How Dungeons & Dragons and Fantasy Prepare You for Law and Life (2/11); Chinese Youth and Social Media (2/18)

February 5, 2014
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Upcoming Events / Digital Media
February 5th, 2014

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berkman luncheon series

How Dungeons & Dragons and Fantasy Prepare You for Law and Life

Tuesday, February 11, 12:30pm ET, Wasserstein Hall Room 3018, Harvard Law School. This event will be webcast live.


How is a lawyer like a wizard? How does a courtroom resemble an epic battle? How is a casebook like the Dungeon Master's Guide? If you played Dungeons & Dragons in another age, or today, then you know this enormously influential role-playing gaming, which shaped the video gaming industry and geek culture, can be perfect training ground for law and life. This low-tech, pencil-and-paper-and-dice game teaches us how to solve problems, be a heroic leader, and achieve a common goal in a collaborative group environment. But the skills, rulebooks and "laws" required to play D&D --- whether understanding complex "to hit" charts or inventing the backstory of an evil Witch King -- can especially apply to law students. What Dungeon Master or lawyer doesn't need to parley with a foe? In this informal talk and conversation, critic and journalist Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks, discusses how D&D's inherent storytelling skills can champion a role for creativ e play space in both your work and leisure life. We'll also discuss the push and pull of laws and rules vs. imagination in a game like D&D, a book series like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, or any fantasy world, and the role of the dungeon master/author/world-builder in the consistent (or inconsistent) application of these rules and standards, and how this all might apply to the imaginary world of law, too.

Jonathan Zittrain will join Ethan Gilsdorf for a conversation about how D&D can be a perfect training ground for law and life.

Ethan Gilsdorf is a journalist, memoirist, critic, poet, teacher and 17th level geek. He wrote the award-winning travel memoir investigation Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms. Jonathan Zittrain is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. RSVP Required. more information on our website>

berkman luncheon series

Talking to Strangers: Chinese Youth and Social Media

Tuesday, February 18, 12:30pm ET, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor. This event will be webcast live.


When we read about the Chinese internet in the Western press, we usually hear stories about censorship, political repression, and instability. But there's a lot more to be learned about life on the other side of “The Great Firewall.” Based on over 10 years of ethnographic research, Tricia Wang's fieldwork reveals that social media is creating spaces in China that are shifting norms and behaviors in unexpected ways. Most surprisingly, Chinese youth are sharing information and socializing with strangers. She argues that they are finding ways to semi-anonymously connect to each other and establish a web of casual trust that extends beyond particularistic guanxi ties and authoritarian institutions. Chinese youth are discovering their social world and seeking emotional connection—not political change. Tricia argues that this reflects a new form of sociality among Chinese youth: an Elastic Self. Evidence of this new self is unfolding in three ways: from self-restraint to self-expression, from comradeship to friendship, and from a “moral me” to a “moral we.” This new sociality is lying the groundwork for a public sphere to emerge from ties primarily based on friendship and interactions founded on a causal web of public trust. The changes Tricia has documented have potentially transformative power for Chinese society as a whole because they are radically altering the way that people perceive and engage with each other.

Tricia Wang is a global tech ethnographer transforming businesses into people-centered organizations. Utilizing Digital Age design research methods, Tricia specializes in balancing qualitative and quantitative data analysis for institutions to fulfill their strategic goals. She advises organizations (large and small) on how to understand their "users" or "consumers" as people, not just datasets. She’s passionate about her work as a people champion in companies, start-ups, and non-profits. She has worked with Fortune 500 companies including Nokia and GE and numerous institutions from the UN to NASA. RSVP Required. more information on our website>

special event

US Launch of *impossible*

Wednesday, March 5, 6:30pm ET, Harvard Law School. Free and Open to the Public.


Since September, the public has been experimenting with an app that relies on the goodness of humankind. Called *impossible*, it leverages the idea of a gift economy through social media to grant wishes. Users interact by posting wishes—such as a desire to learn Spanish or to find a jogging buddy—and other *impossible* users who can grant those wishes based on skills and proximity connect to grant the wish.

On March 5, the Berkman Center will celebrate the US launch of *impossible*. Joining us will be Lily Cole, founder of *impossible* and fashion model, actress, and social entrepreneur, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Founder and CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, Rosemary Leith, Berkman Center fellow, Jonathan Zittrain, Director at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Professor at Harvard Law School, and moderator Urs Gasser, Executive Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

In an interactive discussion, the group will discuss the feasibility of a social media platform that relies on themes related to human cooperation, reciprocity, and kindness. Read more about *impossible* and its origins in The Telegraph and Wired UK and of course, download it in the iTunes app store.

Lily Cole is a fashion model, actress and social entrepreneur; Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, an internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing; Rosemary Leith is a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, where she works with Berkman’s Internet Robustness team, and acts as a Director of Herdict; and Jonathan Zittrain is Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. RSVP Required. more information on our website>


Eszter Hargittai and Aaron Shaw on Internet Skills and Wikipedia's Gender Inequality


Although women are just as likely as men to read Wikipedia, they only represent an estimated 16% of global Wikipedia editors and 23% of U.S. adult Wikipedia editors. In this talk, Eszter Hargittai -- Delaney Family Professor in the Communication Studies Department and Faculty Associate of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, and Aaron Shaw -- Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University -- discuss findings from their recent study of both Wikipedia contributors and non-contributors showing that the gender gap in editing is exacerbated by a similarly important Internet skills gap. They suggest efforts ways of overcoming the gender gap in Wikipedia contributions by addressing the Web-use skills gap, and paths for future research. video/audio on our website>

Other Events of Note

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Last updated

February 5, 2014