We pursue scholarly research and writing in the manner and spirit of a traditional academic think tank, anchored by the work of our faculty and fellows. Below is a list of research initiatives. If you would like to look at research published through the Berkman Center, please visit our Publication Series Page. If you would like to be notified of outgoing Berkman research, please sign up for our research email list.
Center for Citizen Media
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse
Citizen Media Law Project
Copyright Distance Learning Course
Educator’s Guide to Wikipedia
eInnovation and ICT Interoperatility
eLangdell: The Legal Ed Commons
Global Voices Online
Internet and Democracy
The Jamaica Project
Principles on Free Expression and Privacy
Public Radio Exchange
Weblogs at Harvard
Center for Citizen Media
Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and the Berkman Center, fellow Dan Gillmor has launched the Center for Citizen Media, a new organization aimed at understanding, enhancing and expanding grassroots journalism and its reach. Since the 2005 launch, he and his colleagues have initiated a number of projects including a survey of how traditional media organizations are bringing their audiences into the journalism process, and started work on what will become a wide and deep directory of citizen media projects and tools.
While continuing these projects, the CCM is working with Berkman’s Clinical Program to create the Citizen Media Law Project, a resource to develop a wide range of legal information, guidance and resources surrounding citizen media and the challenges that citizen journalists sometimes face.
Contact: Dan Gillmor
Berkman fellow Wendy Seltzer leads the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. "Chilling Effects" refers to the deterrent effect of legal threats or posturing, largely cease and desist letters independent of litigation, on lawful conduct. The Chilling Effects clearinghouse will catalogue cease and desist notices and present analyses of their claims to help recipients resist the chilling of legitimate activities (as well as understand when their activities are unlawful). The project's core, this database of letters and FAQ-style analyses is supplemented by legal backgrounders, news items, and pointers to statutes and caselaw. Periodic "weather reports" will sum up the legal climate for online activity.
The project invites recipients and senders of cease and desist notices to send them to a central point for analysis, and to browse the website for background information and explanation of the laws they are charged with violating or enforcing. Clinical law students will prepare issue-spotting analyses of the letters in the question-and-answer style of FAQs, which we will post alongside the letters in an online database. The site aims to educate C&D recipients about their legal rights. Site visitors may search the database by subject area or keyword.
Contact: Wendy Seltzer
Co-sponsored by the Center for Citizen Media and the Berkman Center’s Clinical Program in Cyberlaw, the Citizen Media Law Project (CMLP) is a new organization aimed at providing legal training and resources for individuals and organizations involved in citizen media. Some of the things we are working on include:
Legal guide for citizen media and legal threats database: The CMLP is creating a legal guide that will cover a range of topics relevant to citizen journalists. It also seeks to address legal subjects relevant to citizen media such as risks associated with online publication, including discussion of defamation and privacy torts; legal issues related to newsgathering; intellectual property issues; and special risks associated with covering elections.
Legal and journalism education: The CMLP is currently working with the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism to provide legal expertise for the creation of an interactive online legal guide to teach citizen journalists their legal rights and responsibilities.
Litigation referrals, consultation, and representation: Lawyers and clinical law students at the CMLP will provide legal advice to individuals and organizations that operate citizen media sites.
Advocacy and coalition building: The CMLP provides research and advocacy on free speech, newsgathering, intellectual property, and other legal issues related to citizen media. One of our first projects is to cultivate support for a federal shield bill.
Contacts: David Ardia, Sam Bayard, Dan Gillmor, and Phil Malone
Copyright Distance Learning Course for Librarians from Transition and Developing Countries
The project aims at developing a copyright distance learning course. The course is targeted to librarians from transition and developing countries members of eIFL (Electronic Information for Libraries, www.eifl.net) with no prior knowledge in copyright, or in law. Different communities will be involved in the design of the course: legal scholars, librarians, experts in Open Access, distance learning, open education, developing countries, etc.
Contacts: William Fisher, Stuart Shieber, Colin Maclay, and Melanie Dulong de Rosnay
The Digital Natives project is a collaboration between the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Digital Natives are young people whose use of technology is completely ingrained in their lives - they have grown up always-on and constantly-connected. Unlike those even a little bit older, these Digital Natives didn't have to learn to "be digital," they learned in digital the first time around.
Contacts: Urs Gasser and John Palfrey
Educator's Guide to Wikipedia
Schools and universities throughout the United States are discouraging students from using Wikipedia. Some simply ban students from referencing it in their coursework, but others repudiate the site as useless, inaccurate, or irrelevant. As a collective venture, Wikipedia is all about making information a public good. The goal of this project is to find ways for teachers and professors to educate their students about how information is constructed, controlled, and disseminated by using Wikipedia as a case study.
Contact: danah boyd
This project aims to achieve a better understanding of interoperability—that is, the ability of entities such as software, devices, or components to exchange information—in the ICT sector. In particular, we are exploring how interoperability interacts with innovation, competition and other policy goals, its costs and benefits, and the various elements that influence interoperability, including standards, law and markets. The project is both interdisciplinary and transatlantic, and conducted in collaboration with our research partners at the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, and at the Oxford Internet Institute in the UK. Cases for consideration include digital rights management and control of digital content, emerging digital identity systems, mobile communications and web services, among others.
