Letter from the Directors
Ask anyone for a short list of the most exciting developments of our time, and the answer will almost certainly include something like this: "the rapidly evolving role of information in our lives." Ask anyone for a short list of the most vexing developments of our time, and you are likely to get the same answer. What’s going on around us in this constantly changing information landscape creates both rich opportunities and high-stakes challenges. We believe these must be addressed in a broadly collaborative way if information in all its forms is to be an effective resource for everyone. The Future of Information Alliance – the FIA – was launched at the University of Maryland in 2011 to identify these opportunities and challenges and to serve as a catalyst for discussion, research, and action – on campus and beyond.
What is unusual about the FIA is the degree to which its base is broadly inclusive, on campus and beyond. Every one of the dozen colleges and schools at the University of Maryland's College Park campus is involved. This is manifest in the support of the deans, the makeup of the FIA's "brainstorming board," and the participation of hundreds of students, faculty and staff in FIA events and initiatives. That sort of enthusiastic involvement also extends out to a group of 10 Founding Partners, including some of the leading cultural and governmental institutions in the nation and the region.
With generous new support from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, the FIA is enabling students, through an interdisciplinary seed grant program, to play a role in shaping that future with their innovative ideas and clever research, under the guidance of faculy mentors and in collaboration with the FIA’s Founding Partners.
The FIA is also expanding our "Visiting Future-ist" program - with support from the Deutsch Foundation, the University, and our Founding Partners - by creating venues for exchanging ideas with leading innovators on a broad array of timely topics -- the proliferation of experiments in online education, novel uses of crowdsourcing, explorations of “big data,” the use of new information technologies to preserve and enhance cultural heritage, and the twin themes of peril and promise associated with the both global and personal dimensions of networking.
While as directors of the FIA we come from the iSchool and the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, this is not an enterprise "owned" by any particular college or school at the University of Maryland. The creation of the FIA has been organized through the Office of the Vice President for Research. Key support has come from the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for University Relations. And in opening the FIA event at the Newseum, UMD President Wallace Loh spoke of this endeavor as an important effort to build bridges between disciplinary "silos."
It is our hope that you will take part in FIA activities, whether in person or online, and that you will make new and perhaps surprising connections to others who share your interests, your concerns, and your sense of what is possible.
Allison Druin, ADVANCE Professor for STEM Senior Women's Council & Professor, iSchool, and
Ira Chinoy, Associate Professor, Philip Merrill College of Journalism
Directors, The Future of Information Alliance