This hypothetical is the subject of an ongoing research project that began as the topic of 2012 W.E.B. Du Bois Lecture Series that I delivered at Harvard University during the three-day, free-of-charge W. E. B. Du Bois Lecture Series held November 27-29, 2012.
The project will gather additional perspectives on this issue from a variety of sources in the U.S. and internationally, drawn from experts in a wide variety of fields, including digital media, journalism, African American studies, communication, history and the social sciences. I will also continue to contribute material to the site that comments on new content as it is submitted. The current plan is for all this material to help inform a book that I will publish on these themes.
While mostly an academic exercise, in the Du Bois tradition, I welcome all those interested in the ultimate “so what” question: Are there insights drawn from Du Bois and others which can find their way into new scholarly practices and approaches, and also into new behaviors in public policy, federal regulations, and the behaviors of non-profits, public interest and community organizations?
UPDATE: READ “WHAT WOULD DU BOIS SAY ABOUT THE INFORMATION REVOLUTION?”
Since modern communication is the core of the speech, and consistent with Dr. Du Bois’ own intellectual trajectory, I also set out on these pages to help begin a conversation that would be interdisciplinary, held among scholars and practitioners from several countries, multiple backgrounds and across multiple subject domains from digital technology to the digital divide to the sociology of communities of color.
Here are four questions which I posted in order to prompt and guide participants’ reflections:
- What do you think Dr. Du Bois’ reactions would be to our transition from an industrial to a post-industrial, networked knowledge society? How has the introduction of new social media and other communication technologies affected the African American community?
- What impact is this transition having on the internal conversations within African American communities? Have they contributed to, or detracted from, a vibrant ‘black public sphere’?
- What have been their impacts on African American engagement with other communities – other communities of color, and with the larger national society?
- Finally, to what extent are the trends we are seeing within the black community simply the local manifestation of changes occurring the world over? What, if anything, is unique to the changes in the African American community
Here are some of the responses I’ve so far received.
I welcome you to add your own thoughts and suggestions to this site.
Ernest James Wilson III, Ph.D.
Walter Annenberg Chair in Communication and dean of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California