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Conference kicks off new media project

A national conference, "Technologies of Freedom: Emerging Media in Modern Culture," will be held at MIT on Friday and Saturday, May 9-10.

The conference will inaugurate the "Media in Transition" project, a collaboration of the MIT Communications Forum, the MIT Media Studies Program and the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation, which supplied funding for the project.

"The Media in Transition series will be a continuing effort to probe the opportunities and opportunity costs associated with the appearance of new mass media," said Roger Hurwitz, a research scientist in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. "Events in the series will compare socioeconomic, political and cultural aspects of our current 'digital revolution' with earlier major transitions, such as the rise of print in 14th- and 15th-century Europe, and the creation of visual mass media at the turn of the 20th century."

The interdisciplinary approach of the Media in Transition project "provides a useful antidote to the historical amnesia and fantasies that often surround technological innovation. The series can thus help temper our rightful pride in technology with the humility and generosity which a historically aware humanism can inspire," Dr. Hurwitz said.

"For MIT in particular, the series can be a forum where people with interests in communications technologies, policy and contents can learn from one another," he said.

The conference begins on Friday afternoon with a prologue by Professor of Literature David Thorburn, followed by two panel discussions. The first, "National Boundaries, Global Communications," will be moderated by Joshua Cohen, profesor of political science and philosophy. The second, "Privacy, Freedom, Regulation," will be moderated by Andrew Lippman, associate director of the MIT Media Lab.

Three panels on Saturday are "New Media, New Contents," moderated by Dr. Hurwitz; "Technology and Community," moderated by Henry Jenkins, associate professor of literature; and "The Legacy of Ithiel Pool," moderated by Lloyd Morrisett, president of the Markle Foundation.

The Media in Transition project and this week's conference aim to recall and to honor the late Ithiel de Sola Pool, founder of the Communications Forum and a pioneer in the study of modern media.

"Throughout his career as a social scientist, Ithiel de Sola Pool was sensitive to the dialectics of technology and society. His influential book, Technologies of Freedom, presents several models of media regulation but also notes how attempts to control or monopolize communications are recurrently undermined by technological development," said Dr. Hurwitz.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 7, 1997.

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