Current Berkman People and Projects

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

December 14, 2017

A Pessimist’s Guide to the Future of Technology
Since the rise of the web in the 1990s, technological skeptics have always faced resistance. To question the virtue and righteousness of tech, and especially computing, was seen as truculence, ignorance, or luddism. But today, the real downsides of tech, from fake news to data breaches to AI-operated courtrooms to energy-sucking bitcoin mines, have become both undeniable and somewhat obvious in retrospect. In light of this new technological realism, perhaps there is appetite for new ways to think about and plan for the future of technology, which anticipates what might go right and wrong once unproven tech mainstreams quickly. In this conversation, author and an award-winning game designer Dr. Ian Bogost considers a technology that has not yet mainstreamed—autonomous vehicles—as a test case on how we should think about the future of tech. More info on this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at December 14, 2017 07:07 PM

Harry Lewis
"Not discipline"
It should not be a surprise that after a year and a half, Harvard has wound up where it startedduring Exam Period of 2016: Students who are members of unrecognized single gender social organizations (USGSOs) will be barred from receiving certain distinctions, including team captaincies and fellowship nominations. Does the phrase "leadership positions supported by institutional resources" include the presidency of the Crimson and of the student body? These are the closest analogs that exist in student society to central institutions of the American democracy, and it is hard to see why, under the new regime, Harvard would leave these elected positions up to the whims of the voters. It will be interesting to see that detail, given that the Crimson is editoriallyin favor of the sanctions. Perhaps it will announce a policy of self-policing, if the College chooses to exempt it.

It is worth saying a word about team captaincies, which have been little discussed, perhaps because faculty know and care less about sports than about Rhodes scholarships. Institutional interference in captain elections marks the end of a long struggle, detailed in Ronald Smith's Sports and Freedom. College sports began as a form of adolescent escape from institutional control, and over the decades, as institutional control of student life has relaxed until recently, institutional control over athletics has become nearly complete. The selection of team captains was, until May 2016, the last, tiny bit of unregulated turf where the students representing the institution were free to make their decisions for themselves. No more, at Harvard anyway (and Harvard is where all this started).

The crucial, lawyerly words in the announcementby President Faust and William Lee (Senior Fellow of the Harvard Corporation) are "not discipline":
The policy does not discipline or punish the students; it instead recognizes that students who serve as leaders of our community should exemplify the characteristics of non-discrimination and inclusivity that are so important to our campus. 
An otherwise estimable student who is sent away from the Fellowships office upon disclosing her membership in some women's club might be forgiven for thinking she has been punished. But at Harvard it seems, a word means what the President and the Senior Fellow choose it to mean, neither more nor less. By declaring that ineligibility for honors and distinctions are "not discipline," what President Faust and Mr. Lee are saying is that the Statutes are not implicated, the matter is not one for the Faculty to decide, and no Faculty vote is needed to carry out the policy. A recent Crimson storysuggests that the College is debating whether it really wants to press its luck with the Faculty by keeping this matter out of the Handbook for Students.

The Twelfth Statute states, in part, "The several faculties have authority … to inflict, at their discretion, all proper means of discipline …." And, if there were any doubt, the Fifth Statute states in part, "Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are together in immediate charge of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences," and "Each faculty includes in its membership all the professors, associate professors and assistant professors who teach in the department or departments under the charge of that faculty." The Fifth Statute goes on to stipulate a specific exception to the authority of the Faculty: violations of the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities, which may be handled directly by the dean of a Faculty. By its specificity, this clause underscores the exclusive disciplinary authority of the Faculty on other matters of discipline.

So it is important that the USGSO policy not be discipline, because if it were discipline, and disciplinary action were taken against a student without a Faculty vote authorizing that policy, that student could challenge the action as not properly authorized.  A private institution can do almost anything to its students except fail to follow its own rules, and Harvard's rules are that the Faculty is in charge of discipline.

The Corporation's decision to insert itself into student life policy-making marks a change of incalculable significance. Their hand has been strengthened by the Faculty's decision not to affirm its own authority by passing my motion, and by the Faculty Council's almost unanimous support of weird motions by Professors Allenand Howellwhich were both withdrawn before their sponsors were forced to explain what they actually meant. As it turns out, according to the Lee-Faust proclamation, instead of deciding on policy, the Faculty is reduced to monitoring an allegedly non-disciplinary student life policy voted by the Corporation. Once so diminished, it is unlikely the Faculty will ever reclaim its statutory authority.

We are back to where we began, with a values test, a litmus test for determining whether students "exemplify the characteristics of non-discrimination and inclusivity." And along with that, we are back to all the old contradictions and inconsistencies in that litmus test. Why is a student in a multi-ethnic, socioeconomically cross-cutting women's group less exemplary than a member of the Asian American Sisters, or the tenured faculty of the Mathematics Department, both of which are de facto less ethnically diverse single-gender organizations? Why does a student become more exemplary by quitting an ethnically diverse Harvard sorority and joining an ethnically homogeneous sorority with members from MIT?

The answer is that the whole exercise has not been about increasing inclusivity but about getting rid of the final clubs, in a way that will not invite a lawsuit. The policy may well not achieve either end. But it would crush a variety of ethnically and even socioeconomically diverse private organizations on the basis that they are not gender-diverse—ignoring the fact that gender and ethnicity are not equivalent qualities. If they were parallel, Harvard would prohibit single-gender rooming groups.

As I have said before, women will be the big losers from this Corporation decision. The newsthat the sororities plan to ignore the sanctions and proceed with their recruitment should be taken to mean that these groups provide something that is important enough that women are willing to pay a price for getting it. The clause in the Lee-Faust letter about these groups is transparently reprehensible:
We also recognize the concerns expressed by women students about the deficiencies in the campus social environment that have led many to seek membership in sororities. The College is committed to continuing the necessary work of addressing these issues in ways consistent with our broader educational mission.
Note the artful misrepresentation of what the women's groups provide. The letterfrom the 23 women does not refer to "deficiencies in the social environment," a phrase that suggests room for parties or casual conversation from which men should not be excluded. What these groups are providing is far more consequential—support, mentorship, and empowerment. It is insulting to dismiss these women's concerns as something the College is vaguely "committed … to addressing" while putting the sanctions into effect immediately.

There is a real problem with certain clubs, but it's never been identified and the sanctions regime won't solve it. The sweeping generalizations, the misuse of the worst of transgressions of the worst of the final clubs as arguments for shutting down all the women's clubs—these are not only illiberal but intellectually embarrassing. Alums oldand youngseem to be awakening to the fact that the nannying has gone too far.

by Harry Lewis ( at December 14, 2017 03:06 AM

December 12, 2017

Harry Lewis
History, reality, and idealism
Today I ran into an alum I know, a distinguished medical scientist from a class in the 1950s. Remembering the institutional anti-Semitism of his undergraduate years, he was not pleased by the way President Faust and Mr. Lee characterized the Harvard he had attended:
The final clubs in particular are a product of another era, a time when Harvard’s student body was all male, culturally homogeneous, and overwhelmingly white and affluent.
This fellow held no ill will toward the final clubs he was not invited to join, but bristled at the idea that today's Harvard is different because the old Harvard was peaceably homogeneous.
An essayabout free speech by President Leon Botstein of Bard College hit a strikingly different tone. It's entitled, "To promote free speech on campus, lose the piety."
Being part of a campus can be a lonely experience. That’s why there are fraternities and sororities, secret societies and clubs. Students legitimately want to feel comfortable in a strange setting and they wish to be liked by their peers. The residential college is a particularly unnatural situation. It confines people in their teens and early 20s quite randomly in a single institution and expects civility.
But there was never untarnished civility on the American campus. There was campus violence in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a myth that, once upon a time, everybody was walking around as a kind of incipient scholar who readily replaced violence with speech. We are still more civilized than the Harvard and Yale of the first half of the 19th century, and we are probably ahead of the civility game in comparison to the age of the panty raids of the 1950s.
There is also today a growing moralizing intolerance with respect to any sort of exceptionalism. After all, a university, particularly its faculty, is in its own charming way a collection of deviants. … Those of us who are administrators at the university understand that part of our job is to protect the freedom of thought and speech of the odd individual who has certain gifts from the rage and envy of others. …
The modern university community now expects an increasing conformism as well as standardization of expressed thought. And that finally leads to a powerful but understandable attraction to self-censorship and passivity. … We need to strengthen the belief that is still out there in the notion of truths, freedom, and rational judgment and the links that connect democracy, liberty, and social justice. 

Here is part of the penultimate draft of my remarks to the FAS. Conscious of my three-minute time limit, I decided at the last minute to put the matter differently, but what I had planned to say seems resonant with Botstein's line of thought.

It has been said that we need to be idealistic, to create the best possible social environment for our students. I too am idealistic about Harvard’s promise. But idealism is not the same as utopianism.  The actual history of utopian undertakings is not encouraging. Utopias tend to react harshly when anyone deviates from the officially approved version of social harmony. Students come to Harvard not for a social utopia, but for a liberal education in all its complexity, to understand the freedom they enjoy and how to use it.

Finally, consider what we are teaching our students, by our actions, about how to solve social problems. Let’s not teach them that bans on private associations are an appropriate way to address social ills.  As graduates they, and others, will have their own lists of social ills to be cured.  At another time and in another place, someone else’s toxic group could well be Black Lives Matter, or it could be Act Up.  We have enough calls for shunning and banning in America already today.  Let’s not teach our students to do it too.

There are other interesting developments, and more to say about the rhetoric of the Faust-Lee letter and what it says about the status and role of the faculty. I will come back when things settle down.

by Harry Lewis ( at December 12, 2017 09:19 PM

Berkman Center front page
A Pessimist’s Guide to the Future of Technology


featuring Dr. Ian Bogost, Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in conversation with Professor Jeffrey Schnapp, Professor of Romance Languages & Literature, Harvard Graduate School of Design


Two decades of technological optimism in computing have proven foolhardy. Let’s talk about new ways to anticipate what might go right and wrong, using a technology that has not yet mainstreamed—autonomous vehicles—as a test case.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Dec 12 2017 12:00pm to Dec 12 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Since the rise of the web in the 1990s, technological skeptics have always faced resistance. To question the virtue and righteousness of tech, and especially computing, was seen as truculence, ignorance, or luddism. But today, the real downsides of tech, from fake news to data breaches to AI-operated courtrooms to energy-sucking bitcoin mines, have become both undeniable and somewhat obvious in retrospect.

In light of this new technological realism, perhaps there is appetite for new ways to think about and plan for the future of technology, which anticipates what might go right and wrong once unproven tech mainstreams quickly. As a test case, this talk will consider a technology that has not yet mainstreamed—autonomous vehicles—as a test case.

About Ian

Dr. Ian Bogost is an author and an award-winning game designer. He is Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and Professor of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he also holds an appointment in the Scheller College of Business. Bogost is also Founding Partner at Persuasive Games LLC, an independent game studio, and a Contributing Editor at The Atlantic. He is the author or co-author of ten books including Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism and Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames.

Bogost is also the co-editor of the Platform Studies book series at MIT Press, and the Object Lessons book and essay series, published by The Atlantic and Bloomsbury.

Bogost’s videogames about social and political issues cover topics as varied as airport security, consumer debt, disaffected workers, the petroleum industry, suburban errands, pandemic flu, and tort reform. His games have been played by millions of people and exhibited or held in collections internationally, at venues including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Telfair Museum of Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, the Laboral Centro de Arte, and The Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

His independent games include Cow Clicker, a Facebook game send-up of Facebook games that was the subject of Wired magazine feature, and A Slow Year, a collection of videogame poems for Atari VCS, Windows, and Mac, which won the Vanguard and Virtuoso awards at the 2010 IndieCade Festival.

Bogost holds a Bachelors degree in Philosophy and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California, and a Masters and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA. He lives in Atlanta.

About Jeffrey

Jeffrey is Professor of Romance Languages & Literature, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Director, metaLAB (at) Harvard; and Director, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. A cultural historian with research interests extending from Roman antiquity to the present, his most recent books are The Electric Information Age Book (a collaboration with the designer Adam Michaels (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012) and Italiamerica II (Il Saggiatore, 2012). His pioneering work in the domains of digital humanities and digitally augmented approaches to cultural programming includes curatorial collaborations with the Triennale di Milano, the Cantor Center for the Visual Arts, the Wolfsonian-FIU, and the Canadian Center for Architecture. His Trento Tunnels project — a 6000 sq. meter pair of highway tunnels in Northern Italy repurposed as a history museum– was featured in the Italian pavilion of the 2010 Venice Biennale and at the MAXXI in Rome in RE-CYCLE - Strategie per la casa la città e il pianeta (fall-winter 2011). He is Professor of Romance Languages & Literature, on the teaching faculty of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design,and is the faculty director of metaLAB (at) Harvard.

Links to selected writing  over the last year or so that are relevant:

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by candersen at December 12, 2017 06:20 PM

Announcing the 2018 Assembly Cohort


At the Berkman Klein Center and MIT Media Lab


We are thrilled to announce the 2018 cohort for the Assembly program at the Berkman Klein Center and MIT Media Lab! Read more to learn about the twenty-one individuals who will be joining us in January 2018 to tackle challenges and opportunities in artificial intelligence and its governance.

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We are thrilled to announce the 2018 cohort for the Assembly program at the Berkman Klein Center and MIT Media Lab. The program, which will start its second iteration on January 22, 2018, gathers developers, project managers, academics, and tech industry professionals for a rigorous spring term to tackle hard problems at the intersection of code and policy. The program will be split into three parts: a two week design and team building session, a course co-taught by MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito and BKC co-founder and HLS professor Jonathan Zittrain on the ethics of artificial intelligence, and a twelve-week collaborative development period.

Our 2018 cohort is made up of twenty-one participants with diverse backgrounds and experiences representing the private sector, academia, and civil society organizations. Their task? To work on the emerging problems and opportunities within artificial intelligence and its governance.

Below you can see who makes up our 2018 cohort! For more information about the program, visit the Assembly website. To see the cohort's full profiles, you can go directly to their profiles on the 2018 cohort page.


Ph.D student at the MIT Media Lab researching AI, computational social science and finance
Director of Campus São Paulo and leads Google for Entrepreneurs in Brazil
Experiment Designer at Google
Technologist at the White House U.S. Digital Service
Strategy and Communications Director of OpenAI
Ph.D candidate in Mathematics (Computer Science – Quantum Information) at the University of Waterloo
Computer Vision Scientist and Machine Learning Engineer working with Cambridge startups
Public Policy Manager at Google
Data Scientist, Web Developer and Researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School
CSO of Alpha Features
Research Data Scientist in the Center for Data Science at RTI International
Creative Researcher at metaLAB at Harvard, and Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard
Data Strategist at UNICEF
Google Technology Policy Fellow, and Rausing, Williamson and Lipton Trust doctoral scholar at the University of Cambridge
Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard
Richard Hofstadter Fellow and History Doctoral Student at Columbia University
Researcher Engineer at Samsung Research America and Connected Devices fellow at Amplified Partners
Co-founder and CEO of Foossa and Lecturer in Design, Management, and Social innovation at the Parsons School of Design at the New School

Software Engineer for the Scratch Team, a project part of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab

Ph.D. student in Computer Science at MIT CSAIL working on systems to improve discourse, collaboration, and understanding on the web>

by tlin at December 12, 2017 03:53 PM

December 11, 2017

Wayne Marshall
Further Adventures in Technomusicology

And on we go!

Having conducted a few more sessions of Technomusicology this past spring and summer — about which, more below — I’m happy to report that I’ll be offering the class again next semester, Spring 2018, at the Harvard Extension School.

As always, anyone is welcome to join us if you have the time, inclination, and means to do so. (Be in touch if you have questions about any of those things.) I’ve been tweaking the class like any good remixer, in collaboration with students and TAs, and at this point I believe we’ve collectively refined it down to a compact set of creative, conceptual projects that also offer a varied introduction to the study of sonic media in the age of audio. Or as I put it in my most recent reframing:

In this course we make audio and video art that examines the interplay between music and technology since the dawn of sound reproduction and especially in the digital age. Embracing new technologies ourselves, we use popular, powerful music software (Ableton Live) to explore new techniques and idioms for storytelling by composing a series of etudes, or studies in particular media forms. These etudes can accommodate novice experimentation or virtuoso programming while offering shared conceptual ground to all. Students develop a familiarity with the history of sound media while cultivating competencies in audio and video editing, sampling and arranging, mixing and remixing, as well as in critical listening, writing, and discussion.

But the proof is in the pudding. So allow me to share some of this year’s work. In this case, I’m embedding collections of this year’s “Musical Supercuts” — musically-guided, YouTube-sourced montages that help us to understand the contemporary social lives and archival presence of specific musical works and dances. As always, this year’s supercuts run quite the gamut, touching on classical modes, jazz tropes, meme-tastic rock songs, and Vine-era dance crazes. Together they reveal amazing, gleaming iceberg-tips of musically-gathered sociality riding the waves of YouTube’s algorithms, and sometimes lurking in the corners–

Notably, one of these supercuts — one of two about “All Star” as it happens — has reached nearly 350k views, which I believe now stands as the new record for views/listens of one of our class etudes. It’s difficult to predict which of our productions will, in turn, address their own publics, and it’s always fascinating to see which etudes prove remarkably “sticky” or “spreadable” (as well as which ones enjoy a certain algorithmic obscurity).

Since I’ve been asking students to produce YouTube-sourced montages for several years now, I was delighted to see Beyonce get into the act recently with the video for her “remix” of J Balvin’s “Mi Gente.” Alongside an effort to donate any proceeds to hurricane and disaster relief, Beyonce also infuses her support for the song — and the implied message of solidarity with “my people” — with a montage that seemingly shows dozens and dozens (hundreds?) of people already dancing along(side each other?)–

Alas, while it’s certainly plausible, there’s no clear way to tell that these various dance videos were all set originally to “Mi Gente.” Nor is there any documentation linking back to the sources. It might have made a stronger gesture of solidarity for a video that’s now been watched almost 55 million times to link back to its sources (as I ask my students to do), but it certainly “embeds” and “embodies” the idea quite powerfully at any rate — another example of how such “supercuts” can tell stories with social, cultural, and even political import, not to mention how they enjoy a certain currency in this day & age.


Of course, I’m revising the syllabus once again for next semester, and while the main series of projects will remain essentially the same (though I always tweak parameters and instructions) — i.e., we’ll still make soundscapes, sample-based beats, mashups, DJ mixes, supercuts, podcasts — I’m considering a new etude that grapples with the growing practice of using commercial (or not) video/film as sound sources for whimsical remixes that highlight core aesthetic qualities and other matters of import or interest as they condense and loop the source materials. This is quite different from a supercut, though the two forms can overlap. I don’t know what to call it yet, but I’m thinking of such clips as–

These remind me of some of the fun experiments in re-scoring you can find on YouTube, but they add the concrète element of being musically-inspired sample-based works — and often with an intense focus on a particular visual form. In that sense, they also relate to some of the work of Kutiman (especially his city-centric “mixes”), who has long stood as an influence in our class for the ways he initially approached YouTube as a musical palette.

I’m still working out what the remaining etude of the course will be, and I’m open to any ideas along these lines — or others! Holler if you’ve got any. Novel technomusicological objects always welcome.


Finally, while it is beyond the scope for me and for this class, I remained impressed and inspired by such works as the following, a new visualization of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge by Stephen Malinowski, who has created a number of deeply engrossing graphical animations of scores. He describes his choices for the new Beethoven piece here, but I think you get the picture as you watch (which is one of the main points of a technomusicological approach, IMO)–

I love how the different architectures of musical patterning jump out at the viewing-listener in a piece such as this. The possibilities for illustrating musical figures and relationships this way are endless. (In some sense, I’ve been exploring ways to do it via Ableton.) I’ve occasionally thought about ways to bring coding into our technomusicological endeavors, but that would seem to require an entirely different set of skills than the hands-on audio-visual remixing we currently employ as central method.

A big ol’ bravo to Stephen, to Beyonce, my students, and many, many others for imagining new technomusicological forms and functions. No doubt future semesters’ etudes are making the rounds as baby-memes at this very moment. Keep your ears peeled, and keep us posted if you spot a new native that demands our attention.

by wayneandwax at December 11, 2017 08:49 PM

December 07, 2017

Black Users, Enclaving, and Methodological Challenges in a Shifting Digital Landscape
Black users have consistently been at the vanguard of digital and social media use, pioneering and anticipating digital trends including live tweeting and the podcast boom. As harassment on social media platforms becomes increasingly aggressive, and increasingly automated, users must develop strategies for navigating this hostility. Having long endured coordinated campaigns of harassment, Black users are again at the forefront of a shift in digital practices – the creation of digital enclaves. With new patterns of use, Sarah Florini — Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Department of English Arizona State University — explores emerging methodological and ethical questions regarding research in this space. For more info on this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at December 07, 2017 06:23 PM

Justin Reich
Three Questions to Guide Your Evaluation of Educational Research
To better understand educational research, start by asking "who?" Who wrote the study; who published it; and who did the authors intend as their audience?

by Beth Holland at December 07, 2017 02:17 PM

December 05, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Black Users, Enclaving, and Methodological Challenges in a Shifting Digital Landscape


featuring Sarah Florini, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Department of English Arizona State University


Researchers often consider the technological practices of Black Americans for insight into race and cultural production. But, Black users are regularly at the digital vanguard, anticipating shifts in the media landscape that raise methodological and ethical questions for researchers.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Dec 5 2017 12:00pm to Dec 5 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Much work on Black Internet users and social media has focused on the idea of counterpublics. For example, Twitter is conceived of as a space in which people can speak back to the dominant culture. However, Twitter is also (often) publicly available, searchable, and allows people to connect with users they would otherwise not find.

Digital enclaves, on the other hand, are places where marginalized people can “step away,” or avoid interactions with dominant groups, such as closed or secret pages on Facebook. Building upon previous work about social media counterpublics, Sarah Florini, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies at Arizona State University, argued that digital enclaves do not exist in isolation, but rather are connected to and in conversation with these counterpublics.

Florini drew from her project on Black Americans’ use of transplatform social media. Users shift from platform to platform, depending on their needs; they might purposefully seek out the affordances of a particular platform in some situations, and find creative ways around the limitations of another platform in others. Florini predicted that use of enclaves will continue to increase. Black social media users she interviews in her work “have consistently been at the vanguard of what we think of as stuff everyone does on the Internet.” Black Twitter users, for example, pioneered the now common practice of live-tweeting serialized television shows; the 2014 podcast explosion was preceded two years prior by a boom in podcasts by and for Black communities.

Overall, Florini summarized, Black Americans have “long cultivated complex processes of expression grounded in principles that have become central to digital media use.” What will digital sociality look like if people continue to seek out interactions in enclaved spaces, rather than in dominant public spaces, or counterpublics? If this trend continues, as Florini anticipates, digital enclaves will have widespread effects on our digital sociality across many areas, including platform design, media companies’ business models, legal and policy issues, and methodological and ethical questions for internet researchers.

notes by Donica O'Malley


Event Description

Black users have consistently been at the vanguard of digital and social media use, pioneering and anticipating digital trends including live tweeting and the podcast boom. As harassment on social media platforms becomes increasingly aggressive, and increasingly automated, users must develop strategies for navigating this hostility. Having long endured coordinated campaigns of harassment, Black users are again at the forefront of a shift in digital practices – the creation of digital enclaves. With new patterns of use, digital media researchers are faced with new, and a few old, methodological and ethical questions.

