David Gunkel

Perspective: COVID-19 Is For The Dogs

Sep 11, 2020
David Gunkel

Of all the coronavirus conspiracy theories circulating on social media, my favorite has got to be one that says the virus was developed and deployed by dogs. Like all conspiracy theories, it is patently false, but it does contain an insight into our current situation that is incredibly accurate and true.


The social media platform TikTok is gaining popularity across the internet, but also raising privacy and national security concerns.

TikTok is a service that allows users to share videos ranging from a few seconds to a minute with each other. Like many such platforms, it has a dedicated app. But it has one crucial difference. David Gunkel, professor of media studies at Northern Illinois University, explained:

“It was really the first Chinese app to gain international saturation and be adopted worldwide," he said, "and as a result it caught attention of a lot of people.” 

Perspective: Don't Teachers Get Summers Off?

Aug 7, 2020
Pixabay and Unsplash

Every summer, teachers -- whether primary, secondary, post-secondary or vocational -- face the same question from family, friends, and the public: Don’t you have summers off?

And every summer, teachers find themselves responding with the usual facts and figures: We are not on contract during the summer months. We are not paid during this period of time. And we are working -- researching, writing, and developing lesson plans -- we just do not show up to the classroom.

Perspective: Which Patron Saint Of The Internet?

Jul 3, 2020

There is a patron saint for virtually everything. And now the Internet may be about to get its own.

There are two contenders. On the one side, you have St. Isadore -- a 6th century bishop of Seville whose life’s work involved developing a 20-volume encyclopedia encompassing all human knowledge. Isadore was informally recognized as the patron saint of the web by Pope John Paul II.

Perspective: The Summer Of The First Amendment

Jun 8, 2020
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

While the nation’s attention is quite understandably focused on the protests taking place on our city streets, there is another First Amendment struggle that is developing online.

Recently, the President of the United States signed an executive order targeting social media. The order was a direct response to Twitter having fact-checked one of the President’s tweets by adding a link that invited users to learn more about mail-in voting.

Marcus Winkler / Unsplash

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred efforts to control the spread of the virus through development of innovative digital contact tracing tools. In Singapore, Israel and India there is already an app for that. In Europe there’s debate between two competing frameworks, which have names that sound like Star Wars’ droids: PEPP-PT and DT-3T. And in the US, Apple and Google recently announced collaboration on a contact tracing feature that will eventually be integrated with updates to the mobile device operating system.

Perspective: Tips For Teaching Under Quarantine

Mar 20, 2020
Eunice DeFaria / Pixabay

Due to the corona virus, all schools have suspended face-to-face instruction and are in the process of moving everything to online delivery. At NIU, online classes begin Monday. So today, I simply want to run through a list of helpful hints for making a successful transition.

Perspective: Lessons Learned From The Iowa Caucus

Feb 14, 2020
Alfred Derks / Pixabay

If there is one thing that the Democratic candidates for President can agree on, it is that the 2020 Iowa caucus was an unmitigated disaster.  


Perspective: End Of An Era

Jan 8, 2020
Johnell Pannell / Unsplash

The holiday shopping is over and everyone is busy playing with their new toys. But what was remarkable about Christmas 2019 might have been the conspicuous absence of such toys.

Previous holiday seasons saw the introduction of impressive technological wonders -- tablet computers, the iPhone, Nintendo Wii and the X-box. But this year, there was no stand-out, got-to-have technological object.

Perspective: Free App, Free Speech?

Nov 29, 2019

Have you heard about TikTok?

TikTok is a video-sharing application developed by the Beijing-based Internet start-up ByteDance. The app has been wildly popular with teenagers all over the world. How popular? 1.2 billion installs as of June 2019, making TikTok the first Chinese app to achieve international scale.

Perspective: Racing Into The Future

Sep 23, 2019
Google search

For about a year now I have been obsessed with the stock photographs that accompany tech stories, especially news stories about automation and robots.  


Perspective: Worth It?

Aug 16, 2019
Ann Hetzel Gunkel

Earlier this summer I told you about Monty and Rose, two piping plovers that decided to take up residence at Montrose Beach in Chicago.  


Perspective: Protect The Piping Plovers

Jul 17, 2019
NPS Climate Change Response / cc-pdm-1.0

Today I want to talk on behalf of those who cannot speak -- specifically, two small endangered birds named Monty and Rose.

Monty and Rose are piping plovers. By current estimates, they are only 1 of 70 breeding pairs in the Great Lakes region and the first pair to nest on Chicago’s lakeshore in some 50 years. The fact that these endangered birds have decided to set-up shop on Montrose Beach is both fortuitous and harrowing.

Perspective: Take Pride In Alan Turing

Jun 12, 2019
Antoine Taveneaux / via Wikimedia

Last week, we celebrated the seventy-fifth anniversary of the D-Day invasion. But June is also the month of another anniversary -- one for an individual who was just as important to the Allied victory in Europe.

