Charles Nesson was joined by eon, Dean of Cyberspace, and they spoke about the importance of openness and how the Berkman Center contributes to this. Alas, that was all from him for the time being- I misread the agenda, and he was just up for introductions. So we moved on to Jonathan Zittrain.
Zittrain’s talk was based on his new book, which I’ve given first thoughts on earlier this month. Because there is some overlap with that post and with prior coverage here, so these notes are not comprehensive, more things that jumped out at me.
Before long, the ‘hourglass architecture’ appeared on screen; this is the way that IP (edit: internet protocol NOT intellectual property) is a link between a diversity of technologies and a diversity of applications. We also heard about the IETF and the way it works, against the odds, and an overview of the creative and generative use of the Internet, through Wikipedia, Skype and more.
A new dimension to the talk, bits of which I’d heard before, was a detailed discussion about the YouTube outage earlier this year (Pakistan) and how this relates to the security of the Internet. George Tenet came in for a gentle bit of teasing, for his call (while director of central intelligence) to restrict Internet connections to those who can show they take security seriously, as did the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) for its creation of complicated models for next-generation networks and the future of the Internet, linked to its desire to ‘save’ the Internet.
Zittrain dedicated a good bit of time to talking about the iPhone. What interested me here was comparing with his comments of last summer, which was at an earlier stage of the iPhone’s development. He put on the table the criticism of his original position – that the iPhone’s new functionality (SDK for developers) was not the new dawn, as the terms and conditions are still part of the Apple mission to have a single supplier or intermediary; applications have to go through the iTunes store, they may be blocked or killed, restricted for reasons related to privacy, legality, etc. He compared this, unfavourably, with the environment that software for personal computers was developed in, where it was much more difficult to kill or block a single application; “it didn’t happen because it couldn’t happen”.
The solutions require ‘social buy-in’. For example, we can start to look at the ways for respecting something like privacy, before making the leap back to traditional methods of government control or competition between businesses, both hierarchical in a certain way. So norms are particularly important and the social links will define the future.
A brief Q&A followed, starting with the comment that “Jonathan does hyperbole quite well, and is sort of right”. Lots more questions on the question tool. Now. Coffee!