John Palfrey's Blog : Beta: Live from the Berkman Center
Updated: 2/14/2003; 10:05:29 AM.



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Friday, February 14, 2003

I'm moving my blog over to the newly-minted blogs at Harvard web presence.  It's been fun learning about blogging on Radio, but I have loyalties to keep and an initiative to support.  Find me here, should you care to do so.
10:04:13 AM    

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Some of the most intriguing research underway at the Berkman Center is what Jonathan Zittrain and Ben Edelman have been doing this Fall on filtering in various countries and localized filtering by search engines.  I've been trying to figure out what the big-picture meaning of their research is, trying to fit it into a broader understanding of what's going on with the globalization of the Net.  One obvious angle into the meaning is the idea of transparency (not in the cs expert's sense of the term, but as a lay-person would understand it) on the Net: while most users think that anything is accessible on the Net and that one has unfettered access to it, in many cases, those users are mistaken.  There are governments, ISPs, and search engines acting as intermediaries to get between you and where you want to go on the Net (at what JZ calls "points of control").  One way to see the trouble is that you don't know what you don't know.  I feel pretty certain that, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, from a university's network connection, I'll be able to get where I want to go on the Net (perhaps the joke's on me here, too).  I am less sure, from a hotel or a university or a cyber cafe in another country that I'll have the same access.  That much seems OK.  It's the extent to which the filtering is undisclosed and unpredictable that is troubling to me, I guess.  Conceivably, a Net user in China or Saudi Arabia would be less troubled, insofar as that Net user might *expect* their access to be filtered whereas I have come to *expect* that my access to be unfettered.  If so, the cost of this filtering might be that while the Net is beginning to reach much of the globe, it'll reach various places differently and will have different impacts in various parts of the world.  There's a globalization lesson in here somewhere. 
9:54:36 AM    

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

There have been cool reax to the live blog by Dave Winer last night.  Particular thanks not only to Dave but also to Donna for her running commentary, Dan Bricklin for his photos, Derek Slater for carrying the banner of the Harvard undergraduate community (even though we like to think of him as part of the Berkman/HLS community), Frank Field for his insightful commentary on what it means for education and to everyone else who came, blogged and continues to write about it.  There's something happening here and it's quite cool to watch.

So what actually is happening here at Harvard with blogs?  In truth and fairness, we don't really know.  It's an experiment -- highly decentralized, entrepreneurial in the non-profit and academic sense, meant to be edgy in its way, meant to be disruptive in the sense of bringing people and ideas together in new ways.  Here are two good things that could come of it, from where I sit at the Berkman Center: we could play a small role in helping: 1) people at Harvard start connecting better through blogs, sharing ideas within and without the university, and using cyberspace as a venue for those late-night dorm conversations that Frank Field wrote about; and 2) some profs start using blogs in the classroom.  The idea, it seems to me, that students could keep journals (blogs) throughout a term as an assignment, with an emphasis on engaging with other bloggers (students and non-students, perhaps) who are thinking about similar ideas, could be terribly powerful.

The only thing we know for sure is that *something* is happening, and that's good. 

2:23:55 PM    

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

It's good to hear that people who know what they're doing have been thinking about audio blogs for a while.  Professor Nesson, you're on.  (Is anyone doing a good one today?)
1:00:12 PM    

John Ellis noted: "The good news is that Ellisblog is now one year old.  The bad news is that it doesn't make any money at all."  (Yeah, but we read it).  As his thoughts often do, John's comment begs a good question.  It's been bugging me about blogging: why do so many people do it, especially when virtually no one makes any money at it?  People like to speak and to be heard?  Because it has this hard-to-describe addictive quality?  We like to feel like we're part of a community of interest?  Shy people turn into extroverts as bloggers (someone's suggestion at a bloggers' lunch yesterday with Dave, Donna, Hylton, Derek)?  Because it's e-mail without spam?
12:53:40 PM    

