Current Berkman People and Projects

Keep track of Berkman-related news and conversations by subscribing to this page using your RSS feed reader. This aggregation of blogs relating to the Berkman Center does not necessarily represent the views of the Berkman Center or Harvard University but is provided as a convenient starting point for those who wish to explore the people and projects in Berkman's orbit. As this is a global exercise, times are in UTC.

The list of blogs being aggregated here can be found at the bottom of this page.

August 17, 2018

Justin Reich
The Side Effects of Education: A History Lesson
Without a deep understanding of the history of American Education, perhaps policymakers are doomed to repeat mistakes of the past.

by Beth Holland at August 17, 2018 04:43 PM

August 14, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Ninth Circuit Holds Cross-Border Killing Violated Victim’s 4th Am Rights

The Ninth Circuit issued an important decision last week in Rodriguez v. Swartz, allowing a Mexican mother to sue a United States government official over a cross-border shooting. The Court held that the defendant — Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz — violated the Fourth Amendment rights of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez when Swartz shot and killed Rodriguez. The shooting took place while Rodriguez was in Nogales, Mexico and Swartz was on the US side of the border.  The Cyberlaw Clinic and attorney Mahesha Subbaraman of Subbaraman PLLC submitted an amicus brief in the case on behalf of civil liberties advocacy organization, Restore the Fourth. Although the case did not directly concern cyber- or tech-related issues, the court’s reasoning may have long-term implications with respect to government activities in a wide range of contexts where actions occur on US soil but have extraterritorial effects.

by Clinic Staff at August 14, 2018 05:57 PM

August 07, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
Lookalikes

Am I leading a double life as an actor in several critically acclaimed television series?

I ask because I was recently accused of being Paul Sparks—the actor who played gangster Mickey Doyle on Boardwalk Empire and writer Thomas Yates in the Netflix version of House of Cards. My accuser reacted to my protestations with incredulity. Confronted with the evidence, I’m a little incredulous myself.


Previous lookalikes are here.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at August 07, 2018 09:06 PM

Wayne Marshall
Prisma Tropical Liner Notes

As I mention below, I’ve been a Balún fan for over a decade, so I was utterly thrilled when the band wrote to me earlier this year and asked if I would write the liner notes for their stunning new album, Prisma Tropical. It was a dream(pop) assignment, especially since it’s their best work to date and, though I may be biased, it is my favorite recording of 2018, hands down.

A gorgeous, meticulous combination of dreampop, Puerto Rican styles old and new, and a world of music more, Prisma Tropical finds Balún exploring the space between Puerto Rico and Brooklyn that they traverse physically, imaginatively, and emotionally. I won’t say much more, since I say enough below, but I am delighted that so many outlets — from NPR, to Remezcla, to Bandcamp — have already recognized what a great, interesting, and important record this is. (And I confess to some satisfaction in seeing my liners helping to shape the music’s reception.) This project obviously pushes a LOT of my buttons, and I hope it will for you too.

If you’re a physical media person, you’ll be glad to know that vinyl and other versions are coming, and I’m psyched that my liners will appear there as well. In classic style too: the band was inspired by the format Ansonia Records used for their back covers, which always included an album description in English and Spanish (e.g., the Arsenio album above). Toward that end, my liner notes have been felicitously translated by Mariné Pérez, and they also have been published online en español at 80grados.

Ok, that’s plenty preamble — here’s the text. Go listen along (and support)!

When I first heard Balún over a decade ago, I was enthralled by reggaeton and wondered about other electronic music from Puerto Rico. What a thrill to discover a group of musicians making sparkling, shape-shifting synth-pop with nary a nod to dembow — as if I had found reggaeton’s chill cousin, humming techno lullabies and painting in the cool palettes of Berlin, London, or Reykjavík. San Juan? Not as obviously. But sights shift as sites shift.

Prisma Tropical reveals the band residing in Borinquen, Brooklyn, and in between — and making the most of it. Music of old cities and new ones. Sites and sounds of love and longing, home and away — electronic and acoustic, vintage and vanguard, roots and routes. Deeply local but never provincial. Heavy as luggage yet lighter than air.

Imagine all the Caribbean on one island. The saturation of the tropical prism. New York as tropical base. Resounding alongside dancehall, bachata, konpa, salsa, soca, and hip-hop, reggaeton sounds different in diasporic Greenpoint than in hometown Carolina. No longer the dominant soundscape presence, that old dembow might be recalled fondly, even missed. Lejos, más cerca.

While dreampop often evokes nonplaces, here Balún ground their otherworldly sound in Puerto Rican folk music, from the dembow to the cuatro. The band does not dabble in such traditions as guaracha, salsa, or reggaeton, however, nor do they nod in those directions without love and respect. They approach such sounds and instruments as deeply resonant resources, a musical palette charged with the power of accumulated listening, singing, and dancing. A repertory ripe for reinterpretation. Home as port of departure. Dreambow.

The opening track, “Vaivén,” sets the tone. Coquís chirping in the background. A slow melody plucked out on the cuatro. An idea from home. (To be processed elsewhere.) As the tones ring out into an enveloping wash, we’re transported. Going and coming, coming and going. A submerged dancehall beat builds steam, heralding the majestic, mysterious vistas of “La Nueva Ciudad.” Strange but familiar shapes come into focus as wispy vocals, dembow fragments, and fluttering bass tones conjure a new city, another planet, a hidden place. When the dembow loop finally fully drops for the chorus, cherished snare samples shifting every four measures like a maratón mixtape, we know we’ve arrived somewhere special. Far from a facile or ironic nod to reggaeton, the classic timbres and patterns support a new song of a different sort—a song of buoyant vocals and intimate thoughts, whispered aloud, of uplifting harmonies billowed by outboard synths, of swirling guitar ornaments channeling Reich and Fripp, of bomba barrel drums and jíbaro guitarrillos.

The album’s expansive, evocative sound is a consequence of each member playing and writing for a rotating cast of instruments and effects, from programmed synths and robotic percussion to accordions and guitar pedals, string quartets and traditional Puerto Rican lutes. Either the cuatro or its older, soprano cousin, the tiple — one built by Noraliz no less! — appear on nearly every track. (The tiple’s distinctive ring might be processed with delay inspired by the Cocteau Twins, of course, and while that may not be típico, for Balún it’s typical.) Between Nora fingerpicking across acoustic heritage, José on the beats and synths (ever in conversation with electronic subgenres old and new), Angélica’s clarion voice and soaring string arrangements, and Raúl providing mesmerizing, percussive guitar lines, Balún bring a wealth of resources and references into the mix.

This time around the lead instruments on each song are acoustic and meant to be played live. Producer Lawson White encouraged Balún to bring acoustic instruments to the fore and explore what they had to say. The approach speaks volumes, infusing the band’s music with new (and old) idioms. White, who has added countless ideas and production touches, horn arrangements and marimba lines, deserves praise for pushing the band to realize such an ambitious vision. The album is brilliantly conceived, recorded, mixed, and sequenced. It shines as it should.

While Angélica, Nora, José, Raúl, and Lawson steer the ship, Prisma Tropical is an extended ensemble work, including Antibalas horns, an all-female string quartet, drummer Henry Cole accompanying programmed loops with panache, and among other contributions, numerous appearances by Obanilú Allende playing bomba drums, Enrique Bayoan on Andean panpipes and an Argentinian drum that can be heard a league away, and various friends pitching in on production and backup vocals.

It would be a fool’s errand to list all that is packed into these songs, so dense is the album with allusion, collaboration, and inspiration. A multitude of colors and contrasts appear within and across tracks, a distinctive and remarkable stylistic versatility and fluency at the service of some wonderful songs. Cruzando bordes sin pensarlo. Whimsical turns make forms that delight and surprise, while a pop sensibility smooths experimental edges (but not too much). That Balún pack so much into a single hour of music is no small achievement. Listen closely and make the connections you need to make yourself.

But don’t miss the nod to the customary son montuno opening of “El Flamboyán,” a guaracha popularized by El Cuarteto Mayarí, on “Coralina,” which opens the B-side of the album. Or the glorious jungle coda of “El Espanto”! Or the way that “Pulsos” glides from Afrobeat to prog rock before building into a disco-era Salsoul burner that I wish David Mancuso could have lived to hear. Or the shimmering outro, “Reflejo,” five reverberant minutes of rippling guitar, occasionally interrupted by blasts of effects — a moment to gaze at one’s shoes and reflect, to wonder where we’ve been, where we’re at, where we’re going.

Wayne Marshall
May 2018

by wayneandwax at August 07, 2018 01:50 PM

August 06, 2018

Wayne Marshall
More Re:ggaeton

The “Despacito” effect continues. That is to say, I continue to receive media inquiries about reggaeton a good year after the song’s triumphant run. And while I’ve started to get a little tired of the same questions, this newfound enthusiasm over and curiosity about reggaeton has also resulted in some cool invitations and some strong media. Allow me to round up a little of it here.

First, I want to say that I had an absolute blast talking with Uproot Andy, Riobamba, Isabelia Herrera, and, of course, reggaeton pioneer DJ Nelson at the Redbull Music Festival back in May. We did a live version of Andy’s and Sara’s internet radio show, “Bien Buena,” where the three of us essentially took turns asking Nelson to recount some of the highlights of his career and the genre’s history. Alas, I don’t think the audio is available, though I’m hoping it might one day appear. Really, though, I would die for a video of the event, especially the moment where Nelson reached over and played classic reggaeton drum sounds that I had loaded on my laptop, noting which particular drums he himself had sampled! (I was in reggaeton scholar heaven at that moment, as anyone who was there will attest.) At least I’ve got this sweet photo to show for it —

That said, I do have some excellent video to share courtesy of Al-Jazeera Plus, who recently produced two short pieces about reggaeton, race, gender, and a host of other issues. In addition to yours truly looking academic in a Berklee classroom, there are some really wonderful performers and scholars who contribute to the videos (and AJ+ was fortunate to find out about the Redbull festival in time to catch up with the likes of DJ Negro and Ivy Queen). Here’s the first one —

The second video, focused on the role of women in reggaeton, does not appear to be on YouTube, but you can watch it on Twitter or FB.

While I’m here collecting reggaetony media, I’ve got to put in another shoutout to Eddie Cepeda for his work in this vein. His piece for Redbull on the history of the Noise is required reading, and I was glad to see some my ol’ words appear in his piece on Luny Tunes. I also spoke with Eddie for a piece he wrote about perreo and its wider Afrodiasporic genealogy — a topic I’ve written about before and which I’ve thought about in greater historical depth through the “American Social Dance” class I’ve been teaching at Berklee.

Recently, Eddie tweeted that “We need more reggaeton scholars.” I absolutely agree, though I can’t help but feel that Eddie is a little sick of citing me LOL. Anyway, the game is wide open, and work is being done. I hope all this activity can help to stimulate a next generation of people writing about this music, and I remain humbled by the contributions I’ve made as an engaged outsider.

Ok, one more thing, as reggaeton does figure in it (yet again). Below I will embed a video of my keynote, “From Breakbeats to Fruity Loops. Small Sounds and Scenes in the Age of the DAW,” delivered last December at the “Future Sound of Pop Music” symposium at Bern University of the Arts. As the title suggests, I’m interested in a variety of scenes in which creative re-use of communal, cherished sounds becomes absolutely central. In the keynote I discuss reggaeton in those terms (and demonstrate some dembow), alongside hip-hop, bubbling, and ballroom. Here’s the abstract for a little more detail:

In contrast to the aesthetics fostered by turntable practice in the 1970s and by the first generation of digital samplers in the 80s – both oriented toward vinyl-based repertories and familiar grooves – a more atomized approach to sample-based music has emerged over the last decade in the wake of widespread access to music software and broadband access to a global musical archive. The advent of the digital audio workstation (DAW), especially the virtual step-sequencer known as FL Studio (or Fruity Loops), has served to extend and intensify the sample-based practices of previous generations. This is especially audible in the establishment of new canons of cherished, iconic samples among certain circles of producers and of listening, dancing publics. A genre or musical public may now be based as much around a small set of samples – and their distinctive timbres – as, say, conventions of rhythm, tempo, harmony, or form. Notably, such samples can be surprisingly small as they speak volumes.

The resonant snares of reggaeton, the tamborzao toolkit of Brazilian funk, the “Ha” stab of the ballroom/vogue scene, the “Ice Rink” clink percolating through UK club music and beyond – and let’s not forget the myriad emulations of practically every drum machine Roland produced in the 1980s – all of these serve as potent cultural dogwhistles, addressing musical publics and shared among private and public networks of producers. Today, musical publics gathered around all manner of popular (and obscure) electronic dance music are more likely to be hailed by a set of brief sonic signifiers than by looping breakbeats or well-worn melodies; the new instrument of choice, the DAW, looms as large over this ascendant approach as the turntable or the guitar did in their own heydays.

This atomized, “timbral” turn in musical production would thus seem to reiterate the familiar story of how profoundly an instrument can shape the sound of music through its particular affordances and constraints – even an instrument so seemingly “neutral” as an “empty” DAW. At the same time, we also bear witness to the ways musicians (and the listening/dancing publics implicated by their productions) inevitably use instruments according to particular cultural logics, political economies, and social contexts. This lecture will explore and examine some of these scenes and sounds, probing the implications for creativity and authorship, ownership and participation, repertory and community.

by wayneandwax at August 06, 2018 08:52 PM

Listening to the Sound of Culture

Last summer I was invited by Small Axe, a journal I have long wanted to write for, to take part in a book discussion of Louis Chude-Sokei’s engrossing, ambitious The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics. I’ve enjoyed Chude-Sokei’s perspectives on dancehall, Nigerian 419 scammers, and Bert Williams for years, and I was already planning to give the new book a good read, so this was an excellent opportunity. The journal was looking for more of a “response” than a traditional review, so I decided to focus on the critical musical threads of the book and, in particular, how they might contribute to discussions in music (and sound) studies, especially for those of us concerned with histories of diaspora and race (and, yes, reggae–among other things).

My response, “Listening to the Sound of Culture,” appeared in Small Axe 55, and you can read it in context here alongside some great articles. But here is a separate PDF of the proofs for your convenience, and I will paste the introduction below to whet appetites. Read my response — then read Louis’s book!

Louis Chude-Sokei’s The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics offers an intricately nested account of the historical relationship between race and technology, or in his words, “a broader reading of the historical and cultural context that allowed those equivalences between blacks and machines to be sensible in the first place” (5). As that framing suggests, the work offers an entwined genealogy of black claims to humanity and human fears of robot uprisings, with profound implications for how we continue to imagine the boundaries of humanity. Works of science fiction and key historical vignettes serve as Chude-Sokei’s primary exegetical texts, but he notably places black music–or more specifically, sound production–at the center of his account. What makes such an approach “structurally and philosophically possible,” he argues, “is the awareness that black music–from jazz to reggae, hip-hop to electronic dance music–has always been the primary space of direct black interaction with technology and informatics” (5).

Chude-Sokei is careful to stress, therefore, that “this is not a book about music”; rather, music serves as “a thread linking the various texts and contexts, secondary only to science fiction, which itself is subordinate to the mutually constitutive dyad of race and technology” (6). More to the point, this is not a book about music because the author is more concerned with sound, which is to say, with black music as media, or as audible interaction with technology. Without dismissing other forms of black invention, Chude-Sokei contends that music represents an exceptional domain of black technological practice: “the primary zone where blacks have directly functioned as innovators in technology’s usage” and “a space where black inventiveness has rarely or successfully been questioned” (5). Hence, to focus on music “as a space of sound and sound production is to reorient our listening … toward how blacks directly engage information and technology through sound” (5).

This focus on sound brings into relief a rich and complex history of interaction undercutting the persistent myth that blacks and technology are somehow opposed, or that blacks enjoy so little access to technology that such interactions can seem “either rare or adversarial, as in the well-known folktale of John Henry” (6). Chude-Sokei cites the so-called “digital divide” as a recent reiteration of this spurious story of black technological lack, a story that withers quickly in the face of the musical record: “Funny thing about these notions of race or blacks as having been victims of a digital divide is that in the very period that term gained such currency as to have become cliché, blacks in the Caribbean, America, and Europe were busy generating the most sophisticated electronic music and technology-obsessed music subcultures in history” (6). As that jump from the Caribbean to the wider world would suggest to scholars of electronic music, this is an analysis that builds on the remarkable resonance and influence of the Jamaican soundsystem and all that follows. It is more than convenient that one vernacular name for a soundsystem is simply a sound, a term that, as Chude-Sokei is quick to emphasize, “foregrounds technology and specific cultural interactions with it” (7) not unlike a great deal of Jamaican music itself, especially dub.

While it is true that the “mutually constitutive dyad of race and technology” persists as the core subject of Chude-Sokei’s book, I would like to focus on the text’s crucial musical threads in order to highlight how The Sound of Culture reorients specific histories of music, offers new openings for musicology and sound studies, and makes a case that the power of an audible, creole technopoetics can remake our very conception of the human. If, as Chude-Sokei posits, the black diaspora has generated the “most necessary theorizing and politicizing” of where we draw the lines between humans and machines “as a product of its extensive thinking about the African slave as an automaton” (8), and if, as he elaborates, this profound philosophical work has been no more forcefully put forward than by dub reggae, then there is a great deal to listen for in this work and all it brings into the mix.

[Read the rest…]

by wayneandwax at August 06, 2018 08:14 PM

Get on the Good Foot

The following piece was published in December 2016 in The Wire‘s special issue, Spirits Rejoice: Sacred Songs, Divine Drones, and Ritual Rhythms (#394). I was excited by the call for pitches because I’ve been connecting lots of dots in my music history courses at Berklee between sacred and secular traditions, and I’ve become more and more impressed by the profundity of their imbrication and the global heritage that has resulted from so many people insisting on what we might think of as a “funky” form of sacred, spiritual experience. (I was also delighted that they liked my title, which seemed quite irresistible in its own connecting of dots and blurring of lines.) As usual, I’m posting a slightly enhanced version here. You can download a scan if you prefer.

“The devil should not be allowed to keep all this good rhythm,” said an unattributed but oft quoted elder of the Holiness church. Staking claim to a cherished heritage of music and movement, this intent to worship funkily, it turns out, has carried the benefits of such practices well beyond the church. If not for the Holiness, Sanctified, and Pentecostal churches in the United States—particularly those embraced and transformed by African Americans–if not for their insistence on keeping rhythmic, ecstatic movement central to religious experience, the whole world might dance differently.

In traditional west and central African cosmologies, we are told, there is no song or dance that is not sacred, as there is no abstraction called music apart from communal singing and dancing. The sacred can be erotic and the erotic can be sacred. Why relegate the celebration of the body as a site of fertility, strength, and beauty to the secular? Why consider profane such forms of embodied worship, social communion, and ritual mythology? Why let the devil have all these good moves?

Prior to the Civil War, enslaved Africans creolized and reimagined traditional forms of song, dance, and ritual, most notably in the sometimes surreptitious institution of the Ring Shout. Here, to shout is not to yell but, essentially, to move together. A circle of participants shuffle counter-clockwise singing call-response refrains to polyrhythms produced with any available object, from broom sticks and washboards, to hands clapping, to feet on floors—often studiously avoiding lifting the feet off the ground, crossing legs, or other movements connoting the supposedly secular realm of “dance.”

Whatever we call such ritual movement, and wherever we draw the line between the sacred and secular, these practices nurtured by the “invisible church” of the enslaved would proceed to inform all manner of music and dance related activities across the United States and, eventually, with the circulation of popular, commercial media, far further afield.

While we don’t tend to associate the spirituals of the nineteenth century with dance music any longer, in accounts of the Camp Meetings where the genre emerged—rural, interracial gatherings of thousands that could last for days on end (sometimes with Ring Shouts in the wee hours)–contemporary observers hear the spirituals possessing a troubling connection to the rhythms of work and play. As John Watson noted in Methodist Error (1819): “the coloured people get together, and sing for hours together, short scraps of disjointed affirmations, pledges, or prayers, lengthened out with long repetition choruses.” Mashing up the hymns of the day with call-response refrains, African American worshipers enlivened these songs with the synchronizing, syncopating rhythms of work songs and hoe-downs (that is, breaks from work). “These are all sung in the merry chorus-manner of the southern harvest field, or husking-frolic method, of the slave blacks,” laments Watson, and they had “already visibly affected the religious manners of some whites.”

Scandalizing the orthodox with sacred songs that historian Eileen Southern calls “dangerously near to being dance tunes,” many spirituals share the same polyrhythms–syncretized and strengthened in the common crucibles of work and worship–as those that underpin the contemporary “secular” movements of country dances from the Virginia jig to the square dance to the Cakewalk, their caricatures in blackface minstrelsy, and their rebirth with ragtime, propelling the turn-of-the-century pop hits that got the whole nation dancing the same thrilling dances.

While the likes of Eubie Blake, Sydney Bechet, and Louis Armstrong all connect ragtime to the music of the church,* ragtime also emerges as secular dance culture via the post-emancipation rise of the jook–a new, autonomous, decidedly secular dance institution. In these raucous, raunchy spaces, group dances were pushed aside by simple steps for couples like the funky butt and the slow drag. Notably, the jook enabled a reinterpretation of time-honored ritual dances: here the buzzard lope–a form of danced mythology depicting a vulture circling carrion–could be reimagined as a coquettish flirtation with a partner. But for some, this movement from sacred to profane–is that a tailfeather or a moneymaker?–was a shame. Devil’s music. But others knew these rhythms never belonged exclusively to the devil.

Despite the jook’s ostensible monopoly on “dance,” it would be foolish to underestimate the ongoing interaction and influence between secular styles and sacred practices, especially with the rise of Sanctified and Pentecostal churches. “According to the evidence,” writes Southern, “the musical practices of the slave ‘invisible church’ were passed on to the post-emancipation folk churches with full vigor.” The Pentecostal church called for “full participation of the congregation in all its worship activities” and employed music “to a degree that probably is not attained in any other denomination.” In time, the increasing use of instrumental ensembles in churches brought “the kind of rhythmic intensity formerly associated with dance music” even more directly into sacred contexts—and vice versa. Lindy Hoppers doing the Big Apple in the late 30s broke from couples to form a ring and swing themselves around the ballroom counter-clockwise

By the time we get to the early 1960s and the Twist, a song and dance conceived by a black gospel quartet, one could argue that the dance–and the craze of related steps that soon followed–“owed a notable debt to black churchgoers,” as Elijah Wald contends: “steps that looked a lot like the mashed potato and the pony had been commonplace for decades in the less sedate black churches, where congregants seized by the spirit kicked out in footwork that the go-go dancers of the 1960s could only envy.” How ironic that Duke Ellington could be “amused to see his upscale white fans doing moves that had once been reserved for Cotton Club chorus girls” yet these same moves might be indistinguishable from movement otherwise construed as ecstatic, sacred practice.

A simple step that almost single-handedly ushered in the de-coupling of America’s dancefloors, the Twist gave women the freedom to dance on their own and to take the lead. It initiated a seismic shift in social dance norms culminating in the rise and eventual dominance of solo club dancing, an approach that comes into full flower in the 1970s underground dance scene that spawns disco–a genre with a striking penchant for churchy “divas” exploiting the full-range of gospel expressivity. Shifting from a single partner to a dynamic relationship with the dancing collective, this form of social dance can resemble a platonic ecstatic-cathartic release that even some church elders might approve. According to historian Tim Lawrence who argues that “the dance experience of the 1970s was experienced as a spiritual affair,” dancers at such seminal, proto-disco spots as the Sanctuary (a former church), the Loft, the Gallery, and other venues did not understand such dance as “the first stage of seduction”; instead, “[r]evelers refigured the dance floor not as a site of foreplay … but of spiritual communion.”

