Anthony J. Pennings, PhD


Back from Hawaii and the EWC Conference

Posted on | July 7, 2010 | No Comments

Just back from a week in Hawaii to attend the EWC/EWCA 50th Anniversary International Conference of the East-West Center. I moderated a panel on the “The Digital Divide: Bridges and Developments” and gave a talk on “Digital Television and the Impact of Global E-Commerce and Social Media” which turned out be more about the stakeholders involved in Internet TV and the competitive advantages of Google in a possible transformation of television to what Amanda Lotz calls the “post-network era”.

I was lucky to be a part of the EWC from 1983 to 1988. I started off as a research intern studying computerization in Asian countries and then they sponsored my Masters degree and half of my Ph.D. I was lucky to stay on a few more years as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Hawaii Communications Department and as a Henry R. Luce Fellow before taking my first faculty position at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

EWC and an Economic Heritage

The EWC is becoming more popular because it was the place where Barack Obama’s parents met EWC Education specialist Maya Soetoro-Ngand as a major reason APEC will be in Honolulu next year. The conference had an interesting session on his mother, Ann Dunham Soetoro, which was moderated by her daughter Maya Soetoro-Ng, who now works at the East-West Center. President Obama’s mother did some impressive field work in the poorest areas of Indonesia and was an early advocate of micro-credit, providing small loans to aspiring entrepreneurs. Although she was an anthropologist, her work was a very practical inquiry into the economic processes of these poor areas and people working and living in them. Although no particular speaker stood out, they each helped paint an overall picture of a very bright, practical and dedicated academic who turned into a tireless advocate for economic development.

The question I raised with Maya afterward was about the influence of her grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who was a banker in Honolulu, rising to the position of Vice-President in one of Hawaii’s major banks. Banks scrutinize economic activities at a very micro level. I mention this because I think there is an interesting economic linkage between grandmother-mother-President that bares some scrutiny. I have no idea if they had contentious or controversial discussions. But I do wonder if the President’s mother’s emphasis on entrepreneurship had been influenced by her own mother’s experience as a banker.

The President’s community organizing experience for example makes more sense within context of this heritage. It shows an appreciation of the day-to-day economic processes that make up community success and life. I hope President Obama stays in touch with his roots as I think these issues are crucial for the transformation the US is going through. The US needs to rebuild from the ground up, reconstruct its circuits of credit, produce its energy locally, clean up its food supply, re-educate itself, and smartly stay integrated within the world economy.


Anthony J. Pennings, PhD has been on the NYU faculty since 2001 teaching digital media, information systems management, and global political economy.


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    Professor at State University of New York (SUNY) Korea since 2016. Moved to Austin, Texas in August 2012 to join the Digital Media Management program at St. Edwards University. Spent the previous decade on the faculty at New York University teaching and researching information systems, digital economics, and strategic communications.

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