This page features 15 years of conversations with leading cyber-scholars, entrepreneurs, activists, and policymakers as they explore topics such as: the factors that influence knowledge creation and dissemination in the digital age; the character of power as the worlds of governance, business, citizenship, and the media meet the Internet; and the opportunities, role, and limitations of new technologies in learning.

Most Berkman events, including conferences, luncheon series talks, and many meetings, are webcast then archived on this website.  Starting in 2015, webcasts are now archived on specific events pages and are no longer listed here.  Please consider this page an incomplete archive, while we transition how we display multimedia on our site. Many of these talks are also available on the Berkman Center's YouTube channel.

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[Book Talk] Susan Crawford on Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry & Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age

In the Internet era, a very few companies control our information destiny.

In this talk, and in her new book "Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age,"
Susan Crawford—a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a former special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy—demonstrates how deregulatory changes in policy have created a communications crisis in America.

The consequences: Tens of millions of Americans are being left behind, people pay too much for too little Internet access, and speeds are slow.

But everyday people can change this story—and what happens in the year ahead could change the game for good.

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Oluwaseun Odewale on the Power of Social Media in African Elections

Armed with little more than a modest smartphone (mostly even ordinary phones) and an Internet subscription that will permit only a fair access to the mobile GPRS/EDGE, Nigerian young people went into the 2011 elections with a new wave of enthusiasm and interest.

In light of the renewed hope and confidence, and the desire to get things right, several civil society organizations established election monitoring platforms via SMS, twitter, websites, blogs, facebook, telephone lines etc. One particular organization recruited volunteers and got itself embedded within the INEC systems to promote a “two-way communication between INEC and its stakeholders”.

What evolved was a media-tracking centre established to assess the robust blend of traditional and new media during the election period. It was an interesting trend to see how social media, for the first time, was adopted and, quite interestingly, adapted, to ensure credibility of the electoral process.

During this presentation, Oluwaseun Odewale — a trained chemist with a combination of nine years local and international work experiences in social and development work in the West African sub-region, and Berkman Center Fellow — showcases the Nigeria experience, highlighting what worked and what didn’t; specific instances of how social media interventions prevented rigging; how the elections has helped the growth of use of social media, the patterns of usage during and after the elections; and, how traditional media has adjusted to social media practice.

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Andrew Lowenthal on Citizen Video and Networked Politics in Southeast Asia

Citizen video in Southeast Asia has exploded in recent times, and has come to play a significant role in national and regional politics, documenting spectacular events, spearheading campaigns and uncovering scandals.

Initiatives such as Citizen Journalists Malaysia and EngageMedia are working to develop strategic networks of new citizen video producers.

In this discussion, Andrew Lowenthal — Co-Founder and Executive Director of EngageMedia, an Asia-Pacific human rights and environmental video project — outlines EngageMedia's approach to video4change and their work in the region, in particular looking at West Papua, (a remote region of Indonesia that has been waging an independence campaign for more than 40 years), the development of regional, cross-border and multilingual video networks, and the effect and possibility of the internet and online media to generate new post-national political configurations and collaborations.

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Kyle Parry on Trees and Physical-Virtual Borderlands: metaLAB and the Arnold Arboretum

Say the idea is to re-awaken our feelings for plants even at our hyper-networked speed — do we want digital tools to do the re-wiring or are we convinced their auto-brightness and push notifications divert us from the living, breathing nonhuman sensorium?

Kyle Parry — a Researcher at metaLAB and a PhD student in Film and Visual Studies and Critical Media Practice at Harvard — initiates a conversation along these lines by way of a discussion of Digital Ecologies, metaLAB's work-in-progress collaboration with Harvard's Arnold Arboretum.


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Meredith Whittaker and Thomas Gideon on Scientifically Verifiable Broadband Policy

Measurement Lab (M-Lab) is a collaborative effort founded by Vint Cerf and a large body of network researchers, dedicated to creating an Internet-scale ecosystem for truly open network measurement.

Measurement Lab allows researchers the ability to run open source broadband measurement tools on well-managed, near global infrastructure. WIth this data, made publicly available, M-Lab is creating a paradigm for collaborative science as the foundation for good, data-based policy.

Meredith Whittaker — Program Manager for Google Research — and Thomas Gideon — technical director for the Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation — discuss the M-Lab's network measurement architecture, and what is (and can be) done with the data it collects.

A copy of slides from this talk can be found here:

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At the Corner of Hollywood and Web

What happens when a movie maker looks to the Web to work around the traditional entertainment system in which he is one of the leading figures?

In this panel, Rob Burnett — executive producer of "The Late Show with David Letterman" and creator of the much admired series "Ed" — discusses what he has learned as an entertainment industry insider trying to use the Web to let his newest project, "We Made This Movie," find its audience.

