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The Shifting Landscape of Public Communication - Conference
WhenThursday, Oct. 25 – Friday, Oct. 26, 2018
Campus locationBurke Memorial-Washington State Museum (BMM)
Event typesConferences
Event sponsorsCommunication and the Simpson Center for the Humanities

Two decades ago, the advent of the World Wide Web and the spread of digital communication tools prompted scholars concerned with public life to celebrate the way they imagined digital tools would strengthen democratic communication and cultures around the world. In 2017, much of that optimistic analysis seems dramatically premature. Today, many of the same observers are writing about the dark side of digital culture -- about pervasive surveillance to which the vast majority of us willfully submit, a political communication sphere marked by propaganda and disinformation, the power exerted over information landscapes by unaccountable algorithms, and receding faith in the power of facts and fact-based journalism. In engineering today’s information ecosystem, the communication sector time and again has sought to tap the innovative and profitable Silicon Valley start-up ethos. The time is overdue to likewise tap the perspective and creativity of people steeped in the humanities. Indeed, scholars across disciplines are now writing about the urgent need to reexamine the nature and power of digital communication technologies and practices and to reconsider how we approach the study of media and public communication.

This conference examines some of the most pressing questions about public communication in our time: How has ubiquitous mediation altered history, power, everyday consciousness and identity? How is it shaping central societal concepts, such as privacy, community, public interest? How has it influenced cultural production, personal expression, spiritual practice, the way we think about our inner lives and what it means to be human? Toward that end, the conference brings together humanities scholars across disciplines and scholars working in disciplines newly central to the humanities, such as communication studies, information and computer science and technology.

Organized by Matt Powers (Communication) and Adrienne Russell (Communication).
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