More years ago than I care to recall, I studied at Christ Church College. At that point, I came to the University of Oxford to study allied cultural policy after World War II. I was interested in the ways that each of the different post-war powers used the media of their day, ranging from film to photography, in an effort to democratize and de-nazify post-war German society. It was out of this interest in how to use communications media and technology to forge stronger and more robust democratic culture that gave rise to a personal fascination — not with how to avoid regulation of technology — but how to use technology affirmatively to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions.
It was therefore especially moving to be awarded the Internet and Society Award by the Oxford Internet Institute last night for the GovLab’s and my work on using technology to strengthen democratic institutions and to return to Oxford for the occasion. The OII is one of the preeminent academic departments studying the societal implications of life online. Founded in 2001 at the University of Oxford, the Institute undertakes multidisciplinary research and educates the next generation of social science scholars focusing on the Internet. From its inception, the Institute has focused as much on the impact of the Internet on government and democracy as on society more broadly. It has been pathbreaking in its work and, above all, in its efforts to train new generations of people with a greater understanding of the positive potential of technology for democracy in our own day.
It was a great honor to be feted at the awards dinner at Balliol College and to share the evening with Lifetime Achievement Award winners Tim Berners-Lee, Stephanie Shirley and Barry Wellman and fellow Internet and Society Award winners Martha Lane Fox and Laura Bates.
Professor Richard Susskind OBE, one of the great the pioneers of the law and technology field upon which the field of open government was built, started the evening with Burn’s Selkirk Grace
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
Once again, I was transported back to my first days in Oxford when I was invited to dine at Christ Church High Table…..on Burn’s Night. Those who know will understand how grateful we were that the tribute to Burns ended with Grace. What followed was a sumptuous, thrilling and magical evening.
For more about the Awards, see http://awards.oii.ox.ac.uk/.