News & Announcements

White Paper – Call For Applications

Call for Grant Applications (2017-2018)

UCF White Paper Program

Free Speech in the City

The Urban Communication Foundation (UCF) believes that an important measure of the health of a city is how well the city fosters and protects environments and rights supporting healthy, open, and robust communication. Such is the basis for democratic participatory societies, and that is fundamental to our values as a foundation. But open and robust communications sometimes pose challenges to other interests in cities and to the governments overseeing those cities. And governments may try to limit communication in response to such challenges. Some will do so more successfully than others, and some will focus on enhancing rather than controlling communication.

As the world appears to be increasingly contentious, the UCF is dedicating this year’s White Paper Program to an examination of urban communication freedom, regulation, and relevant government intervention and policy. We are particularly interested in soliciting proposals that will lead to the development of a white paper that discusses ways in which government regulation or policy, especially that made at the local city-level,  can protect and enhance an open and robust marketplace of ideas that is characterized by democratic values of inclusion, reason, and courage. The locus of our concern is, of course, cities.

The following are but a few examples of research questions and topics that applicants might pursue. This list is not at all exhaustive, and novel and interesting research questions are encouraged.

  • What regulatory mechanisms have been used to limit communication in urban contexts, and what can we learn from them that might strengthen efforts to limit the limits?
  • Do cities have communication issues that lend themselves to particular regulatory attention?
  • What are the best examples of how cities, perhaps in partnership with NGOs, have enhanced communication freedoms?
  • How do the intersections of communication and infrastructure lend themselves to regulation?  How might government policies encourage freer communication?
  • How might the legitimate concerns of governments be addressed while best protecting democratic expression?
  • What policies most effectively protect and enhance robust urban communication? What strategies enhance the likelihood of such policies being adopted?
  • How can public/private partnerships enhance open democratic expression?
  • What threats to privacy impact free expression and what government policies can address those threats?
  • In what ways has the change in the channels/locus of urban communication – from town square to the Internet – changed the regulatory environment and the freedom of expression?
  • What corporate policies and infrastructures impact freedom of expression and the governments’ ability to regulate it?
  • How does zoning, broadly defined, impact communication freedom?
  • What sorts of non-communication-focused regulations and policies have secondary impacts on communication freedom (for example, regulations pertaining to traffic, street furniture, public safety, etc.)
  • What municipal policies can enhance participatory government and access to municipal information?

Information about the Urban Communication Foundation’s White Paper Program

The UCF has been a leader in promoting scholarship in the general area of urban communication. The Foundation has funded dozens of research projects and acknowledged dozens of scholars that have advanced the field of study. Through this White Paper series, we extend this influence by focusing in on particular issues or areas of research and look to support the development of public research reports on issues that have a direct bearing on public policy and/or the everyday life for people within cities.

The final report should likely be between 8,000-12,000 words in length and present original research on the topic. The end product should aim to have some influence on policy makers, community leaders or researcher within an urban context and speak to basic research and practical solution. The author(s) of the top rated proposal will receive a grant of $10,000.

Guidelines for Submitting Proposals/Applications

  • Proposals should not exceed 1,000 words (excluding references). Please include a cover page with the name, position, institution, and contact information for all authors. Proposals should identify the research focus and its potential for positively impacting freedom of expression in cities.
    • Applications should include a short itemized budget and a concise statement providing a rationale for the expenses listed in the budget. Funds may be expended in a variety of ways (e.g., to hire a research assistant or for a course by-out), provided that it is clear how doing so will enable the researcher(s) to complete the proposed work. Funds may not be used to purchase computer hardware. Funds awarded by the UCF may be utilized to offset fringe costs (such as those often involved in hiring a research assistant), but the Foundation will not cover overhead expenses (i.e., indirect costs). In any case, the total amount of the award will not exceed $10,000, which will include costs associated with presentation of the research at a UCF session. Funding may be dispersed in phases over the course of the project.
    • Applicants should include one letter of recommendation. The referee should be able to assess the significance and viability of the project described in the proposal, as well as the qualifications of the applicant as they pertain to the proposed work.
    • Proposals should be submitted to Harvey Jassem, at, or Matthew Matsaganis, at, no later than November 1, 2017. Funding decisions will be made by December 31, 2017. The final report must be completed and submitted to the UCF no later than November 1, 2018.
  • The UCF reserves the right to publish and disseminate the completed White Paper.
  • The primary author will be required to present his/her findings at a UCF panel.
  • Upon selection as the UCF White Paper competition winner, the author(s) will be recognized as Urban Communication Foundation Fellow/s.

Tanja Aitamurto Receives 2016 Gene Burd Outstanding Dissertation in Journalism Studies Award

Eike Rinke

Tanja Aitamurto

We are pleased to announce that Tanja Aitamurto been chosen as the recipient of the 2016 Gene Burd Outstanding Dissertation in Journalism Studies Award for her dissertation,” Crowdsourcing for Democracy: New Era in Policy-Making.“.

Tanja Aitamurto, Ph.D. is the Deputy Director and a Brown Fellow (postdoctoral) at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the School of Engineering at Stanford. She examines how collective intelligence, whether gathered by crowdsourcing, crowdfunding or co-creation, impacts journalism, governance and product design, particularly media innovations. Her work has been published in several academic journals, such as the New Media and Society and Digital Journalism.

James W. Carey Urban Communication Grant Awarded to Sarah C. Bishop

Sarah C. Bishop

The James W. Carey Urban Communication Grant is awarded to Sarah C. Bishop for (Un)Documented Media Makers and the Search for Connection Online. Bishop’s research considers the interaction of citizenship, media and migration, and she is especially concerned with issues of forced migration and involuntary citizenship.

Sarah C. Bishop is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Baruch College, City University of New York. At Baruch, Bishop teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Intercultural Communication, Privilege and Difference, and Digital Media Culture.

2016 UCF Eastern Communication Association Applied Urban Communication Research Grant Winner: Rebecca Townsend


Rebecca Townsend is the recipient of the 2016 UCF Eastern Communication Association Applied Urban Communication Research Grant for her proposed study of Social Networks and Pedestrian Safety. Professor Townsend is a Professor at Manchester Community College, Manchester, CT.

This interdisciplinary work seeks to explore what people say they will do when they engage in a common practice in cities across the globe: cross the street. There is no communication scholarship that explores pedestrian safety messages, nor pedestrian activity, nor how social networks or expert messages about safety affect pedestrian behavior.

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