A new research institute set to foster interdisciplinary and independent critical thinking has been founded by the University of Westminster.

The Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies will support the development of critical, innovative and creative research to contribute towards understanding the challenges and issues that society, culture, nature, art and technology face today.

The Institute is based on the famous Princeton model of advanced studies and aims to encourage and support research in the sciences and humanities. Its purpose is to contribute towards changing the way we understand the world’s complexity by fostering academic knowledge that is critical, interdisciplinary, and international.

The Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies will harness the world-leading and internationally-recognised research taking place across the University as well as bringing together current and future academic leaders through its Fellowship Programme.

The institute will be led by Professor Christian Fuchs.

Geoffrey Petts, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Westminster, said: “The Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies is a key development in enhancing our ability to conduct and deliver research with originality, significance and a critical impact on global society. It addresses the need for interdisciplinary exchange, collaboration, learning and research and plays a key role in achieving our 2020 strategy that sets out to enhance our world-leading interdisciplinary research activity.”

Prof Christian Fuchs, Director of the Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies, said: “The Institute for Advanced Studies stands for three ‘I’s: interdisciplinary, internationality, and intellectual engagement in the public. It provides an exciting opportunity for international and interdisciplinary co-operation beyond borders.

“Our inaugural research theme ‘Critical Digital and Social Media Research’ aims to better understand how digital and social media – such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Wikipedia – as well as cloud computing, big data and free and open source software, can change our society. This area tends to be oversimplified, neglecting the complexity of interactions between digital media and society. The research will question the role of digital and social media in society, the economy, politics, and culture. In order to do so, we need to ask critical questions and develop new research methods and theories.”

Pro-Vice Chancellor Kerstin Mey said: “The Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies will address the need for interdisciplinary exchange, collaboration, learning and research. The Institute’s inaugural research theme will enable us to explore, challenge and understand the constantly evolving area of digital and social media and its impact on society from intellectual, professional, political, cultural and economic perspectives.”

Among the research projects that the Institute will be involved with is the EU project ‘netCommons: Network Infrastructure as Commons’. This brings together social scientists, computer scientists and legal scholar from Italy, France, Spain, Greece and the UK to study Internet infrastructure and community networks in Europe, contributing to the development of key themes for Internet Science.

Find out more information about Westminster Institute for Advanced Studies.

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