Annenberg Scholars Program in Culture and Communication Welcomes Visiting Scholar Dan Schiller


Dan Schiller has been a visiting scholar at the Annenberg School for just two weeks, but he’s no stranger to the school. Schiller received his doctorate from the Annenberg School in 1978, advised by former dean George Gerbner. He remembers Walter and Leonore Annenberg visiting the school. Schiller even met his wife in the Annenberg School library.

Professor Emeritus in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, Schiller was invited back to Annenberg this semester as a visiting scholar with the Scholars Program in Culture and Communication. Directed by Professor Barbie Zelizer, the Scholars Program recently hosted a colloquium during which Schiller introduced himself and his work to the Annenberg community.

After completing his undergraduate degree in philosophy and economics at the University of Wisconsin, Schiller took a year off from his education and worked in a vending machine factory. He remembers wearing a hand-me-down uniform to work every day with the name “Joe” etched on it. Inspired by his parents’ intellectual interests, Schiller decided to pursue a master’s degree in Communication and arrived at Annenberg in 1973.

He fondly remembers his meetings with his advisor, then dean George Gerbner. “We had very good conversations over tiny cups of coffee,” he said. “There was never enough coffee, but I learned a great deal from George.”

After completing his master’s degree in 1976, Schiller was accepted into the doctoral program and remained at Annenberg while completing his Ph.D. He recalls influential conversations with classmates in the plaza lobby and rigorous courses with notable faculty including Ray Birdwhistell, Larry Gross, and Charles Wright. Also during this time, he met Penn undergrad Susan Davis in the Annenberg Library. She went on to earn her Ph.D. from Penn in Folklore, and Susan and Dan will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this year.

After completing his Ph.D., Schiller went on to conduct research in Britain at the University of Leicester, and then hold faculty positions at Temple University, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of California San Diego, and finally at the University of Illinois.

Of his time at various universities, he said, “I have been blessed throughout my career to work with excellent colleagues and graduate students.”

A historian of communications, Schiller’s research focuses on communications systems and institutions as formative elements within the social relations of capitalism. He engages the history of journalism, digital capitalism, and the social history of telecommunications.

He is the author of seven books, including Digital Depression: Information Technology and Economic Crisis (University of Illinois Press 2014), Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System (MIT Press 1999), and Theorizing Communication: A History (Oxford University Press 1996). In addition, he is the co-editor of Continental Order? Integrating North America for Cyber-Capitalism (Rowman & Littlefield 2001).

Schiller is a member of several journal editorial boards, and he contributes frequently to Le Monde diplomatique. He has lectured at institutions in East Asia, Latin America, and Europe, and he was a Global Fellow at Peking University in China. He is currently working on an archival study of U.S. telecommunications from the 19th century post office to the internet.

This semester, Schiller is teaching a graduate course at Annenberg entitled “Information in Society.” The course will provide conceptual foundations and historical benchmarks for analysis of systems of information provision, considering how information exists within capitalism, imperialism, and various revolutions. On February 20, he will give a public lecture at the Annenberg School.

For more information about the Scholars Program, please contact Emily Plowman.