CCT Professor Highlight: Meg Leta Jones has published two new books – Masters in Communication, Culture & Technology

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CCT is excited to share that Professor Meg Leta Jones has recently published two books, The Character of Consent: The History of Cookies and the Future of Technology Policy and Feminist Cyberlaw which was co-edited with Amanda Levendowski. 

The Character of Consent: The History of Cookies and the Future of Technology Policy discusses the relationship between cookie pop-ups and consent, tracing the history of transnational conflicts surrounding digital consent. Throughout the book, Jones discusses what she defines as the three different areas of law that deal with digital consent: data protection law, consumer protection law, and communication privacy law. Jones argues that each area has a different history, motivation, infrastructure, and strategy, so consent (and the individuals that can consent) should be studied as such. Along with this discussion, Jones provides alternate ways of understanding the core issues of consent and offers a new approach to adopting future tech policy. Feminist Cyberlaw is exactly what readers would imagine from the title– an analysis of the field of cyberlaw through a feminist lens. With essays from both emerging and established scholars, Feminist Cyberlaw examines how gender, race, sexuality, disability, and class (and their intersections) affect cyberlaw as a field. 

In 2016, Jones also published CTRL+Z: The Right to be Forgotten, which analyzes the effects of the permanence of information and data storage during the digital age. Jones proposes that users have a digital right to be forgotten, or, a legal responsibility on a corporations’ behalf for user’s information to be deleted, hidden, or anonymized per their request. Jones proposes a digital information life cycle that provides guidance for a way forward towards innovative and viable privacy liberation for consumers. 

Here at CCT, Dr. Jones currently teaches The Fundamentals of Technology (one of two required CCT core classes), and the Tech Impact Lab. Fundamentals of Technology studies how exactly CCT (communication, culture, and technology) shape human interaction by investigating technology itself. Throughout the course, students explore a variety of technical topics as socio-technical systems– explaining how they work not only at the technical level, but how they shape and are shaped by social decisions and how they affect the day-to-day lives of their users. Rather than just being able to understand how technology works, students are challenged to spend the semester de-blackboxing a chosen information and communication technology, emerging with a project that comprehensively explains the history, design and use of their technology and the skills needed to express and communicate technical ideas to a public audience, understand how digital technology can be used to display information, and feel comfortable communicating within the technical field. 

The Tech Impact Lab (co-taught with Paul Ohm) is a course designed to bring students across departments together to work on technology policy in collaboration with an outside partner to meet their constituents’ needs. This past semester the Tech Impact Lab partnered with the Attorney General of Colorado to work on a project regarding enforcing privacy regulation. 

As you can see, a theme in Jones’ classes is engaging students in hands-on work that builds practical skills they can translate to their professional and personal lives– regardless of their specific research interests. Her teaching philosophy is that classes should be built as a space where students have a chance to continually practice and improve with consistent feedback from both professors and their peers. A tenet of her classes is that students learn collectively, and in turn shape the learning environment. In Jones’ experience, “the students contribute so much to intellectual interdisciplinarity. [CCT is] not really a top-down program. So much of my work and my curiosity comes from my students that come in with really smart, interesting questions and interests. The students really add an important foundation to the intellectual community of the program.” Jones also feels that one of the most important aspects of a class is that the professor truly loves the material. In her words, “You should love your classes, in grad school, every class should be transformative. That requires the professor to really love the class.” 

Her writing philosophy is fairly similar. Jones says that while writing The Character of Consent: The History of Cookies and the Future of Technology Policy she realized that instead of trying to be a ‘writer’ in the traditional sense, she wanted to challenge herself to utilize other forms of conveying information– namely cartooning. One of the ways she hones these skills is through creating informational comics. Jones recently graduated from the Sequential Artists Comics Workshop, where she’s been working on ways to communicate complex information in a digestible manner. Jones feels this is essential in helping bring people to understand what is perceived as difficult subject matter (such as tech policy) in an accessible way. She says that while law reviews and scientific articles have so much incredible knowledge and research, they are, to put it simply, too long and tedious to expect the general public to read on a consistent basis.

By translating these documents into, for example, ten photos in an Instagram post, we can expose a much larger audience to even just little nuggets of the information needed to convey the importance of current tech policy discussions. She explains that this ethos of information sharing not only finds new ways for people to engage and understand, but helps them feel confident in discussing it freely. Jones says, “there is this fog [around tech policy] where people feel like ‘What can you do?’ and this feels like a great place to engage. This is a matter of helping people engage in a really fruitful way. This is a skill we really try to foster here at CCT.”

On this thread, Jones describes herself as “as collage artist”– “taking a bunch of stuff that already exists and moving the pieces around to see if we can see new points of intervention, opportunities, or perspectives” and feels that both of her new books represent this. This idea of intellectual engagement through ‘collaging’ is a perfect way to describe what we do here at CCT, and Jones explains this is one of the reasons she chose to get involved in the first place.

During law school, Jones took a class led by three professors– by an economist, a philosopher, and a psychologist, and had a revelation about the nature of interdisciplinary work and the level of engagement that can come from studying your field through multiple lenses. Jones describes herself as ‘a wanderer’– she’s not good at coloring inside the lines and explains that the freedom CCT provides through its interdisciplinary nature allows its students to follow whatever their next intriguing question is. In her words, “CCT is one of the best versions of this I’ve ever seen. You can do anything in CCT, and I love that.”
For more information about Jones’ work and her two new releases, check out here personal site here.