Wrapping up: SDP

This morning, we’ve had a wide-ranging, quirky conversation about academic jobs, blogging and researching, media history, conferences, money, interdisciplinarity and more. I should acknowledge the particular contribution of Colin Maclay (managing director of the Berkman Center) in this session and generally; although the academic/teaching elements are cool and important, the practical advice helps too!

Ben Peters pitched a conference on Internet studies, media, history and more (evolving wiki page here). i’m quite excited by this prospect. (We should definitely get Ethan Zuckerman to give the five-minute history at some stage!). Watch this space.


Playing Catch-Up: Privacy, Broadband and Stuff

Some notes on sessions that are out of sequence:

Lorraine KissenburghLorraine Kisselburgh spoke about the ‘social structure and discursive construction’ of privacy – with a surprisingly practical approach, given the very theoretical title! Her methods include interviews, network analysis and more, and she is looking in particular at privacy settings in Facebook etc. There were strong links between the discussion at this seminar and the work presented by Fred Stutzman (on social networks) and Karen McCullagh (on privacy). Facilitator Brian Fitzgerald (QUT, also in picture) sparked an interesting discussion on ethics and anonymity in the context of research. Spelling corrected.

Furthermore, I should note a very entertaining and informative discussion last week based around Kang and Buchner’s Privacy In Atlantis dialogue. This paper is an imagined conversation between a Counsellor and a Technologist, an Economist, a Philosopher and a Merchant. Our conversation picked up where the paper left off, and featured a star line-up (or a rogue’s gallery ;)) of contributors, including John Clippinger, Bill McGeveran (who reflected on the experience here) and David Weinberger….and the liberal use of our online/on-screen ‘question tool’. I threw up a cheeky ‘thought experiment’ on what should happen with a hypothetical perfect surveillance system, which was grabbed by McGeveran (as moderator/Counsellor) – to my surprise – and became a fulcrum for a brief period, which meant that I had to think it through in more detail than I expected! Oops.

AdamThis week, Adam Fiser of the Faculty of Information Studies (FIS) at the University of Toronto (a nice place: I camped out in their great library, the Inforum last summer) took us through his work on Internet access and First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, focusing on the K-Net project of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak tribal council. Adam himself has had an involvement with the Canadian Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN) and the Community Wireless Research Project (CWIRP) and has engaged with the various levels of the government and aboriginal bureaucracies in Canada – his views on academia & activism were very interesting. Given the current, changing political climate in Canada (a theme picked up by Adam in a question to me in my own presentation), what he’s studied in terms of broadband use and the governance of frequencies, connections, etc is far too important to be ignored.

This morning, we talked about ‘Wikipedia and Peer Production‘ in the company of John Palfrey and Jonathan Zittrain (who provided us with a chapter from his forthcoming book), joined by Doc Searls part of the way through. Zittrain’s key question was “should we care that academia did not come up with Wikipedia”, and that acted as a nice bridge into an extended discussion of research ideas and principles (including the difference between law and social science) – although this wasn’t a direct intention, I suspect, it was one of the most useful ‘macro/meta’ conversations I’ve ever had about my PhD research!

Ismael has detailed notes on these, as well as other things I may have missed (due to poor notetaking, over-eager participation, or simply not being in two places at once).

The Legacy of Lessig

On Tuesday night, a group of us had a nice little side-event/chat on “the legacy of Lessig” (blurb here). This session – which was my proposal and my only real organisational contribution to the variety of ‘self-organised’ events – took its lead from Lawrence Lessig’s statement: Required Reading – the next 10 years. In that statement, which was a longer version of a speech, Lessig sets out his ‘new direction’ in research. Our challenge in our discussion was to review his work in cyberlaw, copyright etc and consider this new direction, and reflect on how we use Lessig’s work in our own research. All sorts of disciplines were represented in our discussion group.

We were particularly delighted to have Prof. Charles Nesson in the room. Nesson (aka Charlie or indeed Eon, the Dean of Cyberspace), founder of the Berkman Center and the person to whom the first edition of Code (Lessig’s first book) is dedicated, is a remarkable teacher and scholar and shared some reflections, ideas and funny stories with us. (I should note that he also taught a larger group how to play – and think about – poker that same evening). Towards the end, Jonathan Zittrain joined the conversation and chipped in with his own thoughts on Lessig’s new work on ‘corruption’ and more. The discussion ranged from the future of the Creative Commons movement to the status of cyberlaw in the law school to the importance of the Eldred case to the importance of politics and governance and (of course) the connection between all of the above and the game of poker….

Thanks to all who attended and contributed. It was a fun, controversial and educational discussion.

Vaishnav On VoIP

Chintan VaishnavEngineer Chintan Vaishnav of the Communciation Futures programme at MIT spoke about “The End Of Core” (and a lot more besides) in the same session as my own presentation. I said in my own introduction that I was looking forward to Chintan’s presentation more than my own, and it was quite a presentation, as it turned out. His own focus is on regulation of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) but includes a complicated model (system dynamics) and a strong interest in the interactions between the regulator, the developers, the users and the various players.

Although I found some of the wonderful diagrams a little difficult to follow, it was clear to me that this is important work, and with similar sensibilities to my own (but starting from a different place, of course). The specific examples given included the regulatory desire to provide for things like 911 and wiretaps, and how this has an impact on different classes of VoIP (e.g. interconnection PC-to-phone vs ‘pure’ PC to PC). Really relevant issues and also highlighting some general principles about regulation and regulators.

The slides/diagrams are well worth seeing, and I’ll add the link when he publishes them!

My favourite term was ‘circum-innovation’, or the role of technology in evading/sidestepping regulation; I wondered whether looking at regulatory arbitrage / regulatory flight might throw up some interesting results.

Legal (and non-legal) approaches: the regulation of new media

Well, you didn’t think that I’d leave out my own presentation, did you?

Here are the slides from my own talk at the Berkman Center today (slightly compressed images, and quite text-light, so I’d be happy to clarify anything in comments). Jonathan Zittrain was the faculty member assigned to the seminar – he made a point of trying to coax a view/argument/narrative out of me, which was helpful. Of anything, I’d take a special pleasure in making my work more argumentative – but the feedback was still very helpful. A pleasant surprise was the attendance of Doc Searls (also of the Berkman Center) who, as well as offering useful comments, wanted to know what I’d do about net neutrality in the US. (Soapboxes are great). The ever-reliable superblogger Ismael has added his impressions/summary in the usual place.

Noank: A Promise Kept

picture-5.pngThe final full faculty-led session of our programme returned to the theme of copyright, and the speaker was William (Terry) Fisher, IP law professor at Harvard and director of the Berkman Center. Prof. Fisher built his talk around the ideas he put forward in the last chapter of Promises To Keep, his 2004 book on copyright law and new technology. In his book, he argued that there are three approaches to dealing with the ‘crisis’ in the entertainment industry: strengthen copyright law, support technological measures (i.e. DRM) or build an alternative compensation system. He favours and proposes the last option; Noank Media is an implementation and testbed for this project.

More to come.

We got stuck into some privacy issues. The big question is how do you provide for the necessary data collection (so as to ensure direct reward to creators under the Noank/PtK business model) without raising difficult or sensitive privacy questions. (As a sidenote, a few people noted the exciting prospect of using such data in research – I saw a few eyes light up at this!) One participant raised the question of whether the ‘use’ of music (or other cultural products) would be measured in an adequate fashion by things like ‘number of times played’ – noting, accurately, that some people spend money for a CD that they may only listen to from time to time, but still ‘value’ and be happy to pay for. Fisher mentioned the Blur-Banff proposal, which is worth exploring if you’re into this area.