Internet research has come a long way over the past couple of decades. From a side interest pursued by scholars from a diverse range of disciplines, it has developed into a large, transdisciplinary, international field that continues to extend our understanding of the uses and impacts of the Internet. The field is now served by a range of major journals, leading centres and institutes, and several annual national and international conferences – including not least our own AoIR conference, which is coming to Tartu, Estonia in October this year.
We’re delighted to see the establishment of another major institution in this field, with last Tuesday’s announcement of the winning bid for a German Internet Institute. At a time when other governments are cutting their research funding budgets, the commitment of up to €50 million over five years to the new Institute by the German Ministry for Education and Research is a significant marker of the importance of Internet research in addressing the challenges of our time; in this context, it is also notable that the announcements and media coverage surrounding the new Institute have highlighted especially its agenda of researching the social and societal implications of Internet use, rather than merely addressing technological or regulatory aspects. The new institute’s working title is Internet-Institut für die vernetzte Gesellschaft, or Internet Institute for the Networked Society; many AoIR members are themselves working on research questions that align with this agenda, and will benefit from the added visibility and impetus that the new Institute can provide for such themes.
The German Internet Institute, whose work will formally commence later this year, will be based in Berlin, and a number of the institutions and individuals behind it might be familiar to those of our members who participated in AoIR 2016 in Berlin last year: Humboldt University, where AoIR 2016 was staged, is one of the founding partners of the new Institute, and Professor Jeanette Hofmann, one of the directors of the HIIG which organised AoIR 2016, led the winning bid. As our friends at the HIIG say in their own coverage of the news, last year’s massive AoIR conference certainly has helped demonstrate the importance and vibrancy of Internet research in all its facets.
On behalf of the Association of Internet Researchers, we congratulate Professor Hofmann and her team on this significant achievement, and welcome the German Internet Institute as an important new member of the international Internet research community. AoIR and its members look forward to engaging with the new Institute’s research staff and students, and we hope to see many of them at our future conferences – perhaps even already in Tartu this October.
Axel Bruns, AoIR Vice-President
on behalf of the AoIR Executive