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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Felipe Heusser on Open Government Data for Open Accountability

Felipe Heusser — Founder and Director of Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente, a Latin American NGO based in Chile that uses information technology to promote transparency and active citizen participation, and a Berkman Fellow — gives an overview the spread of transparency policy through freedom of information regulation, and point out to the rise of 'Open Government Data' as the latest chapter of the transparency story, highlighting how it potentially may impact 'open accountability' and the rise of a new breed of online watchdogs.

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Rebecca MacKinnon on The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom

Many commentators have debated whether the Internet is ultimately a force for freedom of expression and political liberation, or for alienation, and repression. Rebecca MacKinnon — Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, cofounder of Global Voices, and a former CNN Bureau Chief for Beijing and Tokyo — discusses her new book, Consent of the Network, and warns that a convergence of unchecked government actions and unaccountable company practices is threatening the future of democracy and human rights around the world.

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Andres Monroy-Hernandez on Designing for Remixing: Computer-supported Social Creativity

The Scratch Online Community allows young people to share and remix their own video games and animations, as well as those of their peers. In four years, the community has grown to close to a million registered members and more than two million user-contributed projects. Andrés Monroy-Hernández — the developer of Scratch, a post-doctoral researcher at Microsoft Research, and Berkman Fellow — presents a framework for the design and study of an online community of amateur creators, focusing on remixing as a lens to understand the social, cultural, and technical structures of a social computing system that supports creative expression.

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Beth Kolko on Hackademia: Leveraging the Conflict Between Expertise and Innovation to Create Disruptive Technologies

How and why do nonexperts contribute to innovation? The conflict between expertise and innovation sits uneasily in academia, where the enterprise hinges on doling out official credentials. But a lack of expertise can in fact drive people to create the kind of disruptive technologies that really are game-changers. In this presentation Beth Kolko — Professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington — connects the hacking and making/DIY communities at the point of disruptive technologies, demonstrating how the lack of institutional affiliation and formal credentials within each community opens up the space for creative problem-solving approaches.

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David Weinberger on Too Big To Know

We used to know how to know. Get some experts, maybe a methodology, add some criteria and credentials, publish the results, and you get knowledge we can all rely on. But as knowledge is absorbed by our new digital medium, it's becoming clear that the fundamentals of knowledge are not properties of knowledge but of its old paper medium. Skulls don't scale. But the Net does. Now networked knowledge is taking on the properties of its new medium: never being settled, including disagreement within itself, and becoming not a set of stopping points but a web of temptations. Networked knowledge, for all its strengths, has its own set of problems. But, in knowledge's new nature there is perhaps a hint about why the Net has such surprising transformative power.

David Weinberger — senior researcher at the Berkman Center and co-director of the Harvard Law School Library Lab — talks about some important take aways from his new book "Too Big to Know."

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Justin Reich on How Free and Open Education Might Widen Digital Divides

The explosion of open education content resources create unprecedented opportunities for teachers to design and personalize curriculum and to give students opportunities to collaborate, publish, and take responsibility for their own learning, free of charge. Is it possible, however, that because affluent schools and students have a greater capacity to take up new innovations, that new tools and resources that appear in the ecology of education could widen rather than ameliorate digital divides?

In this presentation Justin Reich — doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Fellow at the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society — examines evidence for both the "tech as equalizer" and "tech as accelerator of digital divides" hypotheses.

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Alison J. Head on Modeling the Information-Seeking Process of College Students in the Digital Age

What is it like to be a college student in the digital age? Alison Head — lead researcher for the national study, Project Information Literacy, Berkman Fellow, and Research Scientist in University of Washington's Information School — presents a working typology of the undergraduate information-seeking process, including students’ reliance on and use of Web sources.

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RB 189: Peer Pressure

We’re so easily influenced by the habits and interests of our friends, you might think that social networks like Facebook would only magnify the power of peer pressure. But recent research from Harvard sociologists Kevin Lewis, Marco Gonzalez, and Jason Kaufman shows that people are more likely to stick with their own interests than we might think. While younger folks are likely to build friendships based on certain cultural tastes they’re not likely to warm to their friends tastes so easily. This is surprising, say the researchers, given previous data and assumptions about how tastes spread virally on the net. David Weinberger chatted with Kevin Lewis to get more details on this study.

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Celebrating Two Years with the Online Media Legal Network

As the OMLN nears the end of its second year, it has helped over 160 clients with more than 330 separate legal matters, and has more than 225 firms, clinics and individual attorneys in its roster with coverage in all 50 U.S. states. Jeff Hermes, Andy Sellars, David Ardia, and others from the OMLN community discuss the history and growth of the project, the accumulated data regarding the nature and geographic distribution of clients and legal issues that have come to the OMLN, and the OMLN's efforts to meet those needs.

