with political spam, and pad politicians’ social media follower lists. In many regimes, political leaders and government officials have commissioned bots to aggressively attack opponents, whether those opponents are civil society groups or the opposition candidates in rigged elections. The algorithms that run bot software are often proprietary and hidden, and the content that a particular bot produces might be unexpected—even by coders—because bots operate in collaboration with real users. This talk highlights the history and trajectory of political bots via the presentation of a globally comparative event dataset alongside information gathered in the field from the makers and trackers of this technology.

Samuel Woolley conducts research on politics, digital culture and automation at the University of Washington’s Department of Communication. Currently, he is investigating the global usage of political bots–software programs used to mimic human social media users in attempts to manipulate public opinion. He works as the project manager of CompProp at the Oxford Internet Institute and the Political Bots Project at UW. He is a graduate fellow at the Tech Policy Lab and the Center for Media, Data, and Society and a researcher on the Digital Activism Research Project, the New Pathways to Data Science Project, and at the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement. Sam is based in Seattle and tweets from @samuelwoolley.

Accepting Nominations for the 2015 McGannon Book Award

Each year, the McGannon Center presents the Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Technology Research to the most notable book addressing issues of communications policy published during the previous year. The Center recognizes the winning entry with a $2,000 prize.

Nominations for the 2015 Award currently are being accepted. Please note that last year we changed the focus of the award to book-length research published in 2015 that addresses or informs the social justice and/or ethical dimensions of communication technology, broadly defined. Authors of the winning book will be awarded $2,000 and receive a plaque commemorating the award.

Nominations should consist of a cover letter briefly summarizing the book’s research focus and findings, along with four copies of the book. Self-nominations are welcome, as are submissions from early career researchers and scholars from diverse backgrounds. Edited volumes are not eligible for consideration. Deadline for consideration is March 1, 2016.

PLEASE SEND 2015 NOMINATIONS TO:

McGannon Book Award
Faculty Memorial Hall 430
Fordham University
441 E. Fordham Rd.
Bronx , NY 10458

For more information and a list of past winners, please see this page.

NOTE: We also welcome suggestions for nominations. If you read a great book this year that you’d like to informally nominate, please email us with the author and title and we’ll take it from there.

2016 Visiting Research Fellows

We are now soliciting applications for Visiting Research Fellows who wish to come to Fordham between January – May 2016. This position is not paid, and we do not provide lodging or travel costs. However, we provide office space, computer and internet access, library access, email, and office supplies, and access to Fordham’s lively community of scholars.

Most of our applicants are either located in the NYC area, or are funded by their home institutions to conduct research elsewhere. We are happy to provide letters of institutional support for grants and fellowships.

Details can be found here. Applications are due December 15th for the Spring 2016 semester. Questions? Email mcgctr@fordham.edu.

Announcing the 2014 McGannon Book Award Winners

war on learning - Elizabeth Losh low power

We are very excited to announce the co-winners of our 2014 McGannon Book Award, Christina Dunbar-Hester’s Low Power to the People (MIT) and Elizabeth Losh’s The War on Learning (MIT).

Low Power to the People is an ethnographic examination of low-power radio activists, self-proclaimed “geeks” who help to set up small community radio stations around the country, while actively lobbying for FCC reform of radio spectrum allocation. Dunbar-Hester (a former McGannon Visiting Scholar, now a professor at Rutgers/USC Annenberg) does a wonderful job examining media activism critically, presenting a hacker/maker community as a source of hope while acknowledging its limitations (particularly along lines of race and gender). We thought this book was exemplary in its treatment of the social justice implications of technology and looking at media policy from a rarely-explored angle. One reviewer said that Low Power to the People will be a “valuable resource for scholars across a broad array of disciplines, researching a diverse array of technologies and cultures, for years to come.” Another called it a “wonderfully readable, and I think important, book about technology and politics.”

The War on Learning is a balanced and critical discussion of so-called “EduTech,” or the ways that digital technologies such as online courseware and tablets are incorporated into the classroom. Losh, a senior scholar at William & Mary who is deeply involved with the MacArthur-funded Digital Media and Learning Initiative, uses rhetorical criticism to evaluate both dystopian and utopian claims about educational technology. She argues that educational technologies are not neutral, but often actually undermine equality and agency of both educators and students. The review committee found this book to be an important contribution to current debates at both the K-12 and higher educational levels, and appreciated its critical, data-driven perspective. One reviewer wrote, “Losh’s topic is so important, and her conclusions so thoughtful, that I wish all of my colleagues would read this book.”

Congrats to both winners, and thanks to our superlative review committee and last year’s McGannon GA, Camille Tacastacas, for all their hard work.

New Public Media MA program at Fordham CMS!

McGannon’s home department, the Department of Communication and Media Studies, is offering a brand new Masters of Arts in Public Media. The MA program offers several fellowships, one of which is a full-year graduate assistantship with the McGannon Center – meaning you’d get to work directly with the director, Alice Marwick. (She’s also faculty in the program.)