I keep coming back to what Jonathan Katz said about the media and the young in his critique, last September, of the Columbia J-School deans' search.  Among other good insights: "The challenge for media and for the academic study of media has been the same for a generation now, and both media and academe have failed to meet it. Journalism has become irrelevant to younger Americans, and marginalized by those vibrant and ascending new information cultures computer gaming, movies, music, graphic design, software, popular culture, the Net and the Web. A generation without a common information structure is by definition alienated. This has profound consequences for any democratic society, almost all of them bad. It's had ugly implications for the future of journalism, too." (Emphasis his).  I care lots about the Net and democracy, which is the point at which he got my attention and got me thinking in new ways.  But he might have grabbed you earlier or later in the piece, if you care about the media and its modes and audiences.  He's also right about: what we young are after and what we do on line; Lessig; open source (maybe a bit too breathless and not yet dug into the hard questions in what he says but certainly, I sure hope, ultimately right); slashdot; and blogs (but his mention is just in passing and might well be the subject of a larger discussion), among other things.  Mr. Katz, please build out your argument along the blog lines.  You have our (at least my) attention.
12:38:22 PM    

Wayne has put up a great piece about Kingstonians (Jamaica) with "fluidity with the hip-hop idiom."  He has a way with words and music.
10:57:03 AM    

Tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 11) is the first in a series of meetings about blogging at Harvard (and beyond), led by Dave Winer.  Please come: 6:30, Lewis 301, HLS campus.  If you can't make it, not to fret; there will be more.  This is just the thin end of the wedge.
9:36:12 AM    

Monday, February 10, 2003

Our friends Becca and Wayne are in Kingston, Jamaica, doing good works -- making learning fun.  Their blog (you have to click on blog from their homepage) is how they're keeping in touch with those of us in snowy, windy 02138.  They look warm to me.
11:55:52 AM    

Of the Charlie Nesson audio blogs, my favorite so far is his Eldred lunch clip.  It's pretty long -- 20 minutes -- but quite a cool set of voices.
11:33:55 AM    

Thursday, February 06, 2003

The soon-to-be-launched blogs at Harvard initiative -- led by Dave Winer -- got a nice mention in the Washington Post.  This effort to get a serious blogging community going here, still in its earliest stages of formation, is important to us for a number of reasons.  Primiarily, it's because big universities often don't share knowledge well among their respective parts.  Harvard, to be sure, has always operated as a bunch of highly productive but rarely well-integrated stove-pipes (the various schools: the Divinity School, Law School, the Business School, the College, and so on); that structure works well in certain ways (financially, some argue) but less well in others.  There are smart, effective people who think a lot about this challenge, particularly in the Harvard Provost's office.  We're convinced that blogging, evangelized by Dave and others here, can help spread the wealth of knowledge from school to school; from student to student; and from elsewhere into Harvard and vice-versa.  The Web, e-mail and other basic Net-based apps generally have had this effect to some extent.  But not in a wholly satisfying manner.  I wouldn't bet again blogs making the next big step forward.

10:30:46 AM    

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Kevin Marks sends along another cool alternative to the current IP quagmire:  Very intriguing.

I should also note another piece on alternatives to IP, which may have been updated since.

5:16:13 PM    

The winners in the Eldred decision are obviously primarily those companies that hold lots of valuable copyrights -- rights which retain their value over long periods of time, and which may well continue increase in value as Web proliferation continues throughout the globe.  Other less obvious winners, though, might be some of the alternative ideas to the traditional copyright system.  One such alternative is Creative Commons, (school of full disclosure: has roots in the Berkman Center) which seems to be gaining steam since its launch last month.  To the extent that the formal US copyright system, or its international analogues, doesn't give content creators the options that they need, Creative Commons fills that void.  They need more people to know about what they're doing, but I know the team is hard at work making the various forms of (cc) a viable alternative to (c).  Another alternative is the work that Prof. Terry Fisher of Harvard Law School, and chairman of the Berkman Center (school of full disclosure: as such, he's my boss!), has been developing in his forthcoming book.  He's posted the core of his argument to his Web site, which makes for excellent reading.  The gist of his argument -- like Creative Commons, it's gaining mind-share -- is that there are a series of alternative ways to think about copyright laws and business models and at least one of them seems to make sense ("an administrative compensation system," his chapter 6).  I'll let you read it for yourself, but it's beginning to make a lot of sense to me, and to others.
12:25:49 PM    

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