In this light, it should come as no surprise that many clubgoers, especially devotees of house and techno, think about going out dancing as “going to church.” This overlap convinced architects of Chicago’s post-disco underground to enlist powerful, church-steeped singers to belt songs over booming, entrancing beats. Jesse Saunders recounts how central “very soulful and uplifting,” gospel-inflected vocals were to the transcendent sets of Frankie Knuckles. When Saunders collaborated with Vince Lawrence on the breakthrough hit “Love Can’t Turn Around,” they recruited locally renowned choir performer Darryl Pandy for revealing reasons. “He was very churchy,” remembers Lawrence, “and we thought that the kids were into that spiritual shit, man, motherfuckers yelling and screaming on the records. So we thought that he would go over like gangbusters in the club.”

If it still seems farfetched that ecstatic religious movement could so closely resemble raving, simply seek out one of the various video mashups on YouTube tagged “church rave.” Juxtaposing footage of worshippers catching the spirit with vintage drum’n’bass sessions, these videos cheekily but compellingly make the case for the sacred, ecstatic roots of modern club dance. (Musical kinship too: check out some unadulterated “praise breaks,” often hovering between 180-200 bpm, to hear the sacred counterpoint to gabber or punk.)

Although the sacred and secular can seem so separate as to suggest such parallels are purely comical, it is important to remember how blurred these lines have long been. The ragged-up funeral marches and second-line festivities that prefigured jazz, and which continue to provide communal solace and celebration, offer enduring examples of African Americans’ persistent efforts to maintain a certain spiritual holism. Today in New Orleans that torch is carried not only by brass bands but by Big Freedia and other bounce artists who conduct twerking parties as part of a memorial service. The profanity and explicit sexuality of bounce would seem at odds with solemn religious ritual, but the elemental act of shaking one’s ass–at once, ecstatic, cathartic, expressive, and free–apparently taps into appropriately deep connections to ourselves and each other. Formerly a church choir director and still a pious Christian, Freedia has described what she does as “spreading the gospel of shaking your ass.”

Like so many of her musical forbears, Big Freedia approaches this mission generously, an ambassador of booty shaking and a believer in its therapeutic benefits. She’s even happy for the Mileys and Beckies** of the world to get their twerk on, if less sanguine about being unattributed while quoted. Forged and nurtured amidst all manner of repressions and travesties, the priceless joys of such dances constitute a hard-won prize for many, yet these deeply resonant forms have traveled beyond the circle rapidly at every historical juncture. They now stand as a kind of global cultural heritage, a way for all to dance together and transcend. If the devil were allowed to keep all this good rhythm, we’d all be damned.

Wayne Marshall

///

* the paragraph has been condensed but I’ll paste the original here for the quotes from Bechet, et al.–

The New Orleans clarinetist Sydney Bechet resisted the term jazz as a sordid sign of white commodification and insisted that he played ragtime, a musical style he explicitly connected to the spiritual tradition: “When I tell you ragtime,” Bechet wrote in his memoir, “you can feel it, there’s a spirit right in the word. It comes out of the Negro spirituals, out of [my grandfather] Omar’s way of singing, out of his rhythm.” Fellow New Orleans legend Louis Armstrong noted similar connections between popular, secular music–from ragtime to rock’n’roll–and sacred traditions: “At one time they was calling it levee camp music, then in my day it was ragtime. … And all these different kinds of fantastic music you hear today–‘course its all guitars now–used to hear that way back in the old sanctified churches where the sisters used to shout til their petticoats fell down.” According to historian Dave Gilbert, the ragtime composer and piano virtuoso Eubie Blake “claimed to have first heard ragtime at his mother’s church, even though she would not have considered it that way.” This musical kinship also turns up in the popular compositions–some directly tied to downright dance crazes–of James P. Johnson, the pioneering stride pianist who wrote the “Charleston” and the tellingly titled “Carolina Shout” and who, like Blake and so many others, got his start playing piano and organ in church.

** ahem, and Drakes

by wayneandwax at August 06, 2018 07:41 PM

August 02, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
I have no friends or colleagues

ICA "You have no friends or colleagues."Although it’s never fun to have the most important professional association in your field tell you that “you have no friends or colleagues,” being able to make one’s very first submission to screenshots of despair softens the blow a little.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at August 02, 2018 02:25 AM

July 20, 2018

Justin Reich
Open Education Science and Challenges for Evidence-Based Teaching
Some recently discovered problems with social science and academic research, and new strategies for a better future for education research.

by Justin Reich at July 20, 2018 04:22 PM

July 18, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
D.C. Circuit Reverses Lower Court re: Copyright in Laws and Codes

We previously reported about the Clinic’s amicus advocacy in a pair of cases concerning copyrights in legal standards and model codes incorporated into law. We are pleased to report that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling yesterday in favor of Public.Resource.Org, the organization that we supported (on behalf of two different groups of amici) in the district and circuit courts.  By way of background, private standards development organizations (or “SDOs”) promulgate model codes and standards to address the needs of technical fields — for example, model building codes or electrical codes. Those codes may be adopted or incorporated into law by legislative bodies, often at the local level. Some SDOs maintain that they have copyright interests in the codes they create and that such interests persist beyond the point when those codes become law. This can lead to some troubling outcomes for litigants, journalists, researchers, and other members of the general public who seek to use and rely on the text of binding law.

Public.Resource.Org is dedicated to making government information accessible to the public. In an effort to advance its mission of promoting and protecting, “the right of the public to know and speak the laws that govern it,” Public Resource made codes developed by plaintiffs  in these cases available online.  Two sets of plaintiffs — one led by the American Society for Testing and Materials (“ASTM”) and another led by the American Educational Resource Association (“AERA”) — sued Public Resource for copyright and trademark infringement in separate cases in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The parties cross-moved for summary judgment, and the Clinic filed briefs in both cases (brief in ASTM here, brief in AERA here). Those briefs were filed on behalf of coalitions of law scholars. The briefs focused on the issue of copyrightability, asking that the District Court find the model codes at issue are not proper subjects of copyright protection. The Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs in both cases, finding that Public Resource infringed plaintiffs’ copyrights and trademarks by posting these materials online.

The cases were consolidated on appeal to the D.C. Circuit, where the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Darrell Issa.  The brief for these two  Members of Congress addressed the public policy implications of the lower courts’ decisions, including possible constitutional due process issues relating to SDOs’ use of copyright to restrict access to laws. Amici also expressed concerns about the impact of copyright restrictions on general welfare, noting that allowing SDOs to maintain copyright interests would open the floodgates to litigation and pose threats to public safety.

The D.C. Circuit reversed and remanded to the district court for further proceedings.  Of particular note:

  • The Court focused its analysis not on copyrightability but on fair use, noting that the doctrine “may provide a full defense to some, if not all, of the SDO’s infringement claims in this case.”
  • Specifically, the Court noted that there is “reason to believe ‘as a matter of law’ that [Public Resource’s] reproduction of certain standards ‘qualif[ies] as a fair use of the copyrighted work.”
  • The Court addressed each of the four fair use factors in turn — noting as to the especially important first factor that “[t]he district court . . . failed to adequately consider whether, in certain circumstances, distributing copies of the law for purposes of facilitating public access could constitute transformative use.”

The Court vacated injunctions that the district court issued against Public Resource.

The Clinic will monitor the case and keep tabs on further developments.  In the meantime, we are glad that Public Resource will have the opportunity to continue its advocacy for access to laws as the case returns to the district court.

 

by Christopher Bavitz at July 18, 2018 01:32 PM

July 13, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Clinic Supports Pakistani NGO in Shaping New Data Protection Bill

This month, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication released a draft Personal Data Protection Bill for public comment. The bill has a wide scope, encompassing at a basic level the commercial usage of data from which an individual is identifiable, and creates a key role for user consent. While not without areas for possible improvement, the bill represents a positive step for Pakistan’s internet-connected populace. With support from Cyberlaw Clinic, the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), a Pakistani NGO that works in support of human rights and democratic processes online, submitted a policy brief to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication while the initial drafting of the bill was underway. DRF founder Nighat Dad said, “Working with the Harvard Cyberlaw Clinic was a unique experience, both personally and professionally… I believe that such platforms add indispensable value to the global advocacy endeavours and tremendously help in successful attempts at making the internet more inclusive and approachable.”

The Clinic provided DRF with a high-level comparative analysis of data privacy regulations in jurisdictions around the globe, including the European Union and the United States as well as Argentina, Morocco, and South Korea. The regimes analyzed were selected to represent a range of perspectives, having both commonalities and contrasts with Pakistan, and DRF attorneys consulted the research in shaping their recommendations, a number of which were incorporated in to the bill’s present form. Clinic students Audrey Adu-Appiah and Sheeva Nesva, both Harvard Law School Class of 2018, working under the supervision of Clinical Instructor and Acting Assistant Director Jessica Fjeld, authored the report.

This bill is particularly important in the sense that it may be seen as a shift in momentum from Pakistan’s most recent efforts to regulate cyberspace. In 2016, Pakistan enacted the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, which was widely criticized for the broad powers it granted the government to censor content determined to be “illegal,” and for harsh penalties it imposed.

DRF is already at work on its submission for the public comment period, and the Clinic joins them in commending the Ministry for opening up the bill for comment, and hoping that engagement with various stakeholders and civil society at large results in an even more effective piece of legislation.

by jessicafjeld at July 13, 2018 06:25 PM

July 12, 2018

Justin Reich
Design Thinking: From Process to Culture
If imagination is bound by culture, how might we reimagine a culture of school that deeply values the tenets of design thinking?

by Beth Holland at July 12, 2018 12:31 PM

July 10, 2018

ProjectVRM
Privacy = personal agency + respect by others for personal dignity

Privacy is a state each of us enjoys to the degrees others respect it.

And they respect what economists call signals. We send those signals through our behavior (hand signals, facial expressions) and technologies. Both are expressions of agency: the ability to act with effect in the world.

So, for example, we signal a need not to reveal our private parts  by wearing clothes. We signal a need not to have our private spaces invaded by buttoning our clothes, closing doors, setting locks on those doors, and pulling closed curtains or shades. We signal a need not to be known by name to everybody by not wearing name tags as we walk about the world. (That we are naturally anonymous is a civic grace, but a whole ‘nuther thread.)

All of this has been well understood in the physical world for as long as we’ve had civilization—and perhaps longer. It varies by culture, but remained remarkably non-controversial—until we added the digital world to the physical one.

The digital world, like the physical one, came without privacy. We had to invent privacy in the physical world with technologies (clothing, shelter, doors, locks) and norms such as respect for the simple need for personal dignity.

We have not yet done the same in the digital world. We did, however, invent administrative identities for people, because administrative systems need to know who they’re interested in and dealing with.

These systems are not our own. They belong to administrative entities: companies, government agencies, churches, civic groups, whatever. Nearly 100% of conversation about both identity and privacy take place inside the administrative context. All questions  come down to “How can this system with ways of identifying us give us privacy?” Even Privacy By Design (PbD) is about administrative systems. It is not something you and I have. Not in the way we have clothes.

And that’s what we need: the digital equivalents of clothing and ways of signaling what’s okay and what’s not okay.  Norms should follow, and then laws and regulations restricting violations of those norms.

Unfortunately, we got the laws (e.g. the EU’s GDPR and California’s AB 375) before we got the tech and the norms.

But I’m encouraged about getting both, for two reasons. One is the work going on here among VRM-ish developers. The other is that @GregAEngineer gave a talk this morning on exactly this topic, at the IEEE #InDITA conference in Bangalore.

Oh, and lest we think privacy matters only to those in the fully privileged world, watch Privacy on the Line, a video just shared here.

by Doc Searls at July 10, 2018 05:17 AM

June 29, 2018

Justin Reich
The Purpose of Education: Workforce Development or Lifelong Learning?
Instead of creating a Department of Education and Workforce Development, what if we considered a Department of Education and Lifelong Learning?

by Beth Holland at June 29, 2018 06:30 PM

June 28, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Harvard Law Bulletin Highlights Artificial Intelligence Initiative

The Harvard Law Bulletin‘s Summer 2018 issue highlights the work of the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, a project based jointly at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and the MIT Media Lab. Members of the Cyberlaw Clinic team have been actively involved in many aspects of the Initiative, including Chris Bavitz and Kira Hessekiel (who have spearheaded the Center’s work on government use of algorithmic tools); Mason Kortz and Jess Fjeld (who have worked on cutting-edge issues around the intersection of artificial intelligence and the arts); Kendra Albert (who has played the role of product counsel on a number of innovative AI-related projects); and Vivek Krishnamurthy and Hannah Hilligoss (who have led the charge on the Center’s ongoing work examining the human rights implications of AI). This work has also become integrated into the Clinic docket — students have assisted with an open letter sent to members of the MA legislature about pre-trial risk assessments, advised the developer of an art-generating AI system in license negotiations, and provided legal support for teams in the BKC / MITML “Assembly” program.

 

by Clinic Staff at June 28, 2018 07:24 PM

Miriam Meckel
Mein Kopf gehört mir

Eine Reise durch die schöne neue Welt des Brainhacking

Pieper, 2018
ISBN: 978-3492059077

Jetzt bei Amazon bestellen.

by Miriam Meckel at June 28, 2018 12:25 PM

Wir verschwinden

Der Mensch im digitalen Zeitalter

Kein & Aber, 2013
ISBN: 978-3036956527

Jetzt bei Amazon bestellen.

by Miriam Meckel at June 28, 2018 12:19 PM

June 26, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
Forming, storming, norming, performing, and …chloroforming?

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman proposed a “developmental sequence in small groups.” According to his influential theory, most successful groups go through four stages with rhyming names:

  1. Forming: Group members get to know each other and define their task.
  2. Storming: Through argument and disagreement, power dynamics emerge and are negotiated.
  3. Norming: After conflict, groups seek to avoid conflict and focus on cooperation and setting norms for acceptable behavior.
  4. Performing: There is both cooperation and productive dissent as the team performs the task at a high level.

Fortunately for organizational science, 1965 was hardly the last stage of development for Tuckman’s theory!

Twelve years later, Tuckman suggested that adjourning or mourning reflected potential fifth stages (Tuckman and Jensen 1977). Since then, other organizational researchers have suggested other stages including transforming and reforming (White 2009), re-norming (Biggs), and outperforming (Rickards and Moger 2002).

What does the future hold for this line of research?

To help answer this question, we wrote a regular expression to identify candidate words and placed the full list is at this page in the Community Data Science Collective wiki.

The good news is that despite the active stream of research producing new stages that end or rhyme with -orming, there are tons of great words left!

For example, stages in a group’s development might include:

  • Scorning: In this stage, group members begin mocking each other!
  • Misinforming: Group that reach this stage start producing fake news.
  • Shoehorning: These groups try to make their products fit into ridiculous constraints.
  • Chloroforming: Groups become languid and fatigued?

One benefit of keeping our list in the wiki is that the organizational research community can use it to coordinate! If you are planning to use one of these terms—or if you know of a paper that has—feel free to edit the page in our wiki to “claim” it!


Also posted on the Community Data Science Collective blog. Although credit for this post goes primarily to Jeremy Foote and Benjamin Mako Hill, the other Community Data Science Collective members can’t really be called blameless in the matter either.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 26, 2018 02:21 AM

June 25, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Supreme Court Holds Warrant Required for Cell Site Location Information

The United States Supreme Court has issued its long-awaited ruling in Carpenter v. United States, holding that the government must get a warrant before obtaining cell site location information from an individual’s cell phone provider. The decision marks a significant development in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence in the digital age, and the Court commented extensively on the unique nature of cell phones and cell phone location records. The Court’s ruling has important implications for the future of the third-party doctrine, as the Court held, “the fact that the information is held by a third party does not by itself overcome the user’s claim to Fourth Amendment protection.”

Prior to joining the Clinic last year, our own Kendra Albert helped to draft and file an amicus brief in Carpenter on behalf of Data & Society and fifteen individual scholars—including a number of members of the extended Berkman Klein Center community (Ifoema Ajunwa, Meryl Alper, and danah boyd, among others). The Cyberlaw Clinic previously filed amicus briefs in a pair of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court cases that addressed similar issues — Commonwealth v. Augustine (brief filed on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and Commonwealth v. Estabrook —  (brief filed on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts).The outcomes in those cases presaged the majority’s decision in Carpenter.

To quote Paul Ohm, it seems likely that Carpenter represents a significant “inflection point” in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and that we will talk about Fourth Amendment law “before-Carpenter and after-Carpenter for a long time, at least for cases involving technology.” The Clinic looks forward to watching (and being involved with) future developments on behalf of our many clients and collaborators with a keen interest in privacy and government surveillance.

Supreme Court image courtesy Pixabay user, Skeeze, CC0.

 

by Clinic Staff at June 25, 2018 10:35 PM

June 23, 2018

ProjectVRM
Why personal agency matters more than personal data

Lately a lot of thought, work and advocacy has been going into valuing personal data as a fungible commodity: one that can be made scarce, bought, sold, traded and so on.  That’s all fine, but I also think it steers attention away from a far more important issue it would be best to solve first: personal agency.

I see two reasons why personal agency matters more than personal data.

The first reason is that we have far too little agency in the networked world, mostly because we settled, way back in 1995, on a model for websites called client-server, which should have been called calf-cow or slave-master, because we’re always the weaker party. Fortunately the Net’s and the Web’s base protocols remain mostly peer-to-peer, by design. We can still build on those. It’s early.

A critical start in that direction is making each of us the first party rather than the second when we deal with the sites, services, companies and apps of the world—and doing that at scale across all of them.

Think about how much more simple and sane it is for websites to accept our terms and our privacy policies, rather than to force each of us, all the time, to accept their terms, all expressed in their own different ways. (Because they are advised by different lawyers, equipped by different third parties, and generally confused anyway.)

Getting sites to agree to our own personal terms and policies is not a stretch, because that’s exactly what we have in the way we deal with each other in the physical world.

For example, the clothes that we wear are privacy technologies. We also have  norms that discourage others from, for example sticking their hands inside our clothes without permission.

The fact that adtech plants tracking beacons on our naked digital selves and tracks us like animals across the digital frontier may be a norm for now, but it is also morally wrong, massively rude and now illegal under the  GDPR.

We can easily create privacy tech, personal terms and personal privacy policies that are normative and scale for each of us across all the entities that deal with us. (This is what ProjectVRM’s nonprofit spin-off, Customer Commons is all about.)

Businesses can’t give us privacy if we’re always the second parties clicking “agree.” It doesn’t matter how well-meaning and GDPR-compliant those businesses are. Making people second parties is a design flaw in every standing “agreement” we “accept,” and we need to correct that.

The second reason agency matters more than data is that nearly the entire market for personal data today is adtech, and adtech is too dysfunctional, too corrupt, too drunk on the data it already has, and absolutely awful at doing what they’ve harvested that data for, which is so machines can guess at what we might want before they shoot “relevant” and “interest-based” ads at our tracked eyeballs.

Not only do tracking-based ads fail to convince us to do a damn thing 99.xx+% of the time, but we’re also not buying something most of the time as well.

As incentive alignments go, adtech’s failure to serve the actual interests of its targets verges on the absolute. (It’s no coincidence that more than a year ago, 1.7 billion people were already blocking ads online.)

And hell, what they do also isn’t really advertising, even though it’s called that. It’s direct marketing, which gives us junk mail and is the model for spam. (For more on this, see Separating Advertising’s Wheat and Chaff.)

Privacy is personal. That means privacy is an effect of personal agency, projected by personal tech and personal expressions of intent that others can respect without working at it. We have that in the offline world. We can have it in the online world too.

Privacy is not something given to us by companies or governments, no matter how well they do Privacy by Design or craft their privacy policies. It simply can’t work.

In the physical world we got privacy tech and norms before we got privacy law. In the networked world we got the law first. That’s why the GDPR has caused so much confusion. It’s the regulatory cart in front of the technology horse. In the absence of privacy tech, we also failed to get and the norms that would normally and naturally guide lawmaking.

So let’s get the tech horse back in front of the lawmaking cart. With the tech working, the market for personal data will be one we control.  For real.

If we don’t do that first, adtech will stay in contol. And we know how that movie goes, because it’s a horror show and we’re living in it now.

 

by Doc Searls at June 23, 2018 10:10 PM

June 22, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
I’m a maker, baby

 

What does the “maker movement” think of the song “Maker” by Fink?

Is it an accidental anthem or just unfortunate evidence of the semantic ambiguity around an overloaded term?

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 22, 2018 11:34 PM

Ethan Zuckerman
Media and provenance

On Wednesday, June 20th, Matt Smith and Aura Bogado broke a harrowing story about the Shiloh Treatment Center, south of Houston, TX, one of the contractors the Trump administration is using to house migrant children who were separated from their parents. Their report for Reveal, a Center for Investigative Reporting publication, and The Texas Tribune is based on an analysis of federal court filings, which allege that children held at Shiloh have been forcibly subdued with powerful psychiatric drugs. Released at a moment when media attention has been focused on separation of children from their families at the US/Mexico border, the story was widely shared online – as of this morning, Reveal’s tweet about the story had been retweeted 22,000 times.

The story gained attention for reasons other than its harrowing revelations. When Reveal tried to “boost” their post on Facebook, the platform alerted them that they were “Not Authorized for Ads with Political Content”. This is a new safety feature implemented by Facebook in the wake of scrutiny towards the company’s role in the 2016, permitting over 3000 ads to be illegally posted by the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, with the goal of sowing discontent in the US. Facebook is in a tough bind – they need to vet purchasers of political ads far more carefully than they have been, but thus far, their algorithmic review process is flagging some stories as ads, and allowing some ads to pass through unscreened. And Facebook Ads VP, Rob Goldman, didn’t help clarify matters by telling Reveal “…this ad, not the story, was flagged because it contains political content.”

Last night, one of the authors of the Reveal story, Aura Bogado, pointed to another problem she and Matt Smith are experiencing:

One of the long-standing patterns of the news industry is the tendency to copy reporting someone has already done. In the days when most people subscribed to a single newspaper, this copying served a helpful civic function – it helped spread news to multiple audiences, helping citizens have a common basis of news to inform democratic participation. A very clear journalistic ethic emerged around this practice: you prominently credit the publication that broke the story. You’ll see even fierce competitors, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, do this with their biggest scoops.

The internet has changed these dynamics. On the one hand, there’s no longer any civic need to copy stories – you could simply link to them instead. But there’s also a powerful financial incentive to make any story your own – the ad clicks. This story, written by Andrew Hay and bylined “Reuters staff”, shows how easily original reporters and outlets can disappear – it contains original reporting, in that it has a novel quote from Carlos Holguin, a lawyer for the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, who’s cited in the Reveal piece… but it doesn’t mention Smith and Bogado, the Texas Tribune or Reveal. (Reuters is not the only outlet that’s scrubbed provenance from this story. But they are a publicly traded company with 45,000 employees, $11 billion in annual revenue, and have been in the news industry since 1851. They should know better.)

This is not only a shitty thing to do, it’s a profitable thing to do. Reuters gets the ad views from the story they largely rewrote, while the two non-profits responsible for the original reporting get nothing, not even credit.

I’ve been thinking about this problem for some time, because the origins of important news stories is one of the main uses for Media Cloud, the system we’ve been developing for almost a decade at Center for Civic Media and the Berkman Klein Center. One of our first publications, “The Battle for Trayvon Martin: Mapping a Media Controversy online and offline” is at its heart a provenance paper, trying to understand who first reported on Trayvon’s death as a way of understanding how the story turned into a national conversation on race and violence. (TL;DR: Trayvon’s family worked with civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump to pitch the story to Reuters and CBS: This Morning. It was well over a week before the internet began amplifying the story with petitions and protests.) Rob Faris and Yochai Benkler’s massive Media Cloud analysis of the 2016 US Presidential elections focuses on provenance, tracing influential stories in mainstream media publications to their origins in the fringes of the right-wing blogosphere that surround Breitbart, Gateway Pundit and others.