About Sarah

Sarah Florini is an Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies in the Department of English at Arizona State University. She earned a PhD in Communication and Culture from Indiana University. Her research focuses on the intersection of emerging media, Black American cultural production, and racial politics in the post-Civil Rights Movement landscape.


Aaron Edwards, “Long Live the Group Chat.” The Outline. September 27, 2017

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by candersen at December 05, 2017 06:23 PM

December 04, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Open Call for Fellowship Applications, Academic Year 2018-2019

About the Fellowship ProgramQualificationsCommitment to Diversity •  Logistics
Stipends and BenefitsAbout the Berkman Klein CenterFAQ
Required Application MaterialsApply!

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is now accepting fellowship applications for the 2018-2019 academic year through our annual open call. This opportunity is for those who wish to spend 2018-2019 in residence in Cambridge, MA as part of the Center's vibrant community of research and practice, and who seek to engage in collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and cross-sectoral exploration of some of the Internet's most important and compelling issues.

Applications will be accepted until Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

We invite applications from people working on a broad range of opportunities and challenges related to Internet and society, which may overlap with ongoing work at the Berkman Klein Center and may expose our community to new opportunities and approaches. We encourage applications from scholars, practitioners, innovators, engineers, artists, and others committed to understanding and advancing the public interest who come from -- and have interest in -- countries industrialized or developing, with ideas, projects, or activities in all phases on a spectrum from incubation to reflection.

Through this annual open call, we seek to advance our collective work and give it new direction, and to deepen and broaden our networked community across backgrounds, disciplines, cultures, and home bases. We welcome you to read more about the program below, and to consider joining us as a fellow!

About the Berkman Klein Fellowship Program

“The Berkman Klein Center's mission is to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards; and to assess the need or lack thereof for laws and sanctions.

We are a research center, premised on the observation that what we seek to learn is not already recorded. Our method is to build out into cyberspace, record data as we go, self-study, and share. Our mode is entrepreneurial nonprofit.”

Inspired by our mission statement, the Berkman Klein Center’s fellowship program provides an opportunity for some of the world’s most innovative thinkers and changemakers to come together to hone and share ideas, find camaraderie, and spawn new initiatives. The program encourages and supports fellows in an inviting and playful intellectual environment, with community activities designed to foster inquiry and risk-taking, to identify and expose common threads across fellows’ individual activities, and to bring fellows into conversation with the faculty directors, employees, and broader community at the Berkman Klein Center.  From their diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging physical and virtual travels, Berkman Klein Center fellows bring fresh ideas, skills, passion, and connections to the Center and our community, and from their time spent in Cambridge help build and extend new perspectives and actions out into the world.

A non-traditional appointment that defies any one-size-fits-all description, each Berkman Klein fellowship carries a unique set of opportunities, responsibilities, and expectations based on each fellow’s goals. Fellows appointed through this open call come into their fellowship with a personal research agenda and set of ambitions they wish to conduct while at the Center. These might include focused study or writing projects, action-oriented meetings, the development of a set of technical tools, capacity building efforts, testing different pedagogical approaches, or efforts to intervene in public discourse and trialing new platforms for exchange.  Over the course of the year fellows advance their research and contribute to the intellectual life of the Center and fellowship program activities; as they learn with and are influenced by their peers, fellows have the freedom to change and modify their plans.

Together fellows actively design and participate in weekly all-fellows sessions, working groups, skill shares, hacking and development sessions, and shared meals, as well as joining in a wide-range of Berkman Klein Center events, classes, brainstorms, interactions, and projects. While engaging in both substance and process, much of what makes the fellowship program rewarding is created each year by the fellows themselves to address their own interests and priorities. These entrepreneurial, collaborative ventures – ranging at once from goal-oriented to experimental, from rigorous to humorous – ensure the dynamism of a fellowship experience, the fellowship program, and the Berkman Klein community.  As well, the Center works to support our exemplary alumni network, and beyond a period of formal affiliation, community members maintain ongoing active communication and mutual support across cohorts.

Alongside and in conversation with the breadth and depth of topics explored through the Center’s research projects, fellows engage the fairly limitless expanse of Internet & society issues. Within each cohort of fellows we encourage and strive for wide inquisition and focused study, and these areas of speciality and exploration vary from fellow to fellow and year to year. Some broad issues of interest include (but are not limited to) fairness and justice; economic growth and opportunity; the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence; equity, agency, inclusion, and diversity; health; security; privacy; access to information; regulation; politics; and democracy. As fields of Internet and society studies continue to grow and evolve, and as the Internet reaches into new arenas, we expect that new areas of interest will emerge across the Center as well. We look forward to hearing from potential fellows in these nascent specialities and learning more about the impact of their work.

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We welcome applications from people who feel that a year in our community as a fellow would accelerate their efforts and contribute to their ongoing personal and professional development.

Fellows come from across the disciplinary spectrum and different life paths. Some fellows are academics, whether students, post-docs, or professors. Others come from outside academia, and are technologists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, policymakers, activists, journalists, educators, or other types of practitioners from various sectors. Many fellows wear multiple hats, and straddle different pursuits at the intersections of their capacities. Fellows might be starting, rebooting, driving forward in, questioning, or pivoting from their established careers.  Fellows are committed to spending their fellowship in concert with others guided by a heap of kindness, a critical eye, and a generosity of spirit.

The fellowship selection process is a multi-dimensional mix of art and science, based on considerations that are specific to each applicant and that also consider the composition of the full fellowship class. Please visit our FAQ to learn more about our selection criteria and considerations.

To learn more about the backgrounds of our current community of fellows, check out our fall video series with new fellows, 2017-2018 community announcement, read their bios, and find them on Twitter. As well, other previous fellows announcements give an overview of the people and topics in our community: 2016-2017, 2015-2016, 2014-2015, 2013-2014.

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Commitment to Diversity

The work and well-being of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society are profoundly strengthened by the diversity of our network and our differences in background, culture, experience, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, ability, and much more. We actively seek and welcome people of color, women, the LGBTQIA+ community, persons with disabilities, and people at intersections of these identities, from across the spectrum of disciplines and methods.

In support of these efforts, we are offering a small number of stipends to select incoming fellows chosen through our open call for applications.  More information about the available stipends may be found here.

More information about the Center’s approach to diversity and inclusion may be found here.

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Logistical Considerations

While we embrace our many virtual connections, spending time together in person remains essential. In order to maximize engagement with the community, fellows are encouraged to spend as much time at the Center as they are able, and are expected to conduct much of their work from the Cambridge area, in most cases requiring residency. Tuesdays hold particular importance--it is the day the fellows community meets for a weekly fellows hour, as well as the day the Center hosts a public luncheon series; as a baseline we ask fellows to commit to spending as many Tuesdays at the Center as possible.

Fellowship terms run for one year, and we generally expect active participation from our fellows over the course of the academic year, roughly from the beginning of September through the end of May.

In some instances, fellows are re-appointed for consecutive fellowship terms or assume other ongoing affiliations at the Center after their fellowship.

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Stipends and Access to University Resources


Berkman Klein fellowships awarded through the open call for applications are rarely stipended, and most fellows receive no direct funding through the Berkman Klein Center as part of their fellowship appointment.

To make Berkman Klein fellowships a possibility for as wide a range of applicants as possible, in the 2018-2019 academic year we will award a small number of stipends to select incoming fellows chosen through our open call for applications. This funding is intended to support people from communities who are underrepresented in fields related to Internet and society, who will contribute to the diversity of the Berkman Klein Center’s research and activities, and who have financial need. More information about this funding opportunity can be found here.

There are various ways fellows selected through the open call might be financially supported during their fellowship year. A non-exhaustive list: some fellows have received external grants or awards in support of their research; some fellows have received a scholarship or are on sabbatical from a home institution; some fellows do consulting work; some fellows maintain their primary employment alongside their fellowship. In each of these different scenarios, fellows and the people with whom they work have come to agreements that allow the fellow to spend time and mindshare with the Berkman Klein community, with the aim to have the fellow and the work they will carry out benefit from the affiliation with the Center and the energy spent in the community. Fellows are expected to independently set these arrangements with the relevant parties.

Office and Meeting Space

We endeavor to provide comfortable and productive spaces for for coworking and flexible use by the community. Some Berkman Klein fellows spend every day in our office, and some come in and out throughout the week while otherwise working from other sites. Additionally, fellows are supported in their efforts to host small meetings and gatherings at the Center and in space on the Harvard campus.

Access to University Resources

  • Library Access: Fellows are able to acquire Special Borrower privileges with the Harvard College Libraries, and are granted physical access into Langdell Library (the Harvard Law School Library).  Access to the e-resources is available within the libraries.  

  • Courses: Berkman Klein fellows often audit classes across Harvard University, however must individually ask for permission directly from the professor of the desired class.  

  • Benefits: Fellows appointed through the open call do not have the ability to purchase University health insurance or get Harvard housing.

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Additional Information about the Berkman Klein Center

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and shaping the development of the digitally-networked environment. A diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars, practitioners, technologists, policy experts, and advocates, we seek to tackle the most important challenges of the digital age while keeping a focus on tangible real-world impact in the public interest. Our faculty, fellows, staff and affiliates conduct research, build tools and platforms, educate others, form bridges and facilitate dialogue across and among diverse communities. More information at

To learn more about the Center’s current research, consider watching a video of the Berkman Klein Center’s Faculty Chair Jonathan Zittrain giving a lunch talk from Fall 2017, and check out the Center’s most recent annual reports.
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Frequently Asked Questions

To hear more from former fellows, check out 15 Lessons from the Berkman Fellows Program, a report written by former fellow and current Fellows Advisory Board member David Weinberger. The report strives to "explore what makes the Berkman Fellows program successful...We approached writing this report as a journalistic task, interviewing a cross-section of fellows, faculty, and staff, including during a group session at a Berkman Fellows Hour. From these interviews a remarkably consistent set of themes emerged."


More information about fellows selection and the application process can be found on our Fellows Program FAQ.

If you have questions not addressed in the FAQ, please feel welcome to reach out Rebecca Tabasky, the Berkman Klein Center's manager of community programs, at
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Required Application Materials

(1.) A current resume or C.V.

(2.) A personal statement that responds to the following two questions.  Each response should be between 250-500 words.

  • What is the research you propose to conduct during a fellowship year?  Please    

    • describe the problems are you trying to solve;

    • outline the methods which might inform your research; and

    • tell us about the public interest and/or the communities you aim to serve through your work.


  • Why is the Berkman Klein Center the right place for you to do this work?  Please share thoughts on:    

    • how the opportunity to engage colleagues from different backgrounds -- with a range of experiences and training in disciplines unfamiliar to you -- might stimulate your work;

    • which perspectives you might seek out to help you fill in underdeveloped areas of your research;

    • what kinds of topics and skills you seek to learn with the Center that are outside of your primary research focus and expertise; and

    • the skills, connections, and insights you are uniquely suited to contribute to the Center’s community and activities.

(3.) A copy of a recent publication or an example of relevant work.  For a written document, for instance, it should be on the order of a paper or chapter - not an entire book or dissertation - and should be in English.

(4.) Two letters of recommendation, sent directly from the reference.
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Apply for a 2018-2019 Academic Year Fellowship Through Our Open Call

The application deadline is Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

Applications will be submitted online through our Application Tracker tool at:

Applicants will submit their resume/C.V., their personal statement, and their work sample as uploads within the Berkman Klein Application Tracker.  Applicants should ensure that their names are included on each page of their application materials.

Recommendation letters will be captured through the Application Tracker, and the Application Tracker requires applicants to submit the names and contact information for references in advance of the application deadline. References will receive a link at which they can upload their letters. We recommend that applicants create their profiles and submit reference information in the Application Tracker as soon as they know they are going to apply and have identified their references - this step will not require other fellowship application materials to be submitted at that time.  We do ask that letters be received from the references by the application deadline.

Instructions for creating an account and submitting an application through the Application Tracker may be found here.
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by rtabasky at December 04, 2017 06:00 PM

Miriam Meckel
AlphaGoHuman: Mensch und Software gestalten die Zukunft gemeinsam

Schach verlangt clevere Züge. Das Spiel war immer Messlatte für Intelligenz und strategische Klugheit. Und so ist es auch eine schöne und passende Analogie, will man verstehen, was uns durch die vierte industrielle Revolution mit dem Internet der Dinge und künstlicher Intelligenz erwartet.

1997 hat der IBM-Computer Deep Blue zum ersten Mal gegen Schachweltmeister Gary Kasparov gewonnen. Das war noch ein Hardwarekoloss, der von Menschen trainiert werden musste. Im vergangenen Jahr hat das Google- Programm AlphaGo die besten Spieler im komplizierteren chinesischen Go-Spiel geschlagen. Das ist eine Software, die über einige Monate mit Daten trainiert wurde. Und jetzt gewinnt der Nachfolger, AlphaGoZero, 100 zu 0 gegen seinen Vorgänger.

Eine Software besiegt eine Software im schwierigsten Spiel der Welt. Bei 0,4 Sekunden, die AlphaGoZero zum Nachdenken über den nächsten Zug braucht, war die Sache nach 72 Stunden geritzt, und zwar ohne dass das Programm vorher mit Daten trainiert worden wäre. Das Wunderwerk aus einem neuronalen Netzwerk und hoch entwickelten Algorithmen bekam nur die Regeln des Spiels, dann trat es gegen sich selbst an. Und gewann.

Reinforcement Learning, so heißt dieser neue Ansatz. Er kann beispielgebend sein für Unternehmerinnen, Vorstände und Aufsichtsräte, die wissen wollen, mit welchem Schachzug sich die deutsche Wirtschaft einen Vorteil verschaffen, sich für die Anforderungen der neuen Zeit positionieren kann. Um das gemeinsame Reinforcement Learning voranzutreiben, sind wir mit einer Delegation der WirtschaftsWoche auf unserer FutureBoard-Reise zu den Vorreitern der vierten industriellen Revolution in Deutschland und den USA (New York und Boston) gefahren. Aus den Besuchen vor Ort, den Gesprächen und weiteren Recherchen ist diese Sonderausgabe entstanden. Sie zeigt, was auch der Erfolg von AlphaGoZero uns ins Fahrtenbuch für den Weg in die Zukunft schreibt: Es reicht nicht mehr zu optimieren. Wir müssen die wirtschaftliche Zukunft radikal neu denken.

Diese Erkenntnis hat uns schon der amerikanische Computerwissenschaftler Alan J. Perlis 1982 in seinen 130 Epigrammen zum Programmieren mit auf den Weg gegeben. Epigramm Nr. 21 lautet: „Optimization hinders evolution.“ Die deutsche Wirtschaft ist extrem gut in der Optimierung von Prozessen und Geschäftsmodellen. Aber darum geht es nicht mehr allein. Künftig brauchen wir weniger Entwicklung, aber mehr Forschung. Die Investitionen der Unternehmen in Grundlagenforschung schrumpfen seit Jahren. Sie müssen wieder rauf, um sich für eine Zukunft der radikalen Brüche vorzubereiten.

Im Zeitalter der künstlichen Intelligenz geht es nicht nur um bessere Antworten. Es geht um ganz andere Fragen. Computer sind längst schneller als wir Menschen, aber sie sind Fachidioten. Ein Schachcomputer kann Schach spielen, mehr nicht. Erst aus der Verbindung von menschlicher und künstlicher Intelligenz (Artificial Smartness) entstehen neue Antworten und neue Fragen. Wer will schon im Schach gewinnen, wenn andere gerade das Spiel neu erfinden?

by Miriam Meckel at December 04, 2017 07:07 AM

December 01, 2017

Berkman Center front page
When a Bot is the Judge


What happens when our criminal justice system uses algorithms to help judges determine bail, sentencing, and parole?

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Earlier this month, a group of researchers from Harvard and MIT directed an open letter to the Massachusetts Legislature to inform its consideration of risk assessment tools as part of ongoing criminal justice reform efforts in the Commonwealth. Risk assessment tools are pieces of software that courts use to assess the risk posed by a particular criminal defendant in a particular set of circumstances. Senate Bill 2185 — passed by the Massachusetts Senate on October 27, 2017 — mandates implementation of RA tools in the pretrial stage of criminal proceedings.

In this episode of the Berkman Klein Center podcast, The Platform, Managing Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic Professor Chris Bavitz discusses some of the concerns and opportunities related to the use of risk assessment tools as well as some of the related work the Berkman Klein Center is doing as part of the Ethics and Governance of AI initiative in partnership with the MIT Media Lab.

What need are risk assessment tools addressing? Why would we want to implement them?

Well, some people would say that they’re not addressing any need and ask why we would ever use a computer program when doing any assessments. But I think that there are some ways in which they’re helping to solve problems, particularly around consistency. Another potential piece of it, and this is where we start to get sort of controversial, is that the criminal justice system is very biased and has historically treated racial minorities and other members of marginalized groups poorly. A lot of that may stem from human biases that creep in anytime you have one human evaluating another human being. So there’s an argument to be made that if we can do risk scoring right and turn it into a relatively objective process, we might remove from judges the kind of discretion that leads to biased decisions.

Are we there yet? Can these tools eliminate bias like that?

My sense is that from a computer science perspective we’re not there. In general, these kinds of technologies that use machine learning are only as good as the data on which they’re trained. So if I’m trying to decide whether you’re going to come back for your hearing in six months, the only information that I have to train a risk scoring tool to give me a good prediction on that front is data about people like you who came through the criminal justice system in the past. And if we take as a given that the whole system is biased, then the data is that coming out of that system is biased. And when we feed that data to a computer program, the results are going to be biased.

And we don’t know what actually goes into these tools?

Many of the tools that are in use in states around the country are tools that are developed by private companies. So with most of the tools we do not have a very detailed breakdown of what factors are being considered, what relative weights are being given to each factor, that sort of thing. So one of the pushes for advocates in this area is that at the very least we need more transparency.

Tell me about the Open Letter to the Legislature. Why did you write it?

The Massachusetts Senate and House are in the process of considering criminal justice reform broadly speaking in Massachusetts. The Senate bill has some language in it that suggests that risk scoring tools should be adopted in the Commonwealth and that we should take steps to make sure that they’re not biased. And a number of us, most of whom are involved in the Berkman and MIT Media Lab AI Ethics and Governance efforts, signed onto this open letter to the Mass Legislature that basically said, “Look these kinds of tools may have a place in the system, but simply saying ‘Make sure they’re not biased’ is not enough. And if you’re going to go forward, here are a whole bunch of principles that we want you to adhere to,” basically trying to set up processes around both the procurement or development of the tool, the implementation of the tool, the training of the judges on how to use it and what the scores really mean and how they should fit into their legal analysis, and then ultimately the rigorous evaluation of the outcomes. Are these tools actually having the predictive value that was promised? How are we doing on the bias front? Does this seem to be generating results that are biased in statistically significant ways?

What are you hoping will happen next?

I think we would view part of our mission here at Berkman Klein as making sure that this is the subject of vigorous debate. Informed debate, to be clear, because I think that sometimes the debate about this devolves into either that technology is going to solve all our problems, or it’s a dystopian future with robotic judges that are going to sentence us to death, and I don’t think it’s either of those things. Having this conversation in a way that is nuanced and responsible will be really difficult, but I think it’s something we absolutely have to do.

This initiative at Berkman Klein and MIT is the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, but there’s nothing about anything we’ve talked about here that really has to do with artificial intelligence where the computer program is learning and evolving and changing and adapting over time. But that’s coming. And the more we get used to these kinds of systems working in the criminal justice system and spitting out risk scores that judges take into account, the more comfortable we’re going to be as the computing power increases and the autonomy of these programs increases.

I don’t mean to be too dystopic about it and say that bad stuff is coming, but it’s only a matter of time. It’s happening in our cars, and it’s happening in our news feeds on social media sites. More and more decisions are being made by algorithms. And anytime we get a technological intervention in a system like this, particularly where people’s freedom is at stake, I think we want to tread really carefully, recognizing that the next iteration of this technology is going to be more extensive, and raise even more challenging questions.

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by djones at December 01, 2017 06:04 PM

November 30, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Charting a Roadmap to Ensure AI Benefits All


An international symposium aimed at building capacity and exploring ideas for data democratization and inclusion in the age of AI.

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AI-based technologies — and the vast datasets that power them — are reshaping a broad range of sectors of the economy and are increasingly affecting the ways in which we live our lives. But to date these systems remain largely the province of a few large companies and powerful nations, raising concerns over how they might exacerbate inequalities and perpetuate bias against underserved and underrepresented populations.

In early November, on behalf of a global group of Internet research centers known as the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers (NoC) , the Institute for Technology & Society of Rio de Janeiro and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University co-organized a three-day symposium on these topics in Brazil. The event brought together representatives from academia, advocacy groups, philanthropies, media, policy, and industry from more than 20 nations to start identifying and implementing ways to make the class of technologies broadly termed “AI” more inclusive.

The symposium — attended by about 170 people from countries including Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, India, Japan, Turkey, and numerous Latin American and European nations — was intended to build collaborative partnerships and identify research questions as well as action items. These may include efforts to draft a human rights or regulatory framework for AI; define ways to democratize data access and audit algorithms and review their effects; and commit to designing and deploying AI that incorporates the perspectives of traditionally underserved and underrepresented groups, which include urban and rural poor communities, women, youth, LGBTQ individuals, ethnic and racial groups, and people with disabilities.

Read more about this event on our Medium post

by djones at November 30, 2017 03:46 PM

Justin Reich
For Computer Science Ed Week - Teach Thinking NOT Coding
When planning activities for Computer Science Ed Week, focus on fostering students computational thinking and problem-solving skills instead of teaching them to "code."

by Beth Holland at November 30, 2017 02:36 AM

November 29, 2017

Berkman Center front page
A Layered Model for AI Governance


​AI-based systems are “black boxes,” resulting in massive information asymmetries between the developers of such systems and consumers and policymakers. In order to bridge this information gap, this article proposes a conceptual framework for thinking about governance for AI.

Publication Date

20 Nov 2017


AI-based systems are “black boxes,” resulting in massive information asymmetries between the developers of such systems and consumers and policymakers. In order to bridge this information gap, this article proposes a conceptual framework for thinking about governance for AI.

Many sectors of society rapidly adopt digital technologies and big data, resulting in the quiet and often seamless integration of AI, autonomous systems, and algorithmic decision-making into billions of human lives. AI and algorithmic systems already guide a vast array of decisions in both private and public sectors. For example, private global platforms, such as Google and Facebook, use AIbased filtering algorithms to control access to information. AI algorithms that control self-driving cars must decide on how to weigh the safety of passengers and pedestrians. Various applications, including security and safety decisionmaking systems, rely heavily on A-based face recognition algorithms. And a recent study from Stanford University describes an AI algorithm that can deduce the sexuality of people on a dating site with up to 91 percent accuracy. Voicing alarm at the capabilities of AI evidenced within this study, and as AI technologies move toward broader adoption, some voices in society have expressed concern about the unintended consequences and potential downsides of widespread use of these technologies.

