Media in Transition

Media in Transition is a bi-annual conference on the MIT campus, co-hosted by CMS/W and the MIT Communications Forum, that showcases the work of media studies academics, media professionals, and others.

Launched in 1998 to celebrate both the 20th anniversary of the Forum and later the release of the Media in Transition book series, the conference has addressed themes of creativity and ownership, the challenge of digital archives, the accelerating instability of media platforms, and the shifting wall between public and private.

Media in Transition 9: May 2017

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Highlights from Media in Transition 8: Public Media, Private Media

Media in Transition 8


Amid disquiet over encroachments on privacy by government and corporations, another class of concerns has arisen: That some people (often young users of social media) are not respecting the traditional boundaries of privacy and are choosing to share “too much information.” Do these people’s technical skills outstrip their social skills? Are they unaware of how information can persist and potentially damage their reputation? Or are the stern adults who question this behavior clinging to an outmoded idea of privacy? Are the apps and algorithms and platforms of social media invisibly transforming norms of privacy and personal freedom?


Feona Attwood is professor of media at Middlesex University, U.K., and editor of Mainstreaming Sex (2009), (2010), and co-editor ofControversial Images: Media Representations on the Edge (2012). Her current book project is Media, Sex and Technology.

David Rosen writes the Media Current blog for Filmmaker magazine and is the author of Sex Scandals America: Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming(2010).

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of law and computer science at Harvard, is co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. His books include The Future of the Internet—and How to Stop It (2008).

Moderator: Nick Montfort is associate professor of digital media at MIT and president of the Electronic Literature Organization. His books include Racing the Beam: The Atari Video Computer System (with Ian Bogost, 2009) and Riddle & Bind (2010).

“Surveillance: Big Data and other Watchers”

It is a truth universally acknowledged that digital technologies have immensely enhanced existing means of surveillance by government and corporations and have created powerful new instruments to monitor individual behavior. Do the ramifying systems for observing and recording our routine activities fundamentally threaten our privacy and freedom, as many have argued?  In an era of dating mining and smart algorithms, is our awareness that we are being monitored, converted to bits and distributed among databases, changing the way we behave as citizens and individuals?  Should it do so?  Or is this framing of the question too pessimistic, ignoring the fact that many of the world’s data collectors are or claim to be improving our lives by expanded productivity, services tailored to individual users, advances not merely in shopping but in health, education and public safety.


Goran Bolin is professor in media and communication studies at Sodertorn University, Stockholm. He is the author of Value and the Media: Cultural Production and Consumption in Digital Markets (2011), and the editor ofCultural Technologies (2012).

Kelly Gates is associate professor of communication, science studies, and critical gender studies at University of California, San Diego. She is the author of Our Biometric Future (2011).

Jose van Dijck is a professor of comparative media studies at the University of Amsterdam where she served as the Dean of Humanities. The author of six books, her most recent is The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media (2013).

Moderator: Ethan Zuckerman is director of the Center for Civic Media and a principal research scientist in the Media Lab at MIT. He is co-founder of international citizen media community Global Voices and author of Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection.

“Counterpublics: Self-Fashioning and Alternate Communities”

Notions of a “public sphere” have always incited skepticism and qualification, in particular the recognition of “counterpublics” that operate inside and at the margins of consensus discourse.  Counterpublics can be spaces of political opposition – sites of resistance, civil disobedience, disruption – or spaces of play and self-fashioning, enabling the emergence of alt-, sub-, and fan cultures and alternative forms of community and identity.  How  is digital technology – and social media in particular – generating categories of identity and belonging that define themselves in opposition to established norms of personhood or community?  How do the counterpublics of the digital age differ from those of the past?


Cristobal Garcia is assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in the School of Business, P. Universidad Catolica, Chile.

Eric Gordon is a fellow at the Berkman Center at Harvard, and an associate professor in the Department of Visual and Media Arts and the director of theEngagement Game Lab at Emerson College.

Henry Jenkins is Provost’s Professor for Communication, Journalism, Cinematic Art, and Education at the University of Southern California. The founding director of MIT Comparative Media Studies, he has published 15 books including Spreadable Media: Creating Meaning and Value in a Networked Culture (2013).

Maria San Filippo is author of The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television (2013). She teaches gender studies at Harvard College.

Moderator: Noel Jackson is associate professor of literature at MIT. The author of Science and Sensation in Romantic Poetry, he has published essays in journals including ELHMLQ, and Studies in Romanticism.