Media Cloud works by ingesting (usually via RSS, sometimes via scraping) all the stories from tens of thousands of media publications, multiple times a day. We can often trace the provenance of a story by identifying an appropriate search string – “Shiloh” AND (migrant* OR drug*) might work in this case – and looking to see what stories hit our database first. Often a story breaks in several places simultaneously – that’s often an indicator that it was written in reaction to a statement made by a public official or a corporate leader, not the result of long investigative reporting. This process is imperfect and requires the input of knowledgeable humans to create search strings. What if we could automate it?

We’re working on this problem, looking to create automatic signatures that identify clusters of related stories. Duncan Watts is working on it at MSR as well, generating “fingerprints” for these clusters that rely in part on named entities. And obviously Google has a clustering system working that they use to organize related stories in Google News. With automated signatures and clustering, combined with a deep database of stories collected many times a day, we might be able to identify the initial stream that leads to a later media cascade.


Attention in US mainstream media to “Larry Nassar” from January 2017 to present, via mediacloud.org

What then? Well, that would depend on what media platforms did with this data. Consider a major, ongoing story like Dr. Larry Nassar’s abuse of US gymnasts. That horrific story was uncovered by the Indy Star, who began a massive investigative series on sexual abuse within US gymnastics in August 2017, months before Nassar’s name became a household word. When platforms that aggregate, distribute and monetize news – Apple, Google, Facebook – share revenues with publishers, maybe they should check against a provenance service to find out whether they’re rewarding someone who did original journalism, or someone who’s simply chasing clicks. Perhaps one or more platform would end up sharing revenues between the publisher that captured the clicks and the one that initially sponsored the investigation.

Could this ever really happen? Yes, but it would require not only the technology to work, but for there to be pressure from readers for ethically sourced journalism. It took a great deal of work for consumers to demand that their coffee be sustainably grown and that Apple look into whether suppliers are using child labor. What Bogado and her colleagues are asking for is good for anyone who cares about the long-term future of journalism. We need more resources to investigate stories like the abuse of children at the hands of the US government. We don’t need hundreds of news outlets rushing to cover the same stories. Establishing – and rewarding – provenance of stories that start with investigative journalism could help shift the playing field for original reporting.

by Ethan at June 22, 2018 07:21 PM

June 21, 2018

danah boyd
The Messy Fourth Estate

(This post was originally posted on Medium.)

For the second time in a week, my phone buzzed with a New York Times alert, notifying me that another celebrity had died by suicide. My heart sank. I tuned into the Crisis Text Line Slack channel to see how many people were waiting for a counselor’s help. Volunteer crisis counselors were pouring in, but the queue kept growing.

Celebrity suicides trigger people who are already on edge to wonder whether or not they too should seek death. Since the Werther effect study, in 1974, countless studies have conclusively and repeatedly shown that how the news media reports on suicide matters. The World Health Organization has adetailed set of recommendations for journalists and news media organizations on how to responsibly report on suicide so as to not trigger copycats. Yet in the past few years, few news organizations have bothered to abide by them, even as recent data shows that the reporting on Robin Williams’ death triggered an additional 10 percent increase in suicide and a 32 percent increase in people copying his method of death. The recommendations aren’t hard to follow — they focus on how to convey important information without adding to the problem.

Crisis counselors at the Crisis Text Line are on the front lines. As a board member, I’m in awe of their commitment and their willingness to help those who desperately need support and can’t find it anywhere else. But it pains me to watch as elite media amplifiers make counselors’ lives more difficult under the guise of reporting the news or entertaining the public.

Through data, we can see the pain triggered by 13 Reasons Why and the New York Times. We see how salacious reporting on method prompts people to consider that pathway of self-injury. Our volunteer counselors are desperately trying to keep people alive and get them help, while for-profit companies reap in dollars and clicks. If we’re lucky, the outlets triggering unstable people write off their guilt by providing a link to our services, with no consideration of how much pain they’ve caused or the costs we must endure.

I want to believe in journalism. But my faith is waning.

I want to believe in journalism. I want to believe in the idealized mandate of the fourth estateI want to trust that editors and journalists are doing their best to responsibly inform the public and help create a more perfect union.But my faith is waning.

Many Americans — especially conservative Americans — do not trust contemporary news organizations. This “crisis” is well-trod territory, but the focus on fact-checking, media literacy, and business models tends to obscure three features of the contemporary information landscape that I think are poorly understood:

  1. Differences in worldview are being weaponized to polarize society.
  2. We cannot trust organizations, institutions, or professions when they’re abstracted away from us.
  3. Economic structures built on value extraction cannot enable healthy information ecosystems.

Let me begin by apologizing for the heady article, but the issues that we’re grappling with are too heady for a hot take. Please read this to challenge me, debate me, offer data to show that I’m wrong. I think we’ve got an ugly fight in front of us, and I think we need to get more sophisticated about our thinking, especially in a world where foreign policy is being boiled down to 140 characters.

1. Your Worldview Is Being Weaponized

I was a teenager when I showed up at a church wearing jeans and a T-shirt to see my friend perform in her choir. The pastor told me that I was not welcomebecause this was a house of God, and we must dress in a manner that honors Him. Not good at following rules, I responded flatly, “God made me naked. Should I strip now?” Needless to say, I did not get to see my friend sing.

Faith is an anchor for many people in the United States, but the norms that surround religious institutions are man-made, designed to help people make sense of the world in which we operate. Many religions encourage interrogation and questioning, but only within a well-established framework.Children learn those boundaries, just as they learn what is acceptable insecular society. They learn that talking about race is taboo and that questioning the existence of God may leave them ostracized.

Like many teenagers before and after me, I was obsessed with taboos and forbidden knowledge. I sought out the music Tipper Gore hated, read the books my school banned, and tried to get answers to any question that made adults gasp. Anonymously, I spent late nights engaged in conversations on Usenet, determined to push boundaries and make sense of adult hypocrisy.

Following a template learned in Model UN, I took on strong positions in order to debate and learn. Having already lost faith in the religious leaders in my community, I saw no reason to respect the dogma of any institution. And because I made a hobby out of proving teachers wrong, I had little patience for the so-called experts in my hometown. I was intellectually ravenous, but utterly impatient with, if not outright cruel to the adults around me. I rebelled against hierarchy and was determined to carve my own path at any cost.

have an amazing amount of empathy for those who do not trust the institutions that elders have told them they must respect. Rage against the machine. We don’t need no education, no thought control. I’m also fully aware that you don’t garner trust in institutions through coercion or rational discussion. Instead, trust often emerges from extreme situations.

Many people have a moment where they wake up and feel like the world doesn’t really work like they once thought or like they were once told. That moment of cognitive reckoning is overwhelming. It can be triggered by any number of things — a breakup, a death, depression, a humiliating experience.Everything comes undone, and you feel like you’re in the middle of a tornado, unable to find the ground. This is the basis of countless literary classics, the crux of humanity. But it’s also a pivotal feature in how a society comes together to function.

Everyone needs solid ground, so that when your world has just been destabilized, what comes next matters. Who is the friend that picks you up and helps you put together the pieces? What institution — or its representatives — steps in to help you organize your thinking? What information do you grab onto in order to make sense of your experiences?

Contemporary propaganda isn’t about convincing someone to believe something, but convincing them to doubt what they think they know.

Countless organizations and movements exist to pick you up during your personal tornado and provide structure and a framework. Take a look at how Alcoholics Anonymous works. Other institutions and social bodies know how to trigger that instability and then help you find groundCheck out the dynamics underpinning military basic training. Organizations, movements, and institutions that can manipulate psychological tendencies toward a sociological end have significant power. Religious organizations, social movements, and educational institutions all play this role, whether or not they want to understand themselves as doing so.

Because there is power in defining a framework for people, there is good reason to be wary of any body that pulls people in when they are most vulnerable. Of course, that power is not inherently malevolentThere is fundamental goodness in providing structures to help those who are hurting make sense of the world around them. Where there be dragons is when these processes are weaponized, when these processes are designed to produce societal hatred alongside personal stability. After all, one of the fastest ways to bond people and help them find purpose is to offer up an enemy.

And here’s where we’re in a sticky spot right now. Many large institutions — government, the church, educational institutions, news organizations — are brazenly asserting their moral authority without grappling with their own shit.They’re ignoring those among them who are using hate as a tool, and they’re ignoring their own best practices and ethics, all to help feed a bottom line. Each of these institutions justifies itself by blaming someone or something to explain why they’re not actually that powerful, why they’re actually the victim. And so they’re all poised to be weaponized in a cultural war rooted in how we stabilize American insecurity.And if we’re completely honest with ourselves, what we’re really up against is how we collectively come to terms with a dying empire. But that’s a longer tangent.

Any teacher knows that it only takes a few students to completely disrupt a classroom. Forest fires spark easily under certain conditions, and the ripple effects are huge. As a child, when I raged against everyone and everything, it was my mother who held me into the night. When I was a teenager chatting my nights away on Usenet, the two people who most memorably picked me up and helped me find stable ground were a deployed soldier and a transgender woman, both of whom held me as I asked insane questions. They absorbed the impact and showed me a different way of thinking. They taught me the power of strangers counseling someone in crisis. As a college freshman, when I was spinning out of control, a computer science professor kept me solid and taught me how profoundly important a true mentor could be. Everyone needs someone to hold them when their world spins, whether that person be a friend, family, mentor, or stranger.

Fifteen years ago, when parents and the news media were panicking about online bullying, I saw a different risk. I saw countless kids crying out online in pain only to be ignored by those who preferred to prevent teachers from engaging with students online or to create laws punishing online bullies. We saw the suicides triggered as youth tried to make “It Gets Better” videos to find community, only to be further harassed at school. We saw teens studying the acts of Columbine shooters, seeking out community among those with hateful agendas and relishing the power of lashing out at those they perceived to be benefiting at their expense. But it all just seemed like a peculiar online phenomenon, proof that the internet was cruel. Too few of us tried to hold those youth who were unquestionably in pain.

Teens who are coming of age today are already ripe for instability. Their parents are stressed; even if they have jobs, nothing feels certain or stable. There doesn’t seem to be a path toward economic stability that doesn’t involve college, but there doesn’t seem to be a path toward college that doesn’t involve mind-bending debt. Opioids seem like a reasonable way to numb the pain in far too many communities. School doesn’t seem like a safe place, so teenagers look around and whisper among friends about who they believe to be the most likely shooter in their community. As Stephanie Georgopulos notesthe idea that any institution can offer security seems like a farce.

When I look around at who’s “holding” these youth, I can’t help but notice the presence of people with a hateful agenda. And they terrify me, in no small part because I remember an earlier incarnation.

In 1995, when I was trying to make sense of my sexuality, I turned to various online forums and asked a lot of idiotic questions. I was adopted by the aforementioned transgender woman and numerous other folks who heard me out, gave me pointers, and helped me think through what I felt. In 2001, when I tried to figure out what the next generation did, I realized thatstruggling youth were more likely to encounter a Christian gay “conversion therapy” group than a supportive queer peer. Queer folks were sick of being attacked by anti-LGBT groups, and so they had created safe spaces on private mailing lists that were hard for lost queer youth to find. And so it was that in their darkest hours, these youth were getting picked up by those with a hurtful agenda.

Teens who are trying to make sense of social issues aren’t finding progressive activists. They’re finding the so-called alt-right.

Fast-forward 15 years, and teens who are trying to make sense of social issues aren’t finding progressive activists willing to pick them up. They’re finding the so-called alt-right. I can’t tell you how many youth we’ve seen asking questions like I asked being rejected by people identifying with progressive social movements, only to find camaraderie among hate groupsWhat’s most striking is how many people with extreme ideas are willing to spend time engaging with folks who are in the tornado.

Spend time reading the comments below the YouTube videos of youth struggling to make sense of the world around them. You’ll quickly find comments by people who spend time in the manosphere or subscribe to white supremacist thinking. They are diving in and talking to these youth, offering a framework to make sense of the world, one rooted in deeply hateful ideas.These self-fashioned self-help actors are grooming people to see that their pain and confusion isn’t their fault, but the fault of feminists, immigrants, people of color. They’re helping them believe that the institutions they already distrust — the news media, Hollywood, government, school, even the church — are actually working to oppress them.

Most people who encounter these ideas won’t embrace them, but some will. Still, even those who don’t will never let go of the doubt that has been instilled in the institutions around them. It just takes a spark.

So how do we collectively make sense of the world around us? There isn’t one universal way of thinking, but even the act of constructing knowledge is becoming polarized. Responding to the uproar in the news media over “alternative facts,” Cory Doctorow noted:

We’re not living through a crisis about what is true, we’re living through a crisis about how we know whether something is true. We’re not disagreeing about facts, we’re disagreeing about epistemology. The “establishment” version of epistemology is, “We use evidence to arrive at the truth, vetted by independent verification (but trust us when we tell you that it’s all been independently verified by people who were properly skeptical and not the bosom buddies of the people they were supposed to be fact-checking).

The “alternative facts” epistemological method goes like this: “The ‘independent’ experts who were supposed to be verifying the ‘evidence-based’ truth were actually in bed with the people they were supposed to be fact-checking. In the end, it’s all a matter of faith, then: you either have faith that ‘their’ experts are being truthful, or you have faith that we are. Ask your gut, what version feels more truthful?”

Doctorow creates these oppositional positions to make a point and to highlight that there is a war over epistemology, or the way in which we produce knowledge.

The reality is much messier, because what’s at stake isn’t simply about resolving two competing worldviews. Rather, what’s at stake is how there is no universal way of knowing, and we have reached a stage in our political climate where there is more power in seeding doubt, destabilizing knowledge, and encouraging others to distrust other systems of knowledge production.

Contemporary propaganda isn’t about convincing someone to believe something, but convincing them to doubt what they think they know. Andonce people’s assumptions have come undone, who is going to pick them up and help them create a coherent worldview?

2. You Can’t Trust Abstractions

Deeply committed to democratic governance, George Washington believed that a representative government could only work if the public knew their representatives. As a result, our Constitution states that each member of the House should represent no more than 30,000 constituents. When we stopped adding additional representatives to the House in 1913 (frozen at 435), each member represented roughly 225,000 constituents. Today, the ratio of congresspeople to constituents is more than 700,000:1Most people will never meet their representative, and few feel as though Washington truly represents their interests. The democracy that we have is representational only in ideal, not in practice.

As our Founding Fathers knew, it’s hard to trust an institution when it feels inaccessible and abstract. All around us, institutions are increasingly divorced from the community in which they operate, with often devastating costs.Thanks to new models of law enforcement, police officers don’t typically come from the community they serve. In many poor communities, teachers also don’t come from the community in which they teach. The volunteer U.S. military hardly draws from all communities, and those who don’t know a solider are less likely to trust or respect the military.

Journalism can only function as the fourth estate when it serves as a tool to voice the concerns of the people and to inform those people of the issues that matter. Throughout the 20th century, communities of color challenged mainstream media’s limitations and highlighted that few newsrooms represented the diverse backgrounds of their audiences. As such, we saw the rise of ethnic media and a challenge to newsrooms to be smarter about their coverage. But let’s be real — even as news organizations articulate a commitment to the concerns of everyone, newsrooms have done a dreadful job of becoming more representativeOver the past decade, we’ve seen racial justice activists challenge newsrooms for their failure to cover Ferguson, Standing Rock, and other stories that affect communities of color.

Meanwhile, local journalism has nearly died. The success of local journalismdidn’t just matter because those media outlets reported the news, but because it meant that many more people were likely to know journalists. It’s easier to trust an institution when it has a human face that you know and respect. Andas fewer and fewer people know journalists, they trust the institution less and less. Meanwhile, the rise of social media, blogging, and new forms of talk radio has meant that countless individuals have stepped in to cover issues not being covered by mainstream news, often using a style and voice that is quite unlike that deployed by mainstream news media.

We’ve also seen the rise of celebrity news hosts. These hosts help push the boundaries of parasocial interactions, allowing the audience to feel deep affinity toward these individuals, as though they are true friends. Tabloid papers have long capitalized on people’s desire to feel close to celebrities by helping people feel like they know the royal family or the Kardashians. Talking heads capitalize on this, in no small part by how they communicate with their audiences. So, when people watch Rachel Maddow or listen to Alex Jones, they feel more connected to the message than they would when reading a news article. They begin to trust these people as though they are neighbors. They feel real.

No amount of drop-in journalism will make up for the loss of journalists within the fabric of local communities.

People want to be informed, but who they trust to inform them is rooted in social networks, not institutions. The trust of institutions stems from trust in people. The loss of the local paper means a loss of trusted journalists and a connection to the practices of the newsroom. As always, people turn to their social networks to get information, but what flows through those social networks is less and less likely to be mainstream news. But here’s where you also get an epistemological divide.

As Francesca Tripodi points out, many conservative Christians have developed a media literacy practice that emphasizes the “original” text rather than an intermediary. Tripodi points out that the same type of scriptural inference that Christians apply in Bible study is often also applied to reading the Constitution, tax reform bills, and Google results. This approach is radically different than the approach others take when they rely on intermediaries to interpret news for them.

As the institutional construction of news media becomes more and more proximately divorced from the vast majority of people in the United States, we can and should expect trust in news to decline. No amount of fact-checking will make up for a widespread feeling that coverage is biased. No amount of articulated ethical commitments will make up for the feeling that you are being fed clickbait headlines.

No amount of drop-in journalism will make up for the loss of journalists within the fabric of local communities. And while the population who believes that CNN and the New York Times are “fake news” are not demographically representative, the questionable tactics that news organizations use are bound to increase distrust among those who still have faith in them.

3. The Fourth Estate and Financialization Are Incompatible

If you’re still with me at this point, you’re probably deeply invested in scholarship or journalism. And, unless you’re one of my friends, you’re probably bursting at the seams to tell me that the reason journalism is all screwed up is because the internet screwed news media’s business model. So I want to ask a favor: Quiet that voice in your head, take a deep breath, and let me offer an alternative perspective.

There are many types of capitalism. After all, the only thing that defines capitalism is the private control of industry (as opposed to government control). Most Americans have been socialized into believing that all forms of capitalism are inherently good (which, by the way, was a propaganda project). But few are encouraged to untangle the different types of capitalism and different dynamics that unfold depending on which structure is operating.

I grew up in mom-and-pop America, where many people dreamed of becoming small business owners. The model was simple: Go to the bank and get a loan to open a store or a company. Pay back that loan at a reasonable interest rate — knowing that the bank was making money — until eventually you owned the company outright. Build up assets, grow your company, and create something of value that you could pass on to your children.

In the 1980s, franchises became all the rage. Wannabe entrepreneurs saw a less risky path to owning their own business. Rather than having to figure it out alone, you could open a franchise with a known brand and a clear process for running the business. In return, you had to pay some overhead to the parent company. Sure, there were rules to follow and you could only buy supplies from known suppliers and you didn’t actually have full control, but it kinda felt like you did. Like being an Uber driver, it was the illusion of entrepreneurship that was so appealing. And most new franchise owners didn’t know any better, nor were they able to read the writing on the wall when the water all around them started boiling their froggy self. I watched my mother nearly drown, and the scars are still visible all over her body.

I will never forget the U.S. Savings & Loan crisis, not because I understood it, but because it was when I first realized that my Richard Scarry impression of how banks worked was way wrong. Only two decades later did I learn to seethe FIRE industries (Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate) as extractive ones.They aren’t there to help mom-and-pop companies build responsible businesses, but to extract value from their naiveté. Like today’s post-college youth are learning, loans aren’t there to help you be smart, but to bend your will.

It doesn’t take a quasi-documentary to realize thatMcDonald’s is not a fast-food franchise; it’s a real estate business that uses a franchise structure to extract capital from naive entrepreneurs. Go talk to a wannabe restaurant owner in New York City and ask them what it takes to start a business these days. You can’t even get a bank loan or lease in 2018 without significant investor backing, which means that the system isn’t set up for you to build a business and pay back the bank, pay a reasonable rent, and develop a valuable asset.You are simply a pawn in a financialized game between your investors, the real estate companies, the insurance companies, and the bank, all of which want to extract as much value from your effort as possible. You’re just another brick in the wall.

Now let’s look at the local news ecosystem. Starting in the 1980s, savvy investors realized that many local newspapers owned prime real estate in the center of key towns. These prized assets would make for great condos and office rentals. Throughout the country, local news shops started getting eaten up by private equity and hedge funds — or consolidated by organizations controlled by the same forces. Media conglomerates sold off their newsrooms as they felt increased pressure to increase profits quarter over quarter.

Building a sustainable news business was hard enough when the news had a wealthy patron who valued the goals of the enterprise. But the finance industry doesn’t care about sustaining the news business; it wants a return on investment. And the extractive financiers who targeted the news business weren’t looking to keep the news alive. They wanted to extract as much value from those business as possible. Taking a page out of McDonald’s, they forced the newsrooms to sell their real estate. Often, news organizations had to rent from new landlords who wanted obscene sums, often forcing them to move out of their buildings. News outlets were forced to reduce staff, reproduce more junk content, sell more ads, and find countless ways to cut costs. Of course the news suffered — the goal was to push news outlets into bankruptcy or sell, especially if the companies had pensions or other costs that couldn’t be excised.

Yes, the fragmentation of the advertising industry due to the internet hastened this process. And let’s also be clear that business models in the news business have never been cleanBut no amount of innovative new business models will make up for the fact that you can’t sustain responsible journalism within a business structure that requires newsrooms to make more money quarter over quarter to appease investors. This does not mean that you can’t build a sustainable news business, but if the news is beholden to investors trying to extract value, it’s going to impossible. And if news companies have no assets to rely on (such as their now-sold real estate), they are fundamentally unstable and likely to engage in unhealthy business practices out of economic desperation.

Untangling our country from this current version of capitalism is going to be as difficult as curbing our addiction to fossil fuels. I’m not sure it can be done, but as long as we look at companies and blame their business models without looking at the infrastructure in which they are embedded, we won’t even begin taking the first steps. Fundamentally, both the New York Times and Facebook are public companies, beholden to investors and desperate to increase their market cap. Employees in both organizations believe themselves to be doing something important for society.

Of course, journalists don’t get paid well, while Facebook’s employees can easily threaten to walk out if the stock doesn’t keep rising, since they’re also investors. But we also need to recognize that the vast majority of Americans have a stake in the stock market. Pension plans, endowments, and retirement plans all depend on stocks going up — and those public companies depend on big investors investing in them. Financial managers don’t invest in news organizations that are happy to be stable break-even businesses. Heck, even Facebook is in deep trouble if it can’t continue to increase ROI, whether through attracting new customers (advertisers and users), increasing revenue per user, or diversifying its businesses. At some point, it too will get desperate, because no business can increase ROI forever.

ROI capitalism isn’t the only version of capitalism out there. We take it for granted and tacitly accept its weaknesses by creating binaries, as though the only alternative is Cold War Soviet Union–styled communism. We’re all frogs in an ocean that’s quickly getting warmer. Two degrees will affect a lot more than oceanfront properties.

Reclaiming Trust

In my mind, we have a hard road ahead of us if we actually want to rebuild trust in American society and its key institutions (which, TBH, I’m not sure is everyone’s goal). There are three key higher-order next steps, all of which are at the scale of the New Deal.

  1. Create a sustainable business structure for information intermediaries (like news organizations) that allows them to be profitable without the pressure of ROI. In the case of local journalism, this could involve subsidized rent, restrictions on types of investors or takeovers, or a smartly structured double bottom-line model. But the focus should be on strategically building news organizations as a national project to meet the needs of the fourth estateIt means moving away from a journalism model that is built on competition for scarce resources (ads, attention) to one that’s incentivized by societal benefits.
  2. Actively and strategically rebuild the social networks of America.Create programs beyond the military that incentivize people from different walks of life to come together and achieve something great for this country. This could be connected to job training programs or rooted in community service, but it cannot be done through the government alone or, perhaps, at all. We need the private sector, religious organizations, and educational institutions to come together and commit to designing programs that knit together America while also providing the tools of opportunity.
  3. Find new ways of holding those who are struggling. We don’t have a social safety net in America. For many, the church provides the only accessible net when folks are lost and struggling, but we need a lot more.We need to work together to build networks that can catch people when they’re falling. We’ve relied on volunteer labor for a long time in this domain—women, churches, volunteer civic organizations—but our current social configuration makes this extraordinarily difficult. We’re in the middle of an opiate crisis for a reason. We need to think smartly about how these structures or networks can be built and sustained so that we can collectively reach out to those who are falling through the cracks.

