Letter from the Director

Joe Walther

Everything’s online, all the time, it seems. A 3/30/2020 New York Times article proclaimed, “Coronavirus ended the screen-time debate. Screens won.”  We’re relying on technology for the gamut: to track and communicate the movement of the virus and the movement of people, for course delivery, for news, for maintaining relationships (and even starting new ones). Despite and because of these things, questions about how we use technology and how it affects us are as important as ever.

CITS addresses some of the most pressing social issues today. Our recent initiatives have focused on fake news, online hate, and interacting with artificial intelligence. Student workshops explain new, critical methods for modern research—social network analysis, scraping social media data, and big data analyses. We support the campus-wide Data Science initiative, and the new Center for Responsible Machine Learning. Amid these efforts, CITS still provides what it started out to do: Connect scholars across campus to listen to new ideas from each other and from renowned guest speakers, to share insights and foster new ideas and new collaborations with one another. 

At a university known for cross-disciplinary approaches, we’re a prime example. With 50-plus faculty members across over 18 academic departments, CITS attracts interest and spurs ideas across traditional academic boundaries. Our affiliate faculty focus on a variety of topics, such as 

  • Teaching and Learning for Individuals and At Scale
  • Trust/Deception/Privacy
  • Democratic Processes (Politics, Social Movements, Activism)
  • Access, Equality, Class, and Culture
  • Digital Humanities and Literature 
  • AI, Machine Learning, Geospatial information, and Human Values
  • System Design to Enhance Human Capacity
  • Organizational Management and Collaboration 
  • Technology History, Policy, Regulation, and Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Mediated Relationships

In addition to catalyzing research and supporting graduate education, CITS do even more: To equip and staff ourselves to do rapid-response, high-impact research on controversies that arise on issues of technology and society. To connect with the public more often and more directly, with research results written for everyone. And do these things with the theoretical backing, methodological skill, and scholarly insight that distinguishes UCSB from mere opinion.  To interrogate the issues and provide informed responses that can help address the technology-related problems that perplex us all as designers, users, parents, consumers, voters, business leaders, and educators of technology. Pass the word about CITS’s potentials to people who want to know more and to those who can help us with their support.

--Joe Walther

Mark and Susan Bertelsen Presidential Chair in Technology and Society

Distinguished Professor of Communication