Becky Lentz 2013 SSHRC Insight Development Grantfocuses on Rendering Visible the Infrastructure of Media Policy Advocacy Practice
“Digital Economy” discourse in Canada and the US uncritically drives abundant expectations about the benefits of integrating digital media technologies into nearly all aspects of our economy, society, and culture. Indeed, converging old and new forms of electronic media that include radio, television, telephones, and the Internet exhibit an ever-increasing influence on our daily lives. Yet the growing ubiquity of digital media has catalyzed concern among many citizens and consumers about how these media directly affect them. US and Canadian media governance scholars, civil society organizations (CSOs), activist collectives, advocacy coalitions, and issue networks have been working to achieve several policy outcomes related to this. One is affordable access to broadband technologies in rural and low income urban settings; another is electronic privacy and freedom from corporate and government surveillance. A third includes fair copyright laws that enable online access to cultural, educational, and other essential knowledge. A fourth aims to ensure freedom of expression online, aka “Internet Freedom”. Even so, to many, engaging in debates about these issues is difficult. Conversations about Internet governance, online freedom of expression, electronic surveillance, or the excesses of intellectual property rights claims demand considerable legal, economic, historical, technical, and political knowledge and expertise. This is why this project investigates the nature of that demand, inquiring specifically into opportunities and barriers involving the acquisition, mobilization, and transmission of expertise by three types of advocacy groups (insider, outsider, and hybrid) that intervened effectively in one such expert-driven debate between 2002 and 2012 in the US and Canada: “network neutrality”. Research findings will have scholarly, pedagogical, and practical interest. Intended scholarly outcomes include the development of a comparative research framework linking research, policy activism, and policy advocacy practice in such a way as to apply to multiple other political contexts and policy settings. Pedagogical outcomes include a model for advancing media “policy” education to #generation students who see themselves not just as digital consumers but also as digital citizens. Applied outcomes include practical guidance on capacity building and social movement learning that supports advocacy practitioners and their funding community.