Zoom or Doom in the Age of CyberSovereignty & Digital Nationalism

IDEAS Research Workshop Featuring Dr. Wenhong Chen

Is the age of privacy coming to an end?

Are the US and China heading towards a new type of cold war over data?

Are big tech companies doing enough to ensure data protection and privacy?

These were the guiding questions in a recent lecture held at Barry Hall, as the Challey Institute hosted Dr. Wenhong Chen as part of their IDEAS Research Workshop.

In her lecture titled, “Zoom or Doom in the Age of CyberSovereignty and Digital Nationalism,” Dr. Chen presented her research on how our favorite video-conferencing platform was responding to these unsettling and important questions.

That platform, of course, is Zoom.

Coming into this talk, I expected to get a better understanding of major tech and data issues that we face as a society.

Dr. Chen exceeded every single expectation I had. 

Who is Dr. Chen?

As an associate professor of media studies and sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Chen has focused her research on digital media technologies in entrepreneurial and civic settings. 

Currently, she is working on projects to examine the policy and entrepreneurial implications of AI, big data, and cloud computing. So, when zoom had its meteoric rise during the beginning of the pandemic, it naturally became one of Dr. Chen’s research projects.

Along with Zoom’s increase in popularity, came an increase in scrutiny and criticism. 

Many people have had serious privacy, security, and data-sharing concerns, and these types of concerns have severely plagued a multitude of tech companies.

Which brings us to the question Dr. Chen aimed to answer:

Is Zoom Doomed?

To answer this question, Dr. Chen dove deep into some truly fascinating research.

She covered topics such as China’s CyberSovereignty (a government’s desire to control the internet and data) and institutional privacy, masterfully connecting all these important issues to the implications they have on Zoom.

She gave an in-depth analysis of how Zoom has responded to criticisms and concerns, by explaining how initiatives like “Ask Eric Anything” are helping Zoom gain the trust of its users.

“Ask Eric Anything” was a recurring webinar where Zoom’s CEO, Eric S. Yuan, answered questions regarding the many concerns users were having.

She also explained Zoom’s alleged ties to China, which have been a thorn in Zoom’s side from the beginning, and showed why those fears are not entirely accurate.

Through all of this is extremely intellectual, higher-thinking analysis, Dr. Chen made it easy to understand and relatable, not to mention interactive as she was constantly asking questions to her virtual audience. 

I left this lecture not only feeling educated but also more aware of the serious issues that face our society.

She dropped insightful perspectives that left the audience with something to think about long after she was done presenting.

For instance, she explained how there is a fear that the tension between China and US regarding data and tech (ex: US government’s concern about Tik Tok) could lead the two countries into a new type of cold war!

Yeah, that’s some serious food for thought.

All in all, Dr. Chen asserts that Zoom is not doomed

Not yet at least.

But this simple answer does not do justice to the entertaining and educational experience Dr. Chen provided through this lecture. 

To truly get the full understanding of how Zoom relates to these serious issues, I highly recommend you watch the full recording of her lecture on the Challey Institute’s website here.

Also, use that link to register for the next IDEAS Research Workshop on October 23rd as Dr. W. Bradford Wilcox presents, “For the Sake of the Children: How Stable Marriage is Linked to the Educational, Emotional, and Economic Well-being of Children.”

If it’s anything like Dr. Chen’s presentation, I can guarantee it’s worth it.

Posted on October 13th, 2020 by Shane Corbett in News and Stories