Fundamentally, we need to stop triggering one another because we’re facing our own perceived pain. This means we need to build large-scale cultural resilience. While we may be teaching our children “social-emotional learning”in the classroom, we also need to start taking responsibility at scale.Individually, we need to step back and empathize with others’ worldviews and reach out to support those who are struggling. But our institutions also have important work to do.

At the end of the day, if journalistic ethics means anythingnewsrooms cannot justify creating spectacle out of their reporting on suicide or other topics just because they feel pressure to create clicks. They have the privilege of choosing what to amplify, and they should focus on what is beneficial. If they can’t operate by those values, they don’t deserve our trust. While I strongly believe that technology companies have a lot of important work to do to be socially beneficial, I hold news organizations to a higher standard because of their own articulated commitments and expectations that they serve as the fourth estateAnd if they can’t operationalize ethical practices, I fear the society that must be knitted together to self-govern is bound to fragment even further.

Trust cannot be demanded. It’s only earned by being there at critical junctures when people are in crisis and need help. You don’t earn trust when things are going well; you earn trust by being a rock during a tornado. The winds are blowing really hard right now. Look around. Who is helping us find solid ground?

by zephoria at June 21, 2018 01:26 AM

June 19, 2018

Justin Reich
Strategies for Supporting Girls in Computer Science
By focusing on providing positive female role models for computer science in our schools, and supporting girls and young women in their endeavors, we can send a strong message that computer science is for everyone.

by Douglas Kiang at June 19, 2018 11:18 PM

Benjamin Mako Hill
How markets coopted free software’s most powerful weapon (LibrePlanet 2018 Keynote)

Several months ago, I gave the closing keynote address at LibrePlanet 2018. The talk was about the thing that scares me most about the future of free culture, free software, and peer production.

A video of the talk is online on Youtube and available as WebM video file (both links should skip the first 3m 19s of thanks and introductions).

Here’s a summary of the talk:

App stores and the so-called “sharing economy” are two examples of business models that rely on techniques for the mass aggregation of distributed participation over the Internet and that simply didn’t exist a decade ago. In my talk, I argue that the firms pioneering these new models have learned and adapted processes from commons-based peer production projects like free software, Wikipedia, and CouchSurfing.

The result is an important shift: A decade ago,  the kind of mass collaboration that made Wikipedia, GNU/Linux, or Couchsurfing possible was the exclusive domain of people producing freely and openly in commons. Not only is this no longer true, new proprietary, firm-controlled, and money-based models are increasingly replacing, displacing, outcompeting, and potentially reducing what’s available in the commons. For example, the number of people joining Couchsurfing to host others seems to have been in decline since Airbnb began its own meteoric growth.

In the talk, I talk about how this happened and what I think it means for folks of that are committed to working in commons. I talk a little bit about the free culture and free software should do now that mass collaboration, these communities’ most powerful weapon, is being used against them.

I’m very much interested in feedback provided any way you want to reach me including in person, over email, in comments on my blog, on Mastodon, on Twitter, etc.


Work on the research that is reflected and described in this talk was supported by the National Science Foundation (awards IIS-1617129 and IIS-1617468). Some of the initial ideas behind this talk were developed while working on this paper (official link) which was led by Maximilian Klein and contributed to by Jinhao Zhao, Jiajun Ni, Isaac Johnson, and Haiyi Zhu.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 19, 2018 06:03 PM

Honey Buckets

When I was growing up in Washington state, a company called Honey Bucket held a dominant position in the local portable toilet market. Their toilets are still a common sight in the American West.

Honey Bucket brand portable toilet. Photo by donielle. (CC BY-SA)

They were so widespread when I was a child that I didn’t know that “Honey Bucket” was the name of a company at all until I moved to Massachusetts for college. I thought “honey bucket” was just the generic term for toilets that could be moved from place-to-place!

So for the first five years that I lived in Massachusetts, I continued to call all portable toilets “honey buckets.”

Until somebody asked me why I called them that—five years after moving!—all my friends in Massachusetts thought that “honey bucket” was just a personal, idiosyncratic, and somewhat gross, euphemism.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at June 19, 2018 05:36 PM

June 18, 2018

Joseph Reagle
Ditch your word processor: Write prose like code in a text editor

In this video I show the benefits of writing in a text editor. I link to descriptions of these things which you can find in Sublime Text and Atom.

Two things I forgot to demo but which I rely upon for navigation are bookmarks and being able to navigate forward and backward between previous cursor positions.

by Joseph Reagle at June 18, 2018 04:00 AM

June 13, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Coming in from the Cold: A Safe Harbor from the CFAA and DMCA §1201

Teaser

The Assembly program is pleased to announce a new publication proposing a statutory safe harbor from the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for security research activities using a constructed communication protocol based on a responsible disclosure model.

Publication Date

1 Jun 2018

Thumbnail Image: 
Authored by Daniel Etcovitch and Thyla van der Merwe
 
The Assembly program is pleased to announce a new publication, titled Coming in from the Cold: A Safe Harbor from the CFAA and DMCA §1201, written by Harvard Law School student Daniel Etcovitch and 2017 Assembly cohort member Thyla van der Merwe.  
 
The paper proposes a statutory safe harbor from the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for security research activities using a constructed communication protocol based on a responsible disclosure model. The authors explore how such a safe harbor could provide security researchers a greater degree of control over the vulnerability research publication timeline and guarantee researchers safety from legal consequence if they complied with the proposed safe harbor process. ​
 
The collaboration between Daniel and Thyla was born out of the 2017 Assembly program and the Internet & Society class co-taught by Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain and MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito, where they first met.  As the authors describe it, they “found a common interest in legal barriers to security” during the Internet & Society course and together “began to engage with the reality that some security researchers – particularly academics – were concerned about potential legal liability under computer crime laws.” 
 
Abstract
In our paper, we propose a statutory safe harbor from the CFAA and DMCA §1201 for security research activities. Based on a responsible disclosure model in which a researcher and vendor engage in a carefully constructed communication process and vulnerability classification system, our solution would enable security researchers to have a greater degree of control over the vulnerability research publication timeline, allowing for publication regardless of whether or not the vendor in question has effectuated a patch. Any researcher would be guaranteed safety from legal consequences if they comply with the proposed safe harbor process. 
 
About the Berkman Klein Assembly 
Assembly, at the Berkman Klein Center & MIT Media Lab, gathers developers, managers, and tech industry professionals for a rigorous spring term course on internet policy and a twelve-week collaborative development period to explore hard problems with running code. Each Assembly cohort comes together around a defined challenge. In 2017, the Assembly cohort focused on digital security. In 2018, the program focused on the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence. For more information, visit the program website, http://bkmla.org.
 
 

Producer Intro

Authored by

by gweber at June 13, 2018 07:40 PM

June 11, 2018

Justin Reich
Critically Thinking About Critical Thinking
Despite being an objective of education since before the start of the 21st century, critical thinking continues to be an increasingly important skill.

by Beth Holland at June 11, 2018 11:10 PM

June 07, 2018

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Wrapping Up Academic Year 2017-18 — Congratulations, Graduates!

Steve Meil (HLS JD ’18), Vinitra Rangan (HLS JD ’18), and Frederick Ding (HLS JD ’18), with Chris Bavitz from the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Clinic’s Year-End Event

The beginning of June marks the arrival of summer interns — affectionately known as “Berkterns” — at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and the Cyberlaw Clinic. As we begin to settle into our summer routine, we wanted to look back at the 2017-18 academic year and bid a fond farewell to our graduating Cyberlaw Clinic alumni from the Harvard Law School class of ’18. It has been a remarkable year at the Clinic — a year of remarkable work spearheaded by our remarkable students.

Alexa Singh (HLS JD ’18), with Jess Fjeld from the Cyberlaw Clinic

The Law School held its annual “Class Day” festivities on Wednesday, May 23, the day before Harvard’s formal commencement.  The HLS-wide Class Day celebration included remarks from HLS Dean John Manning; winner of the Albert M. Sacks-Paul A. Freund Award for Teaching Excellence, HLS Professor Carol Steiker; winner of the Staff Appreciation Award, Edgar Kley Filho; and U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (among many others).  The Clinic held its annual year-end event that day for students and their families on the front steps of the Berkman Klein Center’s offices in the little yellow house at 23 Everett Street.  Attendees included students who had worked with the Clinic on a wide variety of matters during their time at the Law School, from amicus briefs, to direct client advising, to transactional work, litigation, and policy advocacy.  It is always a pleasure to meet the families of students we have come to know so well during their time at HLS and see them off as they prepare to apply their well-earned skills and knowledge in service of new clients and constituencies.

Rebecca Rechtszaid (HLS JD ’17) and Abi Riddle (HLS JD ’17), with Chris Bavitz, visit Scratch at the MIT Media Lab

Austin Bohn (HLS JD ’17) and Erin Thomas (HLS JD ’17), with Kendra Albert from the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Copyright Office Section 1201 Proceedings

Taking stock of the 2017-18 academic year — students worked on four amicus briefs, including three U.S. Supreme Court briefs and a D.C. Circuit brief on behalf of two members of Congress.  They helped represent a coalition of librarians and archivists in a large administrative proceeding before the United States Copyright Office at the Library of Congress; supported advocacy to the Massachusetts Legislature around the use of risk assessment tools; and developed publicly-accessible resources on protest art.  In their spare time, students who worked with us in the Clinic wrote Law Review notes and participated as finalists in the fall 2017 Ames moot court competition. Fifty-nine students came through the Cyberlaw Clinic during AY 2017-18, and sixty-two 2018 HLS graduates had enrolled in the Clinic during their time at the Law School.

Cayman Mitchell (HLS JD ’18), with Chris Bavitz

Lydia Lichlyter (HLS JD ’18), with Jess Fjeld

2017-18 saw the Clinic’s teaching team contributing to publications on the role of explanation in artificial intelligence, zero rating and Internet adoption, and harmful speech online.  They presented  at South By Southwest, Harvard’s Fair Use / Fair Dealing Week festivitiesRightsCon 2018, the University of Montreal Cyberjustice Laboratory, and beyond.

Aaron Marks (HLS JD ’18) and Filippo Raso (HLS JD ’18)

Over the summer, the Clinic team plans to keep ongoing active matters afloat with an all-star team of interns hailing from law schools around the country. We will also de-brief after a busy year, build out course materials for the 2018-19 installments of the Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar, and participate in research and writing projects at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society (including projects related to artificial intelligence ethics and governance).  We also plan to do some horizon scanning to identify emerging issues that will become central to our practice and teaching activities in the years to come.

Congratulations, again, to the graduating Cyberlaw Clinic alums and to all HLS students in the class of 2018!

by Clinic Staff at June 07, 2018 01:19 PM

June 02, 2018

Juan Carlos De Martin
Norberto Bobbio sulla democrazia (1958)
Questo testo di Norberto Bobbio comparve nel 1958 su "Risorgimento" che, in occasione del primo decennale della Costituzione, aveva promosso un'inchiesta. Venne poi pubblicato, nello stesso anno, sul bollettino dell' Ateneo di Torino.

“Quando parliamo di democrazia, non ci riferiamo soltanto a un insieme di istituzioni, ma indichiamo anche una generale concezione della vita. Nella democrazia siamo impegnati non soltanto come cittadini aventi certi diritti e certi doveri, ma anche come uomini che debbono ispirarsi a un certo modo di vivere e di comportarsi con se stessi e con gli altri.

Come regime politico la democrazia moderna è fondata sul riconoscimento e la garanzia della libertà sotto tre aspetti fondamentali: la libertà civile, la libertà politica e la libertà sociale. Per libertà civile s' intende la facoltà, attribuita ad ogni cittadino, di fare scelte personali senza ingerenza da parte dei pubblici poteri, in quei campi della vita spirituale ed economica, entro i quali si spiega, si esprime, si rafforza la personalità di ciascuno. Attraverso la libertà politica, che è il diritto di partecipare direttamente o indirettamente alla formazione delle leggi, viene riconosciuto al cittadino il potere di contribuire alle scelte politiche che determinano l' orientamento del governo, e di discutere e magari di modificare le scelte politiche fatte da altri, in modo che il potere politico perda il carattere odioso di oppressione dall' alto. Inoltre, oggi siamo convinti che libertà civile e libertà politica siano nomi vani qualora non vengano integrate dalla libertà sociale, che sola può dare al cittadino un potere effettivo e non solo astratto o formale, e gli consente di soddisfare i propri bisogni fondamentali e di sviluppare le proprie capacità naturali.

Queste tre libertà sono l' espressione di una compiuta concezione della vita e della storia, della più alta e umanamente più ricca concezione della vita e della storia che gli uomini abbiano creato nel corso dei secoli. Dietro la libertà civile c' è il riconoscimento dell' uomo come persona, e quindi il principio che società giusta è soltanto quella in cui il potere dello stato ha dei limiti ben stabiliti e invalicabili, e ogni abuso di potere può essere legittimamente, cioè con mezzi giuridici, respinto, e vi domina lo spirito del dialogo, il metodo della persuasione contro ogni forma di dogmatismo delle idee, di fanatismo, di oppressione spirituale, di violenza fisica e morale. Dietro la libertà politica c' è l' idea della fondamentale eguaglianza degli uomini di fronte al potere politico, il principio che dinanzi al compito di governare, essenziale per la sopravvivenza stessa e per lo sviluppo della società umana, non vi sono eletti e reprobi, governanti e governati per destinazione, potenti incontrollati e servi rassegnati, classi inferiori e classi superiori, ma tutti possono essere, a volta a volta, governanti o governati, e gli uni e gli altri si avvicendano secondo gli eventi, gli interessi, le ideologie. Infine, dietro la libertà sociale c' è il principio, tardi e faticosamente apparso, ma non più rifiutabile, che gli uomini contano, devono contare, non per quello che hanno, ma per quello che fanno, e il lavoro, non la proprietà, il contributo effettivo che ciascuno può dare secondo le proprie capacità allo sviluppo sociale, e non il possesso che ciascuno detiene senza merito o in misura non proporzionata al merito, costituisce la dignità civile dell' uomo in società.

Una democrazia ha bisogno, certo, di istituzioni adatte, ma non vive se queste istituzioni non sono alimentate da saldi principi. Là dove i principi che hanno ispirato le istituzioni perdono vigore negli animi, anche le istituzioni decadono, diventano, prima, vuoti scheletri, e rischiano poi al primo urto di finire in polvere. Se oggi c' è un problema della democrazia in Italia, è più un problema di principi che di istituzioni. A dieci anni dalla promulgazione della costituzione possiamo dire che le principali istituzioni per il funzionamento di uno stato democratico esistono. Ma possiamo dire con altrettanta sicurezza che i principi delle democrazia siano diventati parte viva del nostro costume?

Non posso non esprimere su questo punto qualche apprensione. Il cammino della democrazia non è un cammino facile. Per questo bisogna essere continuamente vigilanti, non rassegnarsi al peggio, ma neppure abbandonarsi ad una tranquilla fiducia nelle sorti fatalmente progressive dell' umanità. Oggi non crediamo, come credevano i liberali, i democratici, i socialisti al principio del secolo, che la democrazia sia un cammino fatale. Io appartengo alla generazione che ha appreso dalla Resistenza europea qual somma di sofferenze sia stata necessaria per restituire l' Europa alla vita civile.

La differenza tra la mia generazione e quella dei nostri padri è che loro erano democratici ottimisti. Noi siamo, dobbiamo essere, democratici sempre in allarme.”

(da un post su Facebook del prof. Riccardo Bellofiore, che ringrazio.)

by Juan Carlos De Martin at June 02, 2018 09:48 AM

danah boyd
The case for quarantining extremist ideas

(Joan Donovan and I wrote the following op-ed for The Guardian.) 

When confronted with white supremacists, newspaper editors should consider ‘strategic silence’

kkk
 ‘The KKK of the 1920s considered media coverage their most effective recruitment tactic.’ Photograph: Library of Congress

George Lincoln Rockwell, the head of the American Nazi party, had a simple media strategy in the 1960s. He wrote in his autobiography: “Only by forcing the Jews to spread our message with their facilities could we have any hope of success in counteracting their left-wing, racemixing propaganda!”

Campus by campus, from Harvard to Brown to Columbia, he would use the violence of his ideas and brawn of his followers to become headline news. To compel media coverage, Rockwell needed: “(1) A smashing, dramatic approach which could not be ignored, without exposing the most blatant press censorship, and (2) a super-tough, hard-core of young fighting men to enable such a dramatic presentation to the public.” He understood what other groups competing for media attention knew too well: a movement could only be successful if the media amplified their message.

Contemporary Jewish community groups challenged journalists to consider not covering white supremacists’ ideas. They called this strategy “quarantine”, and it involved working with community organizations to minimize public confrontations and provide local journalists with enough context to understand why the American Nazi party was not newsworthy.

In regions where quarantine was deployed successfully, violence remained minimal and Rockwell was unable to recruit new party members. The press in those areas was aware that amplification served the agenda of the American Nazi party, so informed journalists employed strategic silence to reduce public harm.

The Media Manipulation research initiative at the Data & Society institute is concerned precisely with the legacy of this battle in discourse and the way that modern extremists undermine journalists and set media agendas. Media has always had the ability to publish or amplify particular voices, perspectives and incidents. In choosing stories and voices they will or will not prioritize, editors weigh the benefits and costs of coverage against potential social consequences. In doing so, they help create broader societal values. We call this willingness to avoid amplifying extremist messages “strategic silence”.

Editors used to engage in strategic silence – set agendas, omit extremist ideas and manage voices – without knowing they were doing so. Yet the online context has enhanced extremists’ abilities to create controversies, prompting newsrooms to justify covering their spectacles. Because competition for audience is increasingly fierce and financially consequential, longstanding newsroom norms have come undone. We believe that journalists do not rebuild reputation through a race to the bottom. Rather, we think that it’s imperative that newsrooms actively take the high ground and re-embrace strategic silence in order to defy extremists’ platforms for spreading hate.

Strategic silence is not a new idea. The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s considered media coverage their most effective recruitment tactic and accordingly cultivated friendly journalists. According to Felix Harcourt, thousands of readers joined the KKK after the New York World ran a three-week chronicle of the group in 1921. Catholic, Jewish and black presses of the 1920s consciously differed from Protestant-owned mainstream papers in their coverage of the Klan, conspicuously avoiding giving the group unnecessary attention. The black press called this use of editorial discretion in the public interest “dignified silence”, and limited their reporting to KKK follies, such as canceled parades, rejected donations and resignations. Some mainstream journalists also grew suspicious of the KKK’s attempts to bait them with camera-ready spectacles. Eventually coverage declined.

The KKK was so intent on getting the coverage they sought that they threatened violence and white boycotts of advertisers. Knowing they could bait coverage with violence, white vigilante groups of the 1960s staged cross burnings and engaged in high-profile murders and church bombings. Civil rights protesters countered white violence with black stillness, especially during lunch counter sit-ins. Journalists and editors had to make moral choices of which voices to privilege, and they chose those of peace and justice, championing stories of black resilience and shutting out white extremism. This was strategic silence in action, and it saved lives.

The emphasis of strategic silence must be placed on the strategic over the silencing. Every story requires a choice and the recent turn toward providing equal coverage to dangerous, antisocial opinions requires acknowledging the suffering that such reporting causes. Even attempts to cover extremism critically can result in the media disseminating the methods that hate groups aim to spread, such as when Virginia’s Westmoreland News reproduced in full a local KKK recruitment flier on its front page. Media outlets who cannot argue that their reporting benefits the goal of a just and ethical society must opt for silence.

Newsrooms must understand that even with the best of intentions, they can find themselves being used by extremists. By contrast, they must also understand they have the power to defy the goals of hate groups by optimizing for core American values of equality, respect and civil discourse. All Americans have the right to speak their minds, but not every person deserves to have their opinions amplified, particularly when their goals are to sow violence, hatred and chaos.

If telling stories didn’t change lives, journalists would never have started in their careers. We know that words matter and that coverage makes a difference. In this era of increasing violence and extremism, we appeal to editors to choose strategic silence over publishing stories that fuel the radicalization of their readers.

(Visit the original version at The Guardian to read the comments and help support their organization, as a sign of appreciation for their willingness to publish our work.)

by zephoria at June 02, 2018 01:39 AM

June 01, 2018

Justin Reich
From Final Exam to Defense of Learning
Instead of regurgitating information on a summative exam, what if students had to defend their understanding of a body of knowledge.

by Beth Holland at June 01, 2018 03:38 PM

May 30, 2018

Ethan Zuckerman
Six or Seven Things Social Media Can Do For Democracy

Social media doesn’t work the way we think it should. That’s the conclusion many people have come to in the wake of revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s mining of Facebook data to build political profiles and sway elections. Perhaps the concerns go further back, to the election of a US president in 2016 who seems fueled by social media, the more polarizing and divisive the better. Or perhaps it was Brexit that broke you. Or a gunman “self-investigating” the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor, spurious accusations of crisis actors at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and the amazingly inventive web of conspiracies the internet seems to engender. The cyberutopians have retreated, the creators of the modern internet are doing penance and we’re all social media critics now.


Photo by Tim Green, Flickr

Those critics include (suddenly) self-reflective executives at social media platforms, who are desperate for ideas on how their tools can return to society’s good graces. Having learned that platforms manage to metrics, making business decisions to maximize revenues, pageviews or engagement, there’s a new urgency to create a metric that will give us better social media, tools less likely to isolate, polarize and radicalize us. Tristan Harris has preached the gospel of Time Well Spent to newly receptive audiences at Facebook. At Cortico, my MIT colleague Deb Roy is working to define measures of healthy online communities, so Twitter and other platforms can optimize to encourage these behaviors.

These are worthy projects, and I am following both with optimism and interest. But I am concerned that we’ve not had a robust conversation about what we want social media to do for us.

We know what social media does for platform companies like Facebook and Twitter: it generates enormous masses of user-generated content that can be monetized with advertising, and reams of behavioral data that make that advertising more valuable. Perhaps we have a sense for what social media does for us as individuals, connecting us to distant friends, helping us maintain a lightweight awareness of each other’s lives even when we are not co-present. Or perhaps it’s a machine for disappointment and envy, a window into lives better lived than our own. It’s likely that what social media does for us personally is a deeply idiosyncratic question, dependent on our own lives, psyches and decisions, better discussed with our therapists than spoken about in generalities.

I’m interested in what social media should do for us as citizens in a democracy. We talk about social media as a digital public sphere, invoking Habermas and coffeehouses frequented by the bourgeoisie. Before we ask whether the internet succeeds as a public sphere, we ought to ask whether that’s actually what we want it to be.

I take my lead here from journalism scholar Michael Schudson, who took issue with a hyperbolic statement made by media critic James Carey: “journalism as a practice is unthinkable except in the context of democracy; in fact, journalism is usefully understood as another name for democracy.” For Schudson, this was a step too far. Journalism may be necessary for democracy to function well, but journalism by itself is not democracy and cannot produce democracy. Instead, we should work to understand the “Six or Seven Things News Can Do for Democracy”, the title of an incisive essay Schudson wrote to anchor his book, Why Democracies Need an Unloveable Press.

The six things Schudson sees news currently doing for democracy are presented in order of their frequency – as a result, the first three functions Schudson sees are straightforward and unsurprising. The news informs us about events, locally and globally, that we need to know about as citizens. The news investigates issues that are not immediately obvious, doing the hard work of excavating truths that someone did not want told. News provides analysis, knitting reported facts into complex possible narratives of significance and direction.

