Overview : CyberStrategy for Global Citizenship, Integrated Media Space - Wiki
From the syllabus for Monday:
We inhabit a rhetorical environment made of networks of human connection. Connectivity in this environment together with accessibility to low cost digital production tools offers people with limited resources opportunity to aggregate and integrate their energies and make their voices heard. Our first class will offer an opening statement setting out the trajectory of the class and giving a roadmap of the steps we will take to exemplify our cyberstrategy for becoming individual and institutional global citizens.
From the syllabus for Tuesday:
The wiki is a stunningly simple yet powerful example of collaborative architecture. It is both an object of our study and a tool for us to express our activism and collective identity.We will use our wiki to address the issue of how law students taking this course will be graded. In this connection please skim Nesson's Evidence wiki, in particular the controversy about grading that was not satisfactorily resolved in that context.
This week introduces the course and the main ideas. What we may hear about in this week:
- The analogy between effective courtroom argument and effective court of public opinion argument
- The idea of aggregation of willing energy (like ours) for the creation of arguments and resources without centralized power or lots of capital
- The goal of collaborative building of the course in the Internet space
The lectures for this week are on Monday, September 11th at 1:15pm and Tuesday, September 12th at 1:15pm. Both will be taped. They will be available here in QuickTime format approximately 24 hours after they occur.
Get the Videos Delivered (or if you have trouble w/ playback)
Democracy Player is a free and open source video player/aggregator that will download and play back your class videos (sort of like a TiVo for your computer).
A version of the first lecture with enhanced sound is available at http://julipan.blip.tv/
See VideoAudioFix for instructions on editing the sound in a videofile using only free software.
If you take notes during the lectures for this week, please post them here. They will be valuable to others who are viewing the lecture video or just getting a sense of what happened. Please create a new page for your notes and link it here rather than posting your notes directly in this space.
If you took notes on 9/11/06 that you would be willing to share, please post them here.
Here are class notes from John Lobato.
Here are Aaron Sokoloff's Lecture Notes 9/12
Yochai Benkler, The Wealth of Networks. Pages 1-16 of the Introduction (that is, the sections The Emergence of the Networked Information Economy and Networked Information Economy and Liberal, Democratic Societies only)
This book serves as the main theoretical backbone of this course. If you were to read only one reading for this whole course--we hope you will do much more!--the first 16 pages of Benkler's introduction should be it. It is densely full of important ideas, so fairly difficult to summarize concisely. In fact, it is already a sort of summary of the main points of the book. What follows is a summary of the content of Benkler's intro, not in his words.
Intro to the Intro
Our access to information, knowledge and culture critically affects the way we see the world. In the last 150 years modern democratic societies have depended on an industrial information economy (large, centralized producers of information goods) to provide these resources. Over the last 15 years this has begun to change because of the Internet and the way it is being used by individuals. The Internet has given us new ways to produce information goods which have increased the amount of non-market (not motivated by making money) and non-proprietary (not owned) information that is available. This allows individuals to be much more involved in the production of information and in the way that they consume information goods. This change in the possibilities for producing information threatens the traditional information producers of the industrial information economy. There is a battle going on between those who want the information economy to stick with the old model and those who want it to move to the new model.
Advanced economies have made two shifts that make it possible to move away from market-based production:
- They have shifted to an economy largely based on information goods: financial services, software, movies, recognizable brands like the Nike Swoosh
- They have shifted to a communication environment based on a pervasive network (the Internet) with cheap information processing and production capabilities (personal computers, etc.)
The second shift allows individuals and groups with non-market motivations (for instance, curiosity, personal satisfaction, fame, generosity, etc.) to produce information goods that rival or exceed those produced by the big industrialized, marked-motivated producers. The first shift means that the importance of non-market production, because it will have big role in the production of information goods, will have a big role in advanced economies as a whole.
Stated simply, because the production of information goods like movies is more central to our economy than the production of physical items, like cars, and because people with non-market motivations will (theoretically) produce information goods as well as the big industrialized producers, the people with non-market motivations will become important sources of production in our economy.
This is a big claim because it is counter to the conventional wisdom about how advanced economies function. The conventional wisdom is that the economies depend on market motivations. Benkler is proposing that the networked information economy (made up in large part of non-market-motivated individuals and groups) will displace the traditional industrialized information economy of the last 150 years.
The key feature of the networked information economy is that "decentralized individual action--specifically, new and important cooperative and coordinate action carried out through radically distributed, nonmarket mechanisms that do not depend on proprietary strategies-plays a much greater role than it did, or could have, in the industrial information economy." The reason for the change is that it no longer requires a lot of capital to produce information goods. That is, up until recently, one needed a lot more than just the desire to communicate in order to make it happen.
Once the economic barriers to producing and distributing information goods are removed, we can note three things:
- Even before this change in the economics of information production, there was always more non-proprietary information production. "Education, arts and sciences, political debate, and theological disputation have always been much more importantly infused with nonmarket motivations and actors than, say, the automobile industry." The removal of the economic barriers will amplify these non-proprietary information sources.
