Berkman Buzz: August 31, 2012

August 31, 2012

The Berkman Buzz is selected weekly from the posts of Berkman Center people and projects.
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From the CMLP: "Court Overturns $60K Verdict Against Blogger for Posting 'Not False' Information"

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Until last week, a Minnesota blogger named John Hoff could have been forgiven for spurning the wisdom of Mr. Churchill, having been slapped with a $60,000 jury verdict for posting the truth (or “not false” facts) about a local man that may have cost him his job. But a state appellate court has found that Hoff will not have to pay a dime in damages since his statements and collateral conduct were protected by the First Amendment.

From Itai Maytal's blog post on the Citizen Media Law Project, "Justice Delayed But Not Denied – Appellate Court Overturns $60K Verdict Against Blogger for Posting 'Not False' Information"
About the Citizen Media Law Project | @citmedialaw

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Wolfram Alpha's Facebook Report Analyzes Every Dark Corner of Your Facebook Activity
Rey Junco (@reyjunco)

David Weinberger reviews Mitt Romney's RNC speech

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Mitt’s speech was poorly crafted. Oh, I got verklempt when he talked about waking up to a pile of children; that concrete detail did indeed remind me of that ineffably full phase of my life. But like bad fiction where you see the writer’s intention too clearly, it was too apparent that Mitt was telling us these stories in order to get us to see him as a warm human who has shared the elemental moments of life. I do not doubt at all that Mitt loves his family, but the fact that he felt that he had to convince us of that emphasized that the Party feels there’s a question about Mitt’s shared humanity.

Put this next to Clint Eastwood’s bizarre performance art piece, and I think the two elements will quickly merge in America’s mind: An empty chair will symbolize not President Obama, but Mitt as a man who is worried about being perceived as empty. After all, the empty chair trope is usually reserved for a candidate who skips a debate out of fear, which makes no sense in the context of the Republic convention. So, it had to be a way of making the emptiness of character into an issue. And that’s not a winning issue for Romney.

From David Weinberger's blog post, "How Mitt made himself the Invisible Man"
About David Weinberger | @dweinberger

Justin Reich explores the Khanversation

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It's been a fascinating few months since David Coffey and John Golden posted Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000 on June 18. Since that time, their video has been viewed nearly 35,000 times, nearly 30 other #mtt2k videos have been created, and there have been dozens of articles and posts in venues from Fast Company to the Washington Post. I've personally learned a ton about math education, the math twittoblogosphere, Khan Academy, the power of satire, the passion of Khan aficionados and critics, and the unconcionable dearth of talking robots available for educational work.

Here is where the social studies teacher in me comes out: there have been a variety of thought-provoking conversations about Khan Academy sparked by David and John's video (and nudged by this contest). For everyone who used these conversations to think more about Khan Academy and to share your thoughts, thanks for expressing your ideas and pushing mine.

From Justin Reich's post, "Khan Critiques: We Were Promised Jetpacks & Got Lectures"
About Justin Reich | @bjfr

Ethan Zuckerman discusses the emergence of digital civics

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In Kansas City, a young man named Jase Wilson is trying to build a trolley system. Kansas City applied to the US department of transportation for a grant to help build the trolley line and was rejected. So Jase built a website called, and asked his friends and neighbors to help him raise $10 million towards the project.

I don’t know if Jase is going to succeed – given that he’s only raised a few thousand dollars so far, it seems pretty unlikely. But I’m paying attention to Jase’s experiment, because I think he’s one of the pioneers experimenting with what I’m calling internet-native civics. Whether Jase succeeds or fails, his experiment raises the question: How do people who’ve grown up using the internet engage in civic life? I see great potential and great possible harm from some of these experiments. I worry we’re heading uncritically towards a different way of conceiving of the civic relationships between individuals and governments. But I also think that if we can figure out how to harness these internet-based forms of civic engagement, we might revitalize political participation.

From Ethan Zuckerman's post, "Understanding digital civics"
About Ethan Zuckerman | @ethanz

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idea of "info overload" may be more hype than reality
Eszter Hargittai (@eszter)

Turkmenistan: Goodbye August, Month of Melons

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Turkmenistan is often said to be the country with the highest number of public holidays. Take the ‘Drop of water - Grain of Gold' festival in May, or the celebration of the cotton harvest in November as examples of very unusual holidays that Turkmenistan has. Then add a sprinkling of Soviet, Islamic and pagan celebrations to purely political days off like Neutrality Day on December 12, and it is clear that there is no shortage of opportunities to enjoy pilau outside and take part in synchronized dancing in this isolated Central Asian state.

One of the better-loved public holidays, however, is Turkmen Melon Day, an event formally marked every second Sunday of August, but truly celebrated every day of the month, as the country's expansive steppe lands yield some of the tastiest crop known to mankind.

From Anna Fergana's blog post for Global Voices, "Turkmenistan: Goodbye August, Month of Melons"
About Global Voices Online | @globalvoices

This Buzz was compiled by Rebekah Heacock.

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Last updated

August 31, 2012