Schudson wades into deeper waters with the next three functions. News can serve as a public forum, allowing citizens to raise their voices through letters to the editor, op-eds and (when they’re still permitted) through comments. The news can serve as a tool for social empathy, helping us feel the importance of social issues through careful storytelling, appealing to our hearts as well as our heads. Controversially, Schudson argues, news can be a force for mobilization, urging readers to take action, voting, marching, protesting, boycotting, or using any of the other tools we have access to as citizens.

His essay closes with a seventh role that Schudson believes the news should fill, even if it has yet to embrace it. The news can be a force for the promotion of representative democracy. For Schudson, this includes the idea of protecting minority rights against the excesses of populism, and he sees a possible role for journalists in ensuring that these key protections remain in force.

This is perhaps not an exhaustive list, nor is the news required to do all that Schudson believes it can do. Neither does the list include things that the news tries to do that aren’t necessarily connected to democracy, like providing an advertising platform for local businesses, providing revenue for publishers, or entertaining audiences. And Schudson acknowledges that these functions can come into conflict – the more a news organization engages in mobilization, the more likely it is that it will compromise their ability to inform impartially.

In this same spirit, I’d like to suggest six or seven things social media can do for democracy. I am neither as learned or as wise as Schudson, so I fully expect readers to offer half a dozen functions that I’ve missed. In the spirit of Schudson’s public forum and Benkler’s digital public sphere, I offer these in the hopes of starting, not ending, a conversation.

Social media can inform us.

Many of us have heard the statistic that a majority of young people see Facebook as a primary source for news, and virtually every newsroom now considers Facebook as an important distributor of their content (sometimes to their peril.) But that’s not what’s most important in considering social media as a tool for democracy. Because social media is participatory, it is a tool people use to create and share information with friends and family, and potentially the wider world. Usually this information is of interest only to a few people – it’s what you had for lunch, or the antics of the squirrel in your backyard. But sometimes the news you see is of intense importance to the rest of the world.

When protesters took to the streets of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, they were visible to the world through Facebook even though the Tunisian government had prevented journalists from coming to the town. Videos from Facebook made their way to Al Jazeera through Tunisian activists in the diaspora, and Al Jazeera rebroadcast footage, helping spread the protests to Tunis and beyond. The importance of social media in informing us is that it provides a channel for those excluded by the news – whether through censorship, as in Tunisia, or through disinterest or ignorance – to have their voices and issues heard.

Places don’t need to be as far away as Tunisia for social media to be a conduit for information – when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, many people learned of his death, the protests that unfolded in the wake, and the militarized response to those protests, via Twitter. (And as news reporters were arrested for covering events in Ferguson, they turned to Twitter to share news of their own detention.) Social media is critically important in giving voice to communities who’ve been systemically excluded from media – people of color, women, LGBTQIA people, poor people. By giving people a chance to share their under-covered perspectives with broadcast media, social media has a possible role in making the media ecosystem more inclusive and fair.

Finally, social media may be in helping replace or augment local information, as people connect directly with their children’s schools or with community organizations. This function is increasingly important as local newspapers shed staff or close altogether, as social media may become the primary conduit for local information.

Social media can amplify important voices and issues.

In traditional (broadcast or newspaper) media, editors decide what topics are worth the readers’ attention. This “agenda setting” function has enormous political importance – as Max McCombs and Donald Shaw observed in 1972, the news doesn’t tell us what to think, but it’s very good at telling us what to think about.

That agenda-setting power takes a different shape in the era of social media. Instead of a linear process from an editor’s desk through a reporter to the paper on your front porch, social media works with news media through a set of feedback loops. Readers make stories more visible by sharing them on social media (and help ensure invisibility by failing to share stories). Editors and writers respond to sharing as a signal of popularity and interest, and will often write more stories to capitalize on this interest. Readers may respond to stories by becoming authors, injecting their stories into the mix and competing with professional stories for attention and amplification.

Amplification has become a new form of exercising political power. In 2012, we watched Invisible Children use a carefully crafted campaign, built around a manipulative video and a strategy of sharing the video with online influencers. Within an few days, roughly half of American young people had seen the video, and US funding for the Ugandan military – the goal of the campaign – was being supported by powerful people in the US Congress and military. (That the organization’s director had a nervous breakdown, leading to the group’s implosion, was not a coincidence – Invisible Children managed to amplify an issue to a level of visibility where powerful backlash was inevitable.)

Amplification works within much smaller circles that those surrounding US foreign policy. By sharing content with small personal networks on social media, individuals signal the issues they see as most important and engage in a constant process of self-definition. In the process, they advocate for friends to pay attention to these issues as well. Essentially, social media provides an efficient mechanism for the two-step flow of communication, documented by Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz, to unfold online. We are less influenced by mass media than we are by opinion leaders, who share their opinions about mass media. Social media invites all of us to become opinion leaders, at least for our circles of friends, and makes the process entertaining, gamifying our role as influencers by rewarding us with up to the second numbers on how our tweets and posts have been liked and shared by our friends.

Social media can be a tool for connection and solidarity.

The pre-web internet of the 1980s and 1990s was organized around topics of interest, rather than offline friendships, as social networks like Facebook organize. Some of the most long-lasting communities that emerged from the Usenet era of the internet were communities of interest that connected people who had a hard time finding each other offline: young people questioning their sexuality, religious and ethnic minorities, people with esoteric or specialized interests. The spirit of the community of interest and identity continued through Scott Hefferman’s meetup.com, which helped poodle owners or Bernie supporters in Des Moines find each other, and now surfaces again in Facebook Groups, semi-private spaces designed to allow people to connect with likeminded individuals in safe, restricted spaces.

Social critics, notably Robert Putnam, have worried that the internet is undermining our sense of community and lessening people’s abilities to engage in civic behavior. Another possibility is that we’re forming new bonds of solidarity based on shared interests than on shared geographies. I think of Jen Brea, whose academic career at Harvard was cut short by myalgic encephalomyelitis, who used the internet to build an online community of fellow disease sufferers, a powerful documentary film that premiered at Sundance, and a powerful campaign calling attention to the ways diseases that disproportionately affect women are systemically misdiagnosed. Brea’s disease makes it difficult for her to connect with her local, physical community, but social media has made it possible to build a powerful community of interest that is working on helping people live with their disease.

One of the major worries voiced about social media is the ways in which it can increase political polarization. Communities of solidarity can both exacerbate and combat that problem. We may end up more firmly rooted in our existing opinions, or we may create a new set of weak ties to people who we may disagree with in terms of traditional political categories, but with whom we share powerful bonds around shared interests, identities and struggles.

Social media can be a space for mobilization

The power of social media to raise money for candidates, recruit people to participate in marches and rallies, to organize boycotts of products or the overthrow of governments is one of the best-documented – and most debated – powers of social media. From Clay Shirky’s examination of group formation and mobilization in Here Comes Everybody to endless analyses of the power of Facebook and Twitter in mobilizing youth in Tahrir Square or Gezi Park, including Zeynep Tufekçi’s Twitter and Tear Gas, the power of social media to both recruit people to social movements and to organize actions offline has been well documented. It’s also been heartily critiqued, from Malcolm Gladwell, who believes that online connections can never be as powerful as real-world strong ties for leading people to protest, or by thinkers like Tufekçi, who readily admit that the ease of mobilizing people online is an Achille’s heel, teaching leaders like Erdogan to discount the importance of citizens protesting in the streets.

It’s worth noting that mobilization online does not have to lead to offline action to be effective. A wave of campaigns like Sleeping Giants, which has urged advertisers to pull support from Breitbart, or #metoo, where tens of thousands of women have demonstrated that sexual harassment is a pervasive condition, not just the product of a few Harvey Weinsteins, have connected primarily online action to real-world change. What’s increasingly clear is that online mobilization – like amplification – is simply a tool in the contemporary civic toolkit, alongsite more traditional forms of organizing.

Social media can be a space for deliberation and debate.

Perhaps no promise of social media has been more disappointing than hope that social media would provide the public forum function Schudson celebrated. Newspapers began experimenting with participatory media through open comments fora, and quickly discovered that online discourse was often mean, petty, superficial and worth ignoring. Moving debate from often anonymous comment sections onto real-name social networks like Facebook had less of a mediating effect that many hoped. While conversations less often devolve into insults and shouting, everyone who’s shared political news online has had the experience of a friend or family member ending an online friendship over controversial content. It’s likely that the increasing popularity of closed online spaces, like Facebook groups, has to do with the unwillingness of people to engage in civil deliberation and debate, and the hope that people can find affirmation and support for their views rather than experiencing conflict and tension.

Yet it is possible to create spaces for deliberation and debate within social media. Wael Ghonim was the organizer of the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page, one of the major groups that mobilized “Tahrir youth” to stand up to the Mubarak regime, leading to the most dramatic changes to come out of the Arab Spring. After the revolution, Ghonim was deeply involved with democratic organizing in Egypt. He became frustrated with Facebook, which was an excellent platform for rallying people and harnessing anger, but far less effective in enabling nuanced debate about political futures. Ghonim went on to build his own social network, Parlio, which focused on civility and respectful debate, featuring dialogs with intellectuals and political leaders rather than updates on what participants were eating for lunch or watching on TV. The network had difficulty scaling, but was acquired by Quora, the question-answering social network, which was attracted to Parlio’s work in building high-value conversations that went beyond questions and answers.

Parlio suggests that the dynamics of social networks as we understand them have to do with the choices made by their founders and governing team. Facebook and Twitter can be such unpleasant places because strong emotions lead to high engagement, and engagement sells ads. Engineer a different social network around different principles, and it’s possible that the deliberation and debate we might hope from a digital public sphere could happen within a platform.

Social media can be a tool for showing us a diversity of views and perspectives.

If the idea of social media as a space for deliberation and polite dialog doesn’t convince you that I’ve been replaced with a cyberutopian dopplegänger of myself, this assertion might. I wrote a book, Rewire, that argues that social media tends to reinforce homophily, the tendency of birds of a feather to flock together. Given the apparent track record of social media as a space where ethnonationalism and racism thrive, is it reasonable to hope for social media to operate as a tool for increasing diversity of views and exposure to alternative perspectives.

Yes, but not without conscious intervention to help social networks operate differently than they do now. Contemporary social networks have an enormous amount of potential diversity, but very little manifest diversity. In theory, you can connect with 2 billion people from virtually every country in the world on Facebook. In practice, you connect with a few hundred people you know offline, who tend to share your national origin, race, religion and politics. But a social network that focused explicitly on broadening your perspectives would have a tremendous foundation to build upon: networks like Facebook know a great deal about who you already pay attention to, and have a deep well of alternative content to draw from. Projects like FlipFeed from MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines and gobo.social from my group at the MIT Media Lab explicitly re-engineer your social media feeds to encourage encounters with a more diverse set of perspectives. If a network like Twitter or Facebook concluded that increased diversity was a worthy metric to manage to, there’s dozens of ways to accomplish the goal, and rich questions to be solved in combining increased diversity with a user’s interests to accomplish serendipity, rather than increased randomness.

Schudson’s suggestion that news could promote representative democracy was intended as a challenge to news organizations to take their democratic responsibilities more seriously. I offer my seventh suggestion for social media in the same spirit.

Social media can be a model for democratically governed spaces.

Users in social networks like Twitter and Facebook have little control over how those networks are governed, despite the great value they collectively create for platform owners. This disparity has led Rebecca MacKinnon to call for platform owners to seek Consent of the Networked, and Trebor Scholz to call us to recognize participation in social networks as Digital Labor. But some platforms have done more than others to engage their communities in governance.

Reddit is the fourth most popular site on the US internet and sixth most popular site worldwide, as measured by Alexa Internet, and is a daily destination for at least 250 million users. The site is organized into thousands of “subreddits”, each managed by a team of uncompensated, volunteer moderators, who determine what content is allowable in each community. The result is a wildly diverse set of conversations, ranging from insightful conversations about science and politics in some communities, to ugly, racist, misogynistic, hateful speech in others. The difference in outcomes in those communities comes in large part to differences in governance and to the partipants each community attracts.

Some Reddit communities have begun working with scholars to examine scientifically how they could govern their communities more effectively. /r/science, a community of 18 million subscribers and over a thousand volunteer moderators, has worked with communications scholar Nathan Matias to experiment with ways of enforcing their rules to maximize positive discussions and throw out fewer rulebreakers. The ability to experiment with different rules in different parts of a site and to study what rulesets best enable what kinds of conversations could have benefits for supporters of participatory democracy offline as well as online.

It’s fair to point out that the social media platforms we use today don’t fulfill all these functions. Few have taken steps to increase the diversity of opinions users are exposed to, and though many have tried to encourage civil discourse, very few have succeeded. It’s likely that some of these goals are incompatible with current ad supported business models. Political polarization and name-calling may well generate more pageviews than diversity and civil deliberation.

Second, as Schudson observed about the possible functions for media, these democratic functions for social media may be mutually incompatible. It’s likely that the communities that favor solidarity and subgroup identity, or turn that identity into mobilization, aren’t the best ones to support efforts for diversity or for dialog. The ways in which different networks may be necessary to accomplish multiple democratic goals points to the fact that we may not need One Network to Rule Them All, so much as we may need a diversity of networks for different purposes. The place where I swap war stories about continuous glucose monitors with fellow type 1 diabetics may not be the place I argue politics – and it may be a massive mistake to collapse those communities and functions into the same platform

Finally, it’s also fair to note that there’s a dark side to every democratic function I’ve listed. The tools that allow marginalized people to report their news and influence media are the same ones that allow fake news to be injected into the media ecosystem. Amplification is a technique used by everyone from Black Lives Matter to neo-Nazis, as is mobilization, and the spaces for solidarity that allow Jen Brea to manage her disease allow “incels” to push each other towards violence. While I feel comfortable advocating for respectful dialog and diverse points of view, someone will see my advocacy as an attempt to push politically correct multiculturalism down their throat, or to silence the exclusive truth of their perspectives through dialog. The bad news is that making social media work better for democracy likely means making it work better for the Nazis as well. The good news is that there’s a lot more participatory democrats than there are Nazis.

My aim in putting forward seven things social media could do for democracy is two-fold. As we demand that Facebook, Twitter and others do better – and we should – we need to know what we’re asking for. I want Facebook to be more respectful of my personal information, more dedicated to helping me connect with my friends than marketing me to advertisers, but I also want them to be thinking about which of these democratic goals they hope to achieve. Second, I don’t believe we should have only one or two social media networks. My hope is a world where we could have dozens of interoperable social networks focused on different goals and purposes. When I’ve proposed publicly-funded social media networks, it’s not because I believe taxpayers should pay for a replacement for Facebook. It’s because I think we need networks that take seriously problems like deliberation and diversity, and I don’t yet see those projects emerging from the market.

In suggesting the roles news has within a democracy, Michael Schudson had the support of Thomas Jefferson, who declared that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”. There’s no guarantee that our founders would have embraced social media as a critical pillar of democracy – though I’ve made the case that Franklin, at least, would have found it very familiar. But if our response to the shortcomings of contemporary social media is to move beyond the idea that we should burn it all down, it’s critical that we ask what social media can do for democracy and demand that it play its part.


As I mentioned early in this essay, I’m unconvinced that I’ve identified the correct seven functions for social media in a democracy, or that there’s six or seven. And while I have the intuition that our democracies are better with social media than without them, I’m interested in all arguments, including the argument to burn it all down. I hope you’ll take advantage of participatory media as a space for dialog to offer your thoughts in the comments on this, or in your own writing elsewhere online. Thanks for reading and engaging.

by Ethan at May 30, 2018 03:20 PM

May 29, 2018

MediaBerkman
How Social Network Manipulation Tactics Are Impacting Amazon & Influencing Consumers
Narrative manipulation issues - such as manufactured consensus, brigading, harassment, information laundering, fake accounts, news voids, and more - are increasingly well-documented problems affecting the entire social ecosystem.This has had negative consequences for information integrity, and for trust. In this talk Renee DiResta (Director of Research at New Knowledge, and Head of Policy at nonprofit Data for Democracy) examines the ways that these same manipulative tactics are being deployed on Amazon, which is now the dominant product search engine and a battlefield for economically and ideologically motivated actors. For more info on this event visit: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2018/luncheon/05/DiResta

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 29, 2018 06:44 PM

May 23, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
Natural experiment showing how “wide walls” can support engagement and learning

Seymour Papert is credited as saying that tools to support learning should have “high ceilings” and “low floors.” The phrase is meant to suggest that tools should allow learners to do complex and intellectually sophisticated things but should also be easy to begin using quickly. Mitchel Resnick extended the metaphor to argue that learning toolkits should also have “wide walls” in that they should appeal to diverse groups of learners and allow for a broad variety of creative outcomes. In a new paper, Sayamindu Dasgupta and I attempted to provide an empirical test of Resnick’s wide walls theory. Using a natural experiment in the Scratch online community, we found causal evidence that “widening walls” can, as Resnick suggested, increase both engagement and learning.

Over the last ten years, the “wide walls” design principle has been widely cited in the design of new systems. For example, Resnick and his collaborators relied heavily on the principle in the design of the Scratch programming language. Scratch allows young learners to produce not only games, but also interactive art, music videos, greetings card, stories, and much more. As part of that team, Sayamindu was guided by “wide walls” principle when he designed and implemented the Scratch cloud variables system in 2011-2012.

While designing the system, Sayamindu hoped to “widen walls” by supporting a broader range of ways to use variables and data structures in Scratch. Scratch cloud variables extend the affordances of the normal Scratch variable by adding persistence and shared-ness. A simple example of something possible with cloud variables, but not without them, is a global high-score leaderboard in a game (example code is below). After the system was launched, we saw many young Scratch users using the system to engage with data structures in new and incredibly creative ways.

cloud-variable-scriptExample of Scratch code that uses a cloud variable to keep track of high-scores among all players of a game.

Although these examples reflected powerful anecdotal evidence, we were also interested in using quantitative data to reflect the causal effect of the system. Understanding the causal effect of a new design in real world settings is a major challenge. To do so, we took advantage of a “natural experiment” and some clever techniques from econometrics to measure how learners’ behavior changed when they were given access to a wider design space.

Understanding the design of our study requires understanding a little bit about how access to the Scratch cloud variable system is granted. Although the system has been accessible to Scratch users since 2013, new Scratch users do not get access immediately. They are granted access only after a certain amount of time and activity on the website (the specific criteria are not public). Our “experiment” involved a sudden change in policy that altered the criteria for who gets access to the cloud variable feature. Through no act of their own, more than 14,000 users were given access to feature, literally overnight. We looked at these Scratch users immediately before and after the policy change to estimate the effect of access to the broader design space that cloud variables afforded.

We found that use of data-related features was, as predicted, increased by both access to and use of cloud variables. We also found that this increase was not only an effect of projects that use cloud variables themselves. In other words, learners with access to cloud variables—and especially those who had used it—were more likely to use “plain-old” data-structures in their projects as well.

The graph below visualizes the results of one of the statistical models in our paper and suggests that we would expect that 33% of projects by a prototypical “average” Scratch user would use data structures if the user in question had never used used cloud variables but that we would expect that 60% of projects by a similar user would if they had used the system.

Model-predicted probability that a project made by a prototypical Scratch user will contain data structures (w/o counting projects with cloud variables)

It is important to note that the estimated effective above is a “local average effect” among people who used the system because they were granted access by the sudden change in policy (this is a subtle but important point that we explain this in some depth in the paper). Although we urge care and skepticism in interpreting our numbers, we believe our results are encouraging evidence in support of the “wide walls” design principle.

Of course, our work is not without important limitations. Critically, we also found that rate of adoption of cloud variables was very low. Although it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this from the data we observed, it has been suggested that widening walls may have a potential negative side-effect of making it harder for learners to imagine what the new creative possibilities might be in the absence of targeted support and scaffolding. Also important to remember is that our study measures “wide walls” in a specific way in a specific context and that it is hard to know how well our findings will generalize to other contexts and communities. We discuss these caveats, as well as our methods, models, and theoretical background in detail in our paper which now available for download as an open-access piece from the ACM digital library.


This blog post, and the open access paper that it describes, is a collaborative project with Sayamindu Dasgupta. Financial support came from the eScience Institute and the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. Quantitative analyses for this project were completed using the Hyak high performance computing cluster at the University of Washington.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at May 23, 2018 04:17 PM

May 17, 2018

Berkman Center front page
20 years of the Laws of Cyberspace

Subtitle

Berkman Klein event celebrates how Lawrence Lessig's groundbreaking paper provided structure to the Center's field of study

Teaser

It’s been two decades since Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig published “The Laws Of Cyberspace,” which, in the words of Professor Jonathan Zittrain, “imposed some structure over the creative chaos of what maybe was a field that we’d call cyberlaw.”

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What if an architecture emerges that permits constant monitoring; an architecture that facilitates the constant tracking of behavior and movement. What if an architecture emerged that would costlessly collect data about individuals, about their behavior, about who they wanted to become. And what if the architecture could do that invisibly, without interfering with an individual’s daily life at all? … This architecture is the world that the net is becoming. This is the picture of control it is growing into. As in real space, we will have passports in cyberspace. As in real space, these passports can be used to track our behavior. But in cyberspace, unlike real space, this monitoring, this tracking, this control of behavior, will all be much less expensive. This control will occur in the background, effectively and invisibly. -Lawrence Lessig, "The Laws of Cyberspace," 1998

It’s been two decades since Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig published “The Laws Of Cyberspace,” which, in the words of Professor Jonathan Zittrain, “imposed some structure over the creative chaos of what maybe was a field that we’d call cyberlaw.” Lessig’s groundbreaking paper describes four types of constraints that together regulate behavior – law, social norms, the market, and architecture – and argues that due to its special architecture, cyberspace is different from “real” space and thus subject to new possibilities for control by governments and other centers of power. “The world we are entering is not a world where freedom is assured,” Lessig wrote in 1998, but instead, “has the potential to be the most fully, and extensively, regulated space in our history.”

On April 16, the Berkman Klein Center of Internet & Society hosted a special event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the publication of “The Laws of Cyberspace,” with Lessig, Harvard Law School Professors Ruth Okediji and Jonathan Zittrain, and Dr. Laura DeNardis of American University. The panelists reflected on the paper, and where the field of cyberlaw has taken us over the last two decades, and they considered how some of the concerns raised in 1998 might apply today.

“I was sitting on that bench outside the Lewis building,” recollected Okediji of the day 20 years ago when she first read the paper, “and I will never forget both my sense of sheer terror that we were launching something that we had no idea where it would lead us, and then this sense of skepticism: ‘Well, how does he know he’s right?’” She explained that “The Laws of Cyberspace” led to her own work thinking about internet governance, social interaction on the net and the law. “It’s been 20 years, and Larry was right,” she said.

Lessig told the audience that the paper came in part out of a feeling of frustration. He feared that many internet enthusiasts were taking for granted that the freedom the internet allowed in 1998 was the freedom it would always allow, and he wanted to make the point that the regulability of place is a function of its architecture and thus not guaranteed. Without deliberate interventions, the lack of regulation that so many cherished in the early days of the internet could slip away.

“The architecture of the internet as it originally was made it really hard to regulate, but you might imagine the technology evolving to persistently watch everything you’re doing and enable simple traceability,” he said. “All of these evolutions in the architecture increase the regulability of the space, and then we’d need to decide, ‘Do we like that? Do we want that?’”

Lessig explained that even in 1998, governments and private markets seemed to be interested in increasing regulability and the ability to track what people were doing for the purposes of commerce and control.