Rob is joined by independent documentary storyteller Elaine McMillion (Hollow: An Interactive Documentary), and the Berkman Center's David Weinberger and Jonathan Zittrain.

(All information on the We Made This Movie project can be found here:

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Marc Abrahams and Friends: This is Improbable

Marc Abrahams — editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, host of the annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, and author of several books (including his latest, This is Improbable: Cheese String Theory, Magnetic Chickens and Other WTF Research) — leads a lively exploration of weird science, off-beat research, and things that go bump in the lab. Members of the Berkman Center community along with a group of special guests perform dramatic readings from bizarre studies discussed in Marc's new book, and answer questions about what they have read based on no special knowledge whatsoever. Does it sound odd? Yes. Does it actually work? Surprisingly well.

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Julie E. Cohen on Configuring the Networked Self

Simply put, when it comes to information and access and use in a networked world, laws are imperfectly suited to deal with the diversity and fluidity of human behavior. The mixture of freedom and control that human beings require to flourish is achieved most effectively when regulatory architectures are characterized by operational transparency — by access to the underlying logic of information systems — and by semantic discontinuity — by gaps and inconsistencies within systems of meaning that leave room for the play of everyday practice.

In this talk, Georgetown Professor of Law Julie Cohen, highlights points from her new book "Configuring the Networked Self" that seek to remedy deficits in the law, and in the process to develop a unified framework for conceptualizing the social and cultural effects of legal and technical regimes that govern information access and use.

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RB208: The NetRoots

How have politically engaged organizations used the web to fundamentally change how people organize and engage politically? Why are left wing organizations more likely to succeed in organization online? Why are conservatives less funny than liberals? David Karpf chronicles the dozens of Netroots political organizations, both progressive and conservative, that have sprouted up with the mass adoption of the internet in his new book The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy. On this 2012 election-themed episode of Radio Berkman he speaks with our host David Weinberger about how these organizations are having an impact on politics.

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Christopher Soghoian on the Growing Trade in Software Security Exploits

Over the past year, the public has started to learn about the shadowy trade in software security exploits. Rather than disclosing these flaws to software vendors like Google and Microsoft who will then fix them, security researchers can now sell them for six figures to governments who then use them for interception, espionage and cyber war.

Are researchers who sell exploits simply engaging in legitimate free speech that should be protected? Or, are they engaging in the sale of digital arms in a global market that should be regulated?

In this talk, Chris Sogohian — Principal Technologist and a Senior Policy Analyst with the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union — discusses what should be done, if anything, about this part of the security industry.

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Stuart Shieber and Peter Suber on How to Make Your Research Open Access (Whether You're at Harvard or Not)

How do you make your own work Open Access (OA)? The question comes up from researchers at schools with good OA policies (like Harvard and MIT) and at schools with no OA policies at all.

In recognition of Open Access Week, Peter Suber — Director of the Harvard Open Access Project — and Stuart Shieber — Professor of Computer Science in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences — discuss the Harvard Open Access Project, and suggest concrete steps for making your research OA.

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Madhavi Sunder on Intellectual Property and Global Justice

Under conventional wisdom, intellectual property is simply a tool for promoting innovative products, from iPods to R2D2. But intellectual property does more than incentivize the production of more goods; IP law governs the abilities of human beings to make and share culture, and to profit from this enterprise in a global knowledge economy.

In this talk, Madhavi Sunder — Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and author of the new book From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice — calls for a richer understanding of intellectual property law’s effects on social and cultural life.

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Niva Elkin-Koren on Fair Use for Education: Taking Best Practices to the Next Level

Over the past two decades copyright law has become a major impediment to learning and teaching processes. The use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes is, indeed, at the core of fair use. Yet, the high level of uncertainty regarding the particular scope of permissible uses prevents universities and colleges from exercising fair use on behalf of their students.

In this talk, Niva Elkin-Koren — former dean of the University of Haifa Faculty of Law and the founding director of the Haifa Center for Law & Technology (HCLT) — shares some insights based on the building of a coalition of higher education institutions in Israel and drafting a code of fair use best practices.

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Alberto Pepe on Unlocking the Sources of Scientific Research by Authoring Papers on the Web

Most tools that scientists use for the preparation of scholarly manuscripts, such as Microsoft Word and LaTeX, function offline and do not account for the born-digital nature of research objects. And most authoring tools in use today are not designed for collaboration, and, as scientific collaborations grow in size, research transparency and the attribution of scholarly credit are at stake.

In this talk, Alberto Pepe — Berkman Fellow and co-founder of Authorea, a science startup — argues that the very tools that scientists use to write scholarly papers create a barrier to Open Science by preventing reuse and sharing, and introduces an authoring platform for research papers which adopts the web as its canvas.

