Annenberg Welcomes Visiting Scholars Gates, Livingstone

What does the omnipresent digital surveillance in our lives mean for law enforcement — and who is watching the watchers? How do we shield our children from the dark corners of the Internet while freeing them to broaden their horizons?

These are the sort of digital culture questions that engage Kelly Gates and Sonia Livingstone, visiting scholars for the fall 2015 semester at the Annenberg School for Communication.

They come to Philadelphia from opposite sides of the globe: Livingstone is a Professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics while Gates hails from the University of California, San Diego, where she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and the Science Studies Program.

Their visit is part of the Scholars Program in Culture and Communication, directed by Professor Barbie Zelizer. Every spring and fall term, the Scholars Program brings internationally renowned visiting scholars to Annenberg. 

Gates, who will teach the course Materialist Media Studies this fall, specializes in the study of surveillance, digital media, and visual culture, from an analytical perspective that bridges science and technology studies and cultural and media studies.

Her first book, Our Biometric Future: Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance, is a critical-cultural study of the automation of facial recognition and facial expression analysis, focusing on the applications of these experimental systems in policing, security, social media, and affect measurement.

In her current research, Gates is investigating the emerging professional field of forensic video analysis, looking at the ways in which new visual imaging and archiving technologies are being incorporated into, and transforming, modern investigatory and evidentiary practices. This project examines the cultural and media labor that the police perform, and the forms of expertise they acquire, in their roles as surveillance workers and media analysts.

Livingstone, who will teach the course Media Audiences at Annenberg, is author or editor of 19 books and many academic articles and chapters.

She serves on the Executive Board of the UK's Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), for which she is the Evidence Champion. She was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2014 “for services to children and child internet safety.”

She leads the project, Preparing for a Digital Future, which follows the recently-completed project, The Class, both part of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Connected Learning Research Network. She directed the 33-country network, EU Kids Online, funded by the EC's Better Internet for Kids program, with impacts in the UK and Europe.

She gave a recent talk at TEDxExeter entitled “How Children Engage with the Internet.”

On Sept. 9, Gates and Livingstone each will share an overview of their work with the Annenberg community. Each will then present a lecture that is open to the public, Gates on Oct. 20 and Livingstone on Nov. 10.

For more information on the Scholars Program, please contact Emily Plowman (eplowman@asc.upenn.edu).