Commons Conversations

Reply All: Free Speech in the Age of Social Media

Commons Conversations
05 Oct, 2017

Reply All: Free Speech in the Age of Social Media

The Berkeley Center for New Media, The Berkeley Graduate, the Graduate Assembly, and BridgeUSA will host a campus-wide symposium on October 5, 2017, marking the 53rd anniversary of the birth of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement.

In the past year, the internet has turned its attention to Berkeley’s campus debates, and our own community has taken up new media and modes of digital expression to extend and challenge the discussion of free speech. This is a critical moment; both to the consideration of the intersection of speech, media and digital technologies on the Berkeley Campus and to the Nation as a whole.

Our day of discussion will open with an address from Carol Christ and feature a keynote from Robert Reich. It will involve a selection of panels and open discussions with faculty, students and staff addressing the history, practice, and spaces of free speech within the university.

New media and modes of digital expression are transforming our experience of, and shaping conversations around free speech. By addressing, articulating, and helping to analyze these transformations together, we seek to fulfill Berkeley’s best tradition as a community of inquiry, and contribute to a larger, complex conversation taking place on campus in the days to come.


9:30 AM

Welcome: Nicholas de Monchaux (BCNM Director)
Opening Address: Carol Christ (Chancellor)

10:00 AM

Keynote: Robert Reich (Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy)

10:30 AM BREAK

10:45 AM The Purpose of Debate

To begin the discussion, we will examine the value and purpose of free speech within the university, within the larger context of contemporary media transformations. We will unpack how shifts in media alter the goals and values of debate, particularly as social media hardens political perspectives. What challenges do our online lives present to open discussions on campus? Ultimately, we seek to understand how digital media has changed the role of free speech in the university environment, and how our institutions and practices can adapt to ensure meaningful and purposeful debate.

Speakers include: Geoffrey Nunberg (Adjunct Professor School of Information), Bill Shireman (Lecturer Haas School of Business), Claudia von Vacano (Executive Director D-Lab and Digital Humanities at Berkeley), Manu Meel (Student, BridgeUSA), Nicole Rangel (Graduate Student, School of Education)

Moderated by: ​Lyndsey Ogle (Graduate Student, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

12:00 PM Dialogue with Representatives of Berkeley's 1964 Free Speech Movement

Speakers include: Lynne Hollander, Barbara Stack

Moderated by: Ken Goldberg (Chair, IEOR)

12:30 PM The Spaces of Free Speech

In this panel, we will elucidate the various “spaces” of free speech within the university; the architectural, the digital, and the institutional. How is debate activated and limited in these domains. To what end? How do questions and practices of speech and privacy disrupt norms as practices leap from one domain to another? We will explore in particular how the university seeks to balance its commitment towards open dialogue and its duty to help ensure the safety of its students.

Speakers include: Steven Hayward (Senior Resident Scholar, Institute for Governmental Studies), Deirdre Mulligan (Associate Professor, School of Information), Kena Hazelwood-Carter (President, Graduate Assembly), Jillian Free (Undergraduate Student Advocate)

Moderated by: Nicholas de Monchaux (Professor, Architecture & Urban Design)

1:45 PM Opinion Space Demonstration

Free Speech on Free Speech: An Open Dialogue: How should university campuses facilitate Free Speech when there is
potential for violence? Please take 5 minutes to rate suggestions from others and share your own suggestion:

From the AUTOLAB, CITRIS, and the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM).


2:00 PM Media and Free Speech

Berkeley has garnered national and global media attention this past year. In this panel, we will address the relationship between free speech and the media in constructing narratives about the university. We want to understand the role established media plays in opening and foreclosing space for productive dialogue around campus events— and how distributed and social media impacts these records. Most of all, we seek to understand the responsibility of the university in allowing or fostering students’ ability to manage their own narratives.

Speakers include: Ed Wasserman (Dean, Graduate School of Journalism), Lawrence Rosenthal (Chair, Center for Right Wing Studies), Nick Randhawa (Graduate Student, School of Journalism), Rebecca Levitan (Graduate Student, Art History)

Moderated by: Ken Goldberg (Chair, IEOR)


3:45 PM Violence and Free Speech

Finally, we will explore the relationship between free speech, media, and violence on the college campus. We will investigate how the discourse around rhetorical and mediated violence and physical violence have been placed at odds with one another in discussions of free speech and the university. And in particular, we will address the purpose of protest in relation to free speech issues and consider how the digital ecology has contributed in shaping widespread involvement.

Speakers will include: Erwin Chemerinsky (Dean, Boalt School of Law), Jung Yi (International House Counselor, University Health Services), Jill Miller (Artist & Lecturer, Berkeley Center for New Media), Guest Speaker (Performing as Chancellor Carol Christ)

Moderated by: Abigail De Kosnik (Assoc. Professor, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

5:15 PM

Closing Address: Lyndsey Ogle (Graduate Student, Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies) featuring Student Voices

Additional speakers to be announced.

Get Involved!

In conjunction with Reply All, BCNM students from Jill Miller’s Critical Practices class will be practicing “deep listening” and interviewing symposium participants. The project was created to offer undergraduates a space to share their personal experiences with free speech and social media. The goal is to offer welcoming spaces for participants to connect to each other in a meaningful way, in contrast to the violent clashes seen on our campus recently. Students have created three “environments” as a point of engagement: a picnic, a campfire, and a cafe.

We will also be featuring an online opinion space, entitled “Free Speech on Free Speech: An Open Dialogue,” built by AUTOLAB, CITRIS, and the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM). The online portal asks how university campuses should facilitate Free Speech when there is potential for violence. Please take 5 minutes to rate suggestions from others and share your own suggestion:

Unable to Join Us?

We will be webcasting the event at:
Following the event we will provide a digest and summary of the discussion.

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