To ensure transparency, accountability, and explainability for the AI ecosystem, our governments, civil society, the private sector, and academia must be at the table to discuss governance mechanisms that minimize the risks and possible downsides of AI and autonomous systems while harnessing the full potential of this technology. Yet the process of designing a governance ecosystem for AI, autonomous systems, and algorithms is complex for several reasons. As researchers at the University of Oxford point out,3 separate regulation solutions for decision-making algorithms, AI, and robotics could misinterpret legal and ethical challenges as unrelated, which is no longer accurate in today’s systems. Algorithms, hardware, software, and data are always part of AI and autonomous systems. To regulate ahead of time is dicult for any kind of industry. Although AI technologies are evolving rapidly, they are still in the development stages. A global AI governance system must be flexible enough to accommodate cultural dierences and bridge gaps across dierent national legal systems. While there are many approaches we can take to design a governance structure for AI, one option is to take inspiration from the development and evolution of governance structures that act on the Internet environment. Thus, here we discuss dierent issues associated with governance of AI systems, and introduce a conceptual framework for thinking about governance for AI, autonomous systems, and algorithmic decision-making processes.

Producer Intro

Authored by

by gweber at November 29, 2017 05:32 PM

Digital Black Feminist Discourse and the Legacy of Black Women’s Technology Use
Black women have historically occupied a unique position, existing in multiple worlds, manipulating multiple technologies, and maximizing their resources for survival in a system created to keep them from thriving. In this talk, University of Maryland Professor Catherine Knight Steele presents a case for the unique development of black women’s relationship with technology by analyzing historical texts that explore the creation of black womanhood in contrast to white womanhood and black manhood in early colonial and antebellum periods in the U.S. This study of Black feminist discourse online situates current practices in the context of historical use and mastery of communicative technology by the black community broadly and black women more specifically. By tracing the history of black feminist thinkers in relationship to technology we move from a deficiency model of black women’s use of technology to recognizing their digital skills and internet use as part of a long developed expertise. Find out more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at November 29, 2017 04:15 PM

November 28, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation


featuring Dennis Tenen, Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University


Computers—from electronic books to smart phones—play an active role in our social lives. Our technological choices thus entail theoretical and political commitments. Dennis Tenen takes up today's strange enmeshing of humans, texts, and machines to argue that our most ingrained intuitions about texts are profoundly alienated from the physical contexts of their intellectual production.

Event Date

Nov 28 2017 12:00pm to Nov 28 2017 12:00pm
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Tuesday, November 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

The history of computing has its roots in not only mathematics, but also in the history of hermeneutics, or the interpretation of texts. In his talk, Dennis Tenen, Berkman Fellow Alumnus and Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, drew on his recent book, Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation, and identified key intersections between literary theory and computation.

Tenen’s talk centered around three major points that supported his central argument that literary theory is a useful critical tool to examine computation. The first point is that computation is metaphoric. To help convey this idea, Tenen proposed the concept of "transmediation," which describes the process of relaying information from one unique medium into another, where it is then reconverted. Metaphors largely structure how think about technologies. However, they can also conceal what happens under the surface, unless the user has advanced technological knowledge. For example, things like desktop icons of folders and wastebaskets imitate those real-life material items, but may obscure the computational processes they represent.

The second point was that texts are laminate and composite. By this, Tenen explained, he means to call attention to the idea that texts are no longer “in one place.” For example, one can identify that text written in a notebook exists in that notebook, but text projected on a screen simultaneously exists on the screen, in the projector, on the screen of the computer from which it originates, and potentially other places, as well.

Tenen’s third major point was that a reading of any text should be always infrastructural. He stated that, “content is never disembodied; it always exists in a particular medium.” Therefore, studying both the medium and its related infrastructures matters. Tenen concluded by suggesting that his third point be taken up as a methodological imperative. In studying any kind of text, researchers must consider not only the content itself in isolation, but the material, social, and historical contexts of the text, as well.

notes by Donica O'Malley


Event Description

We are pleased to welcome back Berkman Klein Fellow alumnus, Dennis Tenen, who joins us to discuss his new book, Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation (Stanford UP, 2017).

This book challenges the ways we read, write, store, and retrieve information in the digital age. Computers—from electronic books to smart phones—play an active role in our social lives. Our technological choices thus entail theoretical and political commitments. Dennis Tenen takes up today's strange enmeshing of humans, texts, and machines to argue that our most ingrained intuitions about texts are profoundly alienated from the physical contexts of their intellectual production. Drawing on a range of primary sources from both literary theory and software engineering, he makes a case for a more transparent practice of human–computer interaction. Plain Text is thus a rallying call, a frame of mind as much as a file format. It reminds us, ultimately, that our devices also encode specific modes of governance and control that must remain available to interpretation.


Dennis's Biography:

Dennis Tenen's research happens at the intersection of people, texts, and technology.

His recent work appears on the pages of Amodern, boundary 2, Computational Culture, Modernism/modernity, New Literary History, Public Books, and LA Review of Books on topics that range from book piracy to algorithmic composition, unintelligent design, and history of data visualization.

He teaches a variety of classes in fields of literary theory, new media studies, and critical computing in the humanities.

Tenen is a co-founder of Columbia's Group for Experimental Methods in the Humanities and author of Plain Text: The Poetics of Computation (Stanford UP, 2017).

For an updated list of projects, talks, and publications please visit


by doyolu at November 28, 2017 05:00 PM

November 27, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Accountability of AI Under the Law: The Role of Explanation


The paper reviews current societal, moral, and legal norms around explanations, and then focuses on the different contexts under which an explanation is currently required under the law. It ultimately finds that, at least for now, AI systems can and should be held to a similar standard of explanation as humans currently are.

Publication Date

27 Nov 2017

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by Finale Doshi-Velez and Mason Kortz

for the Berkman Klein Center Working Group on Explanation and the Law:
Chris Bavitz, Harvard Law School; Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University 
Ryan Budish, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Finale Doshi-Velez, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
Sam Gershman, Department of Psychology and Center for Brain Science, Harvard University
Mason Kortz, Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic
David O'Brien, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Stuart Shieber, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
James Waldo, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
David Weinberger, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Alexandra Wood, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University


The ubiquity of systems using artificial intelligence or "AI" has brought increasing attention to how those systems should be regulated. The choice of how to regulate AI systems will require care. AI systems have the potential to synthesize large amounts of data, allowing for greater levels of personalization and precision than ever before|applications range from clinical decision support to autonomous driving and predictive policing. That said, common sense reasoning [McCarthy, 1960] remains one of the holy grails of AI, and there exist legitimate concerns about the intentional and unintentional negative consequences of AI systems [Bostrom, 2003, Amodei et al., 2016, Sculley et al., 2014].

There are many ways to hold AI systems accountable. In this work, we focus on one: explanation. Questions about a legal right to explanation from AI systems was recently debated in the EU General Data Protection Regulation [Goodman and Flaxman, 2016, Wachter et al., 2017], and thus thinking carefully about when and how explanation from AI systems might improve accountability is timely. Good choices about when to demand explanation can help prevent negative consequences from AI systems, while poor choices may not only fail to hold AI systems accountable but also hamper the development of much-needed beneficial AI systems.

Below, we briefly review current societal, moral, and legal norms around explanation, and then focus on the different contexts under which explanation is currently required under the law. We find that there exists great variation around when explanation is demanded, but there also exists important consistencies: when demanding explanation from humans, what we typically want to know is how and whether certain input factors affected the final decision or outcome.

These consistencies allow us to list the technical considerations that must be considered if we desired AI systems that could provide kinds of explanations that are currently required of humans under the law. Contrary to popular wisdom of AI systems as indecipherable black boxes, we find that this level of explanation should often be technically feasible but may sometimes be practically onerous|there are certain aspects of explanation that may be simple for humans to provide but challenging for AI systems, and vice versa. As an interdisciplinary team of legal scholars, computer scientists, and cognitive scientists, we recommend that for the present, AI systems can and should be held to a similar standard of explanation as humans currently are; in the future we may wish to hold an AI to a different standard.

The authors have invited researchers, technologists, and policy makers to engage with the ideas outlined in the paper by emailing and For questions and comments related to broader AI themes and/or related activities of the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, please email

Producer Intro

Authored by

by gweber at November 27, 2017 04:56 PM

Designing Artificial Intelligence to Explain Itself


A new working paper maps out critical starting points for thinking about explanation in AI systems.


As we integrate artificial intelligence deeper into our daily technologies, it becomes important to ask “why” not just of people, but of systems. A new working paper from the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University and the MIT Media Lab maps out critical starting points for thinking about explanation in AI systems. 

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“Why did you do that?” The right to ask that deceptively simple question and expect an answer creates a social dynamic of interpersonal accountability. Accountability, in turn, is the foundation of many important social institutions, from personal and professional trust to legal liability to governmental legitimacy and beyond.

As we integrate artificial intelligence deeper into our daily technologies, it becomes important to ask “why” not just of people, but of systems. However, human and artificial intelligences are not interchangeable. Designing an AI system to provide accurate, meaningful, human-readable explanations presents practical challenges, and our responses to those challenges may have far-reaching consequences. Setting guidelines for AI-generated explanations today will help us understand and manage increasingly complex systems in the future.

In response to these emerging questions, a new working paper from the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University and the MIT Media Lab maps out critical starting points for thinking about explanation in AI systems. “Accountability of AI Under the Law: The Role of Explanation” is now available to scholars, policy makers, and the public.

“If we’re going to take advantage of all that AIs have to offer, we’re going to have to find ways to hold them accountable,” said Finale Doshi-Velez of Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, “Explanation is one tool toward that end.  We see a complex balance of costs and benefits, social norms, and more. To ground our discussion in concrete terms, we looked to ways that explanation currently functions in law.”

Doshi-Velez and Mason Kortz of the Berkman Klein Center and Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic are lead authors of the paper, which is the product of an extensive collaboration within the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, now underway at Harvard and MIT.

“An explanation, as we use the term in this paper, is a reason or justification for a specific decision made by an AI system--how a particular set of inputs lead to a particular outcome,” said Kortz. “A helpful explanation will tell you something about this process, such as the degree to which an input influenced the outcome, whether changing a certain factor would have changed the decision, or why two similar-looking cases turned out differently.”

The paper reviews current societal, moral, and legal norms around explanations, and then focuses on the different contexts under which an explanation is currently required under the law. It ultimately finds that, at least for now, AI systems can and should be held to a similar standard of explanation as humans currently are.

“It won’t necessarily be easy to produce explanations from complex AI systems that are processing enormous amounts of data,” Kortz added. “Humans are naturally able to describe our internal processes in terms of cause and effect, although not always with great accuracy. AIs, on the other hand, will have to be intentionally designed with the capacity to generate explanations in mind. This paper is the starting point for a series of discussions that will be increasingly important in the years ahead. We’re hoping this generates some constructive feedback from inside and outside the Initiative.”

Guided by the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard and the MIT Media Lab, the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative aims to foster global conversations among scholars, experts, advocates, and leaders from a range of industries. By developing a shared framework to address urgent questions surrounding AI, the Initiative aims to help public and private decision-makers understand and plan for the effective use of AI systems for the public good. More information at:

by gweber at November 27, 2017 03:12 PM

Harry Lewis
The Price
Professor Ben Friedman gave the best speech during the debate on November 7. He observed, among other things, that if we have learned anything over the past year and a half, it is that
the life of the Houses, those jewels of the Harvard structure, is nowhere near as engaging to our students as it should be, and in consequence it is losing out to life in other venues. What have we done in response? An all-too-familiar feature of American business behavior…is that when a firm’s product is losing out in competition, the firm’s response is not to improve its product but to seek to get the regulators to take its competitor’s product off the market. In effect, that’s what we have been doing here. Think of what we might have accomplished—think of what we still might accomplish—if we redirect the time and talent and energy that this faculty has put into this two-year-long discussion…to thinking about how best to re-invigorate life in Houses, rather than simply looking to shut down the alternative that too many of our students now prefer instead.
(The entire Harvard Magazine editorial opinion from which this passage is quoted is very much worth reading.)

Harvard can't seriously think that problems with House life are due to the clubs. Harvard cannot on the one hand credibly claim that off-campus clubs so damage the Houses that students who join them should be disgraced or even expelled, and at the same time build a "campus center" to draw students out of the Houses, and encourage students to take faculty out to lunch at local restaurants under the "Classroom to Table" program. There is something bigger going on with House life than could be cured by shutting down the clubs.

Let's stipulate—even though I don't believe it—that it is Harvard's job to more fully manage students' social lives. (After all, one reason students come to Harvard rather than, say, Bowdoin is because of the greater opportunities to have fun and to do interesting things off campus. I hope the next administration will be less socially oriented and will refocus us instead on academic matters.)

Viewed from a very high altitude, the problem of social life in the Houses has some unacknowledged origins. It is a familiar complaint that social life is bad because the Houses are more crowded than they used to be, and more crowded they surely are. That's unfortunate, but all things considered, I think Harvard has made the right tradeoff in educating a few more students rather than housing a smaller number in more spacious quarters.

The problems of social life in the Houses are more the result of other changes over the years. One is that a college with a 1:1 sex ratio generates more socializing—and thus the need for more social space—than the all-male college for which the Houses (and the old clubs) were designed. The pressure on social space became more intense as roughly the same number of students became 50-50 men and women, and as significant changes occurred over the same decades in the way young American men and women socialize with each other.

Also, while Harvard was assuming from Radcliffe complete social and residential responsibility for women students, it absorbed and renovated the Radcliffe dormitories (in the Quad), but allocated Radcliffe Yard, once the center of academic, social, and administrative life for women undergraduates, almost entirely to graduate education and research. (Only Agassiz Theatre remains an undergraduate building.) Inevitably, that put pressure on other social and administrative spaces for undergraduates. (As has the increasing number of College administrators.)

So Professor Friedman is right. We might have spent the last year talking about the life of the Houses rather than the evils of single-sex clubs. But the waste of time and energy that might have been devoted instead to improving House life is only one, and not the most serious, of the costs of this misadventure. I can think of several others.

The financial costs of the assault on the clubs are likewise not the most serious, but the resulting antipathy of alumni and parents (such as Heather Furnas) can't be welcome. Yet it may not matter. Fundraising numbers are robust. Two nine-figure gifts in the past decade have come from alumni of the professional schools (Gerald Chan and John Paulson), not the College. It may be that, like everything else in American society, alumni influence is tipping toward the top hundredth-of-a-percent of an increasingly financially stratified population. Has Harvard's fundraising model so shifted that the institution can afford to be indifferent to alumni loyalty?

The cost that bothers me most is the personal cost to students, especially women. Women will be the big losers if harsh sanctions are imposed on members of single-sex clubs. When the sanctions were announced under cover of exam-period darkness back in May 2016, did the President or the deans even know how many women belong to such organizations? Nothing was said about women's clubs in the initial announcements. Indeed, by citing sexual assault, those announcements suggested that the moves were meant to help women. In September 2016, the President soundedthis half-hearted acknowledgment of the existence of women's clubs:
We need to be sure that we provide women with networking opportunities, with the support they need. We need to figure out the ways to do this. The women’s clubs have grown up because we, as a community, have not done that adequately. And so I don’t think that being this kind of organization — one that was created because something was withheld from you — is the best way to address these women’s needs.
This is the sort of logic that the Letter from 23 Undergraduate Women characterized as "astonishingly patronizing." Women are not joining sororities because the doors of the Porcellian are barred to them. None of the reports and pronouncements over the past year make any attempt to understand the sociology of the sororities and women's final clubs. No evidence has been presented that any of the ugly labels attached during the debates to the male final clubs applies to any of the women's clubs.

The attack on all clubs demonstrates exactly the indiscriminate stereotyping we hope students will avoid in other contexts. The women's clubs operate quietly, and women have their good reasons to join them. They provide something (actually, different things to different students) that those students find useful, supportive, or empowering. There will be a cost if what the clubs provide is taken away, and it is shameful that Harvard trivializes that cost. God save us if our graduates use such uninformed, ideological methods when they go to Washington to craft social policies for the nation.

The governance question, detailedseveral times by Professor James Engell, was skirted but not settled by the outcome of the November 7 vote. Is the Faculty in charge of the discipline of undergraduates, as the Statutes plainly state? The president refused to say. She recently said that anything that has to be put in the Handbook will be voted by the Faculty, but claims uncertainty about what matters those might be.  At the same time, attempts have been made to confuse "the Faculty" with "faculty," for example by referring to the Clark-Khurana committee as a "faculty committee," even though barely half of its members held even the lowest of faculty ranks.  The Faculty is an allegedly self-governing corporate body, with statutory responsibilities, committees of elected members, and binding formal votes, while "faculty" could refer to anyone with a faculty title whom the administration chooses include in its deliberations. The wording of the Howell motion("it is the responsibility of the faculty and administration of Harvard College") deceptively blurs this distinction—there is no faculty of Harvard College, and conjoining "the administration" as an equal partner cedes to the administration the statutory authority of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Finally, and related to all these concerns, the handling of the sanctions has created mistrust that will not easily be repaired. The source of the mistrust is that a badly conceived plan was promoted on the basis of a preposterous dogma: That single-sex organizations are inherently odious, that the very idea of a single-sex organization should excite the same revulsion as does the Ku Klux Klan. (Somehow while all this was going on, President Faust found time to speak at the inauguration of the new president of Wellesley College.) That lie (which has also corruptedthe "inclusivity" initiative) created many inconsistencies and absurdities—for example, that the Women's Center is morally superior to a women's club because men can use it, or that the Black Men's Forum is OK because it isn't a forum for black men. This explains why the rationale kept shifting, though never enough to explain why some harmless organizations had to be killed off along with the dangerous ones.

The assertion of authority by Senior Fellow Bill Lee in a recent Crimson interviewtends to confirm what I suspected. This attack on single-gender social organizations started at the Corporation level, as a risk mitigation endeavor. After one Title IX lawsuit, and a long history of bad behavior at certain male final clubs, Harvard's legal governors were worried about the extent of its financial exposure, and so the president and deans took the most aggressive actions against the clubs of any administration since the late 1990s. But their plan of action was couched in moral language rather than the language of safety and risk, and resonated with certain lines of progressive thought.

So even though this all started because some of the clubs posed risks, students were never told to stay away from them, only that students should hate them. Since the lawyers (I am sure) shot down any idea of treating women's clubs differently from men's, or some men's clubs differently from others, the category of offensive organizations kept morphing by expansion, not contraction.

And the administration, having crawled out onto a precarious moral limb to much applause, could not admit that the original motivation was a perfectly reasonable worry about student safety and Harvard's financial exposure. To be sure, the worst behaviors of the worst clubs kept getting cited—in fact, one speaker on November 7 cited a recent hazing death of fraternity pledge at a state university in arguing against my motion. One faculty colleague described this as "emotional blackmail," but I bet it swung a few votes. Sadly, the death of a Harvard undergraduate barely two weeks earlier suggests that loneliness may be a more serious death risk for Harvard students—and as the letter from the 23 women observes, that risk factor seems likely to be increased, not decreased, by shutting down the off-campus clubs.

The night before they were released, a member of the College administration showed me the lettersfrom Dean Khurana and President Faust announcing the sanctions regime. My immediate reaction was, "No one will believe you." That is, no one would believe that the stated reasons for the crackdown were the real ones. Now the Senior Fellow has expanded his unprecedented involvement in the structure of undergraduate life by declaring that the as yet unnamed next president of Harvard will not change the policy that was announced so abruptly and unwisely on May 6, 2016.

This has been a nightmare for Veritas.

by Harry Lewis ( at November 27, 2017 12:21 PM

November 22, 2017

Berkman Center front page
A Legal Anatomy of AI-generated Art: Part I


This Comment, published in the JOLT Digest, is the first in a two-part series on how lawyers should think about art generated by artificial intelligences, particularly with regard to copyright law. This first part charts the anatomy of the AI-assisted artistic process. ​

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This Comment by Jessica Fjeld and Mason Kortz originally published in the Journal of Law and Technology's online Digest, is the first in a two-part series on how lawyers should think about art generated by artificial intelligences, particularly with regard to copyright law. This first part charts the anatomy of the AI-assisted artistic process. The second Comment in the series examine how copyright interests in these elements interact and provide practice tips for lawyers drafting license agreements or involved in disputes around AI-generated artwork.

Advanced algorithms that display cognition-like processes, popularly called artificial intelligences or “AIs,” are capable of generating sophisticated and provocative works of art.[1] These technologies differ from widely-used digital creation and editing tools in that they are capable of developing complex decision-making processes, leading to unexpected outcomes. Generative AI systems and the artwork they produce raise mind-bending questions of ownership, from broad policy concerns[2] to the individual interests of the artists, engineers, and researchers undertaking this work. Attorneys, too, are beginning to get involved, called on by their clients to draft licenses or manage disputes.

The Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society has recently developed a practice in advising clients in the emerging field at the intersection of art and AI. We have seen for ourselves how attempts to negotiate licenses or settle disputes without a common understanding of the systems involved may result in vague and poorly understood agreements, and worse, unnecessary conflict between parties. More often than not, this friction arises between reasonable parties who are open to compromise, but suffer from a lack of clarity over what, exactly, is being negotiated. In the course of solving such problems, we have dissected generative AIs and studied their elements from a legal perspective. The result is an anatomy that forms the foundation of our thinking—and our practice—on the subject of AI-generated art. When the parties to an agreement or dispute share a common vocabulary and understanding of the nature of the work, many areas of potential conflict evaporate.

Read the full comment at JOLTdigest.

by gweber at November 22, 2017 05:18 PM

November 21, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Apply for a Spot in CopyrightX 2018


CopyrightX is a networked course that explores the current law of copyright; the impact of that law on art, entertainment, and industry; and the ongoing debates concerning how the law should be reformed. 

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The application for the CopyrightX online sections will be open from Oct. 16 - Dec. 13. See CopyrightX:Sections for details.

CopyrightX is a networked course that explores the current law of copyright; the impact of that law on art, entertainment, and industry; and the ongoing debates concerning how the law should be reformed. Through a combination of recorded lectures, assigned readings, weekly seminars, and live interactive webcasts, participants in the course examine and assess the ways in which the copyright system seeks to stimulate and regulate creative expression.

In 2013, HarvardX, Harvard Law School, and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society launched an experiment in distance education: CopyrightX, the first free and open distance learning course on law. After five successful offerings, CopyrightX is an experiment no longer. Under the leadership of Professor William Fisher, who created and directs the course, CopyrightX will be offered for a sixth time from January to May 2018. 

Three types of courses make up the CopyrightX Community:
•    a residential course on Copyright Law, taught by Prof. Fisher to approximately 100 Harvard Law School students;
•    an online course divided into sections of 25 students, each section taught by a Harvard Teaching Fellow;
•    a set of affiliated courses based at educational institutions worldwide, each taught by an expert in copyright law.

Participation in the 2018 online sections is free and is open to anyone at least 13 years of age, but enrollment is limited. Admission to the online sections will be administered through an open application process that ends on December 13, 2017. We welcome applicants from all countries, as well as lawyers and non-lawyers alike. To request an application, visit For more details, see CopyrightX:Sections. (The criteria for admission to each of the affiliated courses are set by the course’s instructor. Students who will enroll in the affiliated courses may not apply to the online sections.)

We encourage widespread promotion of the application through personal and professional networks and social media. Feel free to circulate: 
•    this blog post 
•    the application page 

by gweber at November 21, 2017 08:47 PM

Badges of Oppression, Positions of Strength: Digital Black Feminist Discourse and the Legacy of Black Women’s Technology Use


featuring Catherine Knight Steele, University of Maryland


The use of online technology by black feminist thinkers has changed the principles, praxis, and product of black feminist writing and simultaneously has changed the technologies themselves. Texts from the antebellum south through the 20th-century contextualize the contemporary relationship between black women and digital media.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Nov 21 2017 12:00pm to Nov 21 2017 12:00pm
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Tuesday, November 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

In early work on Internet studies, research addressing people of color focused solely on lack of access to technology. However, scholars such as André Brock and Anna Everett have pointed out that many Black users operated in unrecognized spaces online, and were therefore rendered invisible in much early new media work. Since then, scholars have attempted to be more inclusive, but research often still assumes a homogenous group of Black internet users or focuses on Black men as the default.

In response, in her work, Dr. Catherine Knight Steele foregrounds the principles, practices, and products of Black feminists online. During her talk, Steele argued that, “the use of online technology by Black feminist thinkers has changed not only the outcome of Black feminist writing, but also has changed the technologies themselves.” Because of the history of systemic racism, Black women have had to develop “unique communicative and technological capacities” in order to survive. Steele therefore described Black feminist discourse online as a “natural outgrowth of a particular set of skills and obstacles acquired over time.” For example, she pointed out that Black women have not been swayed by bots, propaganda, or fake news in ways that other social groups have. Steele situated this fact in a longer history of “wisdom, labor, and ingenuity,” regarding Black women’s decision making for the greater good. She suggests that progressive thinkers should recognize this legacy and value Black women’s decision-making processes and social media expertise.

Three frameworks guide Steele’s research: intersectionality and the matrix of domination; Black technophilia; and hip-hop feminism. Influenced by these frameworks, Steele has developed a theory of Black digital feminist discourse. She suggests that this discourse: “prioritizes agency, reclaims the right to self-identity, has complicated allegiances, centralizes non-gender binary spaces, and is informed by a dialectic of self and community interests.” Furthermore, in the Black feminist digital space, Steele sees the conflation of public and private identities, and a complex relationship to capitalism. By performing critical technocultural discourse analysis of Black feminism online, Steele hopes to highlight the revolutionary potential of black feminist practice and principles.

notes by Donica O'Malley

Event Description

Black women have historically occupied a unique position, existing in multiple worlds, manipulating multiple technologies, and maximizing their resources for survival in a system created to keep them from thriving. I present a case for the unique development of black women’s relationship with technology by analyzing historical texts that explore the creation of black womanhood in contrast to white womanhood and black manhood in early colonial and antebellum periods in the U.S. This study of Black feminist discourse online situates current practices in the context of historical use and mastery of communicative technology by the black community broadly and black women more specifically. By tracing the history of black feminist thinkers in relationship to technology we move from a deficiency model of black women’s use of technology to recognizing their digital skills and internet use as part of a long developed expertise.

About Catherine

Catherine Knight Steele is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Maryland - College Park and the Director of the Andrew W. Mellon funded African American Digital Humanities Initiative (AADHum). As the director of the AADHum, Dr. Steele works to foster a new generation of scholars and scholarship at the intersection of African American Studies and Digital Humanities and Digital Studies. She earned her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on race, gender, and media with a specific focus on African American culture and discourse in traditional and new media. She examines representations of marginalized communities in the media and how traditionally marginalized populations resist oppression and utilize online technology to create spaces of community. Dr. Steele has published in new media journals such as Social Media & Society and Television & New Media; and the edited volumes Intersectional Internet (Ed. S. Noble & B. Tynes) and the upcoming edited collection A Networked Self: Birth, Life, Death (Ed. Z. Papacharissi). She is currently working on a book manuscript about Digital Black Feminism. 

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by candersen at November 21, 2017 04:00 PM

An Open Letter to the Members of the Massachusetts Legislature Regarding the Adoption of Actuarial Risk Assessment Tools in the Criminal Justice System


This open letter — signed by Harvard and MIT-based faculty, staff, and researchers— is directed to the Massachusetts Legislature to inform its consideration of risk assessment tools as part of ongoing criminal justice reform efforts in the Commonwealth.

Publication Date

9 Nov 2017

This open letter — signed by Harvard and MIT-based faculty, staff, and researchers Chelsea Barabas, Christopher Bavitz, Ryan Budish, Karthik Dinakar, Cynthia Dwork, Urs Gasser, Kira Hessekiel, Joichi Ito, Ronald L. Rivest, Madars Virza, and Jonathan Zittrain — is directed to the Massachusetts Legislature to inform its consideration of risk assessment tools as part of ongoing criminal justice reform efforts in the Commonwealth.


Producer Intro

Authored by

by gweber at November 21, 2017 03:38 PM

Juan Carlos De Martin
E' online il sito del libro "Università futura"
Ieri è andato online il mini-sito dedicato al mio libro "Università futura - tra democrazia e bit". Se potete, il libro continuate a comprarlo (anche in ebook), così sosterrete un editore - Codice Edizioni - che da anni sta facendo molto, con perizia e coraggio, per diffondere la cultura scientifica in Italia. Se invece non potete comprarlo o volete prima sfogliarlo (o farlo sfogliare a un amico), dal sito potete scaricare il PDF del libro. Il libro, in tutte le sue forme, è rilasciato con licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione-Non Commerciale-Condividi allo stesso modo.

by Juan Carlos De Martin at November 21, 2017 08:53 AM

November 20, 2017

Justin Reich
Reading Blogs to Learn: Seeking Knowledge From a Community of Strangers
Almost two-thirds of college students still use blogs, mostly to find information, tips, and step-by-step instructions for work, hobbies, DIY projects, and finances.

by Justin Reich at November 20, 2017 06:54 PM

November 16, 2017

Justin Reich
From Thought to Action - Taking Control of Innovation
As educators, we all possess the power of innovation because we can control our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

by Beth Holland at November 16, 2017 11:20 PM

Digital Justice: Technology and the Internet of Disputes
eBay resolves 60 million disputes a year and Alibaba 100 million. How do they do that? At the other less impressive extreme, in 2015 the IRS hung up on telephone callers 8.8 million times without making contact. Are there online solutions for that? Disputes are a “growth industry” on the internet, an inevitable by-product of innovation but often harmful to individuals. Drawing on his recent book, Digital Justice: Technology and the Internet of Disputes, (co-authored with Orna Rabinovich), Professor Katsh considers opportunities for online dispute resolution and prevention in ecommerce, health care, social media, employment, and the courts. Find out more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at November 16, 2017 11:06 PM

Ethan Zuckerman
Who Filters Your News? Why we built

Roughly ten years ago, as phones became smartphones and Facebook and Twitter began their rise towards ubiquity, a fundamental social shift took place: the majority of people in the developed world became content creators. The bloggers of the early 2000s were joined by hundreds of millions of people posting videos to YouTube channels, pictures to Instagram, essays to Medium and countless status updates from 140 characters to Facebook wall posts. Before the internet, publishing had been a distinction, with a limited number of people lucky, talented or wealthy enough to share ideas or images with a wide audience. After the rise of social media, publishing became a default, with non-participation the exception.

There’s a problem with this rise in shared self-expression: we’ve all still got a constant and limited amount of attention available. For those creating content, this means the challenge now is not publishing your work, but finding an audience. The problem for those of us in the audience – i.e., all of us – is filtering through the information constantly coming at us.

Before the internet, we relied on newspapers and broadcasters to filter much of our information, choosing curators based on their styles, reputations and biases – did you want a Wall Street Journal or New York Times view of the world? Fox News or NPR? The rise of powerful search engines made it possible to filter information based on our own interests – if you’re interested in sumo wrestling, you can learn whatever Google will show you, even if professional curators don’t see the sport as a priority.

Social media has presented a new problem for filters. The theory behind social media is that we want to pay attention to what our friends and family think is important. In practice, paying attention to everything 500 or 1500 friends are interested in is overwhelming – Robin Dunbar theorizes that people have a hard limit to how many relationships we can cognitively maintain. Twitter solves this problem with a social hack: it’s okay to miss posts on your feed because so many are flowing by… though Twitter now tries to catch you up on important posts if you had the temerity to step away from the service for a few hours.

Facebook and other social media platforms solve the problem a different way: the algorithm. Facebook’s news feed usually differs sharply from a list of the most recent items posted by your friends and pages you follow – instead, it’s been personalized using thousands of factors, meaning you’ll see posts Facebook thinks you’ll want to see from hours or days ago, while you’ll miss some recent posts the algorithm thinks won’t interest you. Research from the labs of Christian Sandvig and Karrie Karahalios suggests that even heavy Facebook users aren’t aware that algorithms shape their use of the service, and that many have experienced anxiety about not receiving responses to posts the algorithm suppressed.

Many of the anxieties about Facebook and other social platforms are really anxieties about filtering. The filter bubble, posited by Eli Pariser, is the idea that our natural tendencies towards homophily get amplified by filters designed to give us what we want, not ideas that challenge us, leading to ideological isolation and polarization. Fake news designed to mislead audiences and garner ad views relies on the fact that Facebook’s algorithms have a difficult time determining whether information is true or not, but can easily see whether information is new and popular, sharing information that’s received strong reactions from previous audiences. When Congress demands action on fake news and Kremlin propaganda, they’re requesting another form of filtering, based on who’s creating content and on whether it’s factually accurate.

Twitter’s problems with trolls, bots, extremists and harassment are filtering problems as well. Prominent users like Lindy West have left the system complaining that Twitter is unwilling to remove serial abusers from the platform, or to give people abused on the service stronger tools to filter out and report abuse. As questions arise about Russian influence on the platform, Twitter may need to aggressively identify and filter out automated accounts which are used to promote pro-Trump or pro-Kremlin hashtags – the Hamilton68 Project focuses on tracking these accounts and understanding their influence as Twitter since the service has not yet filtered them out, either banning them or allowing audiences to block them from their feed.

Why don’t social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter give users powerful tools to filter their own feeds? Right now, the algorithms control what we see, but we can’t control them. As the internet maxim goes, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”. Both Twitter and Facebook offer powerful filtering tools that allow advertisers to target exactly who they want their ads to reach. You can pay money and advertise to women of color between 40-60 in Seattle, but you can’t choose to read perspectives from those women. While we’ve seen great innovation from projects like BlockTogether, which lets users who experience harassment share Twitter blocklists, we’ve seen surprisingly little innovation on user-controllable filters from the platforms themselves. And unless we see something like public-service social media platforms, it’s unlikely that we will see platforms give users much more control over what they see.

Algorithmic filters optimize platforms for user retention and engagement, keeping our eyes firmly on the site so that our attention can be sold to advertisers. We thought it was time that we all had a tool that let us filter social media the ways we choose. What if we could choose to challenge ourselves one day, encountering perspectives from outside our normal orbits, and relax another day, filtering for what’s funniest and most viral. So we built Gobo.

What’s Gobo?

Gobo is a social media aggregator with filters you control. You can use Gobo to control what’s edited out of your feed, or configure it to include news and points of view from outside your usual orbit. Gobo aims to be completely transparent, showing you why each post was included in your feed and inviting you to explore what was filtered out by your current filter settings.

To use Gobo, you link your Twitter and Facebook accounts to Gobo and choose a set of news publications that most closely resembles the news you follow online. Gobo retrieves recent posts from these social networks and lets you decide which ones you want to see. Want more posts from women? Adjust a slider to set the gender balance of your feed… or just click on the “mute all men” button and listen to the folks who often get shouted down in online dialogs. Want to broaden the perspectives in your feed? Move the politics slider from “my perspective” to “lots of perspectives” and Gobo introduces news stories from sources you might not otherwise find.

How does it work?

Gobo retrieves posts from people you follow on Twitter and Facebook and analyzes them using simple machine learning-based filters. You can set those filters – seriousness, rudeness, virality, gender and brands – to eliminate some posts from your feed. The “politics” slider works differently, “filtering in”, instead of “filtering out” – if you set the slider towards “lots of perspectives”, our “news echo” algorithm will start adding in posts from media outlets that you likely don’t read every day.

That sounds great! Why isn’t everyone using it?

There are some serious limitations to Gobo at present. It’s slow – we’re generally showing you posts that appeared on Twitter three hours ago. As we refine and scale the tool, we’ll get faster, but right now, Gobo’s a good way to see how algorithms shape your newsfeed, but not a great way to keep up with breaking news.

You’ll also notice that there’s probably a lot less content from Facebook than from Twitter. Facebook allows us to show you posts from public pages, but not from your friends’ individual pages. We’re exploring ways you might be able to feed your whole, unedited Facebook news feed through Gobo, but we’re not there yet.

You may also notice that filters don’t always work the way you’d expect. We’re using off-the-shelf open source machine learning filters – we may end up fine-tuning these over time, but we don’t have the advantage of billions of user sessions to learn from the way Facebook does. It’s also a good reminder that these filters are always probabilistic and inexact – you get to see where our system screws up, unlike with Facebook!

Who built it?

Gobo is a project of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies at MIT. The idea for the project came from conversations between Chelsea Barabas, Neha Narula and Ethan Zuckerman around decentralized web publishing, leading to the report “Back to the Future: The Decentralized Web”. Rahul Bhargava, Jasmin Rubinovitz and Alexis Hope built the tool itself, with Jasmin focusing on the AI filters, Alexis on the product design and Rahul on integration and deployment.

Our work on Gobo and on decentralized publishing, was made possible by the Knight Foundation, the founding donors behind our Center and supporters of some of our wackiest and most speculative work. We thank them for their trust and support.

Where’s Gobo going in the future?

We want Gobo to be more inclusive, incorporating content from new, decentralized social networks like Mastodon and Steemit, as well as existing networks like Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr. We really want to find a way to let users filter their Facebook feeds, as bringing transparency to that process was an inspiration for the process. We’d like to integrate RSS feed reading, possibly turning Gobo into a replacement for the late great Google Reader. And we’d like it to be lots faster. In the long run, we’d love to see Gobo run entirely in the browser so we don’t have central control over what content you’re seeing – an intermediate step may include allowing people to run local Gobo servers ala Mastodon or Diaspora.

That said, the real goal behind Gobo is to open a conversation about who gets to filter what you see on the web. If we prompt a conversation about why platforms don’t give you more control over what you see, we’d be really happy. If Facebook or another platform incorporated ideas from Gobo in their own design, we’d throw a party. We’d even invite you.

Can I help make Gobo better?

Heck yeah. There are bound to be lots of bugs in this prototype. Beyond that, Gobo is an open source project and we’ll be sharing source code on the MIT Media Lab github repository. We’ve designed the prototype to treat ML filters as modules that can be dropped into our processing queue — we’d love ideas of other text or image analysis modules we can introduce as filters for Gobo.

Why the name?

Ever seen a stage production where the lights look like they’re coming through a window, or the leaves of a forest? Those effects are created with gobos, filters cut from sheets of metal and placed in front of a light to shine a particular pattern on a curtain or other surface. We’re theater geeks, and it seemed like the perfect name for a product that lets you experiment with the effects of filters.

by Ethan at November 16, 2017 06:35 PM

November 14, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Digital Justice: Technology and the Internet of Disputes


featuring author Ethan Katsh


Our society is blessed with new technologies yet also burdened with numerous and novel disputes as they are used. In his new book Digital Justice: Technology and the Internet of Disputes, Professor Katsh looks at many of these disputes, why they arise, how they may be resolved and, in some cases, even prevented.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Nov 14 2017 12:00pm to Nov 14 2017 12:00pm
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Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

The issue of online dispute resolution is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the early years of the internet, between approximately 1969 and 1992, the conditions for dispute were missing. During this time, internet access was restricted to academics and the military, and commerce was not permitted. Changes to these rules, in terms of who was allowed to access the internet and what types of things they could do there, created the conditions necessary for disputes to occur. Thus, online dispute resolution has grown rapidly in the last 10 – 20 years.

Drawing from his book, Digital Justice: Technology and the Internet of Disputes, co-authored with Orna Rabinovich-Einy, Ethan Katsh analyzed how technology influences access to justice across five areas: ecommerce, healthcare, work, social media, and the courts system. Katsh explained that his central concern is to create an online environment with improved access to justice and dispute resolution for individuals. Currently, “conflict is a growth industry.” We are experiencing both a high level of conflict and increasingly novel kinds of disputes. Examples of such novel disputes include not only arguments over goods exchanged, such as what happens often on Ebay, but also increasing arguments over quality of services, propelled by growth in the sharing economy through sites such as Airbnb or Taskrabbit.  The particular types of disputes we now have are largely a by-product of innovation online, so existing strategies we have to deal with conflicts, such as courts, are often either inefficient or irrelevant for these specific circumstances.

If we rely on outdated methods like courts, mediation or arbitration to address these issues, there are four consequences: individuals’ risk increases, and the products’ or services’ trust, use, and value all decrease. Therefore, Katsh wants to increase individuals’ online accessibility to dispute resolutions. To do this, he suggests that we need to continue to develop new tools and systems that address disputes in this rapidly changing social and technological context. There have already been some advancements towards digital justice, despite the issues that still exist. With more institutions moving online, some automated dispute resolution systems have cut costs, simplified complaints through pre-fixed language, reduced third-party bias, and offered long-term big data that can be analyzed for trends and potentially create pre-emptive solutions for these types of problems. Making use of this data in new ways may help shift the emphasis to preventing, rather than resolving disputes.

- notes by Donica O'Malley

About Ethan

Professor Katsh is widely recognized as one of the founders of the field of online dispute resolution (ODR). Along with Janet Rifkin, he conducted the eBay Pilot Project in 1999 that led to eBay’s current system that handles over sixty million disputes each year. With Professor Rifkin, he wrote Online Dispute Resolution: Resolving Conflicts in Cyberspace (2001), the first book about ODR. Since then, he has published numerous articles about ODR and co-edited Online Dispute Resolution: Theory and Practice, which received the International Institute for Conflict Resolution book award for 2012. The frequently mentioned metaphor of technology as a “Fourth Party” was first proposed in Katsh and Rifkin’s Online Dispute Resolution (2001).

Professor Katsh is a graduate of the Yale Law School and was one of the first legal scholars to recognize the impact new information technologies would have on law. In The Electronic Media and the Transformation of Law (Oxford University Press, 1989) and Law in a Digital World (Oxford University Press, 1995), he predicted many of the changes that were to come to law and the legal profession. His articles have appeared in the Yale Law Journal, the University of Chicago Legal Forum, and other law reviews and legal periodicals. His scholarly contribution in the field of law and technology has been the subject of a Review Essay in Law and Social Inquiry.

Professor Katsh has served as principal online dispute resolution consultant for the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), a federal agency mandated to provide mediation in Freedom of Information Act disputes. During 2010-2011, he was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Haifa (Israel). He has been Visiting Professor of Law and Cyberspace at Brandeis University and is on the Board of Editors of Conflict Resolution Quarterly. He was principal dispute resolution advisor to and is Chairman of the Board of Advisors of His principal current research concern involves issues related to health care and, more particularly, to disputes over electronic health records (see How Patients Can Improve the Accuracy of their Medical Records).

Since 1996, Professor Katsh has been involved in a series of activities related to online dispute resolution. He participated in the Virtual Magistrate project and was founder and co-director of the Online Ombuds Office. In 1997, with support from the Hewlett Foundation, he and Professor Rifkin founded the National Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts. During the Summer of 1999, he co-founded, which later worked with eResolution to become one of the first four providers accredited by ICANN to resolve domain name disputes. From 2004 – 2010, Professor Katsh was co-Principal Investigator, with Professors Lee Osterweil and Lori Clarke and Dr. Norman Sondheimer of the UMass Department of Computer Science, of two National Science Foundation funded projects to model processes of online dispute resolution. This work was coordinated with the United States National Mediation Board.

Professor Katsh has chaired the International Forums on Online Dispute Resolution, held in Geneva in 2002 and 2003, Melbourne in 2004, Cairo in 2006, Liverpool in 2007, Hong Kong in 2007, Victoria (Canada) in 2008, Haifa (Israel) in 2009, Buenos Aires in 2010, Chennai (India) in 2011, Prague in 2012,  Montreal in 2013,  Silicon Valley in 2014, New York in 2015 and The Hague and Beijing in 2016 and in Paris in June 2017. Professor Katsh received the Chancellor’s Medal and gave the University of Massachusetts Distinguished Faculty Lecture in October 2006. In 2014-2015, he was an  Affiliate of Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.  He is the 2017 recipient of the D’Alemberte-Raven Award from the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution.


Ethan Katsh & Colin Rule, “What We Know and Need to Know about Online Dispute Resolution”

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by doyolu at November 14, 2017 05:00 PM

November 10, 2017

Harry Lewis
"Let me get this straight"
So began the email I received from an alum a couple of days ago. It went on, "Harvard bans final clubs, and puts on this workshop?" He linked to some stories about the workshop on anal sex being offered during Harvard Sex Week. (Check the Tuesday evening schedule.)

Stop laughing. I want to make a serious point here.

I am not against Sex Week. In fact, I like Sex Week. It is sad and strange that many 18 to 22 year olds are no more knowledgeable about sex than their parents or grandparents were. That said, it is a reasonable question whether this particular form of educational programming should be a high priority. I would rank Sex Week above some other things we do but below many more things that we should be doing but aren't. But that is just me. Others will have other views—chacun à son goût. Of course, donors also have their own tastes, and I know some who are redirecting their annual donations accordingly.

What I hate is our pretense of moral superiority. The weaponization of "inclusion" is the most sanctimonious exercise I can remember at Harvard, and that is saying something in a place never known for its humility. 

On how many occasions over the past two years have deans, presidents, and faculty members lectured opponents of the single-gender ban on the basis that being a member of a single-gender club was inconsistent with Harvard's deepest values? Or, as one faculty member put it, that of course we don't tolerate intolerant people—where the category of intolerant people includes women who hang out off campus for a few hours a week with other women for reasons they know best? (Read the letter written by 23 undergraduate women.)

The arc of history, we are told (seriously, we have heard that phrase twice), points toward the day when every single member of this community feels completely comfortable in Harvard's social environment, where everyone is welcome in every organization that any student might join. I am tired of being told that students who want to live their private lives as they wish are bad people.

