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Next steps

Thrilled to be announcing a big next step: I will be joining the faculty of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst this coming year, and launching a new research center. My friends at UMass have created a unique position for me. I will be an associate professor of public policy, communication and information, with my tenure home in public policy, but teaching in all three departments. My first class at UMass will be in the spring of 2021, the Fixing Social Media class I’ve been teaching this semester at MIT.

In addition to teaching and advising students, I am launching a new research center at UMass Amherst, the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure. DPI will be exploring the idea that the digital services we rely on – social networks, search, media hosting – might serve us better as citizens if they were public services and not for-profit corporations. Think of it as a project designed to see whether the platforms we rely on could be made more like Wikipedia and like public broadcasting, and less rooted in the surveillance economy. I’ve written about this idea here and here, and will be writing lots more in the next few months.

I am grateful to my friends at UMass Amherst who’ve been wonderfully creative in recruiting and welcoming me to their home during a difficult time for all of us. I just met many of my colleagues via a Zoom faculty meeting today, and I completed my interview process virtually – it helps that I have lived in western Massachusetts since 1989 and know the Pioneer Valley well. I am hugely looking forward to seeing my new colleagues in person, whenever such thing becomes feasible.

I am also grateful to MIT, the Media Lab and the program in Comparative Media Studies and Writing for giving me a great environment in which to work, teach and learn over the past nine years. The years at MIT have helped me discover who I want to be as a teacher and as a researcher, and I am grateful to everyone who’s been a student at Center for Civic Media, taken or taught a class with me, or supported our work. Civic alumni are now teaching at remarkable universities around the world, and leading great research focused on civic media and the relationship between technology and social change – I am glad to join their ranks as a Civic alum.

Lots more to tell as the new work begins. I’m grateful for the opportunity and excited for new challenges.

2 thoughts on “Next steps”

  1. Congratulations! Sounds perfect.

    Hope I get to visit you our there…if not just to be able to hum the Pixies…
    ”In the sleepy West
    Of the woody East…”

  2. Digital infrastructures as commons, and states as platforms.
    These are definitely the two main ideas to put forward in the coming years if we believe that decisions that affect everyone should, somehow, be made by “everyone”.

    Best wishes on the new enterprise!


    Ismael Peña-López

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