School of Emerging Media and Technology Names New Director
The College of Communication and Information at Kent State University is proud to announce Michael Beam, Ph.D., as Director of the School of Emerging Media and Technology. Beam previously taught in the School of Communication Studies, where his research has focused on the roles media, technology, and communication play in the lives of citizens. Beam also served as the CCI Dean’s Fellow in the 2019-2020 school year.
“Michael is perfectly positioned to lead the School of Emerging Media and Technology," said Amy Reynolds, Dean of the College of Communication and Information. “Over the past two years, he co-chaired the search committee for new faculty in the school, he co-led the effort to update and revamp the school’s curriculum and change the school’s name from Digital Sciences to Emerging Media and Technology. He has a wonderful range of experiences in working with emerging technologies. His research on social media and political polarization is critical to democracy, especially today.”
A self-described “Navy brat” whose childhood was punctuated by frequent moves, Beam found fellowship in the newly emerging online communities of the dial-up bulletin board systems and the early internet of the 1990s. Learning to program and network computers to build these online communities led to a career in the information technology sector first in small local private internet service providers then in large enterprise public university computer environments.
It was Beam’s music fandom that gave him a different, more transformative insight into how digital media developed and influenced communities. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Beam worked with several bands and radio stations to create and engage with their online communities. The nascent technology allowed room for experimentation outside traditional media playbooks and led to radio engineering as a hobby. Beam produced an electronic music radio show and podcast, The Beat Oracle. This show was the first electronic music podcast and one of a few music shows listed in the launch of the iTunes Podcast Directory in 2005.
His fascination with these technologies, with media and community and how they communicate inspired Beam explore further—which led to graduate school at Ohio State, where he studied how personalized news algorithms used by search engines social media companies affect people’s political attitudes and behaviors. After graduating, he spent three years as an assistant professor in the Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University before joining the faculty at Kent State in 2014.
It was the interdisciplinary nature of his teaching that blended Communication Studies with the more hands-on technological approach of the then-named School of Digital Sciences that drew Beam into more engagement with the program that would evolve into our current School of Emerging Media and Technology.
“The importance of evolving communication technology in education can’t be overstated,” Beam said. “When I went to school we had to rely on physical books and journals to access information. Now the vast majority of student work and research can be done electronically. The current global pandemic has emphasized the roles of communication and educational technology in higher education.”
It is in this quickly developing environment that Emerging Media and Technology can most play a role in preparing students for the future. Founded over a decade ago, the school brought a broad interdisciplinary focus to the College’s array of media, communication, design and information fields, coupling them with other science programs at Kent State. That intersection of technology and media—and the humans at the center of it—position our graduates for careers across employment sectors. How organizations respond to the current crisis, how they adapt their offerings to meet digital demand, will shape the job market for decades to come.
“Our success,” Beam says, “comes from bringing together expertise and ideas from a variety of schools in the university and professionals in technology-related fields. Our program is built for flexibility and our students get access to the cutting-edge in these interdisciplinary fields. Our faculty are innovating in the way they tell multimedia stories, create programs to collect and analyze data to answer social scientific questions and design user interfaces. We expect that students in our program will be prepared for the modern technology work force. We hope that their success will lead to our continued growth. We hope we can count on our alumni to support us in this mission.”
Kent State University's School of Emerging Media and Technology is a cutting-edge interdisciplinary school designed to train tomorrow's digital leaders. Our students are exposed to a broad range of digital technologies used widely by professions and organizations. Our coursework integrates insights from computer science, computer information systems, computer technology, library information science, visual communication design, journalism, communication studies and instructional technology.