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Jeff Jarvis on Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live

Thanks to the internet, we now live — more and more — in public. Yet change brings fear, and many people—nostalgic for a more homogeneous mass culture and provoked by well-meaning advocates for privacy—despair that the internet and how we share there is making us dumber, crasser, distracted, and vulnerable to threats of all kinds.

In this talk, Jeff Jarvis — blogger, professor of journalism, and author of the recent book "Public Parts" — argues persuasively and personally that the internet and our new sense of publicness are, in fact, doing the opposite. Jarvis travels back in time to show the amazing parallels of fear and resistance that met the advent of other innovations such as the camera and the printing press. The internet, he argues, will change business, society, and life as profoundly as Gutenberg’s invention, shifting power from old institutions to us all.

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The Fate of Civic Education in a Connected World

Civic education is the cultivation of knowledge and traits that sustain democratic self-governance. As the social networks of individuals become less based on geography and more based on friendships and common interests, consensus on shared civic values seems harder to achieve.

Charles Nesson joins Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Peter Levine, Harry Lewis, Elizabeth Lynn, and Juan Carlos de Martin to probe the tensions that make civic education difficult.

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OpenCourt on Transparency in the Court

With the support of a Knight News Challenge grant OpenCourt streams and archives live daily coverage of court sessions. The project seeks to make courts more accessible to the public through technology while respecting legitimate concerns about privacy.

John Davidow (Executive Producer), Joe Spurr (Director), and Val Wang (Producer) join the Berkman Center community to talk about this fascinating project.

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RB 188: SOPA on the Ropes(?)

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) — a U.S. House bill that would give the Department of Justice the authority to demand that ISPs block sites accused of hosting pirated content — seemed to be doing well. Nearly half of the Senate sponsored similar legislation that survived a committee vote. And people weren't generally making a big deal about it. But on the week before Thanksgiving SOPA suddenly hit the front page after a particularly fraught House committee hearing on the bill. Battle lines became clear. Representatives of big content owners like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) partnered with big brands and the US Chamber of Commerce in support of the legislation, saying it would protect millions of jobs. On the other side web entrepreneurs like Google, Twitter, and Facebook sided with Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation against the bill, saying it would basically give corporations a legal path to censor any site that poses a competitive threat. And now it looks like the bill might have a harder time than legislators originally thought. But talk to the creators of intellectual property one on one and you'll see that many don't have a clear opinion on the bill. The open web has benefitted the work of artists, coders, and researchers alike, allowing them to share their work with new audiences and experiment with new business models for next to nothing. But many creators see that same technology as stealing food from their mouths when their work appears on torrent sites and uncredited on blogs. We spoke with two people this week to help get our heads straight on SOPA. The graphic artist Jim "Zub" Zubkavich worries about what piracy is doing to his career, but sees SOPA as a little draconian. And Julian Sanchez of the CATO Institute gives some idea of what SOPA will do if implemented, and the chance it might have of passing.


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Mayo Fuster Morell on the Spanish Revolution & the Internet: From Free Culture to Meta-Politics

In the context of multiple crises – ecological, political, financial and geopolitical restructuring – there are emerging forms of social cooperation.

In the Spanish case, we have seen some of the largest demonstrations since the country made its transition to democracy in the 70s with massive occupations of public squares, attempts to prevent parliaments’ functioning and citizen assemblies of thousands of people taking place in spring and autumn 2011.

Mayo Fuster Morell — a PhD candidate from the European University Institute in Florence — analyzes commonalities and differences between emerging forms of social cooperation that suggest a shift to a more active role of civic society in the network society.

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Book Talk: John Palfrey on Intellectual Property Strategy

Most entrepreneurs, corporate managers and nonprofit administrators leave intellectual property issues to the legal department, unaware that an organization’s intellectual property can help accomplish a range of management goals, from accessing new markets to improving existing products to generating new revenue streams.

John Palfrey — Henry N. Ess Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School — discusses his new book, Intellectual Property Strategy (MIT Press), which argues for strategies that go beyond the traditional highly restrictive “sword and shield” approach, suggesting that flexibility and creativity are essential to a profitable long-term intellectual property strategy — especially in an era of changing attitudes about media.

He is joined by a variety of guests, including Jonathan Zittrain, Lawrence Lessig, Phil Malone, Terry Fisher, and Eric von Hippel, and demonstrates an iPad app based on the book that offers interactive media features with leaders in the IP field.