- Non-market production of information is actually happening on a large scale! Individuals can publish information that can easily become available to other interested individuals looking for it. There are varying degrees of cooperation in the ways in which this is happening, from uncoordinated methods like publishing on the web and having the published material found by others through Google searches, and more coordinated efforts, like Wikipedia. The motivations of people to write something on the web, for instance a blog filled with favorite recipes or a Wikipedia article on Alexander Hamilton can be anything at all, market-based or otherwise.
- Large-scale cooperative efforts to produce information goods have been very successful. The best example is open-source software like the GNU/Linux operating system. Another great example is Wikipedia.
These are big changes, but a lot of people aren't seeing or aren't looking for them because they fall outside of what we're taught to look at in Economics classes. We are taught to look at profit as the motive for producing goods. But there are lots of reasons why people act, many of them unconnected to making a buck. A quick look at your own motivations will give you lots of examples of things you do for reasons other than making money. But now lots of the things that people might have wanted to do, like make a movie, are within reach of people without any great capital requirements. Basically, people are now free to make what ever they want that can be made with a personal computer and an Internet connection. In addition, it is easy to coordinate effort with others with similar interests. This can lead to better and more efficient production than the industrialized model.
The first part of the book explores how all of this is happening and argues against the traditional thinking that market-based motivations and proprietary claims to the goods produced are necessary for a vibrant, functioning information economy.
Part 2 of the book argues the claim that the new networked information economy serves the fundamental goals of a liberal democratic society. In particular, it promotes individual freedom, allows for a more participatory political system, and gives us opportunities for social justice. These values often conflict with each other, so liberal democratic societies have to strike a balance between them and different societies do it differently. "How much a society constrains the democratic decision-making powers of the majority in favor of individual freedom, or to what extent it pursues social justice, have always been attributes that define the political contours and nature of that society." Although the balancing is always taking place, the cost of producing the information goods added another big constraint that is now removed, so we can reconsider how this affects the way we handle these commitments to freedom, democracy, and justice in our society.
- Enhanced Autonomy: individual freedom is improved in three ways:
- individuals can do more for and by themselves
- individuals can do more in loose connections with others
- individuals can do more in organizations that operate outside of the market
At the inception of the Internet people (naively) thought it would result in democratizing publication by just letting everyone be a digital pamphleteer. There are two main objections:
- The first objection to this is the Babel objection in which there is a glut of information: everyone speaks and no one listens, it is too hard to get heard. Basically, that the freedom to speak is meaningless if you can't get an audience.
- The second objection is that the Internet isn't really a flat structure, it is a structured network where certain nodes have much more power to speak (that is, to be heard) than others. Therefore, there is no real democracy because the hierarchy is just like what we had before the 'Net.
The second objection has to be considered in light of the alternative system of the mass media. The mass media has few inputs so it blocks out many points of view. The owners have inordinate power to shape the message and public opinion. The owners tend to use their power to promote the inane and the soothing rather than engaging in complex political discussion. Although the 'Net is not perfect, it allows many more people to communicate their ideas in a way that is not controlled by media owners and is not as easily corruptible by money.
In addition, the different technologies of authorship provide many different structure for communication that invalidate the claim that the structure is just as bad as the mass media structure. They allow users to go where they want and to be active participants in gathering and producing the information they take in. People are becoming more critical of the media and taking more responsibility for policing the information that it/we produce.
The networked information economy is also responding to the Babel objection. There are new methods of filtration, relevance, and quality assessment being developed. These are also information goods. Rather than relying on a centralized source, the cooperative, decentralized model can also be used to get information on what information we want to see. Clusters form around communities of interest and the best stuff from these clusters filters up to larger umbrella communities of interest. It is much more difficult to buy attention on the 'Net than in the mass media (basically because there is no one to pay in order to get the attention. Or rather, there are too many and too diverse people that you would have to pay for it to be feasible.) This means that there is structure enough to avoid the Babel problem but without concentrating too much power in the hands of any one individual or organization or site.
The networked information economy can't solve global hunger and disease, but it can make a huge array of valuable information goods avaialble to people who didn't have access to them before. It also is much easier to enter the information production game with much smaller financial resources. Open-source software is a good example of an information good of high value that is available freely. There are lots of other examples (some explored in the introduction and some in the chapters, that are not reproduced in this summary.) We are in a cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer that can to some extent be countered by the large scale production of non-proprietary goods.
- Cultural Production
The networked information economy also opens up the way that we produce culture. It makes culture more transparent and more malleable. This means that more of us participate in cultural production and making meaning of our culture and surroundings. People worry that we will disappear in the 'Net but actually we are using the 'Net at the expense of television and it is strengthening relationships and our engagement with our culture. We are strengthening our close personal connections and making more social connections with others we otherwise would not have connected to at all.
