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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Mike Ananny on A Public Right to Hear and Press Freedom in an Age of Networked Journalism

Mike Ananny — Postdoctoral Researcher at Microsoft Research New England, Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism — describes how a public right to hear has historically and implicitly underpinned the U.S. press’s claims to freedom and, more fundamentally, what we want democracy to be.

CC-licensed photo via Flickr user @plasticbag

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RB202: Memeology

Two weeks ago, the Berkman Center co-sponsored the third – and, we learned, final! – ROFLCon. For the n00bz, ROFLCon is a conference named after the acronym for “rolling on the floor, laughing” and devoted to celebrating internet culture. Friend of the Show Tim Hwang co-founded the event in 2008 when he and Christina Xu invited Tron Guy to Cambridge. Both ROFLCon and internet culture have evolved since then, so we sent producer Frances Harlow on location to ask attendees, “What are memes, and do they really matter?”

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Matthew Battles on Going Feral on the Net: the Qualities of Survival in a Wild, Wired World

How do we balance the empowering possibilities of the networked public sphere with the dark, unsettling, and even dangerous energies of cyberspace? Matthew Battles — author, cofounder of the blog, and program fellow with metaLAB (at) Harvard — blends a deep-historical perspective on the internet with storytelling that reaches into its weird, uncanny depths. The feral is a metaphor — and maybe more than just a metaphor — for thriving in cyberspace, a habitat that changes too rapidly for anyone truly to be native. This talk weaves critical and reflective discussion of online experience with a short story from Battles' new collection, The Sovereignties of Invention.

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RB 201: The 42 Streams (Rethinking Music X)

In today's episode we wrap up our coverage of last week's Rethink Music conference with a conversation between guest host Chris Bavitz and Kristin Thomson. In addition to her work as community organizer, social policy researcher, entrepreneur and musician, Kristin is a consultant at the Future of Music Coalition, which recently unveiled the findings from its massive Artist Revenue Streams project designed to answer the question, "How are today’s musicians earning money?" After interviewing more than eighty composers and performers, conducting a dozen financial case studies, and distributing an online survey to more than 5,000 musicians, the Future of Music Coalition has identified no less than 42 distinct revenue streams ranging from karaoke licensing to merchandise sales. Friend of the show, Assistant Director of Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, and lecturer at Harvard Law School Chris asked Kristin about her research and its implications for contemporary musicians.

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RB 200: The Library Of The Future

The technological advancements of the past twenty years have rendered the future of the library as a physical space, at least, as uncertain as it has ever been. The information that libraries were once built to house in the form of books and manuscripts can now be accessed in the purely digital realm, as evidenced by initiatives like the Digital Public Library of America, which convenes for the second time this Friday in San Francisco. But libraries still have profound cultural significance, indicating that even if they are no longer necessary for storing books they will continue to exist in some altered form. Radio Berkman host David Weinberger postulated in his book Too Big To Know that the book itself is no longer an appropriate knowledge container – it has been supplanted by the sprawling knowledge networks of the internet. The book’s subtitle is "Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren't the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room." Inspired by the work of Harvard Graduate School of Design students in Biblioteca 2: Library Test Kitchen – who spent the semester inventing and building library innovations ranging from nap carrels to curated collections displayed on book trucks to digital welcome mats – we turned the microphone around and had library expert Matthew Battles ask David, "When the smartest person in the room is the room, how do we design the room?" Matthew Battles is the Managing Editor and Curatorial Practice Fellow at the Harvard metaLAB. He wrote Library: an Unquiet History and a biography of Harvard’s Widener Library.

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Erica Robles-Anderson on Mediated Congregation - Architecting the Crystal Cathedral

Within the past thirty years the rise of a new style of worship, coined “megachurch,” has transformed the American religious landscape, by blending audio, visual, and communications technologies within postmodern architectures, megachurches radically re-imagine Christianity.

In this talk Erica Robles-Anderson — Assistant Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University — reads megachurches as part of late 20th century shift towards conducting collective life in increasingly mobile, mediated, and distributed arrangements.

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RB 199: Be Great. Go Viral. (Rethinking Music IX)

Dave Herlihy currently teaches music industry classes at Northeastern University and operates his own practice specializing in entertainment law, intellectual property, copyright, trademark, licensing, and new media. But twenty-five years ago he was the lead singer of O Positive, a Boston-area band poised on the brink of a major label record deal. Friend of the show, Assistant Director of Harvard Law School's Cyberlaw Clinic, and lecturer at Harvard Law School Chris Bavitz interviewed Dave about his band’s trajectory from being the “best band in the basement” to appearing on the Billboard charts (and what came after). Dave also offers his insight into the role of record labels in the YouTube era, and how he would resolve media licensing issues if he were an enlightened despot, and how to get famous.

