What Is It, and Who’s It For?

By Ernest J. Wilson III

For several years my Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism colleagues and I have used a common term to capture the many complicated communication-related changes occurring globally as societies transition from the industrial to the post industrial world. We call this, “Communication at the Center,” or [email protected]

USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III, photographed in front of brand new Wallis Annenberg Hall, May 2014.  Photo: Brett Van Ort / USC Annenberg

USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III, photographed in front of brand new Wallis Annenberg Hall, May 2014.
Photo: Brett Van Ort / USC Annenberg

[email protected] captures the shifts in communications-related phenomena as they migrate, in fits and starts, from the relative periphery of our attention and actions toward the important center of what we do every day.

The [email protected] framework links together lots of disparate changes into a single perspective.  It enables people to recognize isolated individual changes as part of a larger whole. As dean of a School responsible for teaching students about their society-wide communication contexts, as well as the details of new technology and individual use patterns, my colleagues and I have found [email protected] a useful guide to create a more integrated curriculum. It also has come to inform our research agenda. And more and more it guides our growing engagements with external partners in companies and communities. Indeed, [email protected] is really the fruit of multiple conversations with top scholars and senior practitioners from around the world and across multiple sectors.

I spent several years working on this idea, and recognized it is composed of 3 distinct elements, all of which are changing in their own ways, but are also related to the larger process of transition from industrial to post industrial society. Those three elements are the transformations taking place at the individual level; at the organizational level; and at the most general, society –wide level. Or more academically, the micro, meso and macro levels.

So this [email protected] blog will be informed by my conversations with colleagues from around the world, as they describe from their perspectives the growing importance of communications in their own personal lives, inside their organizations and in society as a whole. This includes conversations with CEOs, senior government officials and leaders of non-profits.

All of us struggle to understand these shifts toward the center, and to use whatever resources we can muster to shape these flows in strategic ways that will benefit us, materially and ideally.  Strategically restructuring communication flows and assets is the name of the game.

As I write these blogs, I will draw on my personal and professional background. I’ve worked in government at the White House National Security Council, and in Congress. I’ve worked in private corporations and trade associations, for big think tanks and in universities. Now I run an institution charged with helping shape the future of the media/communications/entertainment environment of the future through our research. My own professional trajectory has sort of followed this, as I moved from topics such as energy policy, reform of state companies, national security, diversity and sustainable innovation, into global communication policies.

Most likely, over the coming weeks and months you will find me writing about critical issues at each of these three levels: individual, organizational, global. For example, the Annenberg School doing research on the specialized talents necessary for individuals and companies to operate in a [email protected] world. Our school’s core business is to educate the next generation of communication leaders, and to conduct world-class research on [email protected] and communicate it with our communities of practice. Some other topics I look forward to covering include:

–          Interviews with [email protected] leaders, and looks into [email protected] research

–          Introduction to the Third Space (

–          Diversity and Media

–          [email protected] in the Middle Kingdom: The Complex Spread of Communication in China

–          The unique ways that China, Africa and other parts of the world are desperately trying to shape the spread of communications to their centers


Welcome to [email protected] and stay tuned. I hope you find these musings interesting and provocative enough to move you to tell your friends and to contribute to the blog.