Who is the Yahoo! Fellow?
Written by: Anthony Gao
Meet this year’s Georgetown University Yahoo! Fellow In Residence, Liao Han-Teng. Last week, I had the opportunity to ask him some questions about the fellowship, his class next semester and himself.
Before Yahoo! Fellowship
Before coming to DC, Mr. Liao was a Doctoral Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica while finishing his dissertation for the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Previously, he worked as a consultant to Ofcom (the UK communications regulator) and a project manager at OSSF (Open Source Software Foundry). He is very versatile, holding degrees in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Journalism, Foreign Language and Literature. Although International Relations was not part of his curriculum, he has conducted research and collaborated with colleagues who are IR experts at Oxford.
Asked why he entered the field of technology and social change, he mentioned the fact that the democratization process of Taiwan was underway when he was in college. He participated in the social movements, and took advantage of the modern technology to promote his cause. As a result, he was one of the first bloggers in Taiwan. The social change in Taiwan has been successful, but there are more issues to address in other regions, such as China and India. He is continuing his research to explore the issues that have not been paid due attention.
The Yahoo! Fellowship is funded by a $1 million Yahoo! Fund on International Values, Communications Technology & the Global Internet, which was established at Georgetown University by a gift from Yahoo!, Inc. There is only one position open for each academic year, and Mr. Liao is the fourth Yahoo! Fellow in Residence. The Yahoo! Fellows have been chosen from applicants drawn from the government, corporate, non-profit and academic sectors with interest in BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Two graduate students from MSFS program, Fabrice Musoni and April Nigh were also selected as Yahoo! Junior Fellows to engage in research associated with the Yahoo! Fellowship (http://www1.georgetown.edu/sfs/msfs/129541.html).
As a Yahoo! Fellow, Han-Teng’s current research explores how geolinguistic and geocultural approaches can inform the debates on the dynamics of international values and internet development, with a focus on China and India in Asia. Asked about why this issue matters, he said that there is a lack of recognition of the role of language, for example, in the State Department. People there haven’t understood that even with modern technology, using Mandarin and Hindi won’t be sufficient for them to reach out to many people in China and India. Most people speak their own languages (or dialects), which they use for their daily communication. They will also tend to accept information in their native tongue. For example, in his recent speech at Georgetown University, the President of World Bank, Robert Zoellick talked about open data, knowledge and solutions. He said, “Language is the last mile of information.” Mr. Liao believes that his current research will be important for the openness to make a difference.
How does he find DC?
Mr. Liao thinks Washington, D.C. is very different from Oxford. He has more opportunities to talk with colleagues who are working on the same issue or in the same field. He would love to stay here after the fellowship to continue his research and work.
What course is he offering?
Part of the research done by the Yahoo! Fellows in the past has provided opportunities for guest lectures, special seminars, case studies and course modules to be incorporated into the MSFS program. As a result, his course next semester, “Networks in International Relations: Analytics and Technologies,” will be a major part of his fellowship.
In this case, “network” doesn’t mean the internet. It refers to a cutting-edge analytical tool he has used for his research, network analysis. It can help us understand the web of relations where actors are embedded. In today’s world, friends’ friends are not necessarily your friends, and enemies’ friends are not necessarily your enemies. This tool can not only visualize those relations, and help you act upon them.
Mr. Liao was listening carefully to another professor in the Pre-registration Meeting
Although not well known to most people, network analysis, he believes, will become a very important empirical tool for many disciplines, including international relations, development and international business. Therefore, the class is not only a discussion seminar; the students will be able to learn real skills that can be used in their future study and work. Network analysis is being used by the State Department, and some positions require the knowledge of it.
Last week, Mr. Liao attended the MSFS Pre-Registration Organizational Meeting. His presentation left a deep impression on students who were present. When asked about why he chose to take part in the meeting, he said this was a good way for students to better understand the courses. Although MSFS is the only program which holds this kind of event at Georgetown, this is more commonplace at Oxford. He is looking forward to meeting the students and having a great discussion with them next semester.