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Dalida Maria Benfield on Decolonial Media Aesthetics and Women’s ICT4D Video

ICT4D (Information Communication Technology for Development) powerfully frames women’s grassroots video production in the Global South, much of which is distributed widely through YouTube. Often, these videos reproduce racialized and gendered discourses - legacies of colonialism - in their narratives of economic, social, and technological progress. However, there are also videos by women’s groups that defy both the historical linearity and spatial fragmentation of the ICT4D framework, and instead remix, reclassify, and globally reconnect women’s experiences in the contemporary moment. In this talk Dalida María Benfield — artist, activist, and Berkman Center fellow — discusses how ICT4D videos make compelling claims for other historical narratives and visions for women’s future lives, identities, and uses of information communication technologies.

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RB 198: The Community Supported Musician (Rethinking Music VIII)

Is there room in the music industry for middle-class musicians? Friend of the show Nancy Baym brought together three career performer/songwriters who all stumbled on the same analogy for how musicians can “make it” in the digital age: that of Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs). Kristin Hersh, Zoe Keating, and Erin McKeown discuss what models have worked for them, and the unorthodox ways they’ve learned to make a living as artists.

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Kristin Thomson and Erin McKeown on Making it as a Musician in an Increasingly Networked World

Newly empowered musicians now find themselves juggling dozens of career-related responsibilities, from booking their own shows to composing witty tweets. How are today’s musicians balancing it all and, even more critical, how have these changes impacted their earning capacity?

Kristin Thomson — independent record label owner and Consultant for the Future of Music Coalition — and Erin McKeown — internationally known musician and Berkman Fellow — discuss the changing landscape for musicians and music fans, focussing on how musicians are managing their assets, building teams and allocating their time in an increasingly networked world, and drawing on data collected through FMC’s groundbreaking Artist Revenue Streams project, a multi-method, cross-genre examination of musicians' and composers' revenue streams in the US.

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RB 197: University 2.0

This week's guest, Juan Carlos de Martin, readily admits that he is only the latest in a long line of thinkers to portend the end of the university as we know it. He almost gleefully cites Thomas Edison as one of his most notable predecessors. But Juan Carlos may be the first to be right. When Juan Carlos began his research tracing the history of the university – an institution that has barely changed since the founding of the University of Bologna nearly a millennium ago – he was optimistic about the democratizing effects of digital technology. However, Juan Carlos now says he has identified several persuasive arguments against the University that together could topple the ivory tower. David Weinberger interviewed Juan Carlos – a Berkman Fellow and co-founder of the NEXA Center for Internet and Society in Torino, Italy – about what Juan Carlos has called the "perfect storm" on the University's horizon.

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RB 196: The Rally Cry of SOPA

We all know by now that SOPA/PIPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act, and the Protect IP Act, respectively — died a sudden death in Congress in January. When online giants like Wikipedia and Tumblr went dark on January 18th of this year to protest the measures Congressional switchboards were overwhelmed with calls to just drop it. But how did a set of measures like SOPA/PIPA, otherwise unheard of and generally projected to pass into law quietly, get suddenly thrust into the limelight? Field producer Melissa Galvez brings us these excerpts from a panel at the Shorenstein Center on the Press and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where internet and/or politics experts Susan Crawford, Micah Sifry, Nicco Mele, and Elaine Kamarck discuss how the grassroots campaign to bring down SOPA/PIPA was built, and what it says about organizing on the internet.

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RB 195: Can 100 Million Viewers Save a Child?

The #Kony2012 video, and accompanying campaign and meme, has done a lot to raise awareness. Of WHAT exactly, it’s hard to tell. The intended target for attention — the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony — is certainly a big one. But the video was flawed. In favor of simplicity it glossed over crucial facts and advocated passionately for questionable solutions, in the end bringing more critical attention back to Invisible Children, the charismatic American youth group behind the campaign. Most of all the explosion of Kony 2012 has raised awareness about sensitivities around the politics of intervention in Africa, and the utility of digital activism and fundraising for awareness campaigns in the United States. Today we hear from four guests: Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist, about where Joseph Kony is now, and how Ugandans are responding to the new attention; Gilad Lotan, a network researcher, about what he found when he dug into the data on how the Kony2012 meme spread; Ethan Zuckerman, a founder of Global Voices, on whether simple narratives can ever help solve complex issues; and Amanda Taub, a blogger and human rights expert, on what Invisible Children could have done differently.

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A conversation with Julie Brill, Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission, and John Palfrey

Every day we hear about privacy issues surrounding Facebook, Google, mobile apps, smartphones, Big Data and data brokers.

The Berkman Center's John Palfrey engages Julie Brill — Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission who focuses on policy and enforcement initiatives in the area of online privacy and data security — in a conversation on privacy and digital communications technology.


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Alexander B. Howard: What Can 21st Century Open Government Learn From Open Source, Open Data, Open Innovation, & Open Journa

The historic events of the last year, from Egypt to #Occupy to the SOPA debate, have breathed new life into the idea of open government fueled by technology. At the same time, a new spectre of new cutting edge surveillance states has arisen, where digital autocracies apply filtering, propaganda and tracking technologies to suppress speech, distort public opinion and capture or kill dissidents and protestors. In this talk on the power of platforms, Alexander B. Howard — the Government 2.0 Washington Correspondent for O'Reilly Media — talks about where the principles and technologies that built the Internet and World Wide Web are being integrated into government and society — and by whom.

