John Palfrey's Blog : Beta: Live from the Berkman Center
Updated: 2/14/2003; 10:04:27 AM.


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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    

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