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John Williams on Interweaving Strategy, Leadership, Web Entrepreneurship and Social Sector Impact

How do organizations — both for-profit and not-for-profit — achieve strategic clarity, and why does it matter? How does one go about re-positioning an iconic product or organization when the market changes? What did it take to launch the first Webby Award-winning online travel business? How do the most sophisticated not-for-profits and philanthropists think about how to maximize their impact on society?

As an established entrepreneur and social innovator, John Williams offers a number of lessons learned over the course of his 32+ year career.

This event was co-sponsored by the Cyberlaw Clinic, Dean's Office at Harvard Law School, Office of Career Services, and Office of Public Interest Advising.

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Radio Berkman 187: Facing the Music

2011 has been a big year for quintuple threat actor/writer/comedian/rapper Donald Glover. For the last decade he released rap, remixes, and mixtapes on the web completely for free under the names Childish Gambino and MC DJ. Not just free of charge, but free of any kind of copyright notice or license. But over the summer Glover, now picking up notice for his smart rhymes, instrumentally organic sound, and indie sensibility, got signed to Glassnote records, home to big indie acts like Mumford and Sons and Phoenix, and has been hard at work touring, and preparing for the release of his first “for pay” album CAMP. Earlier this year we caught up with Donald to talk about where his musical inspiration comes from, and how he feels about the explosion of free music on the web.

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Jonathan Lazar on Accessible Web Design for People with Disabilities

Despite the existing resources, knowledge, and regulations, many categories of web sites continue to be inaccessible for people with perceptual and motor disabilities. 90% of federal government web sites, many social media tools, many e-commerce web sites, and online employment applications are often inaccessible, denying people with disabilities access to the complete power of the web. In this presentation Dr. Jonathan Lazar — Professor of Computer and Information Sciences at Towson University — provides an overview of web accessibility for people with disabilities, including the technical standards and laws, as well as reporting on recent research projects documenting how inaccessible web sites lead to various forms of discrimination against people with disabilities.

Slides available here:

Full transcript here:

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RB 186: World of Lawcraft

Video games aren't just, well, fun and games. When you pop open a video game — be it Farmville on Facebook for your smartphone or World of Warcraft on your $10,000 gaming setup — you are entering into any number of different terms and conditions agreements about behavior and property that govern your playtime. But questions have started to arise as more and more games build the concept of virtual property into their play. New powers, levels, avatars, privileges — who do those things belong to, and under what jurisdiction do they fall? Greg Lastowka is a professor of law at Rutgers University and author of the book Virtual Justice: The New Laws of Online Worlds. Lastowka has given a great deal of thought to the virtual worlds of video games, and documented some of the cases where the laws of the game and the laws of real life clash, sometimes violently.

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James Cowie on the Geopolitics of Internet Infrastructure

The growth of the global Internet is still determined, in large part, by local factors like geography, politics, and the economics of interconnection and competition. A lot is at stake, especially as the countries that emerge as Middle Eastern regional transit hubs play a significant role in the evolution of the region's post-oil information economy. In this talk James Cowie — Chief Technology Officer at Renesys Corporation — examines the paths along which Internet traffic flows, focusing on the emerging markets of the Middle East and Central Asia, discusses ways in which the evolution of these paths dictates the choices available to information consumers, and the costs they must pay to interconnect with global information markets.


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Michael Nielsen on Doing Science in the Open

Consider the Polymath Project, an ongoing experiment in "massively collaborative" mathematical problem solving. The idea is to use online tools like blogs and wikis to collaboratively attack difficult mathematical problems. Michael Nielsen — author of the book Reinventing Discovery and an advocate of open science — discusses how online tools like the Polymath Project can be used to transform the way we humans work together to make scientific discoveries, and how the normally conservative scientific culture can become more open.

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RB 185: The Next Generation Library

What would a digital version of your public library look like? There’s more to it than e-books and digital reading devices. Librarians, scholars, innovators, and techno-wizards are collaborating under the mantle of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to build a next generation public library. Such a thing could incorporate one or more of many different elements: a set of physical buildings; a purely digital archive with an open API layer for coders to play around with; a full fledged digital lending library. And when the DPLA converge on the National Archives in Washington, DC this Friday (you can check out the agenda and tune in to a livestream here) they’ll get to work out just a few of those ideas. Today, a special report from Benjamin Naddaf-Hafrey who spoke to a few of the minds behind the DPLA.