Guess what? Some students have cultural, moral, or religious objections to anal sex, and a number of other practices Sex Week is teaching. Some students are made uncomfortable by advertisements about sexual activities of any kind.

I know the answer. Nobody has to go to the anal sex workshop. It is "inclusive," because anyone can go to it. "Exclusive" means that you are not allowed to go, like a sorority. No matter that no Harvard man has ever wanted to join any sorority. They are exclusive! They are at odds with our deepest values! They are all these terrible things that the anal sex workshop is not. The anal sex workshop is inclusive! The Women's Center is inclusive, because all genders are welcome! Kappa is bad because it excludes men! Don't you get it?

(But, I might object, Humanities 10 and lots of other courses aren't inclusive—students have to apply and many are rejected. Oh, I hear our moral arbiters cry, it's fine for Harvard faculty to pick and choose whom they wish to teach. Anyway, these courses are inclusive—anyone can apply to take them. Why is it so hard for you to understand the plain meaning of the word inclusivity?)

Do we really think that conservative Christians, Muslims, and Jews feel fully included in the Harvard of Sex Week?

Again, I do not object to Sex Week. I consider the offense some students take at Sex Week the price they pay for attending a diverse, complicated, culturally rich institution. But I object strongly to the shameless hypocrisy of using exclusivity as a rationale for banning students from single gender organizations, on the basis that what those organizations stand for is offensive and makes some students feel they don't belong here. Those organizations are important to other students, and those who don't like them should learn to ignore them. 

The point in working through this example is that not everyone—in fact, no one—can feel fully comfortable all the time in any institution where different people have different ideas, wants, and needs. It is impossible to achieve ubiquitous belonging in an institution that values learning, that expects students to grow and change. 

It is argued that intellectual discomfort is good, but students should never feel out of place because of their identity. Sex Week exposes the lie in that argument. The discomfort allegedly felt by women who can't get into men's clubs, or the nonexistent men who are turned away from women's clubs—these parallel the discomfort of religiously conservative students who have to live with the Sex Week hoopla. Choosing to make some students feel more comfortable makes others feel less comfortable. It becomes a question of whether to make everyone equally uncomfortable, and if not, which group we choose to offend more. Inclusivity is an abstraction given meaning only by practice. It means whatever we say it means, and the alum's contrasting examples suggest Harvard's definition. 

This discussion should always have been about the bad behavior that sometimes happens at some of the final clubs. To use as an excuse, without any data, a concocted social agenda is (as Steve Pinker so eloquently described) the reason why many Americans don't believe anything we say.

President Faust began the November 7 FAS meeting by describing the dangers to Harvard and to higher education in some of the provisions in the Republican tax plan. She then detailed how many members of Congress she had talked to and how disappointed she was that the plan they were now discussing was unfriendly to universities. 

It is actually not that hard to get out of the bubble even if you spend most of your time in the 02138 zip code. If President Faust really wants to understand why the Republican congress is not sympathetic to us, she should wander around Harvard Yard and talk to students from red states, and ask them what folks back home think of all this. They could explain to her why Harvard looks both sanctimonious and morally bankrupt in the eyes of many ordinary Americans, as much as they aspire to what we stand for at our best.

Postscript. Before the FAS meeting at which my motion was voted down, the president of the student government asked President Faust to inform the Faculty that 61% of Harvard students responding to a survey opposed the sanctions regime. She did not do so. 

Note added November 10: I have corrected the previous sentence by adding the words "responding to a survey." There are things to be said on both sides of the question of whether this was worth reporting. On the con side, the survey was unscientific and may not have represented student sentiment. The question on the survey was about the sanctions, which are a moving target, and not the same as my motion. And this matter, like House randomization, should not be decided by a plebiscite anyway. 

On the pro side of reporting the results to the Faculty is the fact that the president of the student body spoke at the October meeting and told the Faculty that a survey would be conducted and that the results would be available at the November meeting. Also significant is the basic fact that regular order has been completely ignored, from the day the sanctions were announced in a carefully staged pair of letters by the dean and the president during exam period in May 2016. Under FAS legislation, specifically the Dowling legislation, there is a well established set of committees consisting of elected faculty members and elected students, through which business is supposed to flow. This structure has the advantage of being legitimate because it is representative, and it helps the leadership debug their policy ideas before they get implemented or brought to a vote. It is less and less fashionable to use this "regular order," and instead for the dean to appoint faculty and students to a committee crafted to produce a certain  result. The events of the past year show why this is not a time-saver. So even if the survey was unscientific, it was better than nothing, and had it been reported, the Faculty might have had a reason to ask for an explanation. 

by Harry Lewis ( at November 10, 2017 07:17 PM

November 09, 2017

A positive look at Me2B

Somehow Martin Geddes and I were both at PIE2017 in London a few days ago and missed each other. That bums me because nobody in tech is more thoughtful and deep than Martin, and it would have been great to see him there. Still, we have his excellent report on the conference, which I highly recommend.

The theme of the conference was #Me2B, a perfect synonym (or synotag) for both #VRM and #CustomerTech, and hugely gratifying for us at ProjectVRM. As Martin says in his report,

This conference is an important one, as it has not sold its soul to the identity harvesters, nor rejected commercialism for utopian social visions by excluding them. It brings together the different parts and players, accepts the imperfection of our present reality, and celebrates the genuine progress being made.

Another pull-quote:

…if Facebook (and other identity harvesting companies) performed the same surveillance and stalking actions in the physical world as they do online, there would be riots. How dare you do that to my children, family and friends!

On the other hand, there are many people working to empower the “buy side”, helping people to make better decisions. Rather than identity harvesting, they perform “identity projection”, augmenting the power of the individual over the system of choice around them.

The main demand side commercial opportunity at the moment are applications like price comparison shopping. In the not too distant future is may transform how we eat, and drive a “food as medicine” model, paid for by life insurers to reduce claims.

The core issue is “who is my data empowering, and to what ends?”. If it is personal data, then there needs to be only one ultimate answer: it must empower you, and to your own benefit (where that is a legitimate intent, i.e. not fraud). Anything else is a tyranny to be avoided.

The good news is that these apparently unreconcilable views and systems can find a middle ground. There are technologies being built that allow for every party to win: the user, the merchant, and the identity broker. That these appear to be gaining ground, and removing the friction from the “identity supply chain”, is room for optimism.

Encouraging technologies that enable the individual to win is what ProjectVRM is all about. Same goes for Customer Commons, our nonprofit spin-off. Nice to know others (especially ones as smart and observant as Martin) see them gaining ground.

Martin also writes,

It is not merely for suppliers in the digital identity and personal information supply chain. Any enterprise can aspire to deliver a smart customer journey using smart contracts powered by personal information. All enterprises can deliver a better experience by helping customers to make better choices.


The only problem with companies delivering better experiences by themselves is that every one of them is doing it differently, often using the same back-end SaaS systems (e.g. from Salesforce, Oracle, IBM, et. al.).

We need ways customers can have their own standard ways to change personal data settings (e.g. name, address, credit card info), call for support and supply useful intelligence to any of the companies they deal with, and to do any of those in one move.

See, just as companies need scale across all the customers they deal with, customers need scale across all the companies they deal with. I visit the possibilities for that here, here, here, and here.

On the topic of privacy, here’s a bonus link.

And, since Martin takes a very useful identity angle in his report, I invite him to come to the next Internet Identity Workshop, which Phil Windley, Kaliya @IdentityWoman and I put on twice a year at the Computer History Museum. The next, our 26th, is 3-5 April 2018.



by Doc Searls at November 09, 2017 10:10 AM

November 08, 2017

Harry Lewis
Motion fails
The FAS rejected my motion, 90-130. Not a bad showing on our side, and Helen Vendler and Ben Friedman were outstandingly eloquent. But it is hard do fight city hall. What was surprising to me was that the speakers on the other side were two deans (Dingman and Khurana) and the co-chair of the Clark-Khurana Committee that reviewed Dean Khurana's proposal. Twenty years ago, faculty mistrust of the administration was significant, and having no independent faculty speaking for your motion would be the kiss of death. But today the Faculty seems to be much happier with letting the administration make the decisions and agreeing to whatever they propose. Not a good sign for what is supposed to be a self-governing body, charged with educational decision-making. The Faculty's view of its role has been diminished.

I may write some more on this, but for the time being, here is what I said.

On behalf of a score of colleagues, I move: Harvard College shall not discipline, 
penalize, or otherwise sanction students for joining, or affiliating with, any lawful organization, political party, or social, political, or other affinity group.

Let me quickly review how we got here, because we’ve talked long enough and it’s time for a vote. Eighteen months ago, during exam period in the spring of 2016, the College announced sanctions against students belonging to certain off-campus organizations. This came as a surprise to everyone, because it had not been voted or even discussed in this Faculty or in any committee of our elected representatives. I made a motion that would have prevented those sanctions from taking effect. It was debated twice, and then the President adjourned last December’s meeting without a vote. A committee was announced to review the policy, and so I respectfully withdrew that motion. Instead the Clark-Khurana committee first proposed much harsher sanctions, and then issued a report with no single recommendation. Through all this time, the rationales for punishing every member of an expanding list of clubs kept shifting, from sexual assault to gender discrimination to exclusivity. Yet the question women students are asking today was never addressed: why are members of women’s groups to be punished at all?

The report stated that the President would choose among the options, even though matters of discipline of students are for this body to decide, not the president or any dean. The president has declined to acknowledge that this matter is within Faculty jurisdiction. I introduced a new version of the motion, and this is its second reading. In the meantime, one puzzling alternative motion was made, and then withdrawn without a vote. Another murky motion is to be offered later today. That motion would, very unwisely, have this Faculty permanently cede its authority to the administration, authority not just over social clubs but in other areas as well.

It has been said that we need to be idealistic, to create the best possible environment for our students. But idealism is not the same as utopianism.  The history of utopian undertakings is not encouraging. Utopias have an official version of social harmony and tend to punish nonconformists. Students come to Harvard not for a social utopia, but for a liberal education in all its tensions and complexity, an education that teaches them how to use the freedom they enjoy, with advice but without coercion.

My motion ensures that students are, like us, entitled to private decisions about what organizations they join. I regret that this matter has taken up so much Faculty time. Let’s debate the motion briefly again and vote, so we can finally know where the Faculty stands.

Madam President, I ask to be recognized again at the appropriate time to request a paper ballot.

by Harry Lewis ( at November 08, 2017 03:36 AM

November 07, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Study Card to Playlist: the Social Life of the Course Catalog


Curricle with Professor Jeffrey Schnapp, metaLAB Harvard


Visualized, annotated, connected: what should the course catalog look like in the 21st century? In this ​participatory lunch talk, members of metaLAB's Curricle team will share details of the new platform they're building for course-selection and discovery—and invite participants to help design and refine the system.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Nov 7 2017 12:00pm to Nov 7 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Harvard College campus
Forum Room at Lamont Library, Harvard Yard (Map & Directions)
RSVP required to attend in person & Photo ID Required at event

Event is not being webcast. Audio and video will be available shortly after event.

Curricle will offer a new experience in course selection at Harvard: a platform that gives students powerful tools in data visualization and analytics for browsing and selecting courses. The platform will enable students to see the broader landscape within which they navigate the curriculum, offering more opportunities for choice and customization. Additionally it will offer opportunities for students and scholars to see trends in Harvard’s curriculum over time.  

The usual course-selection process has blind spots where life-changing courses can lurk undiscovered. And especially in a post-disciplinary era, finding ways to identify links currents among courses across departments—to chart, visualize, and connect far-flung parts of the curriculum—will allow students to forge new and productive paths. metaLAB’s team of designers and scholars will be offering an interactive lunch to preview Curricle and offer opportunities for engagement, reflection, and comprehensive rethinking of the course-selection experience.

About metaLAB

metaLAB (at) Harvard, led by Professor Jeffrey Schnapp (RLL, GSD), and headquartered at the Berkman Klein Center, is a creative research team exploring new roles for media and technology in the arts and humanities. The group's project-based research takes many forms, from museum and gallery installations to books, websites, and interventions in virtual and real space.

About Professor Jeffrey Schnapp

Before moving to Harvard in 2011, Jeffrey Schnapp occupied the Pierotti Chair of Italian Studies at Stanford, where he founded and led the Stanford Humanities Lab between 1999 and 2009. A cultural historian, designer, and curator with research interests extending from antiquity to the present, his most recent books include The Electric Information Age Book, Modernitalia, Digital_Humanities, and The Library Beyond the Book. At Harvard he occupies the Carl A. Pescosolido Chair in Romance and Comparative Literatures, while also serving as a faculty member of the Architecture department at the Graduate School of Design and as one of the faculty co-directors of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. For more information, go to



by candersen at November 07, 2017 08:29 PM

November 06, 2017

The March for Science: How a viral moment starts a movement
Caroline Weinberg — one of the co-chairs and organizers of the March for Science — discusses two broad questions: How is the Internet involved in the planning of large scale, high visibility political demonstrations? And, how can we harness the potential of demonstrations to build into movements? For more information on this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at November 06, 2017 07:16 PM

Harry Lewis
Guest post by 23 undergraduate women
Do Not Punish Harvard Women for Men’s Behavior: Vote Yes to the Lewis Motion
It is astonishingly paternalistic for Harvard to threaten the support groups of hundreds of women in the name of ridding the university of elite men’s clubs. This should spark outrage among faculty, administrators, and students, but instead has, among many, merely sparked a “what a shame” reaction. “What a shame” that the sororities and women’s groups doing good on our campus, empowering women, providing desperately needed support for women, leading charitable fundraisers, and contributing so significantly to women’s mental health “have to go.” The premise has been that women must not be allowed to join groups without men – for their own good – because it is the only way to “get at” men’s final clubs. An underlying justification has been that women must be protected from making bad social decisions such as waiting in line to get into men’s final club parties. Banning women’s off- campus groups is not and has never been about opening women’s support or friendship groups to men, in order to end some supposed form of discrimination against men. The consistent refrain of “it’s a shame” that Harvard must eliminate women’s groups through sanctions or to otherwise deal with the behaviors of men is outrageous and unconscionable. Make no mistake – this is sexism – as it has existed in the past but now in more insidious form, as it is now clothed in anti-discrimination verbiage and purported rationale. This point has been previously made, but women’s protests, begging for Harvard to hear them, marching in unity, have been met with the response that women groups are unfortunate collateral damage for a more noble cause – this cause of protecting them. This is egregious. How can it be tolerated?
Incorrect assumptions and biases exist regarding sororities. I had some of those same assumptions before I came to Harvard. They were wrong. The truth is that Harvard sorority women are diverse, intelligent, and serious-minded, from different socioeconomic groups, with different religious beliefs, political views, sexual orientations, personalities, and experiences, coexisting in friendship, kindness, and unity and providing safety for women. No parties or alcohol are allowed in the sororities’ spaces. Sororities are inherently and intentionally values-based organizations. New member education includes training on standards of behavior expected by the sorority nationally, strict policies regarding alcohol and drugs, education about sexual assault, healthy relationships, bystander intervention, and more. Sorority members have credited the support they have received from these off- campus groups with helping them overcome depression, suicidal feelings, eating disorders, and other mental health issues in ways that on-campus groups have not. Dismantling off-campus social groups in which one-third of women on campus have found significant support and improved mental health outcomes is both illogical and harmful. When the rationale for doing so is based on a perceived necessity to curb men’s behavior, it becomes indefensible.
Philanthropic commitment and community service are significant sorority values and emphases. Alpha Phi’s motto is “Union Hand in Hand,” and its philanthropic focus is Women’s Heart Health. Delta Gamma’s motto is “Do Good,” and its philanthropy is Service for Sight, serving the blind and visually impaired and funding sight conservation research. Kappa Alpha Theta’s motto is “Leading Women,” and its philanthropy is Court Appointed Special Advocates, serving and advocating for children in the foster care system. Kappa Kappa Gamma’s motto is “Aspire to Be,” and its philanthropy is Reading is Fundamental, working to promote children’s literacy. Sororities promote friendship, leadership, kindness, character, and service intentionally - declaring that those qualities are as important as, if not more important than, being accomplished. Sisterhood is the goal, not a side effect.
The most vocal and impassioned opposition to the sanctions has come from women, not the men’s final clubs, because the final clubs can evade the sanctions and function much as they always have. I obviously do not purport to speak for all women, including all sorority women, but I am one of hundreds of current Harvard women and thousands of alumnae who have found strength and support in off-campus sisterhood. More women than men are adversely impacted by the penalties of the Khurana sanctions. Are we not at a time in our country and history where we recognize the urgent need for women to have the freedom to unite in friendship and sisterhood, to embrace the values they deem important, and to speak out against injustice? We must demand an answer to the question – why is it acceptable for sororities to be swept up in the anti-men’s final clubs frenzy? Why not, as our peer schools Yale, Princeton, and Stanford have done, work on the issues deemed problematic, rather than banning off-campus women’s groups (as well as other off-campus groups) with threats of penalization? Why are hundreds of Harvard women’s voices being silenced?
The sanctions and penalties are overbroad, unjust, and have a disproportionate adverse effect on women. Unconscionably, sororities are completely left out of the discussion on the effects or reason for penalties. No acknowledgement is made that going coed is not possible per the national rules and charters of sororities, and therefore sororities would simply have to be closed, while men’s final clubs - the primary target of the sanctions – would be able to make meaningless adjustments to come into technical “compliance.” (For example, some of the men’s club proposals include their members not becoming “real members” until after graduation, allowing the finals clubs to exist as alumni clubs, which would not be impacted by penalties or sanctions.)
The question of the sanctions is not a question of whether or not any off-campus social organizations need reform, but whether or not University sanctions will accomplish any intended goals. All proposed plans thus far would force sororities to shut down, while men's final clubs - the intended targets of the sanctions - will be virtually unaffected. Clubs will either go underground, perhaps like underground fraternities at Amherst or like secret societies at Yale, or, as more recently discussed, will become alumni clubs, of which students will not "officially" be members until they graduate, taking the clubs even further out of the administration's purview and making them even more untouchable for reform than they currently are. If the administration's goal is truly reform, rather than simply meaningless action on paper, the only way to achieve that is to work with clubs, rather than further alienate or threaten them. In response to current sanctions, overwhelmingly, behind closed doors, most men's clubs have lawyered up and dug in their heels, knowing they can get around anything thrown at them by the administration, with little to no functional change, in a way that organizations without comparable resources or with national bylaws cannot.
The idea that national sorority groups are in some way pernicious or nefarious is based on false and discriminatory stereotypes. These national organizations provide invaluable leadership training, are grounded in shared values, and focus on critical issues affecting women. Last month’s issue of one of the national sorority magazines, for example, featured the organization’s specific efforts to address violence against women, including leading the conversation on consent and providing resources and opportunity to confront sexual violence. I would ask those who assume they understand what these groups offer in terms of mental health and other support whether they have actually tried to learn about what sororities do. Has UHS or the administration ever even studied the positive impact of sororities on Harvard women’s mental health or the adverse impact of losing such groups that more than one-third of Harvard women have chosen to join?
If Harvard students want to be members of organizations that have national networks and governing bodies, on their own time, with their own money, without use of Harvard’s name, and not in Harvard’s spaces, they should be allowed to do so. They certainly should not be penalized for being part of groups dedicated to their well-being even though Harvard does not vet or monitor such groups. Harvard women are capable of making their own decisions about what groups empower them.
I hope for the emotional well-being of one-third of the women on campus, that the administration and faculty reconsider the notion that the “health and well-being of our student body” necessitates telling young women that joining together for strength and mutual support, in organizations explicitly protected by Title IX, is an offense so severe as to be deserving of suspension, termination, or severe penalty.
I urge the faculty and administrators not to adopt punishments that would penalize women from exercising their freedom to join in sisterhood for support, unity, friendship, empowerment, and philanthropy. Such actions are not progress, nor do they promote justice.
Instead, I urge passage of the Lewis motion, which protects women’s rights and wellbeing. Passage of the Lewis motion allows women’s groups to continue to exist and also provides the administration the opportunity to address desired final club reforms, as our peer schools Yale, Princeton, and Stanford have done, without driving male final clubs underground.
Margaret Wilson, Harvard College Class of 2019
Jordan Virtue, Harvard College Class of 2020
Hayley Edgerley, Harvard College Class of 2019
Cora Neudeck, Harvard College Class of 2019
Samantha Perri, Harvard College Class of 2020
Kathleen Barrow, Harvard College Class of 2019
Sophia Zheng, Harvard College Class of 2020
Kristine Falck, Harvard College Class of 2020
Kaitlyn Rabinovitz, Harvard College Class of 2020
Delaney Tevis, Harvard College Class of 2019
Emily Luu, Harvard College Class of 2019
Rebecca Ramos, Harvard College Class of 2017

Sophie Lipson, Harvard College Class of 2017
Caroline Gentile, Harvard College Class of 2017
Emma Wheeler, Harvard College Class of 2017
Bella Gomez, Harvard College Class of 2017
Rachel Milam, Harvard College Class of 2017
Hailey Reneau, Harvard College Class of 2017
Tina Murphy, Harvard College Class of 2017
Savanna Arral, Harvard College Class of 2016
Laura Gullett, Harvard College Class of 2016
Sarah Scalia, Harvard College Class of 2015, HBS 2019
Julia Kee, Harvard College Class of 2016

by Harry Lewis ( at November 06, 2017 06:04 PM

Berkman Center front page
Harvard Open Access Project Part-Time Research Assistant Opportunity

The Harvard Open Access Project (HOAP) at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society is hiring a part-time research assistant!

The Harvard Open Access Project (HOAP) fosters open access to research, within Harvard and beyond, using a combination of education, consultation, collaboration, research, tool-building, and direct assistance. HOAP is a project within the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. For more detail, see the project home page at

The Research Assistant will contribute to the Open Access Tracking Project (OATP), using the TagTeam social-tagging platform, contribute to the Open Access Directory (OAD), and perform occasional research, help with grant reporting, and strategize about open access inside and outside Harvard University. The position offers remote work options, flexible scheduling, and community work spaces at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

The position will remain open until the job is filled, and plan to begin reviewing applicants as soon as possible.

Work Requirements/Benefits Information:

This part-time position is 17.25 hours per week.  The pay is at a rate of $11.50+ per hour, with the possibility of more to suit qualifications and experience. This position does not include benefits. The role will include the expectation of regular weekend work as needed to support time-sensitive projects (approximately 2 - 4 of total 17.25). The Research Assistant must be based in Massachusetts.  The work may be done remotely, but will include regular face-to-face meetings in Cambridge, Massachusetts to review progress and discuss new ideas.  Unfortunately we are not able to sponsor a visa for this position. This position is approved through the end of August, 2018.

To Apply:

Please send your current CV or resume and a cover letter summarizing your interest and experience to Peter Suber at with “HOAP application” in the subject line.



by rtabasky at November 06, 2017 05:52 PM

November 03, 2017

Ethan Zuckerman
Finding hope… and dissing Lin-Manuel… at the Obama Foundation Summit

I just spent two days at the inaugural summit of the Obama Foundation, and I’m coming back from Chicago more enthusiastic about the state of civics than I have been in the past year.