“Arrangements of technical architecture are arrangements of power,” explained DeNardis. “This often has nothing to do with governments whatsoever.” For example, the World Wide Web Consortium designs accessibility for disabled people into their protocols, she said, which is an example of how technical architecture is determining public interest issues. DeNardis said that often it’s hard for people without a technical background to be involved in decisions like these, but that there’s currently a surge of people from beyond the technical sphere showing interest in participating in the decisions that shape our experience online and affect issues like identity and privacy. However, she said, this increase in public participation coincides with the proliferation of proprietary standards coming out of closed organizations such as the Internet of Things and social media platforms.

Lessig added that as the space of innovation moves into “islands of innovation,” such as the large tech platforms like Google and Facebook, the generativity of innovations become contingent on each platform’s permission, creating the potential scenario where someone would choose not to create something for fear that the company would “pull the rug out.” This is an example of “how technical change and legal ownership work together to change the basic opportunity to innovate,” he said.

DeNardis made the point that while certain platforms might be islands in terms of interoperability, they are tied together in the backend by the third parties that collect and aggregate data about us. It’s important to look below the surface, she said. “That’s where a lot of the power is. The power to do things like censor LGBT people, the power to restrict people based on architecture-embedded intellectual property rights, and the power to monetize us through big data that’s aggregated with companies we’ve never even signed terms of service with.”

Okediji noted that there’s been little innovation in contract law when it comes to technology. “It’s not just that we’re missing the mark in the area of cyberspace. The regimes that surround cyberspace also have not received the attention they should,” she said, suggesting that the rules and norms around what makes a contract and the practice of “signing away all these rights with a click” might not be ideal.

“What troubles me quite significantly is that we have this 911 mentality when it comes to policy,” said Okediji. “Avoiding something in the future requires us to be thinking about it today, not tomorrow when the problem occurs.”  Rather than dealing with problems only as they come up, she said, we need to ask ourselves ‘What’s the vision for what cyberspace should look like 20 years from now?’”

This article originally appeared in Harvard Law Today.

 

by gweber at May 17, 2018 03:16 PM

ProjectVRM
Our time has come

For the first time since we launched ProjectVRM, we have a wave we can ride to a shore.

That wave is the GDPR: Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. Here’s how it looks to Google Trends:

It crests just eight days from now, on May 25th.

To prep for the GDPR (and to avoid its potentially massive fines), organizations everywhere are working like crazy to get ready, especially in Europe. (Note: the GDPR protects the privacy of EU citizens, and applies worldwide.)

Thanks to the GDPR, there’s a stink on surveillance capitalism, and companies everywhere that once feasted on big data are now going on starvation diets.

Here’s one measure of that wave: my post “GDPR will pop the adtech bubble” got more than 50,000 after it went up during the weekend, when it also hit #1 on Hacker News and Techmeme. And this Hacker News comment thread about the piece is more than 30,000 words long. So far.

The GDPR dominates all conversations here at KuppingerCole‘s EIC conference in Munich where my keynote Tuesday was titled How Customers Will Lead Companies to GDPR Compliance and Beyond. (The video is up, alas behind a registration wall. I’ll see if we can fix that.)

Ten years ago at this same conference, KuppingerCole gaveEIC award ProjectVRM an award (there on the right) that was way ahead of its time.

Back then we really thought the world was ready for tools that would make individuals both independent and better able to engage—and that these tools that would prove a thesis: that free customers are more valuable than captive ones.

But then social media happened, and platforms grew so big and powerful that it was hard to keep imagining a world online where each of us are truly free.

But we did more than imagine. We worked on customertech that would vastly increase personal agency for each of us, and turn the marketplace into a Marvel-like universe in which all of us are enhanced:

In this liberated marketplace, we would be able to

  1. Make companies agree to our terms, rather than the other way around.
  2. Control our own self-sovereign identities, and manage all the ways we are known to the administrative systems of the world. This means we will be able to —
  3. Get rid of logins and passwords, so we are simply known to others we grace with that privilege. Which we can also withdraw.
  4. Change our email or our home address in the records of every company we deal with, in one move.
  5. Pay what we want, where we want, for whatever we want, in our own ways.
  6. Call for service or support in one simple and straightforward way of our own, rather than in as many ways as there are 800 numbers to call and punch numbers into a phone before we wait on hold while bad music plays.
  7. Express loyalty in our own ways, which are genuine rather than coerced.
  8. Have an Internet of MY Things, which each of us controls for ourselves, and in which every thing we own has its own cloud, which we control as well.
  9. Own and control all our health and fitness records, and how others use them.
  10. Help companies by generously sharing helpful facts about how we use their products and services — but in our own ways, through standard tools that work the same for every company we deal with.
  11. Have wallets of our own, rather than only those provided by platforms.
  12. Have shopping carts of our own, which we could take from store to store and site to site online, rather than ones provided only by the stores themselves.
  13. Have real relationships with companies, based on open standards and code, rather than relationships trapped inside corporate silos.

We’ve done a lot of work on most of those things. (Follow the links.) Now we need to work together to bring attention and interest to all our projects by getting behind what Customer Commons, our first and only spin-off, is doing over the next nine days.

First is a campaign to make an annual celebration of the GDPR, calling May 25th #Privmas.

As part of that (same link), launching a movement to take control of personal privacy online by blocking third party cookies. Hashtag #NoMore3rds. Instructions are here, for six browsers. (It’s easy. I’ve been doing it for weeks on all mine, to no ill effects.)

This is in addition to work following our Hack Day at MIT several weeks ago. Stay tuned for more on that.

Meanwhile, all hands on deck. We need more action than discussion here. Let’s finish getting started making VRM work for the world.

by Doc Searls at May 17, 2018 04:33 AM

May 15, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Shaping Consumption: How Social Network Manipulation Tactics Are Impacting Amazon and Influencing Consumers

Subtitle

featuring Renee DiResta

Teaser

This talk examines the ways that these same manipulative tactics are being deployed on Amazon, which is now the dominant product search engine and a battlefield for economically and ideologically motivated actors.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 15 2018 12:00pm to May 15 2018 12:00pm
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Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Harvard Law School campus
 


Narrative manipulation issues - such as manufactured consensus, brigading, harassment, information laundering, fake accounts, news voids, and more - are increasingly well-documented problems affecting the entire social ecosystem. This has had negative consequences for information integrity, and for trust. This talk examines the ways that these same manipulative tactics are being deployed on Amazon, which is now the dominant product search engine and a battlefield for economically and ideologically motivated actors.

About Renee

Renee DiResta is the Director of Research at New Knowledge, and Head of Policy at nonprofit Data for Democracy. Renee investigates the spread of disinformation and manipulated narratives across social networks, and assists policymakers in understanding and responding to the problem. She has advised Congress, the State Department, and other academic, civic, and business organizations about understanding and responding to computational propaganda and information operations. In 2017, Renee was named a Presidential Leadership Scholar, and had the opportunity to continue her work with the support of the Presidents Bush, President Clinton, and the LBJ Foundation. In 2018, she received a Mozilla Foundation fellowship and affiliation with the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to work on their Media, Misinformation, and Trust project. She is a Founding Advisor to the Center for Humane Technology, and a Staff Associate at Columbia University Data Science Institute.

Previously, Renee was part of the founding team of venture-backed supply chain logistics technology platform Haven, where she ran business development and marketing, and a co-founder of Vaccinate California, a parent-led grassroots legislative advocacy group. Renee has also been an investor at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV), focused on hardware and logistics startups, and an emerging markets derivatives trader at Jane Street Capital. Her work and writing have been featured in the New York Times, Politico, Slate, Wired, Fast Company, Inc., and the Economist. She is the author of the O’Reilly book “The Hardware Startup: Building Your Product, Business, and Brand”, and lives on the web at http://reneediresta.com and @noUpside.

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by candersen at May 15, 2018 05:15 PM

May 10, 2018

MediaBerkman
The Law and Ethics of Digital Piracy: Evidence from Harvard Law School Graduates
Harvard Law School is one of the top law schools in the world and educates the intellectual and financial elites. Lawyers are held to the highest professional and ethical standards. And yet, when it comes to digital piracy, they overwhelmingly perceive file sharing as an acceptable social practice – as long as individuals do not derive monetary benefits from it. So should digital files be considered a commons? In this talk, Dariusz and Jerome identify and discuss the social and economic contexts in which file sharing is considered more or less acceptable by law practitioners. In the process, they foster a conversation on the possible changes in regulation that would allow us to catch up with the established social norm. Learn more about this event here: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2018/luncheon/05/Jemielniak_Herguex

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 10, 2018 08:37 PM

Governance and Regulation in the land of Crypto-Securities (as told by CryptoKitties)
Founding members of the CryptoKitties team, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih, discuss the unique governance, legal, and regulatory challenges of putting cats on the Ethereum blockchain. CryptoKitties is an early pioneer in the space, and, having navigated securities law early on in its release, will share unique insights on classifications. They also discuss some of the more ethical challenges they've been facing, and best practices for approach. Learn more about this event here: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2018/luncheon/05/CryptoKitties

by the Berkman Klein Center at May 10, 2018 08:33 PM

Berkman Center front page
Art that Imitates Art: Computational Creativity and Creative Contracting

Subtitle

Jessica Fjeld and Mason Kortz, Cyberlaw Clinicians at Harvard Law

Teaser

Join us for our last Tuesday Luncheon of the academic year! Cyberlaw Clinicians Jess Fjeld and Mason Kortz for a discussion about copyright in AI-generated works, the need for a shared understanding of what is and isn’t up for grabs in a license, and how forward-thinking contracts can prevent AI developers and artists from having their rights decided by our (often notoriously backwards-looking) legal system.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 22 2018 12:00pm to May 22 2018 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
[NEW LOCATION] 23 Everett Street,
Second Floor Conference Room

RSVP required to attend in person
Event will be recorded and posted here soon

Complimenary Lunch Served

Computational creativity—a subdomain of artificial intelligence concerned with systems that replicate or assist human creative endeavors—has been the  subject of academic inquiry for decades. Now, with recent improvements in machine learning techniques and the rising popularity of all things AI, computational creativity is a medium for critically and commercially successful works of art. From a 2016 Rembrandt to Jukedeck’s instant music (or muzak?), AI-assisted and AI-driven works are a reality. This raises mind-bending questions about the nature of creativity, the relationship between the artist and the viewer, even the existence of free will. For many lawyers, it also raises a more immediate question: who owns all of this art?

Join Cyberlaw Clinicians Jess Fjeld and Mason Kortz for a discussion about copyright in AI-generated works, the need for a shared understanding of what is and isn’t up for grabs in a license, and how forward-thinking contracts can prevent AI developers and artists from having their rights decided by our (often notoriously backwards-looking) legal system.

About Jessica

Jessica Fjeld is a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School's Cyberlaw Clinic. She works in diverse areas including intellectual property, media and entertainment (particularly public media), freedom of expression, and law and policy relating to government and nonprofit entities. Before joining the Clinic, Jessica worked in Business & Legal Affairs for WGBH Educational Foundation, and as an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP focused in corporate transactions. She received a JD from Columbia Law School, where she was a James Kent Scholar and Managing Editor of the Journal of Law and the Arts; an MFA in Poetry from the University of Massachusetts; and a BA from Columbia University.

About Mason

Mason Kortz is a clinical instructional fellow at the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic, part of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. His areas of interest include online speech and privacy and the use of data products (big or small) to advance social justice. Mason has worked as a data manager for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a legal fellow in the Technology for Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, and a clerk in the District of Massachusetts. He has a JD from Harvard Law School and a BA in Computer Science and Philosophy from Dartmouth College. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, reading, and game design.

 

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by candersen at May 10, 2018 04:29 PM

Ethan Zuckerman
Two Bens and a Mark: a talk at Ben Franklin Hall in Philadelphia

I’m speaking today in Ben Franklin Hall in Philadelphia for a conference of Media Impact Funders. And, at the request of the organizers, I’m cosplaying the great hustler himself. My talk builds on one I gave a couple of years ago at Data & Society, but veers in some different directions as I wonder what Franklin might have told an audience of folks with money and good intentions about how to fix some of the problems of our contemporary media environment.

The event is being livestreamed here, if you’d like to tune in.


This is a talk about two Benjamins and a Mark. The first one should be obvious to you. I’m a Franklin fan, and not only because people have observed a resemblance. (Personally, I don’t see it, but whatever.)

Actually, if you’re going to have a favorite founding father, Ben Franklin is not a bad choice. He wasn’t just an inventor, a scientist, a printer and a diplomat — he was a hustler. (As the scholar P. Diddy might have put it, he was all about the Benjamin.) Ben was a businessman, an entrepreneur, and he figured out that one of the best ways to have financial and political power in the Colonies was to control the means of communication. The job he held the longest was as postmaster, starting as postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 and finally getting fired from his position as postmaster general of the Colonies in 1774, when the British finally figured out that he was a revolutionary who could not be trusted.

(You’d think this might have tipped them off – because Ben had franking privileges he could send letters for free by writing Free – B. Franklin, as he did on this note to John Hancock. But more often, he wrote B. Free Franklin, a coded message to show his support for independence.)

But free and subversive letters weren’t the only privileges Ben got from the post office. He had ample opportunities to hand out patronage jobs to his friends. But his real genius was in seeing the synergies between the family business — printing — and the post. Early in his career as a printer, Franklin bumped into one of the major challenges to publishers in the Colonies — if the postmaster didn’t like what you were writing about, you didn’t get to send your paper out to your subscribers. Once Ben had control over the post, he instituted a policy that was both progressive and profitable. Any publisher could distribute his newspaper via the post for a small, predictable, fixed fee.

What resulted from this policy was the emergence of a public sphere in the United States that was very different from the one Habermas describes, born in the coffee houses of the european bourgeoise. It was a distributed public sphere of newspapers and letters, one that was uniquely well suited to the American experiment. For a nation that spanned the distance between Boston and Charleston, a virtual, asynchronous public sphere mediated by print made more sense that one that centered around meeting face to face.

Franklin died in 1790, but physician and revolutionary – and fellow Philadelphian – Benjamin Rush expanded on Franklin’s vision for a post office that would knit the nation together and provide a space for the political discussions necessary for a nation of self-governing citizens to rule themselves. In 1792, Rush authored The Post Office Act, which is one of the subtlest and most surprising pieces of 18th century legislation that you’ve never heard of.

The Post Office Act established the right of the government to control postal routes and gave citizens rights to privacy of their mail — which was deeply undermined by the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, but hey, who’s counting. But what may be most important about the Post Office Act is that it set up a very powerful cross subsidy. Rather than charging based on weight and distance, as they had before Franklin’s reforms, the US postal system offered tiered service based on the purpose of the speech being exchanged. Exchanging private letters was very costly, while sending newspapers was shockingly cheap: it cost a small fraction of the cost of a private letter to send a newspaper. As a result, newspapers represented 95% of the weight of the mails and 15% of the revenue in 1832. This pricing disparity led to the wonderful phenomenon of cheapskates purchasing newspapers, underlining or pricking holes with a pin under selected words and sending encoded letters home for the price of a paper rather than a letter.

The low cost of mailing newspapers as well as the absence of stamp taxes or caution money, which made it incredibly prohibitively expensive to operate a press in England, allowed half of all American households to have a newspaper subscription in 1820, a rate that was orders of magnitude higher than in England or France. But the really crazy subsidy was the “exchange copy”. Newspapers could send copies to each other for free, with carriage costs paid by the post office. By 1840, The average newspaper received 4300 exchange copies a year — they were swimming in content, and thanks to extremely loose enforcement of copyright laws, a huge percentage of what appeared in the average newspaper was cut and pasted from other newspapers. This giant exchange of content was subsidized by high rates on those who used the posts for personal and commercial purposes.

This system worked really well, creating a postal service that was fiscally sustainable, and which aspired to universal service. By 1831, three quarters of US government civilian jobs were with the postal service. In an almost literal sense, the early US state was a postal service with a small representative government and a tiny military attached to it. But the postal system was huge because it needed to be — there were 8700 post offices by 1830, including over 400 in my home state of Massachusetts alone, which is saying something, as there are only 351 towns in Massachusetts.

I should note here that I don’t really know anything about early American history — I’m cribbing all of this from Paul Starr’s brilliant The Creation of the Media. I also recommend Winnifred Gallagher’s How the Post Office Created America, which continues to modern day and looks at how the post office advances technologies like aviation and, indeed, the internet.

But I teach these stories about the 18th century every year to my students because it helps explain the unique evolution of the public sphere in the US. Our founders built and regulated the postal system in such a way that its function as a sphere of public discourse was primary and its role as a tool for commerce and personal communication was secondary. They took on this massive undertaking explicitly because they believed that to have a self-governing nation, we needed not only representation in Congress, but a public sphere, a space for conversation about what the nation would and could be. And because the US was vast, and because the goal was to expand civic participation far beyond the urban bourgeois, it needed to be a distributed, participatory public sphere. To be clear, this was far than a universal public sphere – the founders saw this as a space for propertied white men – but the infrastructures of post and mail created powerful tools for abolitionists, for newspapers that helped free black men connect across vast distances, that helped carry the case for women’s suffrage.

As we look at the challenge we face today — understanding the influence of algorithms over the public sphere — it’s worth understanding what’s truly novel, and what’s actually got a deep historical basis. The notion of a private, commercial public sphere isn’t a new one. America’s early newspapers had an important civic function, but they were also loaded with advertising — 50–90% of the total content, in the late 18th century, which is why so many of them were called The Advertiser. What is new is our distaste for regulating commercial media. Whether through the subsidies I just described or through explicit mandates like the Fairness Doctrine, we’ve not historically been shy in insisting that the press take on civic functions. The anti-regulatory, corporate libertarian stance, built on the questionable assumptions that any press regulation is a violation of the first amendment and that any regulation of tech-centric industries will retard innovation, would likely have been surprising to our founders.

An increase in inclusivity of the public sphere isn’t new — in England, the press was open only to the wealthy and well-connected, while the situation was radically different in the colonies. And this explosion of media led to problems of information overload. Which means that gatekeeping isn’t new either — those newspapers that sorted through 4300 exchange copies a year to select and reprint content were engaged in curation and gatekeeping. Newspapers sought to give readers what an editor thought they wanted, much as social media algorithms promise to help us cope with the information explosion we face from our friends streams of baby photos. The processes editors have used to filter information were never transparent, hence the enthusiasm of the early 2000s for unfiltered media. What may be new is the pervasiveness of the gatekeeping that algorithms make possible, the invisibility of that filtering and the difficulty of choosing which filters you want shaping your conversation.

Ideological isolation isn’t new either. The press of the 1800s was fiercely opinionated and extremely partisan. In many ways, the Federalist and Republican parties emerged from networks of newspapers that shared ideologically consonant information — rather than a party press, the parties actually emerged from the press. But again, what’s novel now is the lack of transparency — when you read the New York Evening Post in 1801, you knew that Alexander Hamilton had founded it, and you knew it was a Federalist paper. Research by Christian Sandvig and Karrie Karahalios suggests that many users of Facebook don’t know that their friend feed is algorithmically curated, and don’t realize the way it may be shaped by the political leanings of their closest friends.

And finally, fake news certainly wasn’t new. It certainly wasn’t new to Ben Franklin – in fact, fake news reached an early peak in the run up to the English civil war in the 1650s, a half century before Franklin’s birth. You remember, of course, that the English civil war broke out when Charles I married a Catholic, decided to rule without convening parliament, which basically tried to starve him out by denying him money to fight a war with Scotland, leading Charles to arrest five members of the House of Commons and the country to split into warring factions of royalists and parliamentarians, with led to a series of civil wars which the parliamentarians eventually won, executing Charles on 1649 and leading to Oliver Cromwell’s ascent as Lord Protector of the Realm and eventually to the restoration of the monarchy in 1661 by Charles’s son, Charles II. You know all that, of course.

What you may not know is that one of the causes of the civil wars was that Charles, broke and profoundly focused on his own survival, basically could no longer control the press. 1642 – the year the war broke out – “More printed material was published in the year 1642 than in the entire preceding 165 years since William Caxton set up the first London printing press in 1476.” What resulted was a fury of “obnoxious and unlicensed” publications which included satire, complaint literature, lots of radical religious texts. But perhaps the most important publications were “newsbooks”, irregular proto-newspapers, whose content was essentially user-generated, poorly sourced, highly partisan and often shockingly inaccurate. You had two rival orbits of newsbooks, with the parliamentarians in London and the Royalists in Oxford. You had reports of military defeats, reports that the king was dead, all of which were more or less impossible to verify in an age of slow travel on bad roads, long before the telegraph. And you had conspiracy theory – especially anti-Catholic conspiracies – ruling the day. Catholics, of course, were a small minority and an easy target for racial and ethnic hatred, convenient scapegoats for all that was wrong with the kingdom.

Basically, fake news was a significant cause of the English civil war. That’s the bad news. The good news is that England found some ways to recover from the avalanche of fake news. Some are methods we probably wouldn’t endorse – there’s amazing stories of pamphleteers being pilloried and having their ears removed – and the biggest factor in combatting fake news was probably the Great Fire of 1661… which would be like solving Facebook with a California earthquake. But there was also the establishment of the Royal Society.

Michael Hunter’s “Establishing the New Science”, makes the case that the Society was established in part to heal the country, to create a body of knowledge that wasn’t designed to promote either the royalists or the parliamentarians. Writing about the Royal Society, Stephen Marche points out that their motto was – and still is – “Nullius in verba” – take no man’s word for it. Marche suggests that we inscribe this motto on all the world’s cellphones.

When I think of a Royal Society for our age, I don’t think of a central body that checks our facts and tells us what’s true and what’s not – that’s absolutely not what the Royal Society was. Instead, it was a group of thinkers who through experimentation and careful study sought to understand the world how it actually was. This is awfully self serving, but when I look for parallels today, I look towards academics who are trying to build the tools and conduct the studies so that it’s not only the researchers inside Facebook and Twitter who understand these companies and can help hold them responsible.

I mentioned that this talk was about two Bens – Franklin and Rush – and a Mark. Much as we understand the decisions made in the founding of our democracy in terms of archetypical figures – Washington the noble warrior, Franklin the hacker entrepreneur – we think of our contemporary moment through similar personifications. Mark Zuckerberg is the techno-utopian geek we don’t quite trust. He’s very smart, and seems to truly believe that what he’s doing will make the world a better place, but he’s either shockingly naive or profoundly deceptive, because nothing else explains how many times he’s screwed up and how surprised he seems to be every single time something utterly predictable goes wrong.

I feel like the Bens have a lesson or two for Mark. Franklin was an entrepreneur, an inventor. a technical genius and a hustler, much like Mark. He was also a civic visionary, founder of libraries and volunteer fire companies, much as Mark seems to see himself becoming. Franklin ran many successful businesses, including those based around his inventions, but he also published widely, and his work was subject to vigorous public debate in Paris and London. Indeed, while Franklin was made one of the very few non-English members of the Royal Society, his work on lightning rods was the subject of a great deal of controversy, which Franklin followed closely. (As it turns out, he was wrong – pointy lightning rods, which he favored, don’t work as well as blunt ones. But it took over 200 years to figure that out.)

I’d like to see Mark – and the other tech pioneers he’s representing in this talk – do a better job of engaging with their critics, with civil society, with academia, with everyone who sincerely wants them to succeed in making the world a better place and worries they are badly off the mark. I’d like to see Mark learn from Parlio, a brilliant experiment from Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, a social network build around rules that encourage polite, respectful and serious debate. Or from Mastodon, a decentralized social network that allows different nodes with different rulesets. Or even from Gobo, a project from my lab that lets users control aspects of their newsfeeds – how serious or funny it is, how diverse the political viewpoints are, whether you’d like all the men to shut up and let the women talk for a change.

But I also would like to see us learn from Benjamin Rush, who really brought to fruition Franklin’s vision of the public sphere of print, using the superpower of bureaucracy, regulation and government subsidy to build a public sphere that allowed the peculiar genius of American democracy to evolve. It’s not always enough for a single genius to envision the world – sometimes we need pressure from governments, from activists, from civil society to demand that we live up to aspirations of our tools. Sometimes the free market needs a hand from regulators who have a vision of how they want the world to be, a way that’s more consonant with our vision of how democracy works. With projects like Gobo, I’ve argued that we need many social networks, not just one, and that they can have different rulesets, different audiences and different purposes. I’d love for at least one of those networks to focus on helping us prepare to be citizens in a diverse and complicated world. That network probably needs public support, much as children’s television needs public support if we want it to work well.

