Some thoughts from a freewheeling panel

Charlie Nesson (wearing a t-shirt with his own – or Eon’s – face on it) is chairing a session with a very eclectic range of speakers. It’s a heavy debate so I’m just getting a sense of it down on electrons, while also participating in the IRC.

The panel –

Michael Fricklas (Viacom)
Esther Dyson (um, Esther Dyson)
Reed Hundt (former chair, FCC)

First question from Eon : why didn’t Wikipedia come out of university or government? “Boundaries” is the main answer, it seems.

Michael Fricklas from Viacom gets asked how it feels to be sitting on a “huge pile of assets” (content). Answer : in relevant part, “an economic incentive to create those things [content] is a good thing” but agrees that “the existing system [of copyright] has issues with how it works in this world”. Charlie is doing a great job of focusing the questions, starting with a softball but working very sharply in the followups. He (Fricklas) doesn’t seem to be the biggest fan of libraries in the world, or at least that’s how I read his comments. There’s also a very useful discussion in the IRC channel (irc.freenode.net/berkman).

Reed Hundt: “user-generated content is another word for no intellectual property rights”. I disagree.

Fricklas talks about making clips of the Daily Show available online. “It enhances what we do”. Nesson isn’t convinced about how they’re going about it.

The conversation also drifted to the future of the university – a topic that Nesson has had some interest in. Hundt wonders what universities are spending their money on. And the question then is how does the West relate to the rest of the world, can you ‘impose’ the work of the elite universities, through the Internet, on others – is this a good thing or a bad thing?

On communications, Esther Dyson: “In many cases, Government is the problem”. Not the first time she has said that, though the point was lost in a change of pace of discussion. Pity – would have been interesting to see that explored.

On access, Charlie Nesson described the move to open access at Harvard Law School (as well documented at the time, the faculty voted in favour of an open access policy. He said, and I agree, that this is one of the most important things to happen in the Berkman anniversary year.

Sara Wedeman (see also here) from the floor made a very timely intervention on incorporating the lessons of other approaches to knowledge and information (other than the Harvard University one) into global development projects.

Nesson : “The Berkman Center is as much about a style of discourse as anything else”, related to the style of the law school and other things. (Blog comment from me, i.e. Daithí: that’s why it’s so exciting that John Palfrey will from this summer be running the library and information side of Harvard Law School, while still involved in Berkman).

That’s it for today. More tomorrow…

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