On July 22, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a $50 million investment to develop a new field of research around technology’s impact on democracy, including a $5 million gift to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to create the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP). An additional $750,000 contribution from Luminate and $600,000 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will accelerate and expand the center’s impact.
Zeynep Tufekci, UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Professor and one of the faculty members leading CITAP, explains the importance of this support for empirical research in a post on Medium.
“We can’t just do things if we don’t know what to try and how to evaluate the outcomes, fine-tune the process, and encourage society-wide conversations about the complexities and trade-offs in our emerging digital public sphere,” she writes. “Without funding and conducting extensive basic research, we cannot figure our way forward. That’s why this initiative is so crucial and so necessary.”