For several decades, US presidents have been working to make their time out of office part of their legacy. Jimmy Carter’s post-presidency has served as a model, both with the Carter Center’s work on elections and tropical diseases, and his personal commitment through volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Bill Clinton build a massive operating foundation based on public/private partnerships that, despite some highly reported controversies, has done some excellent work around public health and climate change in the Global South.

Obama had previously announced that his foundation would focus on revitalizing civics and on engaged citizenship. Great! But what does that mean? I hosted some of the organizers of the foundation at the Media Lab a year ago and was worried that the foundation might feel like an on-ramp into democratic party organizing. My students and I made the case that many people are feeling alienated from conventional politics and its surrounding institutions, and that Obama’s foundation could make a significant impact by broadening the definition of what we consider engaged citizenship. My student Erhardt Graeff spent the summer with the foundation making this case and studying how wer might measure the impact of this new, broader vision of citizenship.

I don’t claim that our lab had anything to do with it, but the summit yesterday felt much less like the “mini-reunion” of the Obama campaign (as Politico reported) than an experiment in just how broad the concept of civic revitalization could be. There was almost no talk about politics – indeed, I don’t think Trump’s name was mentioned once – and anyone expecting talk of how the left takes back Congress, fights gerrymandering or revitalizes the two party system would have been deeply frustrated. But for people looking for models for how individuals are changing their communities, in the US and around the world, the program and the people participating in it, was a feast.

In 2010, I spoke at an event at the George W. Bush Presidential library on digital activism. I was struck by the fact that our program specified events to the minute, not the nearest quarter or half hour. Evidently, Presidential libraries celebrate one or more characteristics of their patron, and the Bush library celebrated the former president’s punctuality. Indeed, W joined us for precisely 12 minutes, just as the schedule specified.

It’s possible that the signature attribute of the Obama legacy projects will be diversity. I spent two days in perhaps the most diverse room I’ve ever encountered at a conference in the United States. 12 of 30 featured speakers in the program were women, 19 were people of color. Sitting down for lunch, I found myself between a Nigerian roboticist and an American Sikh scholar who’s writing a book on islamophobia and its side effects. I didn’t have a bad or boring conversation over two days – the staff packed the room with people doing mentoring of young men on the South Side of Chicago, or combatting racism against Afro-Brazilians. I was impressed that the organizers found people beyond the usual suspects – Elaine Diaz, whose brilliant Periodismo de Barrio is transforming Cuban independent journalism – instead of a more widely known figure like Yoani Sanchez. It suggested to me less interest in virtue signaling than in opening interesting conversations.

Some of the key takeaways from the summit for me:

Heather McGhee of Demos knit together issues of inequality, race and economics with greater clarity than I’d previously heard. She offered an analogy for the contemporary economy: a massively multiplayer game where those who are winning can change the rules.
“Our democracy has become as unequal as our economy,” she argued, citing voter suppression efforts and the ability of wealthy voters to influence elections through political giving. She traces the increasing unfairness of the economy to our increasing diversity: “It’s no coincidence that it’s become harder for the average American to get by as the face of the average American has changed.” My friend Micah Sifry referred to her as the next black president of the US and I think he’s got a point – linking questions of economic and political unfairness to a realization that fairness hasn’t been equally through American society strikes me as a viable direction for the Democratic party in response to the Trump presidency.

– Hamdi Ulukaya, the founder of Chobani Yogurt, won my heart with his passion for South Edmeston, NY, a small town in central New York that had lost much of its workforce due to plant closings. Ulukaya saw parallels between the rural Turkish community he’d grown up in and the community he moved to, and grew Chobani in a way that created not only jobs with livable wages, but a deep investment in community development and pride.

He shared the stage with Brian Alexander, who positioned himself as the anti-JD Vance: also passionate about the future of Appalachia, but sees the problem as structural and economic, not a problem of “hillbilly culture”. Asking us “What is capitalism for? Do we work for it, or does it work for us?” Alexander put forward a vision of a corporation’s role in a community that sounded both old-fashioned, and with Ulukaya’s example, worth returning to: “Companies used to be rooted in a place. Management used to play on softball teams.” Companies like that remain in their communities and work to support the people who depend on them, not just shareholders.

I’m used to community economics coming from inner cities, but it’s rare to see similar ideas coming from rural America. Exciting for me as the proud resident of a town of 3000. And, as Alexander pointed out, our communities are getting screwed over. Referencing the opioid epidemic and the dumping of drugs on West Virginia, then demanding people take responsibility for their addictions, he noted, “a culture of personal responsibility would mean demanding responsibility from the CEO who dumped 3.3 million doses of opiods into a county with 29,000 people.”

– In a workshop brainstorming the priorities of the Obama Foundation, one of the organizers asked a hard question about experts and expertise. (Despite the common root word, these often get put in opposition in social change circles – experts have degrees, while those with experience are people in beneficiary communities.) Introducing herself as a “sneakerhead”, she wondered how expertise in sussing out fake sneakers could translate to identifying and calling out fake news. “Sneakerheads are always calling out fakes. And I didn’t have to take an online course in ‘sneaker literacy’ – I got to know sneakers because I care about them.”

It’s an interesting point, not just about self-directed learning and about fake news. It’s a complicated point for people engaged in co-design, the practice of designing solutions in a way that deeply involves the beneficiaries in the planning and creation of projects intended to benefit them. When I’ve worked on co-design, I’ve had a tendency to think of communities I’m working with as experts on local conditions and priorities, while my teams tend to be experts on technologies and design methods. It’s an exciting challenge to think about how to work with community members not just as experts on their own problems, but on different ways of solving problems, of having insights that my students and staff are unlikely to have. How do people solve the problems they encounter in their lives, and how can those problemsolving skills change how we develop and design together?

– Listening matters. I have reached a point in my career where I rarely get to go to events unless I’m speaking. I’ve also developed the bad habit of dropping into conference to speak, and then heading to other engagements. I just got to spend two days listening, taking notes and tweeting and it was wonderful.

What was also wonderful was watching Obama listen. Half an hour into a fascinating conversation about the responsibility tech platforms have for the conversations they host, Obama stood up from the back of the room (none of us had seen him walk in), and asked a complex, nuanced question about how to balance principles of freedom of expression with the power of platforms to amplify misinformation. I watched him listening intently in another session, and saw him knit observations from two talks I’d been at into his closing remarks. If Obama can make time to listen this carefully, respectfully and closely, so can I.

The closing session featured two talks that I won’t forget for a long time. Lin Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical Hamilton, and Chicago rapper Common took the stage together, and talked about how social issues inspired each of their work. Lin was clearly starstruck to be spending time with Common, who he credited as the inspiration for the flow of the rhymes he gave to George Washington – “Hamilton had to be the smartest guy in the room, so I had to model his flow on someone with the trickiest, most polysyllabic rhymes, like Eminem or Big Pun. But George Washington was respected by everybody, and so his flow had to be from someone everyone respects in hiphop: you.” When Common started a freestyle session, Lin was too flustered to bring his A game, leading to a tweet I’ll always cherish:

But the highlight for me was seeing my personal civic hero, Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and defender of countless youth trapped in the criminal justice system, offer his rules for engaged citizenship:

1) Get proximate and stay proximate to the problems you want to solve.

2) You can’t solve problems without changing the narrative – when it’s the war on drugs, we lost people we could save if we worked on treating addiction

3) Hope is your superpower. This isn’t about naiveté, but about finding strength to carry on when you encounter obstacles and frustration. “Hope is your superpower. Don’t let anyone take away your hope. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.”

4) To make change, we have to be willing to do uncomfortable things. Bryan ended his talk with the story of a civil rights activist, an elderly man in a wheelchair, who showed him his scars from injuries during the protests of the 1960s. “These are not my cuts, my scars. These are my medals of honor.”

I’m grateful for the Obama Foundation for letting me take part, and I cannot wait to see what this will become.

by Ethan at November 03, 2017 02:10 AM

November 01, 2017

How the Networked Age is Changing Humanitarian Disasters
Information communication technologies and the data they produce are transforming how natural and manmade disasters alike unfold. These technologies are also affecting how populations behave and organizations respond when these events occur. In this talk, Nathaniel Raymond — founding Director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) of the Harvard Chan School of Public Health — addresses the ethical, legal and technical implications of this pivotal moment in the history of humanitarianism. For more information on this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at November 01, 2017 04:35 PM

October 31, 2017

Berkman Center front page
The March for Science: How a viral moment starts a movement


featuring public health researcher and educator Caroline Weinberg, MD, MPH


The March for Science went viral when it was nothing more than a name -- the very idea of a movement in defense of science in policy was enough to ignite the passion of more than one million people around the world. From January 24 to April 22, the movement lived on the internet, building on social media until it culminated in the largest science event in the history of the world.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Oct 31 2017 12:00pm to Oct 31 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

The March for Science is a global movement focused on promoting science and its role in society and policy. That movement can be traced back to January 24, where in a five hour period @sciencemarchdc went from a few dozen followers to tens of thousands, growing exponentially in the following weeks. The idea for a March for Science went viral before any plan was in place, passionate supporters ready to act when all we had was the name. As we look to learn from the experience of the march — the triumphs and the struggles — it's worth discussing how MFS and future movements can harness the incredible, unexpected passion for a cause into a lasting movement.

Caroline Weinberg — one of the co-chairs and organizers of 2017's March for Science — discusses two broad questions: How is the Internet involved in the planning of large scale, high visibility political demonstrations? And, how can we harness the potential of demonstrations to build into movements?

The internet was fundamental to the success of the March for Science. The event first went viral on Twitter and continued to expand with an increasing number of Facebook followers. For Weinberg, using social media was a “remarkable way to be able to build a community of advocates around the world” and find out issues that are important to them. One of the biggest benefits of using social media in this way was the availability of immediate feedback and critique. Weinberg describe these critiques as being especially valuable in starting conversations about diversity and inclusion within the march itself, as well as within the broader scientific community. However, relying so heavily on social media for communication also had some downfalls. Specifically, Weinberg described how in addition to bringing important issues to their attention, the constant critique made organizers feel defensive and stated that social media, “invites snap judgements that are hard to reverse.” She also pointed out that it was difficult to keep up with the public’s desire for immediate information about the details of the march, because the behind the scenes planning was complex.

To help facilitate the march’s transition into a movement, Weinberg had two suggestions. First, she emphasized that scientists and science advocates must be able to communicate their evidence-based research effectively to the public. She suggested that scientists should be formally educated about public communication in undergraduate and graduate education, and that it should be part of national conferences. Second, Weinberg stated that we should continue to utilize the affordances of digital advocacy, such as letter writing campaigns, petitions, and making it easy for people to locate and contact their representatives.

Weinberg described the day of the march as “powerful,” but observed that afterwards, there was a transition period in which several questions arose that now need to be addressed. In her conclusion, Weinberg shared these questions with the audience: How can we sustain motivation from a single day into something people want to advocate for continuously in digital space? How can we encourage people to act, not only during crisis, but every day? How can we fight complacency?

- Notes by Donica O'Malley

About Caroline

Caroline Weinberg, MD, MPH, is a public health researcher and educator, with a focus on social determinants of health and increased health literacy as a means of improving health outcomes in under-served communities. Since 2002, she has also worked as a health educator with an emphasis on reproductive health and healthy relationships in adolescents.  

In 2017, her frustration with the persistent and pervasive anti-science policies that jeopardize our present and future led to her involvement in the March for Science, a global movement focused on promoting the role of science in society and policy.  She served as the National Co-Chair for the March for Science, culminating in the largest science event in history and uniting more than one million people in 600 locations worldwide.  She currently serves as a director of the March for Science organization, working with a dynamic team of science advocates around the globe to transition from a powerful moment to a lasting movement.


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by candersen at October 31, 2017 05:00 PM

October 30, 2017

Berkman Center front page
#FellowFriday! Get to know the 2017-2018 Fellows

This series of short video interviews highlights the new 2017-2018 Berkman Klein fellows. Check back every week for new additions!

Published December 8

Pritha Chatterjee is researching the privacy and public health implications of India's new universal ID system.

Tell us about a research question you’re excited to address this year.

I am looking at how population health can be improved with the use of technology, in particular in low and middle income countries and "disadvantaged" populations in high-income countries. I am looking especially at maternal health outcomes.

What in particular are you looking at with regard to technology and health in India?

We have this universal identification system in India called Aadhaar, which is being linked to track people, and that has potentially a lot of use in public health. So for example, with our tuberculosis program, the financial assistance that is provided is being linked through [the ID system]. The privacy implications of this are really huge. so I guess, what technology can do, we should also be wary of those very same things at the same time so that balance is -- I don't know how we are going to find it. I'm working on it myself. So the potential is huge, but if you say like in a country like India that you're not going to provide the services if a person does not have that ID yet, that is a problem, because implementation is a huge challenge. Secondly, the privacy part of it really scares me, because you're linking all sorts of data through this one ID, and the government has access to all of it. I don't think enough is being done to address that, or even research on how to mitigate those concerns. Like how can you use the technology for the good, but also reassure citizens? There should be a mechanism to protect the privacy of citizens, and I don't think enough is being done on that front yet.  


Published December 8

Chien-Kuan Ho is a prosecutor who researches cybercrime and the new challenges posed by digital anonymity and encryption.

Tell us about a research question you’re excited to address this year and why it matters to you.

This year my research will primarily focus on how to more effectively investigate cyber crime. With the development of technology, many criminals may use new cyber tools to commit a crime, such as mobile malware, and ATM fraud, et cetera. The growth of cybercrime remains a great threat to security in our world. Therefore, law enforcement authorities have to improve their capability to investigate cybercrime more effectively.

Why should people care about this issue?

With the massive use of the technology of the Internet, everyone could be a potential victim of this technology. In our world, the reality is that everyone who is connected to the Internet is vulnerable to cyber attack. It's not only big companies that are under threat. Individuals who don't think they have much to offer the hackers can be also targeted. So even if you don't think you are a big target, you should still care for this risk.

What excites you the most about technology and its potential impact on our world? What scares you the most?

Modern technology is certainly fascinating. Social networks have allowed us to share almost anything, anytime, anywhere. Smartphones and the Internet have dramatically changed the way we communicate. But criminals may also use these technologies to commit crimes. What scares me the most about technology is the increasing misuse of anonymity and encryption services on the Internet has become a critical impediment of the investigation and the prosecution of criminals. If law enforcement cannot keep up with the progress of technology, our world may become a paradise for criminals.


published December 1

james Wahutu studies the impact media reporting on mass atrocities has on our understanding of human rights, collective memory, and cross-cultural exchange.

Tell us about a research question you’re excited to address this year and why it matters to you.
I'm interested in two research questions. The first is on the use of images of atrocities by news organizations. Primarily, I'm interested in the efficacy of this and then idea that we could consume African death and pain while sitting in the confines of our home. So what does that then mean for African victims and why is it okay to do this? But most importantly, who owns these pictures of African pain and what does that then mean for advocacy issues?

The next one that I'm also interested in and should be starting to act on in the spring, is the use of perpetrators as sources when news is being written and news is being collected. So, I'm interested in the relationship between quoting a perpetrator of a mass atrocity and the risk of the intensification of violence. In my prior work it turns out that perpetrators are pretty media savvy and they know that if a Western news organization quotes them, it gives them the kind of cultural capital that they need that they then hope to change into economic capital during negotiation processes and hopefully score a seat in the new regime and the new government that should be coming up.

Why is this important to you?
It's important for us as Africans to be able to tell our stories, but also realize who is telling our stories, because whoever is telling our story owns that particular story. In my undergrad career, I realized that I kept quoting Western academics that were writing about atrocities in African countries, but not necessarily talking to Africans. The challenge is in changing how we raise awareness about mass atrocities and thinking about the unintended consequences of how we've been doing it thus far.


published December 1

Keith Porcaro works to enable greater participation by all communities in an age of increasingly complex systems.

Tell us about a research question you’re excited to address this year and why it matters to you.
The big part of my work focuses on how legal norms form and digitizing society. The narrower question that I'm working on here is, how can communities take control and make decisions about the data that they're creating and the data that's being created about them? How can we use existing vehicles, like trusts, as a way to first give communities power to be able to make these decisions, and be able to protect it against uses that they don't want? But then the other side of that is once you've given communities that power, how do you help them understand sort of what the surface area of those decisions are. And how to understand what the ramifications of some of their decisions might be.

I kind of think of it as two sides of a coin so on the one side of the coin, it's how can we use law to deal with new technology, to deal with the fact that increasingly more of our lives are digital or online, and then the other side of that is, how can you use technology to understand how complicated systems work like law or like anything else and especially for people who don't have the time to sort of think about this professionally.

What's a good example of a complex issue?
So for somebody who is you know just facing a legal issue for the first time, or just finding out that somebody is doing a census in their neighborhood, the expectation that we should have is not that they should become a lawyer, they should go to law school, they should learn about how databases work, but it should be what can we use, and what interfaces, what explanations, what structures can we use to help people understand enough of the system to be able to make an informed decision about how it should work.


published November 20

Jie Qi is hacking the patent system to make innovation more equitable and impactful.

Tell us about a research question you’re excited to address this year and why it matters to you.
I'm really excited about exploring open innovation, specifically around patents, and how we can hack the patent system to support sharing of inventions, rather than closing it off. The reason I care deeply about this is because as a maker, and an entrepreneur, and an individual that's not a giant company, I'm interested in exploring alternative ways to create and make an impact with my inventions. For example, one of the inventions that I created as part of my PhD research is this idea of using stickers that are also electronics. We took flexible printed circuit boards which we find in our cell phones or laptops or whatever, and we added conductive glue to the bottom of them, such that when you take the sticker, which is a circuit board, and stick it down to like a conductive ink or conductive tape, you actually build circuits, but it feels like you're playing with stickers and tape and pens, and that is kind of a creative, crafty way to learn electronics.

What excites you and scares you the most about technology and its potential impact on our world?
Technology is very powerful. It's a tool, which means it can do wonderful things, and it can do scary things. It itself is not bad. However, with the many forces that are at play in the world I can see people or institutions with means getting control of these technologies and using them in a negative way that perhaps the original inventors didn't imagine or perhaps none of us have ever imagined. What I'm excited about, as someone who creates technology and teaches people electronics and programming, is that it is extremely powerful and it allows you to take the things that are in your imagination and make them real. As an educator, when I see people learn something new and create something that they might not have imagined they could, it's extremely empowering. For me, technology is a way to make you see that the impossible is possible.


published November 20

Kathy Pham is bridging the gaps between software engineers and policymakers.

Tell us about a research question you’re excited to address this year and why it matters to you.
Having worked with both a large tech company, as well as within the federal government, I constantly think about how  we build products that are responsible and ethical and take into account our users. Another focus is the intersection of government and technology. How do we get policy folks interested in, and understanding, technology, as well as getting technologists, whether they're engineers, or product managers, or designers, interested in public service or working in the federal government? In my early days as a software engineer, the topics around users and the user experience of something, or even the broader social impact of what we build, wasn't always there.

What are some ideas for addressing this topic?
One of the things that has come up here at Berkman is attacking it from the curricula level: really teaching our computer scientists and engineers how to critically think about the effects in the long term, or even short term effects, of what we build. Think about some of the implications of collecting data. Think about what happens when the data is stored long term. Think about how something can be misused or not used the way we intended for it to be used. What can we do in the policy space that makes sense? You know, it gets tricky because we we get into the free speech realm of we don't want to restrict the ability to build products or people's freedom of speech on different platforms, but what is the responsibility of tech companies in looking at their users?

What excites you the most about technology and its potential impact on our world?
How can we use technology to really provide better government services for people, people who can't go in-person to different government service locations to get care, whether they're veterans, or people who need to get services? How can we use technology to really make their lives a lot better?  I'm very excited to think about different ways that technology can be used to provide care services our most vulnerable populations and the people who need help the most.


published November 13

Jenny Korn is examining new and evolving representations of race and identity, both online and off.

Tell us about a research question you’re excited to address this year and why it matters to you.

I'll be looking at the way people talk about race and gender, both online and in person. I've pretty much always been interested in issues of race because I'm a woman of color that grew up in Alabama. I was reminded of my race in both positive and negative ways at a very early age and ever since then.

Why should people care about this issue?

Talking about race more openly promotes, my hope is that it promotes, a more just society eventually. Because if we can't talk about race then we definitely can't talk about racism. And so we have to get to the point where talking about race is not uncomfortable or feels forced. But rather feels the same as saying what your gender is or what your sexual orientation is. To say it all together naturally and comfortably so that all of us can discuss what that means to everybody across different levels of society.

What excites you the most about technology and its potential impact on our world?

The Internet has definitely changed the way that we socialize but also the ways that we interact with what we believe race is. We're not only consumers of the Internet. We're also producers. We actually can create different ways to discuss race. We can share different representations of race. And to me that's really exciting because we are able to reduce the distance and the time and the speed to creating those representations online instead of relying on publishers for books, or producers and distributors for movies. We can overlook that and use the Internet as the way to produce and broadcast and share those representations. And that means we can change old stereotypes and make new representations of what we believe it is to be of color, or to be white. It's a brand new medium in terms of how far we can get this kind of message. I'm excited by the possibilities.  


published November 13

Nathan Kaiser is a lawyer studying AI and Asia.

Please introduce yourself and tell us about a research question you’re excited to address this year.

I'm a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center. I’m very happy to be here. I'm originally Swiss but spent the past years in in Asia. I'm looking at AI and always from China and maybe a larger Asian angles. The research question is -- it's partially copy/paste from the 10 or 15 year old question. "What about the Internet in China and outside?" And now the question is "What about AI in China and outside of China?" There's a lot of a lot of stuff to to be looked at.

Why should people care about this issue?

AI will have as big an impact on society. And society always means me, you, and the family, and everybody around us. Just as with the Internet years ago, and over time. It would not be wise to say the Internet  is not for me or to say nowadays AI is not for me because it's going to be around you anyway. And so from a personal individual point of view or a company point of view or even a family point of view, I think it makes sense to start looking around and see what's going on. Does it help you? Does it hurt you? Should you use it? Should you not use it? Then once it's clear that you should use it and how do you use it? What are the tools, what are the risks for employees, risk for companies, risk for kids?

What scares you the most about technology and its potenital impact on our world?

I'm always worried about the people who are not able to enjoy a technology. I think that scares me because it creates a even larger gap. You don't only have rich people and poor people. You have an additional divide of using technology or not using technology. Being able and having the money to use technology will make the rich richer and the poor more poor. So that's something that scares me because it creates tension and we've seen that over the past 10 or 20 years.


published November 6, 2017

Joanne K. Cheung is an artist and designer studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Tell us about a research question you're excited to address this year and why it matters to you.

This year I’m developing an analytical framework for looking at public space, so physical space, all the stuff around us, and discourse on the internet. My background is in the fine arts, so I’ve always cared about how to communicate something, how something appears to someone not from my own discipline. A lot of this came from, well, I guess two things. One is the very jarring experience of the past election and realizing that geographically, my understanding of the country that I live in is very different than what I thought it was. Also, this summer I became an American citizen, so learning everything about the democratic process was really interesting, and I thought that I wanted to understand how my own discipline intersected with the political process.