Perspective: Decision Day

May 3, 2019

Wednesday was May First. For workers around the globe, it was May Day. But for high school seniors, this is college decision day. The day students declare their allegiance to what will be -- if all goes according to plan -- their alma mater and go off to school dressed head to foot in branded spirit wear. But getting to this point has been an education in its own right. And as the parent of one of these high school seniors, I have learned a thing or two.  

Perspective: The Real Admissions Scandal

Mar 29, 2019

The college admissions process is broken.  


I am not talking about the recent pay-to-play scandal that has dominated the headlines. I am talking about deeper, systemic problems that the scandal unearthed and exposed.  

Perspective: A New Year's Resolution For Higher Ed

Jan 11, 2019



Perspective: Requiem For A Robot

Dec 7, 2018

Jibo is dead.  


Who or what is Jibo, you ask? Jibo was a robot. The world’s first family robot. He — and the device was gendered male — was the brain-child of Cynthia Breazeal, a social robotics pioneer from MIT.  

Vote For Tech

Nov 2, 2018



The mid-term election is just four days away. And as each of us considers who will get our vote, I want to put one additional item on the agenda.  

Amazing Grace

Sep 28, 2018
Grace Murray Hopper Collection, 1944-1965, Archives Center, National Museum of American History


STEM Needs Some LEGS

Aug 24, 2018

For well over a decade now, our education systems have been putting increased emphasis on developing the STEM curriculum. And there has been good reasons for this. Many of the celebrated innovations of the last 50 years are a result of work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — the Apollo moon landing, the personal computer, the Internet, the smartphone.  

There's A Lot To Learn From Old-School AI

Jul 20, 2018

Each day it seems we hear news of some remarkable innovation in artificial intelligence. Whether it be something mundane, like a better recommendation algorithm at Netflix or Amazon, or something dramatic, like Uber and Google’s self-driving vehicles that promise (or threaten) to replace human drivers.

But instead of looking forward and worrying about some science fiction future, we might learn a thing or two by looking backwards to our past. Whether we know it or not, we have been involved with a kind of artificial intelligence for quite some time…for well over 500 years.

Think About What She Can Do

Jun 15, 2018

There is a new robot in town. Her name is Sophia. She was designed and built by Hanson Robotics.

And she is popular. Sophia was featured on the Jimmy Kimmel show, has appeared on the cover of Elle, and was recently granted honorary citizenship by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

But not everyone likes Sophia. There has been considerable resistance from experts in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics. For these critics, Sophia is nothing more than a puppet —more smoke and mirrors and less actual science. And they are not necessarily wrong.

Job Success For The Future

May 4, 2018

Today’s university graduates face increasing competition for employment.

This competition comes not just from other qualified graduates across the globe but from algorithms, artificial intelligence and robots. And, in the face of this machinic incursion, I have just one piece of advice: Give up.

For data-intensive occupations that rely on pattern recognition and repetitive operations, machines are simply better, stronger and faster.

Who's Watching Who These Days?

Mar 30, 2018

The privacy boogie man typically has been big government. Since George Orwell penned 1984, it is the prying eyes of Big Brother that have been seen as the enemy of the people.

But that might be changing. I am less worried about Big Brother and more concerned with all the little brothers to whom we now surrender our private information for supposedly free services. Case in point: Facebook.

It's Time To Change The Discussion

Feb 23, 2018

Tragically our nation, once again, finds itself having to deal with a mass shooting. And, once again, the arguments in favor of doing something to limit access to high-powered weapons is butting heads with the NRA and second amendment purists.

We have heard the arguments before and we will, I fear, hear them again. So let’s change the terms of the conversation.

Do You Know Who's Listening?

Jan 19, 2018

The standout products from the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show were clearly the digital assistants -- specifically Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. And, if what was displayed at this year’s gadget show is any indication, we are on the verge of a voice-activated-device invasion.

Another Effect Of The GOP Tax Plan

Dec 15, 2017

The GOP has passed its tax bill, and the real winners in this major overhaul to our tax system might surprise you. The group that stands to gain the most is not middle-class taxpayers, not the so-called upper 1 percent, and not even the multinational corporations.

The real benefits will go to robots. Let me explain. The Republican tax plan is based on the theory of trickle-down economics — the idea that cutting taxes at the very top spurs investment that eventually trickles down to workers in the form of more jobs, higher wages, and greater opportunities.

It Takes More Than Regulation

Nov 10, 2017

As I watch and listen to tech-sector representatives answer questions from Senators about Russian trolls, Facebook advertising, and fake profiles, I am reminded of something from the early days of the Internet.

In 1993, Peter Steiner published a now-famous cartoon in The New Yorker. You probably have seen it. The cartoon depicts two dogs sitting in front of a computer. One of the dogs turns to his companion and says, rather smugly: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Who's Doing The Talking Here?

Oct 6, 2017

No matter where you look, there is heated debate over the First Amendment. We saw it with the protests in Charlottesville. We have heard it in the disputes about free speech on college campuses. And it was most recently on display during the holy of holies, Sunday football.

If you value the First Amendment, you know that its protections of free expression must apply equally to all speech irrespective of what is said.