So I leave you with a Franklin aphorism: “Well done is better than well said.” It’s well and good for folks like you and me to speculate about what social media is doing well and doing poorly. What we need is vastly more doing, more experiments, more attempts to build the worlds we want to see. I’m glad you’re hearing next from Eli Pariser, a friend who’s both a thinker and an experimenter. And I hope he and I can challenge you to make sure we move from saying to doing, from watching to experimenting, from worrying to making the world better. Thanks for listening.

by Ethan at May 10, 2018 03:03 PM

May 09, 2018

Berkman Center front page
GAiA releases its annual report highlighting its effort to increase access to medicines to the world’s neediest

Teaser

Global Access in Action (GAiA) launched its annual report today highlighting the major progress made in 2017 to expand access to medicines to the world’s neediest.

Cambridge, May 8, 2018 - Global Access in Action (GAiA) launched its annual report today highlighting the major progress made in 2017 to expand access to medicines to the world’s neediest.

2017 marked a year of significant progress made by GAiA in its effort to improve access to medicines to the vulnerable populations. The annual report showcases major projects undertaken by GAiA, its active engagement with various local and global stakeholders as well as organizational expansion in terms of staffing in the year of 2017.

One of the major projects undertaken by GAiA in 2017 was the expansion of a pilot project that aims to develop a public health sensitive legal framework that allows for sustainability of low-cost medicine supply while providing legal protections that are necessary to incentivize innovations to pharmaceutical companies. The project started in 2016 in Namibia and further expanded to two other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi and Mozambique. The initiative also involved collaboration with Global Good to fight substandard and falsified (S&F) medicines in sub-Saharan Africa with the use of field detection technology- miniature spectrometer.

While access to medicines is an issue at stake, the problem of S&F medicines can exacerbate the existing access challenge. In the introductory letter of the annual report, GAiA’s Co-Directors, William Fisher and Quentin Palfrey stressed that, “Even those who have access are at risk of consuming counterfeit medicines in many countries that often lead to lethal consequences.” GAiA is envisioning and working to establish a quality assurance network among the countries involved in the pilot project to allow for data sharing on S&F medical products.

Along with the expansion of the pilot project, GAiA also published a green paper, “Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach” in the April edition of Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy exploring practical strategies initiated by pharmaceuticals companies to solve the access barriers in low- and middle- income countries.

Click here to read more about annual report.

About Global Access in Action
Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, seeks to expand access to lifesaving medicines and combat the communicable disease burden that disproportionately harms the world’s most vulnerable populations. We accomplish this by conducting action-oriented research, supporting breakthrough initiatives, facilitating stakeholder dialogue, and providing policy advice to both public and private sector stakeholders. GAiA seeks to foster dialogue across traditional boundaries between government, industry, civil society, and academia, and to promote new, innovative solutions amongst these parties to create better outcomes.

by gweber at May 09, 2018 12:38 AM

May 08, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Governance and Regulation in the land of Crypto-Securities (as told by CryptoKitties)

Subtitle

featuring founding members, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih

Teaser

Join founding members of the CryptoKitties team, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih, as they discuss the unique governance, legal, and regulatory challenges of putting cats on the Ethereum blockchain.

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 8 2018 12:00pm to May 8 2018 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Law School campus
 

Founding members of the CryptoKitties team, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih, discuss the unique governance, legal, and regulatory challenges of putting cats on the Ethereum blockchain. CryptoKitties is an early pioneer in the space, and, having navigated securities law early on in its release, will share unique insights on classifications. They also discuss some of the more ethical challenges they've been facing, and best practices for approach.

Notes from the talk

Cryptokitties, an online game centered around owning and breeding one-of-a-kind digital cats, is one of the first games to be based on blockchain technology. In a recent discussion led by moderator SJ Klein, Cryptokitties founders, Dieter Shirley and Alex Shih, discussed their business model, as well its as attendant issues of privacy and regulation.

Cryptokitties is unique because of its game design. Cryptokitties represent a form of “digital collectibles,” or “cryptocollectibles” which are distinct from cryptocurrencies. Shirley explained that, “right now, we’ve got what no one else has, which is users. Everyone else has investors or speculators.” However, this uniqueness leads to confusion with regulation.

Regulators have been unsure of how to classify digital collectibles like Cryptokitties. In early conversations with the company, regulators attempted to classify them as securities, but Shih explained, a securities model does not fit the function of Cryptokitties. Shirley further explained that most regulators are just now becoming familiar with how ICOs work, so that was the dominant narrative with which regulators were familiar when they entered into discussion with Cryptokitties. As of now, within North America, Cryptokitties are not classified as securities.

In addition to regulation, there have been questions about privacy. Both Shirley and Shih emphasized that with increasing collection of data about everything people do, society will have to rethink what privacy means. Shirley drew from venture capitalist Albert Wenger, suggesting that rather than a vague notion of privacy, what people truly want is freedom of thought and freedom from persecution, and those principles should guide further conversations about privacy protections.

Looking towards the future, Shirley is focusing on the Cryptokitties users, explaining, “we just want to make the game bigger and better.” Shih added that, “from a digital collectibles point, we’re really just scratching the surface. We’re still figuring out what that means. Our belief is gaming is a great way to build public knowledge and get consumers comfortable with this technology.”

Notes by Donica O'Malley
 

About Axiom Zen

Axiom Zen was named first among Canada’s Most Innovative Companies by Canadian Business. They pride themselves in diversity of talent: a team of ~80 creatives includes published authors, over a dozen former founders, diversity from 20+ national origins, and decades of collective experience at startups and Fortune 500s alike.

Axiom Zen is the team behind ZenHub, the world’s leading collaboration solution for technical teams using GitHub; and the developer of Timeline, named Apple’s Best App of the month, Editor’s Choice in 10 countries, and Best New App in 88 countries. Axiom Zen is the creator of Toby, recognized as Top Chrome Extension of the year by both Google and Product Hunt, and the parent company of Hammer & Tusk, a leader in the world of immersive experiences (AR/VR). Axiom Zen's work has been featured in TIME Magazine, The New York Times, and Fast Company.

About Dieter

Dieter is a partner and chief technical architect at Axiom Zen, an award-winning venture studio specialized in applying emerging technologies to unsolved business problems. Products developed by Axiom Zen have touched 200+ million consumers and are used by the world’s leading companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, and NASA, as well as by eminent academic institutions and government organizations.

Dieter is an original participant in the world of cryptocurrency, mining his first Bitcoin on his home computer in 2010. Since then he has served as a technical architect on a series of advanced blockchain projects including as co-founder of CryptoKitties, the most successful collectibles game on the blockchain. Dieter is also the founding CTO of Cornerstone, a real estate transaction platform being developed in partnership with Ross McCredie, former founder and CEO of Sotheby’s Canada, and Dave Carson, former COO at Sotheby’s Global.

About Alex

Alex Shih is General Partner and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Axiom Zen, an award-winning venture studio specialized in applying emerging technologies to unsolved business problems, including the team behind CryptoKitties, the world’s most successful blockchain application.

Prior to joining Axiom, Alex executed investment strategies across the capital structure in both public and private markets in roles with KKR and Highfields Capital. Alex holds a B.S. / M.S. in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University.

Links

Download original audio or video from this event

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events series podcast

by candersen at May 08, 2018 05:22 PM

Your Guide to BKC@RightsCon 2018

Teaser

Going to RightsCon in Toronto? Connect with members of the Berkman Klein community, and learn about their research

Thumbnail Image: 

 

Going to RightsCon in Toronto? Connect with members of the Berkman Klein community, and learn about their research

 

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

Is This a New Face of Info War? "Patriotic" Trolling and Disinformation -- the Iran Edition
Simin Kargar
Details: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 10:30-11:45pm – 205A
Online harassment and smear campaigns are increasingly applied as a form of information control to curb free speech and exert power in cyberspace. Targeted harassment of dissidents on social media appears as the most recent form of strategic communication, where particular messages are crafted by state-affiliated actors to manipulate public opinion. This session addresses the circumstances under which these coordinated efforts are likely to emerge, the latest practices of Iran to extend its ideological arms across social media, and the ultimate goals that they pursue.

Young, Safe, and Free: Respecting Children's Online Privacy and Freedom of Expression
Patrick Geary,  Sarah Jacobstain, Jasmina Byrne, Fred Carter, Sandra Cortesi, Ariel Fox, Patrik Hiselius, Natasha Jackson
Details: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 12:00-1:15pm – 206C
This is chance to talk about practical steps that companies and public authorities can take to protect and empower children online. Companies and Data Protection Authorities will share how they consider risks to children's privacy online while still providing children with full, open and enriching online experiences. Civil society organizations will highlight the work that remains to be done, and academic researchers will ground this in evidence about how children exercise their rights to privacy and freedom of expression online. 

Combatting Shutdowns with COST: A Data Driven Policy Tool for Internet Freedom
Arzu Gerbullayeva, Nighat Dad, Isik Mater, Peter Micek, Nicolas Seidler, Alp Toker
Details: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 12:00-1:15pm – 202B
Internet shutdowns cost globally about $2.4 billion USD and cause untold harm to trade, industry, and communities that rely on the free flow of information for growth and prosperity. In this session, we will discuss and develop a concrete roadmap for the introduction of economic arguments into the day-to-day campaigning and policy-work using COST, a new data-driven policy tool that will automate the task of economic estimation. Our international panel brings together experts from legal, technology and policy backgrounds and invites active participation from the audience to better understand how a next-generation policy tool can impact internet freedom and digital rights community. How can we make policy work more visible to under-represented communities? How can we build advocacy tools that empower the general public?

Online Criticism, Falsified Court Orders & the Role of Intermediaries: Coping With Takedown Requests of Questionable Legitimacy
Adam Holland, Daphne Keller, Eugene Volokh
Details:
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 204B
Lumen is a research project devoted to collecting and analyzing requests to remove online materials. Recently, researchers and advocates, including Professor Eugene Volokh, have uncovered an alarming pattern of falsified court orders used to seek and often achieve the removal of online material. The Lumen team will open the workshop with a brief introduction to Lumen and to the site’s API. Once the attendees are familiar with Lumen, they will facilitate a discussion about the implications of falsified court orders within the takedown request landscape.

New Tools for Visualizing Communities, Projects, and Resources: Inspiring Engagement and Exploration
Sandra CortesiJustin Clark
Details: 
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 200A
In this tech demo, we will present interactive tools that have been developed at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to visualizing communities, projects, and resources. 

Documenting ICT Companies' Impact on Civic Freedom & Human Rights Defenders
Rebecca Mackinnon, Jessica Anderson, Ellery Biddle, Peter Micek, Ana Zbona
Details: 
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 200A
When internet, mobile, and telecommunications companies fail to put in place human rights-respecting commitments and policies, their practices may directly or indirectly result in the violation of users’ freedom of expression and privacy rights. These violations in turn intensify the global attack by governments and populist demagogues, and non-state actors, including companies, against human rights defenders and journalists. Highlighting this human impact of company policies and practices is crucial in making the case for why companies must institute—and policymakers should support—policies that foster and reinforce respect for internet users’ rights. Although stories of such violations sometimes make the news, until recently there were no systematic efforts to gather evidence in a way that helps all stakeholders better understand the scale and impact of the abuses and attacks.

Language Access and Humanitarian Response: A Matter of Human Rights
An Xiao Mina, Olly Farshi, Natasha Jimenez
Details: 
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 205C
The world is seeing an unprecedented scale of migration due to conflict and climate-related natural disasters. People from different linguistic backgrounds are coming together in a number of humanitarian contexts, such as rapid response work and support in refugee sites. Without the ability to communicate effectively, both aid workers and beneficiaries stand to lose significantly. In this panel, members of Meedan and Outside will share their experiences in the field in dialogue with others who are looking at issues of language barriers in humanitarian work.

 

Teaching AI to Explain Itself
Suchana Seth
Details: Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 205A
A growing body of artificial intelligence algorithms are NOT black-box - they can explain their decision mechanisms. What do "good" explanations look like in the world of accountable algorithms - from the perspective of users, consumers, and regulators of AI? How do we set realistic expectations about explainable or interpretable machine learning algorithms?

Scrutinizing the Little Brothers: Corporate Surveillance and the Roles of the Citizen, Consumer, and Company
Katie McInnis, David O’Brien, Christopher Parsons
Details: 
Wednesday, May 16th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 203B
In this session, we will bring together panelists from Toronto University’s Citizen Lab, the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University, and Consumer Reports, each of whom are addressing issues of corporate surveillance and accountability. Panelists will share overviews of their organizations’ goals, challenges their programs face, and changes they hope their projects will effectuate. We will present three different perspectives: the consumer, the citizen, and the company. All three projects are responses to pervasive corporate surveillance and aim to lessen the imbalance between corporations and individuals.

 

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Data Driven Decency: New, Collaborative Experiments to Diminish Online Hate and Harassment Online
Rob Faris, Susan Benesch
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 9:00-10:15am – 205C
In this session we will report on - and brainstorm new possibilities for - experimental methods for diminishing harassment and hate speech online. The speakers will describe the first academic research experiment with an Internet platform that committed in advance to sharing data and allowing publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Participants will be asked to share best practices from their own experiences with collaborative online research. In closing, the moderator will ask for ideas to continue research experiments that aim to diminish hate speech online. Afterward, we will circulate the newly generated ideas, and invite continued collaboration for their implementation.

Secure UX Principles: Let's Build a Checklist of User Security and Good Design
a panel moderated by An Xiao Mina
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 10:30-11:45 – 201C
We present a research and design checklist for people who are developing technologies to help communities at risk. This checklist is designed to promote human rights-centered design by streamlining the process of user research. We believe this resource will aid builders of tools, platforms, and services with limited resources and time. 

Beyond the Hype Cycle: What Does Blockchain Mean for Human Rights Online?
Chris Doten, Yasodara Cordova, Rachel Pipan
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 11:00-11:25– Village Main Stage
The panelists hope to foster a conversation on who is or would like to be using blockchain for human rights and democratic advocacy - and how. In particular, the discussion will include: Information on current pilot projects and lessons learned from the Blockchain Trust Accelerator; Open sharing of other blockchain initiatives, in whatever phase; Discussion of the ways in which blockchain can - and won’t - be useful to the RightsCon community; Ways the Blockchain Trust Accelerator or academic institutions like the Harvard Berkman Center may be able to assist social good-focused organizations.

Mind the Shark: Informational Flow in Natural Disasters, from Fake News to Rumors
An Xiao Mina, Olly Farshi, Natasha Jimenez, Antonio Martinez
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 12:00-1:15pm – 200B
While misinformation has risen to the top of the agenda in journalism, its impact on humanitarian workers has yet to be fully discussed. Misinformation during natural and human disasters is a consistent theme, causing confusion and leading people to miss access to critical resources - whether that’s the frequent false threat of sharks during hurricanes or confusion about where ICE is detaining people fleeing a disaster site. What are the challenges and opportunities in this space? How can we design solutions that address this? This conversation will look at specific cases of address misinformation after disasters, when rapid responders may not even have access to the most current accurate information.

Cross-Harm Collaboration: Building Strategic Responses to Risks and Harms Online
Nikki Bourassa, Chloe Colliver, Henry Tuck
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 1:20-2:20pm – 206D
Recent revelations linking the use of disinformation, fake accounts, and hate speech to sway elections, coupled with the rise of harm from cyber-bullying, coordinated online harassment, misogyny and child sexual exploitation, demonstrate the range of threats facing internet users. Tech companies are asked to tackle these issues, but often by a huge range of uncoordinated voices. In this workshop, ISD and the Berkman Klein Center will discuss the inefficiency of current silos in online harm prevention work, foster cross-sector collaboration on research and projects, and create actionable suggestions for ways to make collaboration successful and useful for CSOs and technology companies.

Translation Project: A Translation Suite for Humanitarian Organizations
An Xiao Mina, Olly Farshi, and Natasha Jimenez,
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 200A
As the global population of forcibly displaced people reaches record levels, the language barrier between refugees and those seeking to help them remains among the first challenges in serving their immediate relief needs. The Translation Project seeks to prototype and develop open-source technology and a community of translators to address this pressing need in a way that is scalable and sustainable.

Do Bots Have Rights? Do They Threaten Rights?
Dinah PoKempner, Camille Francois, David Kaye
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 203A
This session aims to uncover the potential of social botnets to both advance and to harm rights, and asks whether this type of speech should be protected by human rights law, when, and to what degree. Social bots are being developed for good purposes—such as language learning, practicing social skills, providing guidance, information or entertainment—as well as purposes that pose serious risk to rights, such as trolling, spreading ‘fake news,’ or improperly influencing elections. Artificial intelligence applications are attempting to make social bots more ‘human’ by the day.

Machine Learning, Human Understanding: AI and Access to Knowledge
Jan Gerlach, Maria Paz Canales, Rob Faris, Malavika Jayaram, Caroline Sinders
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 2:30-3:45pm – 206B

This session explores the relationship between artificial intelligence (AI) and access to knowledge. The panel examines AI’s potential for expanding human participation in the creation of knowledge online. Panelists will discuss the principle of “AI plus human review”, which can empower online communities to collaborate and make decisions collectively, e.g. on Wikipedia. The session will also discuss the effects that machine learning and automatic decision-making about content on internet platforms have on people’s ability to find, engage with, collect, contribute to, and share knowledge.

Reframed! Media Analysis for Digital Inclusion
Belen Febres-Cordero, Nikki Bourassa, Natalie Gyenes
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 200B
Access to media analysis tools has generally been limited to academic researchers and industry communications or media professionals. In the absence of tools accessible to community groups or advocacy organizations, there are limited opportunities for more marginalized or vulnerable communities to gather evidence-driven knowledge regarding how their own issues are covered in the media. Global Voices, in partnership with Media Cloud, is piloting an initiative that democratizes access to media analysis tools, bringing them to vulnerable populations so that they can understand, and possibly direct, their own representation in the media.

Internet of (Stranger) Things: Privacy Threats of the Next Generation of Vulnerable Devices
Rob Pegoraro, Ann Cavoukian, Bruce Schneier, Amie Stepanovich, Beau Woods
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 206C
As more internet-connected products become available on the markets globally, so, too, are the number of reports of data breach or security flaws of such devices skyrocketing. This session will showcase short presentations about the dangers of an insecure internet of things, highlight existing legal frameworks that do (or don't) provide adequate protections, and discuss proposed solutions, including rules for security and privacy by default, to ensure people and their data are protected.

When Repressive Authorities #KeepItOn
Arthur Gwagwa, Arzu Gerbullayeva, Grace Mutung'u, Alp Toker, Maria Xynou
Details: 
Thursday, May 17th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 204A
The session will debunk the notion that the internet needs to be "controlled" to be safe. This session therefore seeks to develop a stronger analytical and conceptual understanding of the strategies being pursued by the set of leading authoritarian powers in Africa and globally in controlling information online; to assess the nature of the challenge this presents to the Internet Freedom Community; and to determine what opportunities may be available to digital rights activists within these countries—and to those outside seeking to support them—that have not been adequately explored or exploited. It will also equip advocacy strategists with solid facts to lead the global fight against censorship and disruption of networks, information, and communication by presenting an opportunity to discuss other emerging trends in surveillance and censorship, such as new forms of surveillance by police officers and intelligence services such as social media intelligence (SOCMINT) and offer recommendations. 

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Countering Media Manipulation: Linking Research and Action
Robert Faris, Joan Donovan, An Xiao Mina, Claire Wardle
Details: 
Friday, May 18th, 2018; 9:00-10:15am – 206D
Although widespread propaganda and disinformation is not a new phenomenon, its occurrence within today’s online networked environments has wrought new challenges for democracy. A mix of legitimate political entities and malicious actors have exploited and leveraged vulnerabilities in platform architectures to surreptitiously insert false news narratives into unwitting media environments. Worse, these campaigns are often coordinated to take advantage of platform algorithms and muddy the difference between genuine and false. Plentiful opportunities remain to foster greater collaboration within the research community and between researchers, journalists, and media watchdogs. In this workshop, we will identify and put into place better mechanisms to coordinate research efforts and to link researchers with practitioners.

Internet Monitor: Real-time Internet censorship research and visualization tools demo
Casey Tilton, Justin Clark
Details: Friday, May 18th, 2018, 2:30-3:45pm
Interested in learning more about the technology behind real-time Internet censorship research and contributing to the Internet Monitor project? In this session, researchers from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University will demo two tools developed by the Internet Monitor project. First up is the Internet Monitor Dashboard, a tool that compiles and visualizes data about Internet activity and content controls in over 100 countries. Next up is AccessCheck, a tool that lets users test in real time the availability of websites in countries around the world. Test results include a thumbs up/down notification indicating whether the website is available, as well as a screenshot and more detailed data on status codes, timings, and any errors encountered. In addition to testing single urls, AccessCheck allows users to test the availability of lists of country-specific websites that have been created by experts in the censorship practices of governments around the world

Have We Entered a Brave New World of Global Content Takedown Orders?
Vidushi Marada, Jennifer Daskal, Daphne Keller, Vivek Krishnamurthy, Stefania Milan, Jonathon Penney
Details: 
Friday, May 18th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 206C
From the Supreme Court of Canada's Equustek decision to Germany's "NetzDG" law, concerns of a "race to the bottom" are mounting as every country seeks to enforce its national preferences on the global internet. Now that the brave new world of global content regulation is here, what do we do about it? When is it legitimate for a government to enforce its preferences on a global rather than a national basis? And where do private forms of governance, like algorithmic curation on and by social media platforms, fit into this picture? Join our panel of experts from North America, Europe, and South Asia for an update on some of the biggest recent developments in this area and a wide-ranging discussion of how all those who care about the open, global internet should best respond to these trends.

What Keeps a Security Professional Up at Night?
Camille Francois, Jen Ellis, Nathaniel Gleicher, Karl Holmqvist, Beau Woods
Details: 
Friday, May 18th, 2018; 4:00-5:00pm – 206B
The panel will open with brief introductions from panelists working on security at global companies. The first part of the discussion will then focus on the threat of state actors and their changing manifestations (through proxies, obfuscating their capabilities, etc.), as well as public policy and diplomatic options to respond to those threats. The second half of the conversation will then focus specifically on the implications of these changes, giving the audience an understanding of how stakes, restraint, and unintended consequences have and will continue to play out, as well as the challenges in applying existing and developing international norms and laws. Finally, all speakers will be asked to identify the most concerning emerging threats and trends that they see and to forecast how we must adapt to overcome them. An open round of questions with the audience will close the session.

Artificial Intelligence: Governance and Inclusion
Eduardo Magrani, Chinmayi Arun, Sandra Cortesi, Christian Djefal, Malavika Jayaram
Details: 
Friday, May 18th, 2018; 5:15-6:15pm – 201B
Even though the developing world will be directly affected by the deployment of AI technologies and services, policy debates about AI have been dominated by organizations and actors in the Global North.. As a follow up to the international event “Artificial Intelligence and Inclusion” held in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year, this discussion will focus on development of AI, and its impact on inclusion in areas such as health and wellbeing, education, low-resource communities, public safety, employment, among others. The goal of this roundtable is to bring these debates to the RightsCon community, enlarging the conversation and deepening the understanding of AI inclusion challenges, governance and opportunities, to identify and discuss areas for research, education and action.

Something missing? Let us know at buzz@cyber.harvard.edu if you're a current member of the BKC community and your session isn't listed here!

by djones at May 08, 2018 03:11 PM

May 03, 2018

Benjamin Mako Hill
Climbing Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier is an enormous glaciated volcano in Washington state. It’s  4,392 meters tall (14,410 ft) and extraordinary prominent. The mountain is 87 km (54m) away from Seattle. On clear days, it dominates the skyline.