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Book Talk: Yochai Benkler on How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest

Harvard Professor Yochai Benkler (The Wealth of Networks) is one of the world’s top thinkers on cooperative structures. In his new book, The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest, he uses evidence from neuroscience, economics, sociology, biology, and real-world examples to break down the myth of self-interest and replace it with a model of cooperation in our businesses, our government, and our lives.

Photo Courtesy Flickr user Nokton

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RB 184: Intellectual Property — Not Just For Lawyers Anymore

It’s time to stop thinking about intellectual property as something purely for your legal counsel to deal with. That’s the driving idea behind John Palfrey’s aptly titled new book Intellectual Property Strategy. Companies and institutions that have to worry about creative works, trademarks, or brands would be well-suited, Palfrey says, to seize the sword and shield from the attorneys (who tend to be aggressive and/or defensive about IP) and exercise a little more flexibility and creativity with intellectual property on their own.

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Benjamin Mako Hill on What Eight Collaborative Encyclopedia Projects Reveal About Mechanisms of Collective Action

Why did Wikipedia succeed in attracting contributors while other projects did so less effectively? Why are some attempts at online collective action successful while most never take off? In this talk Benjamin Mako Hill — a researcher and PhD Candidate in a joint program between the MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT Media Lab, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and a Research Fellow at the MIT Center for Future Civic Media — presents preliminary findings from an analysis of 8 early projects to create online collaborative encyclopedias in the form of interviews of the projects' founders and extensive archival data.

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Intisar Rabb and Umbreen Bhatti on Islawmix: Content and Context for Islamic Law in the News

Recent years have seen an uptick in coverage of Islamic law (sharīʿa) in American news media, policy, and academic circles. What are the rules that dictate how Muslims in America conduct themselves? How do or should our legal institutions respond? When reporting on issues involving Muslims, how can journalists or academics distinguish individual preference or culture from Islamic law? What available, authoritative resources can best inform interested readers, from the casual to the scholarly? islawmix aims to fill the information gap in this important area.

In this talk, Intisar A. Rabb — Berkman Fellow and faculty of Boston College Law School — and Umbreen Bhatti — co-founder of islawmix and a lawyer with experience in civil rights and constitutional law — walk through “why islawmix” and explore how islawmix aims to accomplish the rather ambitious task of providing accessible resources for parsing such complex information and developing resources for the aggregation and contextualization of significant trends in Islamic law.

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Zeynep Tufekci on Social Media and Dynamics of Collective Action under Authoritarian Regimes

What role did the new media ecology play in the ouster of long-standing dictators in Egypt and Tunisia as well as the continuing unrest across the region?

In this talk Zeynep Tufekci — assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill at the School of Information and Library Science — examines how the new media ecology, composed of satellite TVs, social media and cell phones, upsets the erstwhile stable dynamics of repression under “durable authoritarianism.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user arselectronica

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RB 183: The Cooperation

Are human beings, as consultants, researchers, and the authors of business books have thought for years, fundamentally motivated by self interest? Or is there a deeper cooperative instinct that drives human beings to work? Those are the questions that fuel Yochai Benkler's investigation in The Penguin and the Leviathan: How Cooperation Triumphs over Self-Interest. In it Benkler challenges the rather embarrassing idea that people are primarily selfish by citing examples — from collective farming to neuroscience to the world's richest corporations — demonstrating that people are a lot more cooperative than they get credit for. Benkler spoke with David Weinberger about his new book for this week's Radio Berkman.


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Philippe Aigrain on A Self-standing Financing Model to Help Sustain the Non-market Digital Commons

What if we consider that sharing a digitally published work in one's possession with other individuals is a fundamental right? What if we break away from the idea of compensating the entertainment right holders for supposed harms resulting from sharing? What is a reasonable reward and financing model for sustaining a many-to-all cultural society?

Philippe Aigrain — CEO of Sopinspace, which develops free software and provides commercial services for democratic processes and collaborative work over the Internet — discusses topics based on work conducted for "Sharing: Culture and the Economy in the Internet Age," forthcoming at Amsterdam Univ. Press in November 2011.

(CC-licensed flickr photo from tomislavmedak)

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Cathy Davidson on How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn

Although we email, blog, tweet, and text as if by instinct, too many of us toil in schools and workplaces designed for the last century, not the one in which we live. Using cutting-edge research on the brain and learning Cathy N. Davidson — former Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University and co-founder of HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory) — shows how the phenomenon of “attention blindness” shapes our lives, and how it has led to one of the greatest problems of our historical moment, and suggests ways we can take control, based on her book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn.