Communications students honored by NCUR, BEA for research and broadcast education

The products of student research and documentary broadcast work at the 2007 Internet Governance Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have reaped many rewards over recent weeks.

Students Eryn Gradwell, Dannika Lewis, Anne Nicholson and Michele Hammerbacher worked as key collaborators with faculty Connie Book and Janna Anderson to produce a survey and educational spot-news packages at the 2007 United Nations-facilitated conference on the future of Internet policy.

Among the successful results of this work:

BEA: The students’ series of five documentary videos explaining the key issues tied to the future of the Internet were awarded first place in the Broadcast Education Association Festival of Media Arts in the educational/instructional category.

Only 17 projects nationwide were selected to be honored at the event, which will take place April 23 in Las Vegas. The documentary videos covered the topics of diversity, access, openness, security and critical Internet resources. Elon staff members J. McMerty and Dan Anderson also provided instrumental assistance with video production.

To see the videos, go to

National Conferences on Undergraduate Research: Eryn Gradwell will represent the group in presenting the results of the IGF-Rio survey, “Realizing the Global Promise of the Internet: The Future of Internet Governance,” at NCUR’s National Conference on Undergraduate Research in April at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.

Student researchers honored with the opportunity to participate in NCUR are invited only after surviving a competitive selection process.

To see the survey report, go to

Michele Hammerbacher, Anne Nicholson and J. McMerty interview UN administrator Nitin Desai.

GigaNet: The IGF-Rio survey was previously accepted in a competitive process for presentation at the Global Internet Governance Academic Network Symposium in Hyderabad, India, in December 2009. The presentation was not made, due to the cancellation of the Elon delegation’s trip to IGF 2008 after acts of terror in Mumbai.

To see the GigaNet Symposium proceedings, go to

Pew Internet & American Life Project: The IGF-Rio survey was funded through a grant from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, and the survey report was released as an official Pew report in August 2008. The lead authors of the report were Book and Anderson, but the students played a pivotal role in researching the issues, composing the question set, gathering the survey responses and evaluating the data.

To see the Pew memo on the report’s release, go to

The work of Gradwell, Lewis, Nicholson and Hammerbacher was partially funded through grants from Elon University’s Undergraduate Research Program.

The students also expect to present their research at Elon’s Student Undergraduate Research Forum in April.

This project spanned a year from beginning to end. The students worked with Book, Janna Anderson, McMerty and Dan Anderson for several months prior to the event to prepare for it. While they were in Rio doing the research, daily reports produced by the Elon team were posted on E-Net and the Imagining the Internet Web sites. The processing of the survey results came during the months that followed the event.

The team explored the following issues:


  • How can we allow more people to connect to the Internet?
  • What are the infrastructure barriers? What are the cost barriers?
  • What about people in developing countries, rural areas, islands?
  • What about the threat of economic barriers that could impede access to parts or all of the Internet?
  • What about the threat of some nations creating separate Internets that act as “walled gardens” that limit access to other networks?


  • The Internet is currently dominated by Western culture and languages, because that is where it got its start. How can we expand the scope and make it more diverse in content?
  • How do we make certain that ICANN and other groups that control the root servers and domain-naming systems of the internet are fair and inclusive?
  • How can we encourage and support more local, user-generated content?
  • How can we adapt the technology to reach disabled people? The elderly? The illiterate?


  • How can we foster freedom of expression?
  • How can we protect privacy and property rights without limiting freedom of expression?
  • What about the filters imposed by governments?
  • How do we balance the relationships between human rights, private enterprise and government rules?
  • How can we promote open-source software and guard against software monoculture?


  • How do we deal with threats to countries? Businesses? People?
  • What can we do about identity theft?
  • What can we do to deal with cyber crime? Cyber terrorism? Cyber warfare?
  • How can we create laws that cross borders? What are the threats to international relations?
  • How do we balance the need for authentication vs. the advantages of anonymity?
  • What about the threats against children, abuse and exploitation? Pornography? Scams? Spam? Viruses? Network attacks?

Critical Internet Resources

  • How should the control systems, infrastructure, domain name system and other important mechanisms that allow the Internet to function evolve?
  • Who should control these critical systems?

by Janna Anderson, associate professor of Communications

Faculty, staff and students combined forces to conduct research at the 2007 Internet Governance Forum in Rio.