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The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) is a multi-disciplinary department of social and computer science dedicated to the study of information, communication, and technology, and is part of the Social Sciences Division of the University of Oxford, England. It is housed over three sites on St Giles in Oxford, including a primary site at 1 St Giles, owned by Balliol College. The department undertakes research and teaching devoted to understanding life online, with the aim of shaping Internet research, policy, and practice.
Founded in 2001, the OII has tracked the Internet's development and use, aiming to shed light on individual, collective and institutional behaviour online. The department brings together academics from a wide range of disciplines including political science, sociology, geography, economics, philosophy, physics and psychology.
Professor William H. Dutton served as Director of the OII from 2001 to 2011. Professor Helen Margetts occupied the Directorship between 2011 and 2018. The current director is Professor Philip N. Howard.
Research at the OII covers a huge variety of topics, with faculty publishing journal articles and books on issues including privacy and security, e-government and e-democracy, virtual economies, smart cities, digital exclusion, digital humanities, online gaming, big data and Internet geography. The OII currently has the following research clusters reflecting the diverse expertise of faculty:
The faculty and students of the OII have made many advances to the study of technology and society. Director Helen Margetts' book Political Turbulence was the first book-length manuscript on the impact of social media on public life. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger's book Big Data was the first to define and explain the importance of big data in contemporary economics, culture, and politics. Professor Philip N. Howard was the first political scientist to define and study astroturfing and has been responsible for significant research on fake news, bots and trolls in international affairs. Luciano Floridi is the world's leading ethicist on AI and big data.
OII has published several studies in Internet geography and Wikipedia. In November 2011, the Guardian Data Blog published maps of geotagged popflock.com resource articles written in English, Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, French, Hebrew and Persian. OII Senior Research Fellow Mark Graham led the study and published the results on his blog, Zero Geography. Graham also leads an OII project focused on how new users are perceived, represented, and incorporated into the popflock.com resource community. In 2013, OII researchers published a study of controversial topics in 10 different language versions of Wikipedia, using data related to "edit wars". As of late, the OII has, amongst other things, been involved in research on the effects of computational propaganda, the ethics of big data in different contexts and the political implications of the Internet and social media. It closely collaborates with other institutions of the University of Oxford such as the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, the department for computer science and the Oxford Martin School.
Since 2006, the OII has offered a DPhil (doctoral) degree in "Information, Communication, and the Social Sciences." Since 2009, it has offered a one-year Master of Science (MSc) degree in "Social Science of the Internet". From 2015, prospective students can apply to study the MSc degree part-time over two years. In addition, the department also runs an annual Summer Doctoral Programme which brings outstanding PhD students to study at the OII for two weeks each July. From 2018, prospective students also have the option to apply for a one-year Master of Science degree in Social Data Science with the related DPhil in Social Data Science available from 2019 onward.
The Oxford Internet Institute was made possible by a major donation from the Shirley Foundation of over £10m, with public funding totalling over £5m from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
The idea originated with Derek Wyatt MP, was quickly espoused by Colin Lucas, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, and Andrew Graham, then Master-Elect of Balliol. Two Balliol Fellows, who knew Dame Stephanie from The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, approached Dame Stephanie for support.
The Oxford Internet Institute is part of a small network of research centres that includes the centres like the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Information Society Project at Yale Law School. But it is the only one that functions as a fully functioning, degree-granting department.
For its 10th anniversary the OII launched the OII awards for lifetime achievement awards on the internet research field and the Internet & Society awards for significant recent contribution to develop the internet for public good.