Speakers to address Internet surveillance and the roles of media for annual Mass Comm Week

Numerous speakers will address Internet privacy issues and the role of media for Mass Comm Week. Image courtesy of Gary Hicks

Mass Comm Week starts today and focuses on Internet privacy– both government and private sector roles– and the implications of what people would label as surveillance or “spying,” according to Mass Communications Department Chair Gary Hicks.

Hicks said the issue is “so very pressing.”

“It’s unprecedented in American history, and it’s extremely important that people who are going to be working in the media industry understand what their roles might be,” Hicks said. “What is the role of mass media? It’s the watchdog function of the papers to let the public know about what the government’s doing.”

The event features numerous speakers on these topics including keynote speaker Tom Merritt from Los Angeles who will present his discussion “New Normal? A look at Surveillance and Privacy.”

Merritt, an independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows, has covered technology for the past 15 years at outlets such as TechTV and CNET.

According to Hicks, Merritt is one of the “foremost authorities right now” on issues of Internet surveillance–the concern over government and non-government interception of private emails.

“He will be one of the top keynote speakers we’ve had in many years,” Hicks said. “It’s very exciting to have someone who has dedicated this part of their life to studying this phenomenon here on campus to speak with our students.”

Mass communications professor Musonda Kapatamoyo, who also coordinated Mass Comm Week, said students from other disciplines would benefit from attending the programs because “everybody is affected.”

“For example, students, including non-mass communications majors, take selfies every day and post them online. With companies like Facebook using deep-face technology for facial recognition, they find your face and they keep that data and eventually they begin to know about your life, what you’re interested in, who your friends are [and] who you’ve tagged,” Kapatamoyo said.

According to Kapatamoyo, it is important for students to come and understand the scope of surveillance in society today.

“There are a lot of people interested in your data for some reason–for marketing purposes and I think for malicious purposes, people want to know where you live, your age, your level of income [and] your interests. It’s a big trend that has taken off and we just have to manage it,” Kapatamoyo said.

According to Hicks, a Mass Comm Week tradition consists of hosting a panel discussion of recent graduates of the program “to give tips, hints and advice” to current students.

“It’s a give and take between the students and returning students and is always extraordinarily valuable to our current students,” Hicks said.


Mass Comm Week 2014 Scheduled Events:

Monday, April 7

Sophia Wilson/“Information wars between Ukraine and Russia” Noon-1:15 p.m. Dunham Hall 1014

Tom Atwood/ “The Refinery Photo Project: Freedom of artistic expression, privacy and the Patriot Act” 2 p.m. Dunham Hall Studio C

Tuesday, April 8

Steve Goldbloom/”Everything but the news” 10-11 a.m. Dunham Hall 1014

Jason Jones/ “Do It Yourself!” 11 a.m-12:15 p.m. Dunhman Hall 1015

Panel of Recent Graduates/ “What you wish you knew before you graduated” 2 p.m. Dunham Hall 1015

Wednesday, April 9

Tammy Merrett-Murry/“First Amendment” 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Dunham Hall Lobby (free pizza)

Lynn Huelsmann/ “Careers for Normal People” 3:30 p.m. Dunham Hall Studio C

Thursday, April 10

Riley Atwood/ “The Encryption Problem: Does the government’s pursuit of cyber criminals pose a threat to privacy, journalism?” 9:30-10:45 a.m. Dunham Hall Classroom 2009

Tom Merritt/ “New Normal? A Look at Surveillance and Privacy” 2 p.m. Dunham Hall 2039

Friday, April 11

44th Annual MC Alumni Evening 6:30-8:30 p.m. Dunham Hall Main Studio; Mark Peopsel-Master of Ceremonies.  To reserve seating at this event contact Josie Morris.


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