Written by Olivia Avery, in coordination with Muzammil Hussain
Assistant Professor Muzammil Hussain has lived his life in a series of nine year segments, starting in South India, then relocating to Midwestern Ohio, and since then traversing the globe through his studies, research, and writing. His field research on comparative media studies and digital politics has included time in Western Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. But it was his foundational and contrasting experiences between Bangalore and Cleveland that have also shaped his line of inquiry.
In beginning his next adventure, he has found himself right here, in Ann Arbor as a new Assistant Professor of Comparative Media Studies. Hussain’s academic interests were seeded for four years at the University of Wisconsin’s undergraduate program in Journalism, and then shaped for another five years at the University of Washington’s masters and doctoral program in Communication. He has done extensive research in Comparative Media Studies and Political Communication. Additionally, he teaches courses concerning information networks, digital media and politics, and research methodology.
His global perspective on the complex digital media landscape has been informed by a number of experiences, beginning with his background. “Growing up in Bangalore’s burgeoning high-tech sector in the mid-1990s, it’s easy to recall the deep and expansive ways in which technology shape and structure our societies, cultures, even personal aspirations. I’m fascinated by the extensive ways people beyond advanced industrialized democracies have felt the effects of new technologies in both day-to-day livelihoods to very serious things, like revolutions.”
For Hussain, his interest in developing and democratizing nations quickly grew a focus on digital politics as he observed the explosion of user-generated content and digital participation internationally. “I think a relationship that is very important to recognize is that it is not just the media spaces that mold the experiences of citizens. States have much more influence on how media systems are structured than we realize. Unlike broadcast networks, that governments have mastered and controlled in the past, digital media is the contemporary space to exercise politics – the tools, or ‘digital infrastructure,’ making this possible are what governments are fighting over across global contexts.”
This interest has translated into a wide program of research as well as two books, Democracy’s Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring (Oxford University Press, 2013) and State Power 2.0: Authoritarian Entrenchment and Political Engagement Worldwide (Ashgate Publishing, 2013).
As an Assistant Professor within the Communication Studies department, Hussain is teaching two new courses this semester, “Designing Web Research” and “Comparative Digital Politics.” In Designing Web Research, students have the opportunity to examine the intertwining of mass media networks and personalized digital networks in today’s hybrid and hyper media environment. The course is meant to develop a systematic way to give students a hands-on approach to understand their digitally mediated lives. This includes working with many of the conceptual ideas and technical tools that Communication Studies graduates increasingly find situated in their professional and personal lives.
So how does the culture of Ann Arbor fit into Hussain’s global experiences? “Well I just arrived in January, so I like that there are so many cozy places to hide away in during the cold months. Despite being a smaller city, it’s incredibly energetic and thriving. There is an intellectual and creative drive here that we should all take advantage of and experience.”
Muzammil Hussain is also a Faculty Associate at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research Center for Political Studies.