Why should people care about this issue?

There is no opting out of existing in this system and I think now that everyone is so deeply connected... the other side of that is we’re all more alienated from the subjects of our actions, so whether they’re intentional, unintentional, or accidental, I think making those connections visible is really important now. 

What excites (or scares) you most about technology and its potential impact on our world?

I always go back to that William Gibson quote, “the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed,” but then I go back and think about my own discipline, which is dealing with land and buildings, and I was thinking, well, the future doesn’t distribute itself, has land ever been evenly distributed? I can’t think of something that has. A lot of that comes down to human agency, it comes down to decisions humans make. I think it’s not technology doing the work, it’s people doing the work, and so, maybe that gives me some worry, it scares me because I want to define who those humans are, but it also gives me a little bit of hope because I’m a human, we all are, so there is potential for making change and making a difference.


published November 6, 2017

Emad Khazraee is a sociotechnical information scientist and an assistant professor in the school of information (iSchool) at Kent State University.

Tell us about a research question you're excited to address this year and why it matters to you.

Broadly, speaking, I’m interested in how human collectives use information technology to achieve their collective goals. I look at two levels. At one level, I look at very large collectives, how they use information technology for social transformations, for example, how activists use information technology to challenge authorities. On another level, I’m looking at very tightly connected communities, I call them communities of practice, how they use information technologies to produce knowledge. At Berkman Klein Center, I am looking to understand how we can theorize the dynamic of evolution of the tools and methods that activists use to challenge authorities. On a personal side, I’m Iranian and I have seen a lot of transformations in recent years happening in Iranian society. We’ve seen a very young population, educated population, use information technology to progress the state of society.

Why should people care about this issue?

We are living in an era that the pace of technology, changes and advancements, is so high, that some people have become anxious about what the impact of technology is in our society. It’s very important to see whether it helps us to improve our society or not. I think that’s how it is important for the average person, to see, in many contexts, such as oppressive environments, whether the use of information technology can be a force shifting the balance towards a more just and progressive society, or it might give more tools for oppressive governments to repress and restrict humans’ freedom.


published October 27, 2017

Desmond Upton Patton, PhD, MSW is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Columbia University and a faculty affiliate of the Data Science Instiute and the Social Interevention Group at Columbia University. 

Tell us about a research question you're excited to address this year and why it matters to you.
This year I'm really trying to understand how communication on social media leads to offline violence. So I'm studying a Twitter dataset of young people in Chicago to better understand how things like grief and trauma and love and happiness all play out on Twitter and the relationship between that communication and offline gun violence. 

I started my research process in Chicago and I have been just completely troubled by the amount of violence that happens in the city. And one of the ways in which that violence happens or occurs is through social media communication. And so I want to be a part of the process of ending violence through learning how young people communicate online.  


published October 27, 2017

Jenn Halen is a doctoral candidate in Political Science at the University of Minnesota and a former National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

Tell us about a research question you're excited to address this year and why it matters to you.
I’m working on the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence project, here at Berkman Klein. There are a lot of questions as to how exactly incorporating this new technology into different social environments is really going to affect people, and I think one of the most important things is getting people’s perspectives who are actually going to be impacted. So, I’m looking forward to participating in some early educational initiatives and some discussions that we can post online in blog posts and things, to help people feel like they’re more familiar with this subject and more comfortable, because it can be really intimidating.

Why should people care about this issue?
Right now, this technology or early versions of machine learning and artificial intelligence applications are being used in institutions ranging from the judicial system, to financial institutions, and they’re really going to impact everyone. I think it’s important for people to talk about how they’re being implemented and what the consequences of that are for them, and that we should have an open discussion, and that people can’t do that if they’re unfamiliar with the technology or why it’s being employed. I think that everyone needs to have at least a basic familiarity with these things because in ten years there’s not going to be an institution that doesn’t use it in some way.

How did you become interested in this topic?
I grew up in a pretty low income community that didn’t have a lot of access to these technologies initially, and so I was very new to even using a computer when I got into college. It’s something that was hard for me initially, but that I started really getting interested in, partially because I’m a huge sci-fi fan now, and so I think that sci-fi and fiction really opens up your eyes to both the opportunities and the potential costs of using different advanced technologies. I wanted to be part of the conversation about how we would actually approach a future where these things were possible and to make sure that we would use them in a way that would benefit us and not this scarier, more dystopian views of what could happen.

What excites you most about technology and its potential impact on our world?
Software, so scalable, that we can offer more resources and more information to so many more people at a lower cost. We’re also at a time where we have so much more information than we’ve ever had in history, so things like machine learning and artificial intelligence can really help to open up the answers that we can get from all of that data and maybe some very non-intuitive answers that people just have not been able to find themselves.

What scares you most?
I think that the thing that scares me most is that artificial intelligence software is going to be employed in institutions and around populations that don’t understand both ends of the things it has to offer, but also its limitations. It will just be taken as objective fact or a scientific opinion that you can’t question, when it’s important to realize that this is something that is crafted by humans, that can be fallible, that can be employed in different ways and have different outcomes. I think my biggest fear is that we won’t question it and that these things will just be able to be deployed without having any kind of public dialogue or pushback if it has negative consequences.




by gweber at October 30, 2017 05:36 PM

Justin Reich
From Good Intentions to Real Outcomes: Three Myths about Education Technology and Equity
Mimi Ito and Justin Reich are releasing a new report "From Good Intentions to Real Outcomes: Equity by Design in Learning Technologies."

by Justin Reich at October 30, 2017 04:54 PM

October 25, 2017

Berkman Center front page
The Slippery Slope of Internet Censorship in Egypt


This report explains the dramatic increase in Internet censorship in Egypt, examines the Twitter conversation around website blocking in Egypt, and identifies ways that users disseminate banned content.

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The first Internet Monitor research bulletin summarizes the recent, dramatic increase in Internet censorship in Egypt, examines the Twitter conversation around website blocking in Egypt, and identifies ways that users disseminate banned content.

Internet filtering in Egypt illustrates how censorship can be a slippery slope. After an extended period of open access to the Internet in Egypt lasting several years following the January 2011 revolution, the government dramatically increased its censorship of political content between December 2015 and September 2017. What started with the filtering of one regional news website in 2015 has led to the filtering of over 400 websites by October 2017. The blocked websites include local and regional news and human rights websites, websites based in or affiliated with Qatar, and websites of Internet privacy and circumvention tools. This bulletin examines how Egyptian Internet users have reacted to the pervasive blocking and describes their efforts to counter the censorship. These efforts center on disseminating banned content through platforms protected by encrypted HTTPS connections such as Facebook and Google Drive, which makes individual objectionable URLs challenging for the censors to block. 

Read the complete bulletin on the Internet Monitor website.

by gweber at October 25, 2017 05:47 PM

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Update on the 2018 Triennial 1201 Rule-Making

The Copyright Office has once again opened its triennial rulemaking proceedings for exemptions to the anti-circumvention clauses of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). This will be the seventh iteration of the rulemaking proceedings for the Copyright Office since Congress enacted 17 U.S.C. § 1201 in 1998 to reinforce copyright protection against an envisioned increase in piracy due to technological advancement. The anti-circumvention law prohibits the use of technology to bypass technology protection measures (“TPM”) that copyright owners implement, such as encryption tools that prevent consumers from copying movies or songs off a disk or simple password systems for website content or software “locking” mechanisms that prevent copying. Unfortunately, the broad reach of 17 U.S.C. § 1201 also jeopardized many otherwise non-infringing and publicly-beneficial activities that may require circumventing TPMs.

St Jude Medical pacemaker in hand

An artificial pacemaker (serial number 1723182) from St. Jude Medical, with electrode. By Steven Fruitsmaak, CC BY 3.0…), via Wikimedia Commons.

In an effort to rescue circumvention for lawful purposes, Congress identified certain classes of permanent exemptions to the anti-circumvention law, allowing, for example, reverse engineering research and security testing to be valid reasons for circumventing technological protections measures. In addition to the permanent exemptions, Congress also created the triennial rulemaking mechanism which creates 3-year temporary exemptions as a catch-all to prevent the anti-circumvention law from prohibiting lawful practices.

For the upcoming 2018 rulemaking proceedings, the Cyberlaw Clinic has submitted an anti-circumvention exemption request on behalf of the Software Preservation Network (“SPN”) and a renewal request on behalf of a coalition of medical device patients and researchers (“Medical Device Coalition”) for the Copyright Office’s seventh triennial rulemaking proceedings for anti-circumvention exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). SPN seeks an exemption for libraries and archival institutions to circumvent technology protection mechanisms for the preservation of software for future research or usage. The Medical Device Coalition seeks a renewal for an exemption that the Cyberlaw Clinic successfully helped to secure in the 2015 rulemaking proceedings, which permits patients and security researchers to circumvent technological measures in medical devices to access output data. The SPN petition and medical device renewal request join 22 other new exemption petitions and 38 other exemption renewal requests submitted for the 2018 rulemaking proceedings.

Updating the DMCA Exemption Rulemaking Process

To improve the rulemaking process for the upcoming seventh triennial rulemaking proceedings, the Copyright Office recently conducted a study of 17 U.S.C. § 1201 by receiving public comments on the statute’s effectiveness, the permanent exemptions, and the rulemaking process. The criticisms targeting the rulemaking process generally addressed two problems: (1) lack of clarity in the criteria used to review the exemptions; and (2) the extensive work required to process a petition seeking renewal of an existing exemption. For the Copyright Office’s study, the Cyberlaw Clinic submitted a public comment requesting increased predictability and clarification of the criteria used in the rulemaking process. In a report generated from the comments from the study, the Copyright Office clarified the criteria it will use for the 2018 rulemaking process and introduced a new streamlined renewal procedure detailed below.

Petitioning for a New Exemption

The basic framework of the 2018 rulemaking process for petitions seeking new exemptions will not be different from that used in the sixth triennial rulemaking proceedings in 2015. The process begins with the submission of petitions detailing only the scope of the exemption requested—the petitioner does not have to submit any background or legal facts in support of the exemption during the petition phase. Following the petitions, the Copyright Office will group the petitions into distinct classes and invite public comments on the proposed exemption classes through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The commentary period is divided into three rounds: (1) comments with legal and evidentiary facts from supporters or neutral parties regarding the proposed exemptions; (2) comments with legal and evidentiary facts from opposing parties regarding the proposed exemptions; and (3) limited comments from supporters or neutral parties in response to arguments raised in an earlier round of comments. The third round of comments will not raise new issues regarding the exemptions. The Copyright Office will hold public hearings following the final commentary round to address specific issues identified in the comments. With the information gathered from the comments and the public hearings, the Register of Copyrights, in consultation with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”), will then make a final recommendation to the Librarian of Congress, often constricting the scope of many requested exemptions. The Librarian of Congress will then review the recommendations and issue a final list of exemptions in the Federal Register.

The New Streamlined Renewal Process

Prior to the enactment of the renewal process for the seventh triennial rulemaking proceedings, all renewal requests were treated as new petitions that required the same arduous 3-round commenting process even though the existing exemptions had already been filtered through the same commenting process three years prior. Critics of the rulemaking process found the process to be inefficient and redundant.

As mentioned above, the Copyright Office implemented a streamlined renewal process for the seventh triennial rulemaking proceedings in response to the public comments from its DMCA study. Instead of submitting a new petition, renewal proponents submit a separate renewal petition detailing the basis for its request to renew an existing exemption. Specifically, the Copyright Office requires a statement that explains how there has been no changes in the law that would prohibit the exemption and that failure to renew the exemption would lead to the detrimental ban of non-infringing uses of copyrighted works. The renewal process is available only for exemptions as they currently exist—expansion of current exemptions must go through the standard new petition process.

During the collection of renewal requests, the Office will also collect comments regarding any meaningful opposition—“new developments in case law or new factual evidence”—to the renewal requests. Any renewal request facing meaningful opposition will be treated as a new petition and filtered through the standard rulemaking process. If a renewal request is unopposed, the renewal will be automatically granted and published in the Federal Register.

Petitions submitted for the Seventh Triennial Rulemaking Proceedings

In the current round of proceedings, there are 23 new exemption petitions and 39 renewal requests. The new exemption petitions include: (1) expansion requests for current exemptions, such as expansion of the current video game exemption, requested by the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, to include multiplayer online games, video games with online multiplayer features, and massively multiplayer online games (MMOs); (2) new classes of exemptions, such as a petition submitted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) to allow circumvention for the repair and diagnosis of a software-enabled device. All petitions and renewals can be found here.

To general surprise, there was only one opposition comment submitted on behalf of The Software Alliance opposing the renewal of the “jailbreaking” exemption. The Software Alliance cites three claims in its opposition: (1) that “jailbreaking” may compromise the security and integrity of device platforms, increasing risks of privacy violations; (2) that alternatives to circumvention may exist; (3) the exemption may violate § 1201 by facilitating piracy of software applications.

Four other comments submitted on behalf of The DVD Copy Control Association (“DVD CCA”) and The Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (“AACS LA”), the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (“AAM”), and an alliance of Joint Creators and Copyright Owners raise concerns with the renewal process. The comments submitted by the DVD CCA, AACS LA, and the AAM raise concerns that certain renewal requests include expansions that should be filtered from the renewal petition or otherwise treated as a new exemption petition. The comment submitted by the Joint Creators and Copyright Owners highlight concerns regarding the streamlined renewal process, requesting that the Copyright Office adhere by five implicit “rules” in the renewal process:

  • That the renewal is applicable only to current exemptions without added modification and that any exemption seeking expansion will require a new petition;
  • That the renewal is applicable only to the classes of users who request a renewal. The exemption should be repealed for all other classes of users who failed to request a renewal;
  • That the renewal should only be granted if the petitioners have personal knowledge or experience with the facts that support renewal. Generalized renewal petitions should not be granted;
  • That renewal petitions based on need to offer circumvention assistance should not be considered a renewal request. Instead, these should be considered expansions unless the original exemption specifically immunized the provision of such assistance;
  • That renewal petitions facing meaningful opposition should be treated as a new petition.

Next Steps for the Cyberlaw Clinic

The Cyberlaw Clinic is looking forward to submitting a comment in support of the SPN petition when the Copyright Office posts its Notice for Proposed Rulemaking. Since there has been no meaningful opposition submitted against the clinic’s request for renewal of the medical device exemption, it is expected that the renewal will be automatically granted.

Evelyn Chang is a second-year student at Harvard Law School and current clinical student in the Cyberlaw Clinic.

by Evelyn Chang at October 25, 2017 01:43 PM

October 24, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces


with author John Palfrey, Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover


Often in today’s political climate our commitments to liberty and equality are set at odds with one another. This tension is nowhere more evident than when we pit free expression against our goals for a diverse, equitable, and inclusive society. This book explores these tensions and seeks ways to make progress toward shared goals, for campuses and societies alike.

Event Date

Oct 24 2017 5:00pm to Oct 24 2017 5:00pm
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017
5:00-6:15 pm Book Talk, followed by 6:30-7:30 pm Reception
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Video and audio will be shared on this page soon!

Can diversity and free expression co-exist on our campuses?  How about in our town squares, our cities, and our world?  Join us for a discussion of two of the foundational values of our democracy in the digital age.


Read the Open Access book here!


About John

John is the Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover.  He serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Knight Foundation and LRNG.  He also serves as a Board member of the Data + Society Research InstituteSchool Year Abroad, and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

John’s research and teaching focus on new media and learning.  He has written extensively on Internet law, intellectual property, and the potential of new technologies to strengthen democracies locally and around the world.  He is the author or co-author of several books, including Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age (Basic Books, revised edition, 2016) (with Urs Gasser); BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google (Basic Books, 2015); Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems (Basic Books, 2012) (with Urs Gasser); Intellectual Property Strategy (MIT Press, 2012); (with Urs Gasser); and Access Denied: The Practice and Politics of Global Internet Filtering (MIT Press, 2008) (co-edited).

John served previously as the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School.  At the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, he served as executive director from 2002-2008 and has continued on as a faculty director since then. John came back to the Harvard Law School from the law firm Ropes & Gray, where he worked on intellectual property, Internet law, and private equity transactions. He also served as a Special Assistant at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration.  He previously served as the founding President of the Board of Directors of the Digital Public Library of America.  He also served as a venture executive at Highland Capital Partners and on the Board of Directors of the Mass2020 Foundation, the Ames Foundation, and Open Knowledge Commons, among others.  John was a Visiting Professor of Information Law and Policy at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland for the 2007-2008 academic year.

John graduated from Harvard College, the University of Cambridge, and Harvard Law School.  He was a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar to the University of Cambridge and the U.S. EPA Gold Medal (highest national award).



This event is being co-sponsored by the Harvard Law School Library and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

by ahancock at October 24, 2017 10:00 PM

How the Networked Age is Changing Humanitarian Disasters


featuring Nathaniel Raymond, founding Director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) of the Harvard Chan School of Public Health


How is technology changing humanitarian crises? Is information humanitarian aid? Do we need a new Geneva Convention for cyberwarfare?

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Oct 24 2017 12:00pm to Oct 24 2017 12:00pm
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Information communication technologies and the data they produce are transforming how natural and manmade disasters alike unfold. These technologies are also affecting how populations behave and organizations respond when these events occur. This talk will address the ethical, legal and technical implications of this pivotal moment in the history of humanitarianism.

About Nathaniel

Nathaniel Raymond is the founding Director of the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) of the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. He has over fifteen years of experience as a humanitarian aid worker and human rights investigator. Raymond was formerly director of operations for the George Clooney-founded Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) at HHI.
Raymond served in multiple roles with Oxfam America and Oxfam International, including in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. He has published multiple popular and peer-reviewed articles on human rights, humanitarian issues, and technology in publications including the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, the Lancet, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and many others.

Raymond served in 2015 as a consultant on early warning to the UN Mission in South Sudan and as a technical consultant to Home Box Office on detainee abuse during the Bush Administration. He was a 2013 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow and is a co-editor of the technology issue of Genocide Studies and Prevention. Raymond and his Signal Program colleagues were prize winners in the 2013 USAID/Humanity United Tech Challenge for Mass Atrocity Prevention and received the 2012 U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation Industry Intelligence Achievement Award.


Notes from the talk

Humanitarianism has gone through several transformations since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century. According to Nathaniel Raymond, we are now at another crucial moment in humanitarian history, a time which he referred to as the “digital Goma,” referencing the cholera outbreaks in camps around Goma during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Raymond criticized the “humanitarian innovation narrative,” which assumes that increases in innovation and technology will lead to better humanitarian aid.

The use of ICT and data, while well intentioned, are causing secondary data disasters. Raymond cautioned that, “new ways of seeing create new ways of being blind.” For example, during Hurricane Katrina, people used cellphones to identify needs and request help, but the result was that white communities, in which cellphones were more prevalent, received more aid than communities of color. Such problems are the result of integrating new technologies into humanitarian efforts without adhering to a rights-based approach. In response to these issues, the Signal Program at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has developed the Signal Code, described as a “human rights approach to information during crisis.” The code identifies five rights: the right to information; the right to protection; the right to privacy and security; the right to data agency; and the right to rectification and redress. The Signal Program hopes that the code will be the foundation for continued transformation of the humanitarian doctrine in this technological era.

Raymond concluded by asking whether we need a fifth Geneva Convention for the age of cyber warfare. We are either moving towards a “golden age of new regulations” or a post-normative world, in which the word “humanitarian” may not mean anything anymore. Currently, we are at a pivot point, on the precipice of a third world war, or a “war on trust.” Several key questions are at stake: Do we develop new norms? If so, how, and who gets to develop them? Finally, what are the consequences if we do not develop them?

Notes compiled by Donica O'Malley

Download original audio and video from this event.

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by candersen at October 24, 2017 05:00 PM

Justin Reich
The Worldwide Educating for the Future Index - A Blueprint for Change
The recently released Worldwide Educating for the Future Index urges governments to reevaluate their education systems and provides a blueprint for change.

by Beth Holland at October 24, 2017 03:51 PM

October 23, 2017

Deep Mediatization: Social Order in the Age of Datafication
Social and communication theorists Nick Couldry and Andreas Hepp draw on their recent book "The Mediated Construction of Reality" (Polity 2016) to explore what happens to the concept and practice of 'social order' in the era of datafication. Today we are living in an era not just of mediatization, but deep mediatization where every element of social process and social life is composed of elements that have already been mediated. This shifts the question of media's 'influence' on the social into a higher-dimensional problem. Datafication is a good example of this, and its tension with classical forms of social phenomenology will be discussed in detail in the talk. Developing particularly the social theory of Norbert Elias (and his concept of 'figuration'), Couldry and Hepp explore how social theory can help us grasp the deep conflicts that exist today between our material systems of interdependence (particularly those focussed on information technology and data processing systems) and the normative principles such as freedom and autonomy. Such conflicts as legal theorists such as Julie Cohen note are crucial to the life of democratic subjects and the orders (democratic or not) that they inhabit. For more info on this event visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at October 23, 2017 03:13 PM

October 22, 2017

Harry Lewis
Alumni reaction to the social club policy
A fascinating set of alumni letters appears in the current Harvard Magazine. The picture that emerges is a good deal more nuanced than the broad-brush stereotyping of social clubs in the Clark-Khurana report and associated administrative writings. Joan Hutchins '61, past president of the Board of Overseers and one of Harvard's most dedicated alumnae, describes herself as "appalled" by the policy and calls on the faculty to reject it. Heather Furnas, a distinguished plastic surgeon whose daughter graduated from Harvard this past spring, ties the importance of women's clubs to women's professional development, and dryly notes that her daughter joined a women's club only after being rejected by both Crimson Key and the Advocate. Like others, Furnas notes the lack of either logic or factual basis in the sanctions policy, but she goes a step further by announcing that she is going to stop donating to Harvard.

I cannot think of another time when alumni and parents so strongly spoke out in support of faculty opposition to an administrative action. There is no nostalgia in these voices; they are speaking up on principle and on the basis of their lived experiences. It takes courage to do so; apostasy serves no one's self interest. I am saddened by the fractures this is causing in the Harvard family. But these women are repelled by what Harvard is doing, and I am grateful to them for saying so.

by Harry Lewis ( at October 22, 2017 05:31 PM

October 19, 2017

Ethan Zuckerman
Stop killing protesters, including those protesting violence against protesters!

This morning, Twitter offered me a video of my friend Boniface Mwangi getting shot point blank with a tear gas container, leading to a hematoma. The irony of assaulting a man who was leading a peaceful march against police violence while wearing a t-shirt that read “Stop Killing Us” seems to have been lost on Kenyan authorities.

Given that Boni was kind enough to check in with me this morning to see if I could come to his talk at Amherst College next week (I can’t, but you really should – he’s a terrific speaker), I thought I’d take a moment to check in on Kenya’s disputed election.

Kenyan elections have not always been smooth affairs. The disputed 2007 election between Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga led to protests – both peaceful and violent – and to waves of political and ethnic violence. Over a thousand people died. Tens of thousands were displaced. Kenya’s reputation as a stable and safe country suffered.

