New Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy launched at McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy

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Published: 20Oct2020

The Centre is McGill’s focal point on critical research and public debate about the role of media and emerging technologies in shaping democracy and public life

The Max Bell School of Public Policy is pleased to announce the launch of the Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy at McGill University. The centre is pioneering research and policy activism on the interplay between media and technology and its relationship to public life and democracy, through three core research streams: technology governance, information ecosystems, and media and journalism.

“While existing initiatives tend to focus either exclusively on technology, or on media and communication, this Centre will examine how both impact policy and public life. We are thrilled to be supporting such innovative work which will inform public debate and engage policymakers,” said Prof. Chris Ragan, Director of the Max Bell School.

The Centre is directed by Taylor Owen, Beaverbrook Chair in Media, Ethics and Communications, Associate Professor at the Max Bell School and a leading voice in technology governance in Canada.

“The benefits that technology brings to our world are undeniable, but we are now at a critical point where we need to make changes in the way we govern our media and tech infrastructure.This is what The Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy intends to do -- to create critical research that informs the public debate and policy makers about the changing relationship between media and democracy, so that we as a society can create policies aimed at maximising the benefits and minimizing the systemic harms embedded in the design and use of emerging technologies,” said Owen.

Through his leadership, the Centre has already been developing Canadian and international collaborations with academics, journalists, and policymakers to address these aims. The centre’s projects include:

  • The Media Ecosystem Observatory, which combines large scale media monitoring with survey research to study the behavioural impact of mis and disinformation.
  • Tech-Informed Policy, a collaboration with Derek Ruths from McGill’s Computer Science department that develops policy briefs aimed at demystifying new technology for policy makers.
  • The Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression is a four year collaboration with the Public Policy Forum. This year the commission is chaired by former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, and is exploring digital hate speech policy in Canada.
  • A broad range of work on international platform governance in collaboration with the Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), including a network of international civil servants, scholars and legislators working together to develop comprehensive platform governance policies.
  • Collaboration on podcasts including Big Tech, and a new series on parenting and technology.
  • Projects on facial recognition policy, children and technology, surveillance tech, journalism policy and platform support for media

The centre has recruited an international renowned group of expert advisors and public policy leaders to help guide the work of the center, including: Mike Ananny, Emily Bell, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Ignacio Cofone, Gabriella Coleman, Carly Kind, Dawn Nakagawa, Mutale Nkonde, Maria Ressa, Derek Ruths, Anya Schiffrin, Ben Scott, Craig Silverman, and Jonathan Sterne.

“For Canada to have a leading research institution that tackles the challenges of digital infrastructure and democracy is really important; to the health of the country and the creation of innovative solutions,” explained Craig Silverman, an advisory board member and reporter and media editor at Buzzfeed News.

The Centre is committed to public-facing work through a range of events, podcasts and workshops aimed at translating cutting-edge research for broad public audiences and policy makers.

“We want our work at the Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy to serve the public because we believe in the power of the public to mobilize for a different future, and to hold governments and technology companies to account for that future. It’s time to collectively reclaim the problems that technology was promised to solve,” concluded Sonja Solomun, the Centre’s Research Director.

To learn more about the Centre and its research initiatives, please visit its website and follow it on Twitter and watch this short introductory video on their work.

Contact Information

Contact: 
Nicholas Salter
Organization: 
Max Bell School of Public Policy
Email: 
nicholas.salter [at] mcgill.ca

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