Contacts: Urs Gasser, John Palfrey, Jonathan Zittrain, and Colin Maclay
eLangdell : The Legal Ed Commons
eLangdell aims to stimulate innovation in American law schools through a new educational resource sharing platform. This work will be perpetuated by the establishment of the CALI-Berkman Research Fellowship.
The partnership will establish the Legal Education Commons – known as eLangdell for Harvard Law School’s first Dean and the Law Library’s namesake, Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell – where law faculty can share and use openly-licensed course materials to offer students free or low-cost course packs, casebooks, podcasts, and video. Berkman and CALI will also research and develop innovative teaching tools to advance practice skills like client interaction, negotiations, and trial advocacy.
Contact: Gene Koo
Global Voices Online is an online citizen media community dedicated to amplifying independent online voices from outside North America and Western Europe. The editorial team consists of one full-time managing editor plus 15 part time positions for bloggers living around the world who, with the help of over 80 volunteer contributors, curate and translate the best blogs and other online citizen media in their countries and regions. GVO is expanding its outreach activities aimed at helping more communities who are generally under-represented in media coverage to get their voices heard through blogging, podcasting, and online sharing of video and images. A new advocacy arm will help people circumvent Internet censorship and maintain information security and anonymity so that they can be more successful at both obtaining information and speaking out.
Contacts: Ethan Zuckerman and Rebecca MacKinnon
The Internet and Democracy Project is undertaking a new project that will build out our extensive work on this area, with a focus on Iran and the Middle East. This research will focus on the study of relevant examples of where Internet has been shown to impact democracy and politics globally, and the application of simple online tools for the use by those who seek to use the Internet in such a fashion. These online tools include technologies that support free expression and the aggregation of online speech, especially taking advantage of changes in syndication and data-structuring languages (described generally as “Web 2.0” technologies); a robust online platform for supporting these tools; and region-specific data-gathering and convening of experts that will support Berkman Center publications relevant to Internet’s impact on democracy and civic engagement.
This project is funded by a $1.5 million dollar grant from the State Department’s Middle East Partnerships Initiative. This grant provides the Berkman Center with funding to independently investigate the relationship between technology and civic engagement.
Contacts: Jonathan Palfrey, Jonathan Zittrain, and Bruce Etling
Led by Professor Charles Nesson, the Jamaica Project was established in 1998 and has expanded with each successive year through a series of interconnected initiatives. True to the Berkman Center’s expansive interest in the interaction between internet and society, the Jamaica project’s mission centers on the use of the internet to shape, define and change society and the world around us – and empower others to do the same. An experiment in a widespread but sustained focus on efforts at social change in Jamaica, the Project has made deep inroads in Jamaica. It has explored topics from restorative justice, prison reform and Jamaican independence, to self-expression, learning and entrepreneurship. This past year saw Professor Nesson introducing Harvard Law School students to the Jamaica Project through the study of evidence, including revisiting a now-famous musician’s criminal trial in a series of radio broadcasts. In a nod to business, Professor Nesson drew on the project’s network to organize “Cyber Strategy for Caribbean Business Leaders,” a conference which also benefited the SSET program operating in Kingston’s prisons. Other events included luncheon speakers, evening talks, and university-wide events, such as a discussion with Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a former prizefighter who was wrongfully accused of crime and later released.
Contact: Charles Nesson
The Net Dialogue project strives to encourage greater public access to Net-related rulemaking by intergovernmental organizations, and to engage technologists and policymakers in exploring ways to protect core freedoms in the Information Society. One focus of Net Dialogue’s research has been how new technological developments may magnify the force of treaties and international guidelines; at its crux are questions of state sovereignty and the individual’s rights and obligations in the Information Society. This year the project is exploring ways to bolster international data protection in identity management and will survey views of people around the world on what makes for a good mix of rights and responsibilities. This project is funded by a grant from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
Contact: Mary Rundle
The Berkman Center is a member of the OpenNet Initiative (ONI), a joint collaborative project between the University of Toronto, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and Harvard Law School. ONI investigates, analyzes, and reports upon Internet filtering, surveillance, and censorship by states worldwide. The project produces country studies, regional overviews, a map of filtering worldwide, a blog on the latest issues regarding the research, and more.
The OpenNet Initiative is also expanding its research into the area of Internet surveillance by government actors. This project seeks to answer similar questions to those posed above: Which government agencies have the capacity and authority to conduct Internet surveillance? What outside parties such as ISPs or technology providers are necessary participants in surveillance efforts? How does surveillance impact civic and social life?
Contacts: John Palfrey, Jonathan Zittrain and Rob Faris
In partnership with the Center for Democracy and Technology and Business for Social Responsibility, in addition to leading human rights groups, academic institutions and technology firms — including Google, Vodafone, and Yahoo — the Berkman Center has helped lead an initiative to protect and advance citizen’s rights to free expression and privacy through the creation of a voluntary code of conduct and supporting mechanisms for ICT companies. With the rise in Internet filtering and surveillance around the world, the ICT sector frequently encounters state pressure to assist with censorship and to turn over personal information about users. Through the articulation of a broad set of common principles and the development of shared resources for implementation, this collaborative effort is formulating an industry-wide response to guide businesses when they encounter laws and practices that may contravene international human rights standards or are at odds with law or culture in their home jurisdiction. A primary focus of the project is collective action — shared learning, data generation, best practices, and broad support from companies, government, and civil society organizations.