With 2007 firmly in mind, the international community has watched Kenya’s past two elections closely, though not always carefully. The election held in August of this year was widely certified as free and fair by international election observers, despite the fact that election tally forms were forged, the system for transmitting votes from polling stations to tabulation centers utterly failed, and the IT manager for the electoral commission was tortured and killed, likely to obtain his passwords to the system. It’s likely that international observers acted too hastily in certifying results, hoping to avoid post-election strife.

I have always marveled at how Kenyans rise to challenges. The 2007-8 strife led to a wave of civic engagement by young Kenyans that helped birth crowdmapping site Ushahidi, anti-violence efforts like Kuweni Serious and started countless young Kenyans down the path of political activism. Boni’s photographs of the 2007-8 protests helped bring his work as an artist and activist to international visibility.

And in 2017, Kenya’s supreme court rose to the challenge and overturned a flawed election demanding a clean re-run just a few weeks later. This was a remarkable act of judicial independence, given that all judges had been appointed by Uhuru Kenyatta, the winner of the disputed poll. Unfortunately, Kenya’s election body made very few of the changes the Supreme Court demanded, and it became increasingly clear to Odinga’s camp that a rerun of the elections later this month would have many of the same flaws of the previous poll. On October 10th, Odinga pulled out of the poll and encouraged his supporters – who had already been protesting – to demonstrate their refusal to let the election be stolen. Two days ago, elections commissioner Roselyne Akombe resigned and fled to the US, stating that she did not believe the commission could conduct a free and fair election, and that she’d begun fearing for her own safety given threats of violence.

As Odingo supporters have taken to the streets, Kenyan police have reacted with force, which has led to deaths – Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report at least 33 protesters killed by police in the immediate aftermath of the August poll. On Monday, a high school student was shot and killed by police during protests in Kisumu, a stronghold for Odinga.

These deaths were the backdrop for the “Stop Killing Protesters” march Boni and Team Courage organized today in the central business district of Nairobi. The protest was registered with local authorities and Boni’s team gave careful instructions to protesters, hoping to minimize confrontation with police. As his arrest and injury demonstrate, that’s been harder than it should be.

The situation in Kenya is hard to predict and it’s clearly a tense and scary time ahead. I know a lot of truly remarkable young Kenyans and I have a great deal of faith that 2017 will give birth to another wave of activism, engagement and innovation. I have less confidence in existing Kenyan institutions, which seem to be facing a situation more complex than they’re able to handle.

One aspect of the current situation that I find especially worrisome: international attention. When democracies stumble, international pressure often keeps the train on the rails, showing leaders that autocratic behavior will be noticed and will lead to consequences. It’s hard to imagine the Kenyan situation getting much attention in the US right now, given competition from crises like Puerto Rico and the ongoing recovery in Texas and Florida, not to mention the crisis du jour coming from the Trump administration. One of the dangers of the wave of nationalism and nativism sweeping across the world is that positive pressure of globalization weakens.

by Ethan at October 19, 2017 07:16 PM

Berkman Center front page
National Security, Privacy, and the Rule of Law


A live webcast featuring Alex Abdo, Cindy Cohn, Alexander MacGillivray, Andrew McLaughlin, Matt Olsen, Daphna Renan, David Sanger, Bruce Schneier, Elliot Schrage, and Jeffrey Toobin in conversation with Professor Jonathan Zittrain

Event Date

Oct 27 2017 11:00am to Oct 27 2017 11:00am

Friday, October 27, 2017 
Live webcast at 11-12:30pm at

While civil libertarians and conventional national security advocates have typically found little to agree on, today they share a profound anxiety about the trajectory of state intelligence gathering. For some, this reflects concern about invasions of privacy made possible by a digital environment in which every click and inquiry can be tracked and where our homes and workplaces have welcomed internet-aware appliances that could be repurposed for surveillance.

For others, there is a sense of undue empowerment of those who wish to cause harm and disruption, thanks to technologies that permit untraceable communications and cultivation and rallying of like-minded extremists.

Through a concrete hypothetical--ripped from tomorrow's headlines, if not today's--we will explore the difficult decisions to be made around these issues, including actors from business, government, civil society, and the citizenry at large.

This event is part of Harvard Law's School's bicentennial activities.

by gweber at October 19, 2017 07:00 PM

How Facebook Tries to Regulate Postings Made by Two Billion People


Berkman Klein Center hosts a day of conversation about reducing harmful speech online and hears from the Facebook executive in charge of platform moderation policies

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On September 19, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society hosted a public lunch talk with Monika Bickert, the Head of Global Policy Management at Facebook. The public event was followed by a meeting at which members of the Berkman Klein Center community explored broader research questions and topics related to the challenges of keeping tabs on the daily social media interactions of hundreds of millions of people.

The day was hosted by the Center’s Harmful Speech Online Project. Questions surrounding the algorithmic management of online content, and how those processes impact media and information quality, are also a core focus of the center’s Ethics and Governance of AI Initiative.

Later in the afternoon, members of the Berkman Klein Center community came together for additional discussion about content moderation broadly, and related questions of hate speech and online harassment. About 80 community members: librarians, technologists, policy researchers, lawyers, students, and academics from a wide range of disciplines attended.

The afternoon included presentations about specific challenges in content moderation by Desmond Patton, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Columbia University and Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center, and Jenny Korn, an activist-scholar and doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Berkman Klein Fellow.

These researchers explained just how difficult it can be to moderate content when the language and symbols used to convey hate or violent threats evolve in highly idiosyncratic and context-dependent ways.

Read the full event summary on Medium.

by gweber at October 19, 2017 04:58 PM

Will Wikipedia exist in 20 years?
Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, joins Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler for a conversation about the future of Wikipedia and global crowdsourced knowledge. Find out more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at October 19, 2017 04:31 PM

October 18, 2017

Harry Lewis
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day
Forbes has a nice story in its online edition about what can happen to you as a Harvard professor if you just teach your classes and pay a little bit of attention to the students Admissions keeps putting in front of you.
 The Harvard Professor Who Taught Gates and Zuckerberg 
Same-day bonus link, about another of my wonderful students!
Students Promote Computer Science Professor for Harvard Presidency

by Harry Lewis ( at October 18, 2017 11:06 PM

Berkman Center front page
Deep Mediatization: Social Order in the Age of Datafication


with Nick Couldry, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK and Berkman Klein Faculty Associate and Andreas Hepp, Zemki, University of Bremen, Germany


Social order - what counts as order in the social world - is changing in the digital era, the era of deep mediatization. How can social theory help us understand this shift, and what are the consequence for fundamental democratic values such as freedom and autonomy?

Event Date

Oct 18 2017 4:00pm to Oct 18 2017 4:00pm
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Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 4:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Social and communication theorists Nick Couldry and Andreas Hepp draw on their recent book The Mediated Construction of Reality (Polity 2016) to explore what happens to the concept and practice of 'social order' in the era of datafication. They start out from their proposal made in the book that today we are living in an era not just of mediatization, but deep mediatization where every element of social process and social life is composed of elements that have already been mediated. This shifts the question of media's 'influence' on the social into a higher-dimensional problem. Datafication is a good example of this, and its tension with classical forms of social phenomenology will be discussed in detail in the talk. Developing particularly the social theory of Norbert Elias (and his concept of 'figuration'), Couldry and Hepp will explore how social theory can help us grasp the deep conflicts that exist today between our material systems of interdependence (particularly those focussed on information technology and data processing systems) and the normative principles such as freedom and autonomy. Such conflicts as legal theorists such as Julie Cohen note are crucial to the life of democratic subjects and the orders (democratic or not) that they inhabit.

About Nick Couldry

Nick Couldry is a sociologist of media and culture. He is Professor of Media Communications and Social Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author or editor of twelve books including most recently The Mediated Construction of Reality (with Andreas Hepp, Polity, 2016), Ethics of Media (2013 Palgrave, coedited with Mirca Madianou and Amit Pinchevski), Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice (Polity 2012) and Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics After Neoliberalism (Sage 2010). He is Visiting Researcher at the Microsoft Research Lab, Cambridge, MA during August to December 2017 and a Faculty Associate of  the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society for 2017-2018. Full bio here.

About Andreas Hepp

Andreas Hepp is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI), University of Bremen, Germany. He is co-initiator of and principal investigator in the research network ‘Communicative Figurations’ as well as the DFG funded priority research program ‘Mediatized Worlds’ (2010-2017). His main research interests are media sociology, mediatization, transnational and transcultural communication, datafication, and qualitative methods of media research. Publications include the monographs Cultures of Mediatization (Polity, 2013), Transcultural Communication (Wiley, 2015) and The Mediated Construction of Reality (with Nick Couldry, Polity, 2017). Full bio here.


Download original audio and video from this event.

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events podcast to have audio from all our events delivered straight to you!

by candersen at October 18, 2017 09:00 PM

October 17, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Will Wikipedia exist in 20 years?


Featuring Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, in conversation with Harvard Law School Professor Yochai Benkler


Join us for a stimulating conversation highlighting different perspectives of the question, "Will Wikipedia exist in 20 years?"

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Oct 17 2017 12:00pm to Oct 17 2017 12:00pm
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Please join us to hear the Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher, in discussion with Harvard Law School Professor Yochai Benkler on the topic, "Will Wikipedia exist in 20 years?"

About Katherine

From Wikipedia: Katherine Roberts Maher is the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, a position she has held since June 2016. Previously she was chief communications officer. In addition to a background in the field of information and communications technology (ICT), Maher has worked in the non-profit and international sectors focusing on the use of technology to empower human rights and international development, specifically improving communities, promoting inclusivity and transparency, and deepening participation.

About Yochai

Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School, he was Joseph M. Field '55 Professor of Law at Yale. He writes about the Internet and the emergence of networked economy and society, as well as the organization of infrastructure, such as wireless communications.


Download original audio and video from this event.

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events podcast to have audio from all our events delivered straight to you!


Notes from the talk

For the past year, according to Maher, the Wikimedia Foundation has been consumed by the question: what does the future hold for Wikipedia?

Wikipedia (the encyclopedia arm of the organization) has been around for 15 years and has grown exponentially since its inception in 2001. Wikipedia now receives 1.4 billion unique device visits a month and is the world’s fifth largest website.

Although Wikipedia is the most used aspect of the organization, Wikimedia also encompasses Wikimedia Commons, a gallery of freely usable media files, and WikiData, a collection of editable data sources, amongst other projects.

In 2017 Wikimedia launched the Wikimedia2030 initiative, which aimed to create a strategic direction for the organization’s future. The process involved conversations with more than 80 Wikimedia communities and groups. From the Wikimedia2030 project, the organization learned that it does not come close to serving the whole world, that it is still largely a global north project, and that structural inequalities prevent them from achieving their mission. In particular, Maher noted that though they have made some progress, the organization still struggles with gender bias. They also heard from participants that they need to adapt to both changing knowledge needs and new technologies. Maher questioned whether idea of encyclopedias themselves were irrelevant for younger generations and stated that many people around the world do not use search interfaces.

Based on the results of the project, Wikimedia has created a list of comprehensive goals for the future. These goals include building healthy, inclusive communities, advancing with technology, creating a truly global movement, becoming the most respected source of knowledge, and engaging in the knowledge ecostream.

Finally, Maher emphasized Wikimedia’s plan to become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge. She conceptualized knowledge in two ways – as service and as equity. Wikimedia views itself as providing a service to the world – they want to build better tools for themselves and their allies, and enable new forms of knowledge through creative platforms, such as hosting oral histories and multimedia projects. Additionally, Wikimedia is committed to social equity. They plan to break down barriers to information and help bring forward knowledge left out by systems of privilege and power. Ultimately, Wikimedia is “embedded in the spirit of learning and exploration, and curiosity,” and aims to be an organization “that can help increase the amount of information in the world,” Maher concluded.

Notes compiled by Donica O'Malley

by candersen at October 17, 2017 05:00 PM

October 13, 2017

Justin Reich
101 Apps NOT Mentioned in this Post
How might we create the ideal conditions for professional learning and promote conversations about deeper learning and systemic change?

by Beth Holland at October 13, 2017 05:39 PM

October 12, 2017

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Massachusetts Considers Digital Right to Repair

On September 26, 2017, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure heard testimony on proposed digital “right to repair” bills H.143 and S.96. The two proposed bills would require manufacturers of digital devices to provide diagnostic, repair, and service information to independent technicians and owners of devices, information that is currently only available to technicians selected and authorized by the manufacturers. The bills would further require manufacturers allow independent technicians and owners to purchase replacement parts and service tools at a reasonable price. The bills by their terms relieve manufacturers of the obligation to reveal any trade secret; however, they do not address the practicality of providing service manuals and diagnostic information without exposing trade secrets, particularly for manufacturers who rely heavily on trade secret protection.

Massachusetts has tackled right to repair before. In 2012, Massachusetts became the first state to pass right to repair legislation for motor vehicles. Rather than face future legislation from other states, auto manufacturers agreed to make the Massachusetts law their national standard.

The right to repair bills discussed on Tuesday shift the focus to digital devices. The bills cover only “digital electronic product[s],” defined as a device that “contain[s] a microprocessor,” but expressly excluding class III medical devices (high-risk implantable devices) and vehicles. This definition conceivably includes consumer electronics, medical devices, and any other digital device containing a microprocessor.

Senator Michael D. Brady, presenting the Senate bill, explained that both bills are designed to protect consumers from manufacturers who currently control the price of repair. The lack of competition, according to Senator Brady, leads to decreased innovation in service repair and prevents local repair business from performing repairs. However, Senator Brady indicated that he was open to the Joint Committee making minor changes.

Proponents of the bills argued that allowing independent repair and granting access to repair manuals, diagnostic information, and security patches ultimately improves security and device safety. Rachel Kalmar, a research fellow at Harvard University, explained that the device manufacturers’ current method of “security through obscurity” does not work. In the long run, Kalmar explained, published systems are ultimately more secure because researchers are able to find and fix security flaws. Kalmar also explained that safety is improved when individuals have access to updates. When companies stop supporting old devices, those devices may not get the latest software patches and can pose a threat to the larger network. The network is only as secure as its weakest link.

Proponents furthered argued that the current monopoly manufacturers hold on repair hurts consumers by inflating the cost of repair. Manufacturers, motivated to sell more new products and to protect repair as a revenue stream, are incentivized to make repair more expensive than replacement. Adam Fullerton, a manager at MEGA MOBILE, a Boston company specializing in unlocked smartphone repairs, testified that he has watched the cost of repair parts for Apple products skyrocket over the past few years, when the parts were even available to independent technicians at all. In the context of medical devices, Scot Mackeil, a Boston-based medical repair technician, explained that he could make more repairs on critical equipment, without sending the equipment to the manufacturer or waiting on an authorized technician, if he had access to repair manuals and parts.

Finally, the bills’ supporters argued that the monopoly on repair also hurts the secondary market for electronic devices. Rohi Sukhia of used computer wholesaler TradeLoop explained that when a consumer attempts to patch a device she bought used, manufacturers will often refuse to sell the patch or offer it at the cost of a new device, rendering the used hardware worthless.

The bills were primarily opposed by representatives of the manufacturers, especially technology and medical device manufacturers.

Opponents argued that the bills presented a threat to IP and trade secrets, despite the language that had been included to accommodate this concern. Sarah Faye Pierce, who represented a home appliance trade group, was the first to point out that releasing service manuals and repair information may require a release of sensitive IP. Matthew Mincieli of TechNet, a group representing technology companies and their executives, agreed, arguing that these bills will hurt the “tech ecosystem” and may disincentivize technology companies from coming to Massachusetts. Tim Johnson of the Entertainment Software Association agreed that the bills threaten IP and argued that the bills are unnecessary because there is an incentive for manufacturers to fix game consoles: “No one buys games for broken consoles.” Johnson also pointed out that the Copyright Office is currently conducting a review of a possible national right to repair exception.

Representatives of the medical device manufacturers were primarily focused on the potential threat to the quality of repair. Representatives of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council (MassMEDIC) believed that the legislation would allow unqualified third parties to perform repairs on critical medical equipment without adherence to regulations imposed by the FDA. The FDA currently regulates repairs performed by manufacturers, but third parties may be exempt. Tom Tremble of the Advanced Medical Technology Association thought this threat was particularly acute for class II medical devices, such as infusion pumps, which present a moderate risk to patients.

Opponents were also concerned about potential security risks of exposing service manuals and diagnostic information. Faye Pierce explained that many home appliances are now “smart” appliances and that exposing service information could make these devices more vulnerable to hacks. Mincieli pointed out that releasing software repair information would allow bad actors to more easily identify vulnerabilities.

The Joint Committee raised a few questions of its own, for example, whether a car like the Tesla was more like a motor vehicle or a digital device, and seemed receptive to arguments from both sides. If the bills were to pass, they would be the first of their kind nationwide.

Alex Noonan is a second-year student at Harvard Law School and current clinical student in the Cyberlaw Clinic.

by Alex Noonan at October 12, 2017 01:54 PM

Harry Lewis
Professor Allen's Puzzling Motion, Part 2
When I introduced my motion, I referred to Professor Allen’s motionas “astonishingly sweeping.” Yet I did not appreciate how sweeping it was until a student asked me a question. Before I report her question, let’s back up and parse the motion as best we can.

Opinion is divided among my colleagues about the significance of the Allen motion. Some think it is tautologous, therefore meaningless, and therefore harmless. Others see it as threatening and disingenuous. Given the confusion, after more than a year of debate and with an impending vote, it is safer to respond to the motion’s intentions and to assume that the text is just badly drafted—in spite of being a third draft.

And in spite of having been supported by a 17-0 vote of the Faculty Council. That vote suggests that the Council may have thought the motion uncontroversial. But that only adds to the puzzle, since Dean Smith, who chairs the Council but is not a voting member of it, seems uncertain what its impact would be:
“Personally I don’t see all the clear next steps,” Smith said of Allen’s motion. “I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not even going to try to play one here.”
What sort of group dynamics resulted in a 17-0 vote by a faculty committee whose chair won’t opine on the motion’s meaning?

Adding to the irony of an ambiguous motion being voted up 17-0 by the Faculty Council is that the same body (with the same chair and significantly overlapping membership) refusedto take a vote on the motion I filed last year, “citing uncertainty about whether a vote for the motion would impact the policy,” as the Crimson paraphrased the body’s reasoning.

In any case, let’s assume that the intention is, as Professor Allen explained in supporting materials, to require all student organizations to which Harvard students belong to adhere to the nondiscrimination and other rules Harvard requires of recognized student organizations. A student belonging to a noncompliant organization would have three choices: force the organization to change, resign from it, or be “suspended or expelled.” (Professor Allen uses the term “expel,” so I too am using it and its cognates. Again, it is unclear whether what she says is what she really means—in Harvard parlance, to “expel” is more severe than to dismiss, which is more severe than requirement to withdraw. In modern times very few students have been expelled or dismissed. Expulsion is the equivalent of capital punishment--permanent separation with no possibility of return.)

The motion uses the Massachusetts anti-hazing statute to define “student organization.” That criminal statute applies to
every student group, student team or student organization which is part of such institution or is recognized by the institution or permitted by the institution to use its name or facilities or is known by the institution to exist as an unaffiliated student group, student team or student organization.
That broad definition is of course meant to hold colleges’ feet to the fire. I am not a lawyer either, but it’s plainly an anti-hazing statute, not a nondiscrimination statute. It says that colleges have to communicate with off-campus fraternities and the like. In fact, communication is all the statute actually requires colleges to do: to inform the organizations of their responsibilities under the law, to inform all students of the statute, and to attest to the Commonwealth that it has done so.

Professor Allen’s motion puts this category to an entirely different use: to force Harvard’s nondiscrimination rules on them. That is why the Allen motion is such an astounding assertion of power over private associations, far beyond anything Dean Khurana or the Clark-Khurana committee proposed. As I observed in my previous blog post, it would cover ROTC. Indeed, ROTC is exactly the sort of organization the state might want warned about hazing. The statutory definition would also cover the interuniversity fraternities and sororities, including the ones to which many African-American and Hispanic students belong. Again, it makes perfect sense that the anti-hazing statute would apply to them—if we accept the intent of that statute as legitimate, then such organizations and the student bodies from which they draw their members shouldn’t miss out on those warnings just because the students aren’t exclusively drawn from one school.

Like it or not, the definition of “student organization” in the anti-hazing statute makes sense for an anti-hazing statute. But that definition has no rational applicability to the membership policies of organizations Harvard students join. By what legal or ethical reasoning can that definition be used to threaten their student members with expulsion if the clubs they join aren’t co-educational?

And so to the student’s question. I was asked about the impact of the Allen motion on the Harvard Knights of Columbus and the Harvard Daughters of Isabella. Until I got the question, I had no idea these organizations even existed. They aren’t recognized student organizations, and indeed they run afoul of several of the requirements for recognition. They are single-sex organizations. They are under outside control. They may even impose a religious test on their members. They use the Harvard name, probably without permission. In compliance terms, they are worse than final clubs.

Will the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, by passing the Allen motion, assert its authority to force the Knights of Columbus and the Daughters of Isabella to go co-ed, and to expel their members if they do not?

Doubtless there are other student organizations which will unexpectedly fall under Harvard’s authority if the Allen motion passes. Harvard students are both diverse and creative. They are constantly forming new groups, recognized and unrecognized, in response to common interests and commitments.

If the text of Professor Allen’s motion is not further revised as such absurdities become apparent, those supporting the motion may point to the vague language about writing rules that will balance freedoms and rights. But that would simply authorize the administration to use its best judgment to decide whether to sanction individual clubs and organizations, without any unambiguous direction from the faculty about the meaning of its standards of nondiscrimination. The way out of this snarl is not to get into it, which is the idea behind my motion.

In retrospect, the Verba reportnow seems such a masterpiece. It took Harvard’s nondiscrimination rules seriously, and concluded they applied even to ROTC. Some of us gasped at that, but its logic was inescapable. But the report also recognized the illogic and illiberality of punishing student members for what Harvard might regard as an organization’s shortcomings. It combined moral clarity with humility. Not so the Allen motion, which lacks both.

(Corrected 10/14 as to the use of expulsion in response to a comment.)

by Harry Lewis ( at October 12, 2017 02:28 AM

October 11, 2017

Programming the Future of AI: Ethics, Governance, and Justice
How do we prepare court systems, judges, lawyers, and defendants to interact with autonomous systems? What are the potential societal costs to human autonomy, dignity, and due process from the use of these systems in our judicial systems? Harvard Law School Clinical Professor and Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic Chris Bavitz, along with Harvard's Cynthia Dwork, Christopher L. Griffin, Margo I. Seltzer, and Jonathan L. Zittrain, discuss the evolution of artificial intelligence, with an emphasis on ethics, governance, and criminal and social justice. Drawing from the research, community building, and educational efforts undertaken as part of our Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence initiative, leading experts in the field share and reflect on insights from ongoing activities related to the judiciary and fairness. Find out more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at October 11, 2017 03:36 PM

Feeds In This Planet