A journey from pop culture to free speech to networked technology

Communication courses led Annenberg School for Communication’s Anika Gururaj to develop an interest in the intersection of communication and law, and the effects of technology on free speech.

As a first-year student coming to Penn from Bangalore, India, Anika Gururaj didn’t picture herself going to law school. “I didn’t have a major in mind when I got to Penn,” she says. “I just wanted to spend the first semester exploring different courses and I happened to take a class with Professor Jessa Lingel.” Four years later, Gururaj is graduating in May with a communication degree from the Annenberg School for Communication.

Anika Gururaj.
Anika Gururaj, Class of 2024 graduate from Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication. (Image: Courtesy of Annenberg School for Communication)

The course was “Critical Approaches to Popular Culture.” Gururaj loved it. “It married theoretical learning with an understanding of the practical implications of what we were reading in class,” she says. “It felt so contemporary and relevant to the real world and current events.” 

Taking Lingel’s class led Gururaj to take more communication courses and then soon she became a communication major. Her interest in law blossomed during a course on the history and theory of freedom of expression taught by Carolyn Marvin. She realized that legal cases, rhetoric, and literature fascinated her and found herself drawn to the intersection of law and communication.

Another eye-opening academic experience came when Gururaj took “Communication in the Networked Age” with Sandra González-Bailón. It got her thinking about the impact that technologies like Facebook and Instagram have on privacy and free speech. 

Gururaj’s independent study focused on the Digital Services Act (DSA) within the European Union. The DSA, a groundbreaking piece of legislation, regulates privacy laws for social media platforms operating in the EU. Gururaj immersed herself in analyzing its provisions, understanding its implications, and exploring the delicate balance between free expression and privacy rights.

“Going to law school is the perfect next step to allow her ideas to consolidate and find a way, as I am sure she will, to expand on current regulatory frameworks,” González-Bailón says.

Read more at Annenberg School for Communication.