Appiah's New York Times article, The Case for Contamination, looks at the tension between traditional values and globalization, with a keen eye for getting to the core of what it is that people argue about when they ask for cultural diversity or when they fight against homogeneity. His stand is that we should all subscribe to cosmopolitanism -- the idea of being global citizens who take cultural differences seriously, but who take individual choices just as seriously. As Appiah explains it âcosmopolitans don't insist that everyone become cosmopolitan. They know they don't have all the answers. They're humble enough to think that they might learn from strangers; not too humble to think that strangers can't learn from them.â
The author identifies two concepts that enter the meaning of what he calls "cosmopolitanism" -- one is that we have obligations to others, beyond kinship or citizenship, and the other is that we take seriously the value of individual human lives, not of some generic âhuman lifeâ.
Appiah begins his argument by retelling his vivid experience as participant in a royal celebration in Kumasi, Ghana. Among rituals and traditional clothing, some people walked around wearing business suits, while others had cellular phones. The contrast between the two styles made some of the Western participants feel like modernity was intruding on the values of the place. He warns that globalization can produce homogeneity, as many people fear, but it can also be a threat. As an example, Appiah talks about how Kumasi has a population comprised of English, Germans, Chinese, Syrians, Lebanese, Indians, etc. However, only 20 miles outside the city, the villages are mostly monocultural and people feel their identities threatened by a changing world.
John Stuart Mill explains that âdiversity in society serves as argument for variety around the globeâ. Appiah uses Millâs idea to argue that individuals need to have the choice between following tradition or modern ways, or adapt to a mix by picking and choosing elements of each â âcultural consumers are not dupes, they can adapt products to suit their needsâ.
The title of his piece, The Case for Contamination, refers to this process of revising and imitating that takes place in any society. It is a deeply engrained feature of human nature and culture. Appiah ventures that âyou can care about individual freedom and still understand that the contours of freedom vary considerably from place to placeâ.
A fragment of writing that relates his article to CyberOne (constructing arguments and persuading people) reads as follows: âI don't say that we can't change minds, but the reasons we offer in our conversation will seldom do much to persuade others who do not share our fundamental evaluative judgments already. When we make judgments, after all, it's rarely because we have applied well-thought-out principles to a set of facts and deduced an answer. Our efforts to justify what we have done - or what we plan to do - are typically made up after the event, rationalizations of what we have decided intuitively to do. And a good deal of what we intuitively take to be right, we take to be right just because it is what we are used to. That does not mean, however, that we cannot become accustomed to doing things differently.â
This is a short and easy-to-read piece that you should read in its entirety. In "A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace," as brash and aggressive as the United States' own Declaration of Independence, John Perry Barlow asserts that Cyberspace is inherently different from physical space. ("Our world is different.") He argues that Cyberspace is ungovernable, or at least that traditional governance is undesirable and "unwelcome" there, for many reasons:
- National governments lack the consent of a global Cyber-citizenry
- Any problems that exist in Cyberspace are already being resolved by its residents
- Cyberspace and its contents does not exist in physical space, and therefore not subject to rules that were developed for physical spaces
Barlow identifies certain core values of Cyberspace:
- Lack of prejudice regarding race, economic status, military might, or "station of birth"
- Ability to express oneself without fear of coercion into "silence or conformity"
- The "Golden Rule" (do unto others as you would have done unto yourself)
It is interesting to note the tension between the claim that the internet is ungovernable ("naturally independent") and the resentment of attempts to govern it. After all, if cyberspace were truly ungovernable, there would be no need for a Declaration other than to avoid a certain amount of annoyance or inconvenience. Therefore, it is probably better to read Barlow's claims about Cyberspace's "natural" status as his preference for how it should operate.
In that light, Barlow identifies several threats to the independence of Cyberspace, much as the American colonists listed their grievances in the Declaration of Independence. He cites the Telecommunications Reform Act, which removed many restrictions on the telecom industry, as one example of these attacks. He also writes about "guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace," which in today's context could apply to China's efforts to censor Google, or the Patriot Act's and various other American laws' efforts to monitor and act upon various online activities. Among those activities include attempts to assert copyright claims, which Barlow derides as "declar[ing] ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron."
The Declaration is typical of a view of the internet as ungovernable (often expressed in the phrase "information wants to be free"). A contrasting view, which you will encounter next week, holds that the rules of the internet are not "natural," but rather the result of deliberate choices made by its designers and architects.
Questions to consider
- Do you agree that Cyberspace should be "independent"? Can you think of cases in which traditional governance and laws are desirable in Cyberspace? Are there situations in which they are undesirable?
- What does "independence" mean, in practice?
- Do you agree with Barlow's description of the values of Cyberspace? What are some examples (or counterexamples) of these values? Do you yourself share in those values?
- What do you think of the claim that there is "a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace"? Do Cyber-citizens have enough in common with each other to constitute a civilization, and if so, is that civilization apart and separate from the insitutions, such as the nation-state, that have traditionally governed "real space"?
The Impact of Wikipedia
Wikipedia vs. Britannica
On September 13, 2006, the Wall Street Journal Online published a debate between Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Britannica editor-in-chief Dale Hoiberg.  (It can be accessed on the free section of WSJ.com -- at least for now). You can almost feel the animosity growing between these two.
Law Student Feedback Memos
We asked the law students to give us some feedback on the first week. The feedback from those who were willing to share is available here: shared feedback for week #1