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RB207: Hacking Censorship (Drone Humanitarianism I)

The Internet exists and persists on the border between helpful and harmful, between freedom and totalitarianism, access to knowledge and censorship. But as long as technology is adaptable activists will be learning and creating workarounds to spread information and promote change. Enter the Circumvention Tools Hackfest, a four-day bonanza of coders and freedom lovers gathered together to build and improve applications to help activists in repressive regimes get around censorship and surveillance. Correspondent Becky Kazansky attended the Hackfest to find out what kind of tools these "hackers" cooked up. As part of our new series — Drone Humanitiarianism: Harnessing Technology to Remotely Solve and Prevent Crisis — she filed this report.

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Brett Frischmann on Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources

Infrastructure resources are the subject of many contentious public policy debates, including what to do about crumbling roads and bridges, whether and how to protect our natural environment, energy policy, even patent law reform, universal health care, network neutrality regulation and the future of the Internet.

Brett Frischmann — professor at Cardozo Law School and author of the new book "Infrastructure: The Social Value of Shared Resources" — discusses how society benefits from infrastructure resources and how decisions about how infrastructure is managed can affect everyone.

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Nico A.N.M. van Eijk & Axel Arnbak on Certificate Authority Collapse

While serving as the de facto standard for secure web browsing, in many ways the security of HTTPS is broken. In the long term, a robust technical and policy overhaul must address the systemic weaknesses of HTTPS.

Nico van Eijk —Professor of Media and Telecommunications Law and Director of the Institute for Information Law — and Axel Arnbak — a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Information Law — discuss policy methods for strengthening the security of HTTPS, using specific examples from Europe and around the world.

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Book Talk: Peter Suber on Open Access

The internet lets us share perfect copies of our work with a worldwide audience at virtually no cost. We take advantage of this revolutionary opportunity when we make our work “open access”: digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

In this talk, Peter Suber — Director of the Harvard Open Access Project — shares insights from his new concise introduction to open access — what open access is and isn’t, how it benefits authors and readers of research, how we pay for it, how it avoids copyright problems, how it has moved from the periphery to the mainstream, and what its future may hold.

This event includes questions and responses from Stuart Shieber (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences), Robert Darnton (Harvard University Library), June Casey (Harvard Law School Library), David Weinberger (Berkman Center / Harvard Library Innovation Lab) and more.

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RB 206: Unlocking Research

Disseminating knowledge was once a costly undertaking. The expenses of printing, distributing, and housing the work of researchers and scholars left most research in the hands of publishers, journals, and institutions in a system that has evolved over centuries. And the licensing model that has arisen with that system butts heads with the quick, simple, and virtually free distribution system of the net. The key to breaking free of the traditional licensing model locking up research is the promise of the "Open Access" movement. And the movement has already made significant strides. Over the summer the United Kingdom was enticed enough by the potential for greater innovation and growth of knowledge to propose Open Access for any research supported by government funds. But Open Access still remains a wonky, hard to understand subject. Today, Peter Suber — Director of the Harvard Open Access Project — shares insights with David Weinberger from his new guide to distilling Open Access, called simply Open Access.

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Brad Abruzzi: Amazons, Witches, and Critics – A Liberated Novelist Asks, “Now What?”

In the olden days, a writer hoped to catch the eye of an aristocratic patron who might supply a well-placed word of endorsement. The Gutenberg press wrested authors free from this feudal condition, only transfer writers' indenture to publishers, who by owning the means of [re]production acquired the final say regarding what volumes would and would not land on store shelves. This gatekeeping privilege of publishers largely survives to this day, and depending on how well you think they do the work, we might celebrate publishers as Stewards of Culture or lament the state of a Literature Held Hostage.

Now digital media and the Internet propose to devolve the means of [re]production upon authors themselves. Any would-be novelist can flog his work in a digital format over Amazon KDP, Smashwords, and other open outlets for textual works.

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Andrés Monroy-Hernández & Panagiotis "Takis" Metaxas on #Narcotweets: Reporting on the Mexican Drug War using Social Media

In the last few years, the war among drug cartels and the Mexican authorities has intensified, claiming the lives of many innocent people. Citizens, using Social Media have organized a communication network reporting daily on the dangerous zones of their cities. How did it start and how effective are they? In this presentation Andrés Monroy-Hernández — post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research and a Fellow at the Berkman Center — and Panagiotis "Takis" Metaxas — Professor of Computer Science and Founder of the Media Arts and Sciences Program at Wellesley College — analyze the information sharing practices of people living in cities central to the Mexican Drug War, and examine how a handful of citizens aggregate and disseminate information from social media, many of whom are anonymous.

