By Sophia Kang
Andrew Lih is quite the Renaissance man. Before he joined the communications department at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism as an adjunct professor, he had been an engineer, entrepreneur, technology journalist, writer, and new media researcher. With all this experience under his belt – call it instinct or prophecy – Lih has a knack for forecasting what’s coming next in media and technology.
Lih’s accomplishments include the startup of a dot-com company back in 1994. He is highly knowledgeable about China and the Internet, involving censorship and the “great firewall” of China. He is also an Active Wikipedia administrator and write the only narrative account of this irreplaceable Web site, a book called Wikipedia Revolution, published last year.
When asked how he acquired such an eclectic resume, Lih answers that he has always been drawn to where the “interesting problems” are. When he saw the first web browser in the 90s, he knew that it was going to change the world and wanted to help modernize it and bring it into larger usage.
After his initial acquaintance with the Internet, he created and began teaching a new media program at Columbia, his alma mater. He helped mold the first new media journalists before going overseas to Asia, which he foresaw would be the largest market.
His accurate foresight is also what drew him to Wikipedia, which was also revolutionary during its time. Lih said it was definitely a novelty and a risk to allow for this interactive, collaborative effort encouraging the free exchange of ideas. Despite some harsh skepticism and criticism, devotees did step up, self-organize, and help write and edit more than 3 million coherent articles.
Currently, as a journalist and educator, Professor Lih has come full circle. When asked about his return to the United States, Lih shared that he saw the state of the print world as another “interesting problem” that he wanted to help solve.
With the ever-transforming digital evolution, the news industry is challenged to survive and Professor Lih is not missing out on any of the action. As the director of new media at Annenberg, he realizes the necessity “to understand what this slowdown means.” He is already looking ahead of the curb and investigating how to make new media relevant to the 21st century.
Lih is excited to be part of USC in particular because, like his progressive perspective, the university is also looking ahead to the future with an international mindset. Lih believes that to find the answer to the journalistic struggle, in addition to academic analysis, society needs to look across the Pacific and not rely solely on our own neighborhood or coast.
While Lih may have spent 19 years in New York, he was drawn to Los Angeles in particular because it is an interesting “laboratory,” where ideas and information across diverse ethnic groups are widely circulated. Lih views Los Angeles as a precursor to the way that the U.S. might eventually be one day.
Because Lih changes his professional endeavors every decade, he is already preparing for what’s next. Lih has faith in “the crowd.” With popular and successful avenues such as Wikipedia and Twitter, Lih is eager to see how people will feed into and be a part of the news cycle.