In the news: UI theme semester takes on 'Our Lives Online'

"Our Lives Online," the University of Iowa’s 2017 theme semester about the internet and technology, will explore the global system of connectedness, networks and collaboration that, along with rapidly developing technology, is changing our lives and possibilities with almost incomprehensible speed. The internet is a source of information, promoting attention to the development, access, inter-disciplinary work and cultural participation that takes place on campus, across the state of Iowa and around the world. The internet is also a tool that lets us communicate at lightning speed. How we choose to connect and communicate online is one of the defining challenges of our generation.

We launch "Our Lives Online" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with a WorldCanvass discussion in the Voxman Music Building’s recital hall, with a pre-show catered reception at 6:30 p.m. just outside the recital hall. WorldCanvass host Joan Kjaer and guests from diverse fields will explore the power of social media, discuss the societal and economic importance of internet access, help us understand big data and what our online behaviors tell others about us, and describe how new and rapidly changing technologies are altering the way we live.

Guests for the discussion include: Jennifer Fawcett, playwright with the Working Group Theatre; Katie Hassman, librarian with UI Libraries; Lena Hill, senior associate to the president and associate professor for UI departments of English and African-American studies; Nicholas Johnson, former FCC commissioner, media analyst and adjunct professor for the UI College of Law; Kajsa Dalrymple, assistant professor for the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication; Dan McGehee, director of the National Advanced Driving Simulator; and Mark Ginsberg, of M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art.

The theme semester program opened in spring 2015 with "Food for Thought," a semester-long examination of local and regional food production, food traditions around the world, and different societies’ cultural relationships to food. In the second year, a collaboration created the "Just Living" theme semester, which thoughtfully addressed the topic of social justice in spring 2016. The social justice theme semester provided an avenue to build partnerships during spring and beyond, on and off campus, so that we could share resources and support community-driven efforts.

Few would doubt that the internet and rapidly developing technologies are altering the way we live. Our aim with the 2017 "Our Lives Online" theme semester is to spur conversations in all corners of campus, our communities and our state so we can consider collectively what it means to live our lives online and lay the groundwork for ongoing discussions.

We invite you to become engaged through an event, classroom discussion, dialog on social media or other venue. Consider starting the semester at the reception and WorldCanvass on Tuesday, joining us for a lecture about social activism online, or perhaps visiting the Old Capitol Museum exhibit on the Internet of Everyday Things for reflection and ongoing dialog.

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