Outgoing UNL journalism dean Kebbel talks new mobile media role
Gary Kebbel speaks at Hack Omaha in April.
Mobile media has been Gary Kebbel's mission since 2007, when he was on a Fullbright scholarship teaching in South Africa.
“When my students were bored with me, they’d take out their dumb phones — not smart phones — and do their mobile banking,” Kebbel (above) said Friday in a phone interview. “And I realized then that we in the U.S. are so far behind … in our use of mobile technology.”
That’s why Kebbel this month announced his resignation as Dean of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, effective June 30, in order to head UNL’s university-wide mobile media initiative. He will remain a tenured professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
The mobile media effort, which was Kebbel’s idea, will unite projects across UNL’s three campuses in order to foster collaboration among like-minded professors who are interested in mobile media.
“There’s a lot already going on,” Kebbel said. “The idea is to bring it together, see if people want to have a common purpose for greater impact, and then combine professors of research and professors of practice together so that they can create new products, experiment and get feedback.”
And he’s right: There is a lot already going on at UNL regarding mobile media. There’s a music professor using iPads to write music, Kebbel said. Every college has its own mobile app. And there’s research being done into small group communication, which could easily be applied to mobile communication.
Kebbel said he is unaware of any other universities that are putting a similar emphasis on mobile media as “the media of the future.”
Kebbel is now working to secure funds to hire a full-time research professor dedicated to the project.
“In the past week, we’ve been told of several hundred thousand dollars that will be coming our way,” he said, though he was unable to disclose specifics yet.
According to Kebbel, mobile technology is important because it has the furthest reach. Whether it’s an urban/rural divide, old/young divide, rich/poor divide or one country divided from another country, mobile devices are the only tools that can bridge all of them.
“Everybody on both sides of those divides have mobile devices,” Kebbel said. “So if you want to create the opportunity for the most people in the world to be in the same conversation, you have to do it with a mobile device.”
Credits: Photo of Kebbel by Danny Schreiber.