Professor William H. Dutton


I am a Visiting Professor in Media and Communication at the University of Leeds, and a Senior Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, and an Oxford Martin Fellow, supporting the Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre at the University of Oxford. I was founding director of the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), and a Fellow of Balliol College, until leaving Oxford in 2014 to become the Quello Professor of Media and Information Policy in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at MSU, where I served as Director of the Quello Center, until returning to Oxford in 2018. I remain an Emeritus Professor at the University of Southern California (USC), where I was a Fulbright Scholar to Britain, elected President of the University’s Faculty Senate, and taught until 2002, when I became the first Professor of Internet Studies at the University of Oxford. I recently edited the Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies (OUP 2013), four volumes on Politics and the Internet (Routledge 2014), and a reader entitled Society and the Internet, with Mark Graham (OUP 2014), with a 2ndedition in press. My book entitled Society on the Line (OUP 1999) has been influential in social sciences of the Internet. Currently, I am writing a book on his concept of the Fifth Estate.

Research interests

Fifth Estate


The Fifth Estate is a research project designed to examine critically the Internet’s role in enabling new forms of democratic social accountability and voice, comparable to the Fourth Estate enabled by the press in an earlier era. This work developed out of my 2007 Oxford Inaugural Lecture Through the Network (of Networks) – the Fifth Estate (webcast). It is anchored in themes emerging from, and studied through, the Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS) and related empirical research. The concept has been further developed in a series of publications and forms the basis for a set of ongoing spin-off research projects.

The Concept of a Fifth Estate

The rise of the press, radio, television and other mass media enabled the development of an independent institution: the ‘Fourth Estate’, central to pluralist democratic processes. The growing use of the Internet and related digital technologies is creating a space for networking individuals to provide a new source of accountability in government, politics and many other sectors of networked societies. This project is centered on the emergence and sustainability of this ‘Fifth Estate’ and why it could challenge the influence of other more established bases of institutional authority.

The project addresses ways the rise of this new social and political phenomenon could support the vitality of liberal democratic societies, refine empirical research on its role, and examine threats posed by ‘enemies’ of such a Fifth Estate, often from other estates of the Internet realm.

Activities and Targets

The idea of a Fifth Estate was developed to sensitise people to a wide array of concrete trends and developments around the societal implications of the Internet. In the first years, this concept has been further developed and presented in a variety of forums. In the coming years, this work will be extended as a means to provide a wide ranging synthesis of research on democracy, social accountability, and the Internet. A book is also planned that will ground the notion more comprehensively in a range of empirical settings and case studies, and bring it to a wider audience. Current work on and about the Fifth Estate can be found here, along with blogs and related links to research and discussion of this work.

Work on the Fifth Estate is linked with a number of related research projects. The project benefits from support of the Oxford Internet Surveys (OxIS) and World Internet Project (WIP), which undertake empirical research that underpins the concept of a Fifth Estate. I am associated with a research project at the Danish Technology University (DTU), entitled The Governance and Design of Collaborative User-driven Innovation Platforms, which is funded by the Danish Council for Strategic Research. This project builds on my work on collaborative network organisations, which is one central aspect of the development of the Fifth Estate. I am also collaborating on a project at the University of Jyväskylä, entitled ‘The Fifth Estate – Case Finland’ with Professor Epp Lauk, Turo Uskali, and Niina Niskala, where colleagues are developing case studies of the Fifth Estate in Finland.

Cyber Security: Oxford’s Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre

The Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC) is supported by a grant from the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Cabinet Office, along with support from other organisations, and based at the Oxford Martin School, Oxford University. As an Oxford Martin Fellow, I have been a co-chair of the Cultural and Social Dimension of this project since 2013. 

My blog is at and includes my c.v., blogs, and related information about my teaching and research.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • Ph.D. in Political Science, SUNY Buffalo, 1974
  • M.A. Oxford 2002

Professional memberships

  • International Communication Association

Student education

This is my first year as a visiting professor in the School. I hope to meet faculty and students and participate in key events over the year. I am open to suggestions of ways I can contribute to research and teaching on those occasions when I am present in Leeds.