People Profiles

Robin Mansell, PhD, Communication

December 07, 2015
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Dr. Robin Mansell is uncovering the good, the bad, and the ugly of online communication and social media.

Mansell is the Deputy Director and Provost of the London School of Economics. She is also a Professor of New Media and the Internet in the Department of Media and Communications. Mansell was President of the International Association for Media and Communication Research, and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the annual European Communications Policy Research. She completed a Doctoral Degree in Communication at SFU in 1984.

Mansell’s research examines the social, political and economic impacts of media and communication technologies on policy and practice. As Mansell explains, “We are living in a time when industry, government and civil society is investing huge amounts of resources in social media and digital technologies. We need to understand these or we risk wasting those resources and creating risks for their users,” she says.

Mansell’s research uncovers not just how technologies can or should be utilized, but surfaces the often hidden ways in which they exacerbate or create power imbalances in society and how digital media can be governed effectively. Recognized as a global expert in the area, she is regularly invited to consult on digital technology and communications policy by organizations such the UN, the OECD, government ministries and leading companies. 

“In 2007 I spoke to the UN General Assembly to dispel the notion that the use of social media would reduce clashes between regions of the world. I told them why this was unlikely to be the case and that efforts focusing mainly on technologies would fall short. Slowly there are signs that efforts are now focusing on the social, cultural and political contexts in which these technologies are used,” she said.

Key to her approach, explains Mansell, is her ability to work with diverse stakeholders and professionals across many academic fields — including legal experts, political scientists, and economists. She links this capacity to her graduate experience at SFU.

“During my PhD program, I was exposed to a wide range of disciplines in the social sciences. I was able to combine my studies with practice in projects on radio spectrum management and telecommunication regulation. The combination of critical theoretical research and applied research was really challenging and enjoyable,” says Mansell.

Author: Jackie Amsden

Connections:

BFM Crossmedia: Social Imaginaries of Technologies

Fundación Comunica: Imagining the Internet: Open, Closed or In Between

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