Contacts: Colin Maclay, John Palfrey, Jonathan Zittrain, Urs Gasser, and Caroline Nolan
ProjectVRM has the immodest ambition of turning business on its head -- for its own good, and for everyone else's as well.
Since the dawn of the Industrial Age, large companies have been working to "capture" and "lock" customers inside what we today call "silos" and "walled gardens." These are the private habitats where customer choices are limited to what the vendor alone can provide. "Relationships" with customers in these habitats are maintained entirely on the vendor's terms, through Customer Relationship Management" systems (CRMs) that work to milk as much money as possible out of customers by limiting rather than liberating customer choices.
ProjectVRM is a new Berkman Center research and development effort that is working to provide customers with tools that provide both independence from vendor lock-in and better ways of engaging with vendors -- on terms and by means that work better for both sides.
The primary theory behind ProjectVRM is that many market problems (including the widespread belief that customer lock-in is a "best practice") can only be solved from the customer side: by making the customer a fully-empowered actor in the marketplace, rather than one whose power in many cases is dependent on exclusive relationships with vendors, by coerced agreement provided entirely by those vendors.
Leader: Doc Searls
Public Radio Exchange
The Public Radio Exchange is an online marketplace for distribution, review, and licensing of public radio programming. PRX is also a growing social network and community of listeners, producers, and stations collaborating to reshape public radio. The mission of PRX is to create more opportunities for diverse programming of exceptional quality, interest, and importance to reach more listeners.
Any radio station, any distributor any producer can add work to a PRX catalogue of documentaries, series, commentaries and features. There are thousands of pieces, on almost any topic.
PRX staff sifts through the site every day, finding work that programmers can plug straight into their schedules. Their editorial board of producers and station staff helps, along with a community of thousands of volunteer reviewers. They send out regular programming suggestions and highlight relevant stuff on the PRX site.
Contact: Jake Shapiro
Led by Berkman fellow John Clippinger, the Social Physics project examines the relationship between our identity and the emerging digital ecosystem. With the funding and technical support of IBM, Social Physics undertook the development of the Higgins Trust Framework, open source identity management software, and a white paper. Higgins debuted during the Berkman Center's Identity Mashup Conference, and received acclaim from media and Internet companies. Numerous technology companies have already begun incorporating Higgins: IBM and Microsoft demonstrated interoperability among their identity systems using Higgins; Best Buy demonstrated interoperability with a new "i-card" prototype using Higgins with My Virtual Model; Boston Mainstreets has made use of the i-card and physical affinity card as part of its program; Interra will use Higgins to make purchases and assign donations to nonprofits; Novell announced the release of its product Bandit within Higgins; and the OSIS announced the development of an open source identity selector within Higgins. Social Physics also offered the Gruter-Berkman Series, a discussion series examining the future of Digital Institutions, including two interdisciplinary workshops bringing together leading technologists, economists, neuroscientists and legal scholars. The Identity Mashup Conference website is available here: http://www.identitymash-up.org/.
Contact: John Clippinger
With the Oxford Internet Institute as a partner and the support of leading tech companies, including Google, Sun, and Lenovo, the Center launched StopBadware.org in January 2006. Designed as a “neighborhood watch” campaign oriented toward finding collaborative, community-minded solutions to combat destructive applications and programs, StopBadware.org focuses on organizing its community’s technical expertise and the public’s user-knowledge to identify and research ‘badware’ and to raise public awareness. Since its launch, StopBadware.org has received broad community endorsement for its ‘good software’ guidelines and has worked with the public to identify hundreds of destructive applications. StopBadware.org has also issued nearly a dozen reports documenting destructive applications, and distributed them to thousands of people. After being highlighted in StopBadware’s reports, a number of companies worked with StopBadware.org to bring their software into compliance with StopBadware’s ‘good software’ policies, including Zwinky, Freeze.com, and Starware.
Contacts: Jonathan Zittrain, John Palfrey, and Maxim Weinstein
Weblogs at Harvard
In the winter of 2003, we launched an exciting new project to explore the potential benefits of weblog technology in a variety of educational and community-building projects and contexts. Since then, the Berkman Center has offered free blog hosting to all members of the Harvard community. You can check out a list of all the blogs set up on the server here and jump into conversation through a list of last-updated blogs here. If you are a member of the Harvard community and would like to make use of Harvard's google-juice, just go here to set up and get started. Have questions? We have wiki-mediated FAQs.
Consistent with our support for Free and Open Source Software, blogs.law.harvard.edu is now powered by the popular Wordpress Free Software. In addition, we host the RSS 2.0 specification, in keeping with our support of open technology standards.
Contact: The Berkman Center, (617) 495-7547