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RB205: Remembering Elinor Ostrom

Nobel Laureate and Economist Elinor Ostrom passed away last month at the age of 78. Best recognized for her research into the management of common pool resources, Ostrom broke new ground with her findings that Commons were not inherently tragic, as previous generations of economists believed. In fact, Ostrom found examples of communities that could effectively manage limited resources, like agricultural land or open space, to prevent resource depletion. Her work paved the way for researchers studying internet communities to explore how norms are established and cooperation is achieved. On today’s show Berkman researchers and affiliates Benjamin Mako Hill, Judith Donath, Mayo Fuster Morell, and Oliver Goodenough discuss how Ostrom’s work impacted their lives.


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Rosemarie Garland-Thomson on Expanding the Concept of Accessible Technology

In this presentation, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson — Professor of Women's Studies and English at Emory University and fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University — expands the idea of accessible technology to show how the way we make our shared world of buildings, technologies, public spaces, practices, laws, and attitudes builds a total environment which welcomes some people and keeps other people out. The talk presents the evolution of how accessible technologies in the broadest sense make our citizenry more inclusive and diverse.

Find a transcript of this talk here:

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Anya Kamenetz on Who Can Learn Online, and How?

Much of the conversation around the new wave of online education startups has focused on what they mean for the incumbent institutions, from for-profit online universities to the traditional Ivy League. But what about what they mean for learners? Who is currently succeeding in open learning contexts? What are the missing pieces of the ecosystem — from discovery, to peer support, to mentoring, to assessment — that will allow the most severely underserved learners to succeed in this new learning environment?

Anya Kamenetz — senior writer at Fast Company Magazine, and author of two books and two ebooks about the future of education — discusses who online learning serves, and how.

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RB204: The Art and Science of Working Together

If you've ever experienced the problem of a dead cell phone battery and only incompatible chargers within reach, you've experienced one of the minor frustrations of a non-interoperable system. This frustration — not to mention the environmental waste of having dozens of different charger types for the same class of device — has led some countries to institute regulations for cell phone manufacturers to use a single common standard. Such a structure is an example of an Interoperable System. And interoperable systems can range anywhere from relatively minor markets like mobile phone chargers, to massive infrastructures like smart energy grids or air traffic systems. Friends of the show John Palfrey and Urs Gasser are the authors of the newly released "Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems." They spoke with David Weinberger about how Interoperability works, and how interoperable systems can lead to greater innovation, greater efficiency, and better functioning societies.

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Book Talk: Doc Searls on "The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge"

Among the goals of the VRM — Vendor Relationship Management — movement are preserving Internet freedom and opportunity, changing the economic power structure, and turning the tables on privacy-violating business models and practices. But there are several challenges to achieving this vision for the future of business and the internet.

Doc Searls' — co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto, and founder of ProjectVRM — discusses some of the challenges he lays out in his new book "The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge."

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RB203: From Digital Uprising to Digital Society

Lots of digital ink has been spilled about how and whether digital technology played a critical role in bringing about the Arab Spring. But it's been 18 months since the spark of revolution was first lit in Tunisia, way back in December of 2010. How has digital technology played a role in laying the foundation for a stable Tunisia? Today's guests were tasked with finding an answer to that question. And it turns out to be a very complex and interesting one, leading them to explore Tunisia's communications infrastructure, Tunisia's digital economy, and an increasingly technology-enabled civil society. Zack Brisson and Kate Krontiris of Reboot are the authors of the recently completed TUNISIA: FROM REVOLUTIONS TO INSTITUTIONS.

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Urs Gasser and John Palfrey on Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems

The practice of standardization has been facilitating innovation and economic growth for centuries. The standardization of the railroad gauge revolutionized the flow of commodities, the standardization of money revolutionized debt markets and simplified trade, and the standardization of credit networks has allowed for the purchase of goods using money deposited in a bank half a world away. These advancements did not eradicate the different systems they affected; instead, each system has been transformed so that it can interoperate with systems all over the world, while still preserving local diversity. But interoperability is not also without its risks.

In this presentation authors John Palfrey — Henry N. Ess Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School — and Urs Gasser — Executive Director of the Berkman Center — demonstrate how interoperability is a critical aspect of any successful system, and now is more important than ever. Interoperability offers a number of solutions to global challenges, but in order to get the most out of interoperability while minimizing its risks, we will need to fundamentally revisit our understanding of how it works, and how it can allow for improvements in each of its constituent parts.

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Dries Buytaert on Making Large Volunteer-Driven Projects Sustainable

The Drupal community is one of the largest and most active Open Source projects on the web, powering 1 out of 50 websites in the world. The concept of major projects growing out of a volunteer, community-based model is not new to the world. When new ground needs to be broken, it's often volunteer communities that do it. But a full-time, paid infrastructure can be necessary for the preservation and protection of what communities begin.

Dries Buytaert — the original creator and project lead for the Drupal open source web publishing and collaboration platform, and president of the Drupal Association — shares his experiences on how he grew the Drupal community from just one person to over 800,000 members over the past 10 years, and, generally, how large communities evolve and how to sustain them over time.

CC-licensed photo via Flickr user