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RB 194: The Wiki 1%

This week at Radio Berkman we tried something new. During our recent interview with Berkman Fellow Justin Reich about his report The State of Wiki Usage in U.S. K-12 Schools: Leveraging Web 2.0 Data Warehouses to Assess Quality and Equity in Online Learning Environments, we learned that only one percent of educational wikis succeed in creating the kind of multimedia, collaborative learning environment we have come to associate with open educational resources like PBWikis and Wikispaces. Justin's findings, and their implications, are so intriguing that we decided it was time to go into the field and do some investigative work of our own. Radio Berkman wanted to know: Who is making those successful wikis and how? Producer Frances Harlow spent a day at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts sitting in on professional development sessions and interviewing instructors, including Director of Studies and History Department Head (and classroom wiki "missionary") Matt Dunne, and Veteran History teacher Norma Atkinson. Listen to what she found and be sure to let us know what you think of this Radio Berkman experiment!

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RB 193: Facts Are Boring

On the podcast for Radio Berkman we tear apart the difference between Truth, Fact, and Evidence, and the quiet, but irreplaceable, role of the humble factchecker in our media: Author/factchecker Jim Fingal on the Lifespan of a Fact; Former GQ intern and factchecker Gillian Brassill on how factcheckers get paid to watch True Blood; Veteran Atlantic Monthly factchecking department head Yvonne Rolzhausen on the underinvestment of media resources for factchecking; David Weinberger, author of the recent book Too Big To Know on what a fact is and why they don’t make for good storytelling

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RB 192: Wikis, Teaching, and the Digital Divide

Technology has made us all kinds of promises when it comes to transforming the way we learn — not least of which was the promise to break the "digital divide." The ease of communication promised by the web would allow the economically disenfranchised to have access to ideas and collaborative resources more commonly found in affluent schools. So it is assumed. In fact there is some evidence showing that some educational technologies are used less effectively in poor schools than in rich ones. Today's guest, Berkman Fellow Justin Reich, gathered data on the usage of some 180,000 publicly accessible wikis used for collaboration and education in school settings for his report The State of Wiki Usage in U.S. K-12 Schools: Leveraging Web 2.0 Data Warehouses to Assess Quality and Equity in Online Learning Environments. What he found was that wikis were generally less helpful to poor schools than conventional wisdom might have us believe. He talked to David Weinberger about his findings.

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Peter M. Shane on Online Consultation and Democratic Information Flow

The use of new media by governments around the world to engage the general public more directly in actual policy making raises significant questions of democratic theory and practice.

Peter M. Shane — Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Chair in Law at the Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law — discusses his ongoing research on two of these questions: Under what circumstances might online consultation actually make democratic participation more meaningful? What role could the regular availability of online consultation play in engineering an information and communication ecology more genuinely supportive of democratic information flow?

Photo by flickr user jdlasica

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RB 191: Quality Control

When the net competes with family, friends, school, and mass media, how do kids tell truth from the garbage? Researchers here at the Berkman Center sought to find out, and came back with some fascinating findings: 1. Search shapes the quality of information that youth experience online. 2. Youth use cues and heuristics to evaluate quality, especially visual and interactive elements. 3. Content creation and dissemination foster digital fluencies that can feed back into search and evaluation behaviors. 4. Information skills acquired through personal and social activities can benefit learning in the academic context. We sat down this week with four people intimately involved with the research: Urs Gasser, Sandra Cortesi, Nathaniel Levy, and Ned Crowley.

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Jerome Hergueux on the Promises of Web-based Social Experiments

The advent of the internet provides social scientists with a fantastic tool for conducting behavioral experiments online at a very large-scale and at an affordable cost. It is surprising, however, how little research has leveraged the affordances of the internet to set up such social experiments so far.

Jerome Hergueux — a PhD candidate in Economics at Sciences Po Paris and the University of Strasbourg, and a Berkman Fellow — presents the preliminary results of a randomized experiment that compares behavioral measures of social preferences obtained both in a traditional University laboratory and online, with a focus on engaging the audience in a reflection about the specificities, limitations and promises of online experimental economics as a tool for social science research.

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RB 190: Your Date, Reverse Engineered

Until everyone started using the net to date sociologists didn't have much information to go by when trying to figure out the beautiful process of human courtship. Only things like this. But dating sites are the 2nd leading source for modern relationships. And the data collected by dating sites sheds some light on how the heck people are getting together in the first place. Berkman Fellow, Harvard PhD Candidate, and Friend of the Show Kevin Lewis dug into some of this data and shares his amazing findings on how folks are pairing up online.

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Kevin Lewis on Mate Choice in an Online Dating Site

Data from online dating sites offer an unprecedented opportunity to address questions of longstanding interest to social scientists. In this talk, Kevin Lewis — Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology and a fellow at the Berkman — introduces a new social network dataset based on behavioral data from a popular online dating site; discusses the utility of these data for understanding the shape of contemporary stratification systems; and provides a first look at the dynamics of inequality, exclusion, and gender asymmetry that characterize the early stages of mate choice.

photo by Leah Davis