From radio to mobile apps, media increases the public’s awareness of issues and ability to take action.

Public Media is more than just public broadcasting: it is about telling stories about and for the public good in ways that promote dialogue, civic engagement and social change. It’s about committed, responsible storytelling across a variety of existing and emerging platforms.

Combining the academic with the professional, the MA in Public Media allows students to engage with media theory as they build their portfolios. The one-year program is offered in collaboration with Fordham’s own WFUV, and with the cooperation of WNET, New York’s public media pioneer. With these stations as our partners, you’ll get hands-on experience working with some of the top public broadcasting professionals in the country.

More details can be found at http://www.fordham.edu/pmma. Applications are due January 6, 2016!

Introducing McGannon Visiting Research Fellows for Fall 2015

It is my pleasure to introduce our fantastic Visiting Research Fellows for 2015-2016.

Larisa Kingston Mann (PhD, Jurisprudence and Social Policy, UC Berkeley Law School, M.Sc London School of Economics).
LMannCombining scholarship, teaching, journalism, mentoring, and activism with professional & community-based artistic practices, Dr. Mann enriches practical and professional experience with critical analysis and ethnographic research methods — and vice versa. Her scholarship and teaching interests include: analyzing how changing global media infrastructures affect creative communities, and examining the relationship between law, sovereignty, and creativity. Mann’s work addresses how marginalized and exploited communities use cultural practices to survive and flourish, and how legal, social, and business institutions interact with the goals and needs of marginalized people. On these and other topics she has addressed business, scholarly, creative, activist, and policy audiences, as well as been an advisor in legal cases. Her recent work includes “What can feminism learn from new media?” in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies; “White faces in intimate spaces: Jamaican dancehall in global circulation” in Communication Culture and Critique, and “Decolonizing Networked Technology: Lessons from the Dancehall” in Transnational Culture In The Internet Age. She is currently working on projects that address how marginalized communities define their needs in the context of digital privacy and security, and on the survival of terrestrial pirate radio and ethnic radio.

 

David F. Donnelly (Ph.D., MA., UnQuinnipiac University Head Shotsiversity of Massachusetts, Amherst.)

Dr. Donnelly’s research focuses on the impact of technological innovation.  His work on the future of media and the future of education and technology appears in numerous journals and popular press publications.  He has contributed to seven books on the media and has produced and directed numerous video programs, including Visual Velocity, which aired on PBS stations across the Southwest.

He has a broad background in media education.  He served as the former Dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University, and Associate Professor of Communications at the University of Houston.

 

Both Dr. Mann and Dr. Donnelly will be giving public talks at Fordham this year which we will announce on this blog. We welcome both visiting fellows to the McGannon and Fordham communities and look forward to their contributions.

 

Michel Gondry masterclass at Fordham Law School, 10/5

This is not really McGannon-related, but it is so cool that I had to post it here.

MASTERCLASS WITH MICHEL GONDRY

Monday, October 5
5-6.30 pm

Fordham University at Lincoln Center
150 W62nd Street
ROOM 4-01
School of Law building

In the 1980s and 1990s, French director Michel Gondry first came to be known as an award-winning music video director. HIs most notable collaborations include Radiohead, Björk, Kylie MInogue, Chemical Brothers and White Stripes. Since the early 2000s, Gondry has imposed himself as one of the most free-spirited and distinctive film directors working in American and European cinema today. After early experimentations with short fiction films, Gondry teamed up with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman in 2004 for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay). Since that first hit, Gondry has continued experimenting with genres (documentary, fiction, animation), developing a unique cinematic world characterized by quirkiness, limitless imagination and dreamlike surreal fantasy.

The masterclass will be moderated by Hollywood screenwriter and artist-in-residence at Fordham, James Jennewein, and Audrey Evrard, Assistant Professor of French.

FREE and open to the public. No RSVP needed for Fordham students, faculty, & staff. Others: RSVP to Dr. Audrey Evrard aevrard@fordham.edu

Co-sponsored by the Departments of Modern Languages and Communication and Media Studies.

In Memoriam: Everett Parker

Everett Parker died last Thursday at the age of 102. The New York Times has a lovely obituary.  The Rev. Parker founded the McGannon Center in 1986.

Parker was a media reform activist. In his capacity as communication director of the United Church of Christ during the Civil Rights movement, he was committed to the ideal that media ownership, production, employment, and decision-making be available to all people, including women, people of color and low-income individuals. The Reverend Jesse Jackson said, “Dr. Parkerʼs core idea was so simple: The airwaves belong to the people, so the people should have considerable say about how they’re used and managed.” Parker was a vocal advocate of diversity, fairness, and social responsibility in broadcasting.

“All we’ve ever wanted to do is make it possible for people to express themselves through the system of broadcasting,” he told The New York Times when he retired in 1983. “If broadcasters are to serve the public interest, they need to be reminded that they serve all the publics.”

Today, the McGannon Center is honored to continue Reverend Parker’s work by sponsoring and promoting research on the ethical and social justice implications of communication technologies.  We celebrate his life and his legacy.