The world is undergoing what could be called the "the global Internet revolution"- the unleashing of a force for democratizing information and at the same time an amplifier of control and non-democracy processes, opening societies and at the same time localizing and closing communities, transforming political and economic processes, and redefining human relations.
Since the Internet evolved in the 60s and the World Wide Web's conception at the early 1990s, its users have mushroomed to approximately 650 million people globally. An estimated 40% of Europeans, 65% of North Americans, and over 50% of Israelis are today online. These figures are expected to rise dramatically over the coming years, making the Internet one of the fastest penetrating, growing and most multi-faceted communication - space and medium the world has ever seen.
With the obvious pervasiveness of the Internet in modern life, many question arise, among them are: What are the implications of the Internet for tomorrow's society? Will it have irreversible consequences on our social, cultural, political and economic trend and processes? Should we, can we, and to what extent regulate it? To begin providing answers to such questions, in May 2003 Tel Aviv University established a pioneering, interdisciplinary Institute for Internet Studies. The Institute is one of only a few throughout the world.
The Institute's mission is threefold:
¨ To conduct and disseminate comprehensive research on the social, cultural, managerial, economic, legal, and ethical ramifications of the Internet on our lives, with a view to becoming a leading national and international academic force in the field.
¨ To provide policymakers with timely information and analyses to help guide Internet-related decision-making.
¨ To facilitate professional relationships between the business sector and the academia such that both sides will benefit from a fruitful exchange of problems, solutions and ideas.
The Internet: Revolutionizing Social Processes
Since its birth as a technological tool, the Internet has metamorphosed into a conceptual environment that is reshaping core processes in society. Business, education, political institutions, information distribution, and personal dealings are undergoing major transformations.
The Internet plays a pivotal role in both popular and scholarly circles. It has already contributed to the emergence of new disciplines, as well as raised new legal, ethical and philosophical issues. It has had a major influence on the labor market, creating new professions as old ones become obsolete. Its educational potential seems virtually unlimited, and its role in globalization processes raises questions of national borders, cultural and gender identities, and lingual communities. With so many implications for the communities that use the Internet, this phenomenon must be addressed by academia.
Furthermore, with the exponential rise in the number of Internet applications and Internet-related academic publications, conferences, and associations, it is clear that we are standing on the brink of a technological and cultural pattern shift. There is now a distinct and pressing need to develop a body of knowledge and a set of paradigms that will help us better understand and harness the current information revolution.
E-commerce is creating new models for selling products and services and has on the one hand expanded local markets and on the other hand intensified market competition. E-learning is bringing educational opportunities to far-flung communities. Political agendas, petitions, and propaganda with their bad and good implications are sweeping through the net in ever-increasing volume. The entire nature of news reporting and information dissemination is changing, as people demand more and more choices, access, and interactivity. Consequently, perils of reliability of information sources and abundance of information are created daily. And in the personal realm, people can now chat with strangers on the other side of the globe, or join one of thousands of virtual communities that preclude the need for face-to-face meetings. On the other hand, the Internet also confronts misuse and abuse of its advantages.
Considering the Internet's broad impact, audience, and reach, TAU has identified the need to establish the Institute for Internet Studies. The Institute, which was established in May 2003, will investigate the Internet's impact on society and will strive to become a leading force in the multidisciplinary study of a digital space. It will place particular stress on examining real-world issues and on nurturing close links with practitioners in the field involved in Internet-related activities.
The Internet has raised also a number of negative phenomena, among which one can mention the digital divide and the widening of the knowledge gap, abuse of privacy, over-commercialization, misleading identities, the nature of "truth", moral panics in regards to violence, pornography, hate-speech and anti-Semitism.
The Institute promotes and encourages the study and research of Internet-related topics across the entire spectrum of fields. Particular attention is given to joint projects -among researchers from different disciplines. The following sampling of topics demonstrates the breadth and scope of the proposed research in the context of Internet:
¨ Governance and regulation
¨ Digital divide
¨ Global trade
¨ Legal, ethical, and human rights issues (e.g., tax laws, privacy, obscenity, intellectual property)
¨ Political and democratic processes and E-government
¨ E-learning, educational websites, web-based learning environments and distance learning
¨ Semiotic systems & hypertext: philosophical, artistic, and educational ramifications
¨ Interpersonal relationships, identity and gender-related issues
¨ Virtual communities and cyberspace cultures
¨ Globalization and localization processes
¨ Art and multi-media digital art
¨ Internet journalism and alternative information sources
¨ Supply chain management
¨ Health-related concerns (physical and psychological), E-treatment
¨ Sexuality and cyber-sex
¨ Israeli patterns of Internet use
¨ Cyber-wars and cyber-terror
¨ Cognitive processes, learning, and assessment through the Internet
¨ Active participation on the Web
¨ Internet research methodologies
¨ Internet racism and anti-Semitism
¨ Consumer culture
¨ Cybercrime and its controls
¨ Jewish and Israeli aspects of the Internet
The Institute is a member of the ELOST consortium research which focuses on the readiness of low socio-economic status groups to participate in e-Government.
The Institute holds conferences, symposia, workshops doctoral colloquia, and seminars to promote interaction among Israeli researchers and professionals and their counterparts throughout the world. This also entails the publishing and dissemination of research findings to the appropriate communities.
Interaction with Industry and Public Agencies
The Institute maintains and promotes close ties with industry representatives, law practitioners, media professionals, policymakers, educators, public agencies, and other relevant groups, through think tanks, workshops and a permanent advisory committee.
Teaching and Curriculum Development
The Institute promotes the development of Internet-related courses and programs, as well as an appropriate pedagogy for teaching Internet related topics among the relevant departments and faculty members across campus.
Resource Institute and Web Site
The Institute subscribes to major data resources on Israeli Internet usage trends, as well as collaborate with other Institutes around the world. Information and regular interaction will be - available through the Institute's Web site to researchers, students, teachers, professionals, public agencies, and the general public.
Working Paper Series
The Institute will establish a working paper series, which will be available electronically and in print.
Visiting Scholars Program
The Institute will support a program for visiting scholars from academia, industry, and government and public agencies. As guests of the Institute, scholars will participate in research, policy studies, conferences, and teaching activities.
The Institute has raised some funds to support graduate students whose research is related to the Institute's mission. Further attempts to raise funds will be made in the future.
Tel Aviv University: Why Here
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of research to be conducted at the proposed Institute, TAU is the ideal location. The University's comprehensive resources-with nine faculties, 25 schools, 105 departments and over 90 research institutes-are perfectly aligned to support the mission of the Institute and to help TAU become a world leader in the academic study and research of the Internet. Tens of faculty members and doctoral students spanning the disciplines are already researching and teaching Internet related issues and could be involved with the Institute.
A list of the Institute functionaries:
Academic Director: Professor Dov Teeni email@example.com
Professional Director: Eli Hacohen, Journalist firstname.lastname@example.org
Academic Coordinator : Gal Yavetz email@example.com
Research Fellow and Head of E-Government Research: Dr. Ronit Purian firstname.lastname@example.org
The Institute phone number is +972-3-6408027, fax +972-3-6436189
Internet site http://www.niis.tau.ac.il
Institute Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NIIS.TAU