Harold Innis and Canadian Telecom Policy

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The last semester my focus had been a bit split.

I came into the year working on a report for Public Safety Canada through Ryerson’s Privacy & Cybercrime Institute. We were tasked with putting together a comparative analysis of strategies and policies states were undertaking involving both pulic and private sectors. It was quite interesting and while not directly focused on my core research, it was definitely related to Canada’s digital policy and was a great opportunity to help contribute to the policy formation process.

More directly, I have had the opportunity to work on a research project around the 700 MHz spectrum auction. Up until now it had been rather short term but with the research leads SSHRC-funding being approved, the team is looking to formulate a longer term project around the auction process. My role is still to be determined, as my part-time graduate student status may have an impact on hours I can be offered. That said, I’m currently working with the post-doc to put together a paper for submission to an academic journal by the end of the summer.

And, of course, there was also the matter of school. While I had been a bit concerned over what the focus of my term paper would be last semester, I decided to further explore the Toronto School of Communication. I’d read pieces of Innis as part of political science courses and had some familiarity with McLuhan but I saw my Core Issues in Communication class as an opportunity to get a better theoretical foundation with some famous Canadian academics.

In the end, due to the shape of my research and other constraints, I focused solely on Innis, especially his space- and time-bias analytical tool. After some general discussion of how Innis’s tool allows us to identify the internet as having both a space and time bias, I offered some observations on how this could help inform contemporary digital policies for Canada from a high-level perspective.

There was an interesting aside in a Deibert article, “Harold Innis and the Empire of Speed”, where Deibert illustrates, “Innis’ skilful attention to the interaction of contingent variables in the course of human history.” The passage focuses on Innis’s observations that political boundaries of Canada were a product of the differing trade flows with French and British colonial masters that resulted in “unused capacity” in ships. I thought this had implications for contemporary broadband policy and the prof for the class suggested it could make for an interesting paper. So I’m currently making my way through The Fur Trade in Canada and mapping out a lit review.

While my focus remains on securing a policy analyst position after my Masters, it’ll be great if I can be published in case I decide to go on to PhD studies later. And having a couple academic credits to my name wouldn’t hurt on the resume regardless.