Drumheller Fountain and Mt. Rainier on the University of Washington CampusDrumheller Fountain and Mt. Rainier on the University of Washington Campus (Photo by Frank Fujimoto)

Rainier’s presence has shaped the layout and structure of Seattle. Important roads are built to line up with it. The buildings on the University of Washington’s campus, where I work, are laid out to frame it along the central promenade. People in Seattle typically refer to Rainier simply as “the mountain.”  It is common to here Seattlites ask “is the mountain out?”

Having grown up in Seattle, I have an deep emotional connection to the mountain that’s difficult to explain to people who aren’t from here. I’ve seen Rainier thousands of times and every single time it takes my breath away. Every single day when I bike to work, I stop along UW’s “Rainier Vista” and look back to see if the mountain is out. If it is, I always—even if I’m running late for a meeting—stop for a moment to look at it. When I lived elsewhere and would fly to visit Seattle, seeing Rainier above the clouds from the plane was the moment that I felt like I was home.

Given this connection, I’ve always been interested in climbing Mt. Rainier.  Doing so typically takes at least a couple days and is difficult. About half of people who attempt typically fail to reach the top. For me, climbing rainier required an enormous amount of training and gear because, until recently, I had no experience with mountaineering. I’m not particularly interested in climbing mountains in general. I am interested in Rainier.

On Tuesday, Mika and I made our first climbing attempt and we both successfully made it to the summit. Due to the -15°C (5°F) temperatures and 88kph (55mph) winds at the top, I couldn’t get a picture at the top. But I feel like I’ve built a deeper connection with an old friend.


Other than the picture from UW campus, photos were all from my climb and taken by (in order): Jennifer Marie, Jonathan Neubauer, Mika Matsuzaki, Jonathan Neubauer, Jonathan Neubauer, Mika Matsuzaki, and Jake Holthaus.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at May 03, 2018 11:59 PM

John Palfrey
Celebration of AfLatAm@50 at Phillips Academy

John Palfrey

Opening Remarks – Celebration of AfLatAm@50

April, 2018

Good evening.  Let me please begin by thanking Emily Ndiokho, Class of 2018, for her leadership tonight in MC-ing this event and also for her leadership throughout her time at Andover.  As president of AfLatAm this year — in fact, the 50th president of AfLatAm — as a CAMD scholar, and all-around wonderful leader on campus, Emily deserves all of our thanks and praise.  Let’s please have a round of applause for Emily.

I am delighted to welcome all of you — Andover students, alumni, current and former faculty and staff, and honored guests — as we launch the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the AfLatAm program. More than 300 alumni have traveled to campus to celebrate this milestone and—as importantly—to engage in discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion at our school and in our society at large.  I am particularly excited to hear tonight’s keynote address by Hafsat Abiola, class of 1992 and one of the very best speakers I’ve ever heard.  We are all in for a treat tonight!

I’d like also to take a brief moment to thank our colleagues who have worked so hard on this event.  There are too many to name everyone, but in particular I’d like to acknowledge LaShawn Springer, CAMD dean; Linda Carter Griffith, Assistant Head of School for Equity, Inclusion, and Wellness; and Jenny Savino from the Office of Alumni Engagement.  Their teams and colleagues have worked so hard to put this event together.  I’d like to acknowledge also the support of our current and former Trustees, who stand behind and make possible all we do here at Andover, five of whom are here tonight: Gary Lee, class of 1974 and Allison Picoctt, class of 1988, who are current board members, and three former board members: Chris Auguste, class of ’76; George Smith, class of ’83, and Rejji Hayes ’93.  Thanks to each of these trustees here tonight.

In its 240th year, Andover is animated by many of the same ideals that were set forth by the Phillips family in the 18th century.  Among those ideals, we take very seriously the charge that the school would be “ever equally open to Youth (of requisite qualifications) from Every Quarter.”

Of course, when our founders codified these words in the Constitution of Phillips Academy in 1778, the ideal was far from our aspiration for today’s modern school.  We don’t know exactly how Samuel Phillips and his co-founders truly defined “every quarter,” but they almost certainly meant white boys from local families.  What we do know is that they likely envisioned a school that would admit sons of the working classes, not just the wealthy – they described it as a “public free school” and the very first class of students included a boy who traveled from Jamaica.

Though our founders’ vision of the quarters from which youth might come to Andover would fall far short of what we embrace today, I believe that the real genius of those few words written down hundreds of years ago is their inherent challenge: that we should be “ever equally open.” This requires each new generation to strive to find students from every conceivable background as we seek to educate the future leaders who will change our world for good.

Andover is a place—a vibrant, living community. But it is also an idea. And in both spheres—that of the real and that of the ideal—it is imperfect, always changing, always seeking truth.

Fifty years ago, steeped in social movements that had impacted our country and our campus for decades, the Af-Lat-Am program emerged as both a marker of change and a beacon of hope to lead us further toward a greater inclusiveness. Those student and faculty pioneers strove for a greater understanding of the experience of African Americans and LatinX students, and a greater appreciation of how much more complete Andover could be when we continually strive to be “ever EQUALLY open to Youth from EVERY Quarter.”

Andover’s Need Blind Admission Policy, now in its 11th year, is one cornerstone of this commitment. Need-blind admission stands out as Andover’s single most important financial priority. Currently,

  • Nearly half of our students today receive financial aid.
  • Andover has awarded $22 million in scholarships in this year

We are extremely proud to be the only school of our kind that is need blind.  No other school can claim a financial aid program as comprehensive as ours. And it is the modern path by which we ensure access for all. These are important steps and we should be proud and grateful for the many people who have generously made it possible.

Yet access alone is not enough. Diversity alone is not enough.  These commitments are necessary, but they are not sufficient.

A few years ago, we embraced at Andover a strategic plan that called for a renewed focus not just on diversity but on equity and inclusion.

To lead our work in this area, Linda Carter Griffith – LCG to our students and families – began a new leadership role—the first position of its kind for independent schools—as Assistant Head of School for Equity and Inclusion (her title has since expanded to incorporate wellness).  Linda’s work focuses on supporting all members of the Andover community so they can achieve their full potential.  She brings the experience of a devoted teacher and seasoned administrator to this senior position at our school.

Why is LCG’s role and work so crucial?

From Ferguson to Baltimore, from Staten Island to Charlottesville, our country continues to struggle to come to grips with the enduring presence and legacy of white supremacy.  From every vantage point, we must all look anew at the history and structures of our institutions and the degree to which we have an extraordinary amount of work to do.  That includes at Andover.

Each year, Andover welcomes more than 1,100 students to campus with as many distinct experiences and points of view.  Emily and her fellow students come from nearly every state and 45 countries.

In a world marked by global unrest and political discord, we rely on the principles of equity and inclusion to guide our thinking and actions. Linda’s leadership has been incredibly important to our community.  Through partnership with the Community and Multicultural Development Office, student groups, and other faculty across campus, we’ve devoted ourselves as a community to probing matters of ideology, gender, identity, citizenship, and race.  Guest speakers have challenged us on politics and policy; students have joined the #NeverAgain movement advocating for tighter gun control, #MeToo to advocate for gender equality and an end to gender-based violence, and a host of social justice activities.

We can’t and we don’t shy away from those issues that challenge us to hear—and better understand—one another.  I truly believe that this is how we will grow and learn as a community.

Our commitment to equity and inclusion is fundamentally about keeping our promise to every student who comes here. It is our goal to ensure that everyone is valued equally and has an equal chance to thrive at Phillips Academy and beyond. I couldn’t be more excited about the young people at Andover today, nor more pleased with the strength of our faculty. Even as we remain deeply grounded in our founding values of 1778, in 2018 we are learning and growing as an institution in ways that directly benefit every student.

Where does this lead us? Guided by our core values, Andover will continue to thrive and struggle and lean into tough issues — issues on which members of our community are bound to disagree. And I hope that each of you will play a pivotal role in this.

This reunion, AFLATAM@50, is very much a celebration of our past—of student leaders who pressed us forward, of faculty and staff who worked tirelessly to address inequity—but it also is a commitment to the future and to the necessary, difficult, and extraordinarily important work that must still be done.  I look forward to continuing on this important journey with all of you, with our faculty and our staff and our students.  Thank you.

by jgpalfrey at May 03, 2018 07:12 PM

Justin Reich
Playing Games in Teacher Education: How Do Preservice Teachers Respond to Game-Based Learning.
Undergraduates at West Virginia University take on the role of school designers to better understand fundamental ideas in education and school design.

by Justin Reich at May 03, 2018 05:45 PM

May 01, 2018

Berkman Center front page
The Law and Ethics of Digital Piracy: Evidence from Harvard Law School Graduates

Subtitle

Featuring Dariusz Jemielniak and Jérôme Hergueux

Teaser

When do Harvard law students perceive digital file sharing (and piracy) as fine?

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

May 1 2018 12:00pm to May 1 2018 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Harvard Law School campus
 

Harvard Law School is one of the top law schools in the world and educates the intellectual and financial elites. Lawyers are held to the highest professional and ethical standards. And yet, when it comes to digital piracy, they overwhelmingly perceive file sharing as an acceptable social practice – as long as individuals do not derive monetary benefits from it. So should digital files be considered a commons? In this talk, Dariusz and Jerome identify and discuss the social and economic contexts in which file sharing is considered more or less acceptable by law practitioners. In the process, they foster a conversation on the possible changes in regulation that would allow us to catch up with the established social norm.

About Dariusz

Dariusz Jemielniak is a Wikipedian, Full Professor of Management at Kozminski University, and an entrepreneur (having established the largest online dictionary in Poland, ling.pl, among others). 

Dariusz currently serves on Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. In his academic life, he studies open collaboration movement (in 2014 he published "Common Knowledge? An Ethnography of Wikipedia" with Stanford University Press), media files sharing practices (among lawyers and free knowledge activists), as well as political memes' communities. 

He had visiting appointments at Cornell University (2004-2005), Harvard (2007, 2011-2012), and University of California, Berkeley (2008), where he studied software engineers' workplace culture.

About Jérôme

Jerome is an Assistant Research Professor at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), a Fellow at the Center for Law and Economics at ETH Zurich, and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. From 2011 to 2014, Jerome spent three years as a Research Fellow at the Berkman Klein Center, where he did most of his Ph.D. work.

Jerome is a behavioral economist operating at the boundaries between psychology, economics and computer science. In his research, he typically couples experimental methods with the analysis of big data to uncover how psychological and cognitive traits shape our behavior over the Internet, with a particular focus on online cooperation, peer production and decision making. He is strongly involved with Professor Yochai Benkler in the Cooperation project. He is also involved with the Mindsport Research Network, which he helped launch together with Professor Charles Nesson.

Jerome completed a Ph.D. in Economics at Sciences Po and the University of Strasbourg. He holds Master’s degrees in both International Economics and International Affairs from Sciences Po, and a B.A. in Economics & Finance from the University of Strasbourg.

Jerome originates from the French region of Alsace. He has lived in France, Egypt, the U.S., Jordan and Switzerland. Jerome speaks French, English and Arabic and is heavily interested in public policy and international affairs.

Download original audio or video from this event

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events series podcast

by candersen at May 01, 2018 05:29 PM

April 29, 2018

Ethan Zuckerman
Because America’s Family Leave Policy Sucks, Too.

When my friends and colleagues began working on the first Make the Breast Pump Not Suck hackathon in 2014 (http://www.kanarinka.com/project/mit-breast-pump-hackathon/), they were focused on the machine itself. The breast pump has evolved very little from its hospital origins, and it’s widely hated as loud, painful, hard to clean, ugly and awkward. The hackathon they organized did amazing work to design better breast pumps, but it also revealed a larger problem: It’s not just the breast pump that sucks – America’s family leave policy sucks, too.

The breast pump often becomes such a problem because mothers don’t have paid family leave and some need to get back to work immediately after giving birth. This puts parents in impossible positions – they want to do what’s right for their baby, but everything in American society is stacked to prevent them from caring for their child.

When the hackathon team reloaded and started working on the 2018 hackathon, we added a policy summit, focused on questions of paid family leave policy, a two-day discussion focused on issues of equitable design of policy and practical strategies for winning paid leave at federal, state or company by company levels.

What’s remarkable to me as a newcomer to this movement is the coherence of the ask. The panelists we heard from today were unified on what family leave should include:

  • At least 12 weeks of paid leave
  • Robust coverage – at least 2/3rds of salary, up to $4000 a month
  • Universality – the benefit applies to everyone in the business, with no carve out for small employers. The same benefits apply to freelancers and self-employed people
  • Portable, so people in the gig economy can take the benefit from one job to another
  • Comprehensive – Family leave includes not just parental leave, but govers a wide range of issues. We need to care not just for new babies, but for aging parents or sick children
  • Secure against retaliation – we need to overcome the danger that someone loses employment for taking family leave

There’s also widespread support for the idea that family medical leave needs to happen at the federal level, if only because we know that many states won’t opt to offer the benefit, and those states are ones whose citizens need this support the most. The differences are around tactics. Vicki Shabo of National Partnership for Women and Families is seeking support for the FAMILY act, Co-sponsored by Senator Gillibrand and Representative DeLaura. 32 bipartisan senators are now on board, as are 154 House members. The bill accomplishes most of the goals stated above and is funded through a small payroll tax on employees and employers (0.4%, split between the employer and employee) and administered through a new federal agency.

Sherry Leiwant of Better Balance pointed out that states are often the laboratories for policy experimentation where new ideas get worked through. She sees potential to build family leave around temporary disability insurance, which was instituted through payroll taxes in some states in the 1940s and 50s, but excluded pregnancy and childbirth until the late 1970s. But while TDIs give states a framework they could use to implement family leave, they aren’t universal, usually cutting out agricultural workers, seasonal workers and part time workers.

Some of the most exciting moves towards family leave policies have come from businesses. Erik Rettig of Small Business Majority points out that 85% of his member companies support paid family leave. Small businesses tend to be like families, he explains – they don’t want to lose employees that they have personal relationships with and have spent time training. But he notes that small businesses, individually, have little political power. As advocates, we should be targeting chambers of commerce, business leagues and other groups that can influence at scale.

Brianna Cayo Cotter of PL+US and Girshriela “Gigi” Green, OUR Walmart had the most powerful story about making change at scale through influencing corporations. Gigi explains that she and other Walmart associates began pushing the company for reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers as early as 2011. When she and colleagues learned that salaried managers were receiving 10 weeks paid maternity leave, and hourly associates were receiving none, she and colleagues started a petition campaign that ended up with more than 100,000 signatures.

Petitioning the company directly didn’t work. Gigi and Our Walmart, with support from PL+US, spoke in front of the Walmart shareholder meeting, addressing an audience of 15,000, demanding that the company implement fairer policies. Shortly after, Walmart agreed to offer equivalent benefits to full time associates, though they insisted that they made this decision without outside pressure.

The scale of this change is hard to overstate: Walmart is the largest employer of women in the world. The victory is far from complete. This isn’t true family leave, but maternity leave, and it doesn’t address part time workers who work full-time hours. But it’s an amazing step forward. Gigi chokes up talking about it, telling us that she’d worked with women whose children had died on Walmart properties because they had inadequate leave and support.

Brianna from PL+US believes that shareholders can be the most powerful voice for change within corporations. She’s begun working with a firm that invests hundreds of billions of dollars, and is using their leverage to push for change within the companies they support. “They’ve become very powerful activist voices, pushing for these rights within the companies they invest in.”

Today’s conversation pivots to tactics to reach these common goals. What campaigns, pressures and strategies will bring family leave to more Americans. Erik argues that we work best when we understand what businesses need, and how our asks are consistent with business priorities and processes. Brianna reminds us that businesses care about customers, investors and their board – pressure them and you can win. Gigi puts it simply: “I know what didn’t work. Going to them politely and asking for what was right didn’t work. It wasn’t until we petitioned and sooke out that change really happened.”

More to come, on the new strategies emerging from the policy summit, and new inventions from the hackathon.

by Ethan at April 29, 2018 02:21 PM

April 27, 2018

MediaBerkman
Force of Nature: Celebrating 20 Years of the Laws of Cyberspace
Professor Lawrence Lessig is joined by Professors Ruth L. Okediji, Laura DeNardis, and Jonathan Zittrain to reflect on the 20th anniversary of Professor Lessig's foundational paper "The Laws of Cyberspace," and how the landscape of Internet law has changed in the two decades since. Learn more about this event: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2018/04/Lessig

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 27, 2018 08:32 PM

Honoring All Expertise: Social Responsibility and Ethics in Tech
Social scientists, computer scientists, historians, lawyers, political scientists, architects, and philosophers share some short glimpses into how we can better incorporate social responsibility and ethics into the development of new technology. More info about this event here: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2018/luncheon/04/ethicaltech

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 27, 2018 08:20 PM

Blockchain and the Law: The Rule of Code
Blockchain technology is ultimately a dual-edge technology that can be used to either support or supplant the law. This talk looks at the impact of blockchain technology of a variety of fields (finance, contracts, organizations, etc.), and the benefits and drawbacks of blockchain-based systems. Learn more about this event here: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2018/04/DeFilippi

by the Berkman Klein Center at April 27, 2018 08:11 PM

Justin Reich
From Pockets of Innovation to Systems of Inspired Learning
To move beyond pockets of innovation requires a shared language of pedagogy and a community dedicated to improvement.

by Beth Holland at April 27, 2018 05:07 PM

April 24, 2018

Berkman Center front page
Encryption Policy And Its International Impacts: A Framework For Understanding Extraterritorial Ripple Effects

Teaser

This paper explores the potential international ripple effects that can occur following changes to domestic encryption policies.

Publication Date

2 May 2018

Thumbnail Image: 

Author(s)

This paper explores the potential international ripple effects that can occur following changes to domestic encryption policies.  Whether these changes take the form of a single coherent national policy or a collection of independent (or even conflicting) policies, the impacts can be unexpected and wide-ranging.  This paper offers a conceptual model for how the ripple effects from national encryption policies might propagate beyond national borders. And we provide a set of factors that can help policy-makers anticipate some of the most likely ripple effects of proposed encryption policies.

Read Ryan Budish's post from May 2, 2018, about the paper on Lawfare.

Producer Intro

Authored by

by gweber at April 24, 2018 03:10 PM

Benjamin Mako Hill
Hyak on Hyak

I recently fulfilled a yearslong dream of launching a job on Hyak* on Hyak.

Hyak on Hyak

 


* Hyak is the University of Washington’s supercomputer which my research group uses for most of our computation-intensive research.
M/V Hyak is a Super-class ferry operated by the Washington State Ferry System.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at April 24, 2018 01:58 AM

Mako Hate

I recently discovered a prolific and sustained community of meme-makers on Tumblr dedicated to expressing their strong dislike for “Mako.”

Two tags with examples are #mako hate and #anti mako but there are many others.

I’ve also discovered Tumblrs entirely dedicated to the topic!

For example, Let’s Roast Mako describes itself “A place to beat up Mako. In peace. It’s an inspiration to everyone!

The second is the Fuck Mako Blog which describes itself with series of tag-lines including “Mako can fuck right off and we’re really not sorry about that,” “Welcome aboard the SS Fuck-Mako;” and “Because Mako is unnecessary.” Sub-pages of the site include:

I’ll admit I’m a little disquieted.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at April 24, 2018 01:57 AM

Is English Wikipedia’s ‘rise and decline’ typical?

This graph shows the number of people contributing to Wikipedia over time:

The Rise and Decline of Wikipedia The number of active Wikipedia contributors exploded, suddenly stalled, and then began gradually declining. (Figure taken from Halfaker et al. 2013)

The figure comes from “The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration System,” a well-known 2013 paper that argued that Wikipedia’s transition from rapid growth to slow decline in 2007 was driven by an increase in quality control systems. Although many people have treated the paper’s finding as representative of broader patterns in online communities, Wikipedia is a very unusual community in many respects. Do other online communities follow Wikipedia’s pattern of rise and decline? Does increased use of quality control systems coincide with community decline elsewhere?

In a paper that my student Nathan TeBlunthuis is presenting Thursday morning at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI),  a group of us have replicated and extended the 2013 paper’s analysis in 769 other large wikis. We find that the dynamics observed in Wikipedia are a strikingly good description of the average Wikia wiki. They appear to reoccur again and again in many communities.

The original “Rise and Decline” paper (we’ll abbreviate it “RAD”) was written by Aaron Halfaker, R. Stuart Geiger, Jonathan T. Morgan, and John Riedl. They analyzed data from English Wikipedia and found that Wikipedia’s transition from rise to decline was accompanied by increasing rates of newcomer rejection as well as the growth of bots and algorithmic quality control tools. They also showed that newcomers whose contributions were rejected were less likely to continue editing and that community policies and norms became more difficult to change over time, especially for newer editors.

Our paper, just published in the CHI 2018 proceedings, replicates most of RAD’s analysis on a dataset of 769 of the  largest wikis from Wikia that were active between 2002 to 2010.  We find that RAD’s findings generalize to this large and diverse sample of communities.

We can walk you through some of the key findings. First, the growth trajectory of the average wiki in our sample is similar to that of English Wikipedia. As shown in the figure below, an initial period of growth stabilizes and leads to decline several years later.

Rise and Decline on Wikia The average Wikia wikia also experience a period of growth followed by stabilization and decline (from TeBlunthuis, Shaw, and Hill 2018).

We also found that newcomers on Wikia wikis were reverted more and continued editing less. As on Wikipedia, the two processes were related. Similar to RAD, we also found that newer editors were more likely to have their contributions to the “project namespace” (where policy pages are located) undone as wikis got older. Indeed, the specific estimates from our statistical models are very similar to RAD’s for most of these findings!

There were some parts of the RAD analysis that we couldn’t reproduce in our context. For example, there are not enough bots or algorithmic editing tools in Wikia to support statistical claims about their effects on newcomers.

At the same time, we were able to do some things that the RAD authors could not.  Most importantly, our findings discount some Wikipedia-specific explanations for a rise and decline. For example, English Wikipedia’s decline coincided with the rise of Facebook, smartphones, and other social media platforms. In theory, any of these factors could have caused the decline. Because the wikis in our sample experienced rises and declines at similar points in their life-cycle but at different points in time, the rise and decline findings we report seem unlikely to be caused by underlying temporal trends.

The big communities we study seem to have consistent “life cycles” where stabilization and/or decay follows an initial period of growth. The fact that the same kinds of patterns happen on English Wikipedia and other online groups implies a more general set of social dynamics at work that we do not think existing research (including ours) explains in a satisfying way. What drives the rise and decline of communities more generally? Our findings make it clear that this is a big, important question that deserves more attention.

We hope you’ll read the paper and get in touch by commenting on this post or emailing Nate if you’d like to learn or talk more. The paper is available online and has been published under an open access license. If you really want to get into the weeds of the analysis, we will soon publish all the data and code necessary to reproduce our work in a repository on the Harvard Dataverse.

Nate TeBlunthuis will be presenting the project this week at CHI in Montréal on Thursday April 26 at 9am in room 517D.  For those of you not familiar with CHI, it is the top venue for Human-Computer Interaction. All CHI submissions go through double-blind peer review and the papers that make it into the proceedings are considered published (same as journal articles in most other scientific fields). Please feel free to cite our paper and send it around to your friends!


This blog post, and the open access paper that it describes, is a collaborative project with Aaron Shaw, that was led by Nate TeBlunthuis. A version of this blog post was originally posted on the Community Data Science Collective blog. Financial support came from the US National Science Foundation (grants IIS-1617129,  IIS-1617468, and GRFP-2016220885 ), Northwestern University, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and the University of Washington. This project was completed using the Hyak high performance computing cluster at the University of Washington.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at April 24, 2018 01:54 AM

Feeds In This Planet