The symposium is a joint effort of Wayne State's Center for the Study of Citizenship, its Office for Teaching and Learning, and its Honors Program, and the DeRoy Lecture series to study the intersection between new information technologies and the practice of citizenship. The symposium will launch a broader research, teaching, and service project that can help us understand what citizenship means in the 21st century and can help our students, staff and faculty use emerging communication and information technologies to become better citizens. We seek to understand how the notions of community membership and the exercise of power are affected by newly pervasive technologies such as (but certainly not limited to) text-messaging, Facebook, del.icio.us, Second Life (as well as devices and applications that do not exist at present but that will be household names by next year, or next week) and how these same technologies may be employed in the interests of social justice and civic engagement.
This program of research and civic engagement takes advantage of many of Wayne State's strengths: the increasingly prominent Center for the Study of Citizenship, with its annual conference, visiting scholars-in-residence and research agenda, will provide a central hub for organizing our practical efforts and studying the outcomes; the university's highly-ranked Library and Information Science program and library system will provide access to appropriate technology; the university's Honors program will provide access to hundreds of bright, enthusiastic undergraduate students whose course of study involves direct service learning. We are fully aware that any efforts we undertake in this realm must be led by the students themselves; with guidance from faculty and staff, the project must develop out of students' interests, inclinations and creative use of the available technologies.
Four presenters with expertise in various aspects of these questions will be featured at the symposium:
- Russell Dalton, Professor of Political Science at the University of California Irvine, whose recent study called The Good Citizen looks at the attitudes and behaviors of young people and (uncharacteristically for most of today's scholarship) finds them to be conducive to important aspects of citizenship,
- Fred Stutzman, graduate researcher at the University of North Carolina's School of Information and Library Science, whose research and active blog outline both the theoretical and practical aspects of social network software and its role in academic and political life,
- Wendy Chun, Associate Professor of Media and Modern Culture at Brown University, who will be talking about "Imagined Networks," and
- Vernor Vinge, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at San Diego State University and award-winning science fiction writer, whose recent Rainbows End is insightful in its thinking about how ubiquitous computing might affect everyday life.