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.

September 22, 2017

MediaBerkman
The Line Between Hate and Debate on Facebook
The Internet has been billed as the great equalizer, breaking down barriers and increasing access to information and ideas. At the same time, it has allowed for the proliferation of abuse online – whether in the form of hate, harassment or offensive content. The freedom to express oneself is an important principle, but should it persist unfettered? How and where should we draw the line, and who – or what – should play a role in moderating online debate? Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management, and Jonathan Zittrain, Faculty Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Harvard professor, discuss online abuse and the role that technology can play in addressing it. For more on this event, including video, visit: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2017/luncheon/09/Bickert

by the Berkman Klein Center at September 22, 2017 07:05 PM

September 19, 2017

John Palfrey
“Knowledge and Goodness: The Andover Campaign” launch speech

PA Knowledge Goodness Sun Wordmark RGB

John Palfrey

Remarks at Capital Campaign Launch

Andover, MA

September 2017

Thank you, Dana Delany, for your kind introduction and for everything you’ve done for Andover over the years.

I also want to thank Peter Currie and the board of trustees for their leadership.

Most of all, I am grateful to all of you.  Thank you for joining us as we launch this ambitious campaign to secure Andover’s future.  With your help, we will make sure that Phillips Academy remains a vital source of both knowledge and goodness.

We all have our own reasons for loving Andover.  Maybe you had a teacher who unlocked your passion for science or poetry. Maybe you discovered an instrument or a sport that gave you a new sense of pride and confidence.  Maybe you fell in love for the first time. Maybe, like Catherine and me, you placed your trust in Andover, to educate and care for your child.

Whatever your story, you’re here because Andover changed your life or your child’s life.  That’s what we do.  It’s what makes this school so special.  It’s something I’ve heard our Dean of Admission Jim Ventre say a million times.  Imagine Team Shuman – Jim and his colleagues from the Admissions Office – in the parking lot outside a school or community building.  As they are getting ready to recruit our next fabulous group of students, Jim says:

“Let’s go change some lives.”

Each one of you here is proof of the results.  So is Hafsat.  Wasn’t she amazing?  And in a few minutes you’ll hear from the incredible Kevin Olusola, whose musical and vocal talents found new creative pathways at Andover.  There are thousands more stories like theirs—stories of lives changed by Andover, stories centered around knowledge and goodness.

I think about the students the admission team assisted after Hurricane Katrina when they set up a makeshift office in a Houston hotel and conducted interviews by cell phone.  One day these students are stranded, the next they’re headed to a promising new future. Alan Wesson was one of those 19 students who blew in on Katrina’s winds. He went from Andover to Yale and is now serving as director of public programs for a west coast high school’s Center for Civic Engagement.

I think about Dario Collado, of the class of 1998, who spoke at All-School Meeting this spring.  Dario grew up in a housing project in a working-class Dominican community in Lawrence.  In an All-School Meeting last year, Dario gave one of those addresses where I could tell he had gripped every pair of eyes and ears in the audience.  Dario told our students about how a teacher at the public high school saw his potential, encouraged him to apply to Andover, drove him to the interview, and even paid his application fee.  I loved watching the faces of our students as they listened to Dario tell the story of how he found self-confidence and determination at Andover, how he became the first member of his family to go to college, and how he went on to a life of service nurturing the next generation of LatinX leaders.  Dario’s story embodies our ethic of non sibi and youth from every quarter—and it’s a testament to the transformative power of the Andover experience for students from every quarter, from every socio-economic background, from all around the world.

I think also of Caroline Lind, who came here as a promising student and devoted softball player from Greensboro, NC.  When she broke her nose one season, she worked out on the erg to stay in shape.  After hitting a record time on the machine, she changed sports and joined crew.  We all know how this story turned out. Caroline went onto Princeton, starred in crew there, and has since won 2 Olympic gold medals.  Circumstances, great coaching, faculty encouragement and personal “grit” enabled her to find a career and a passion.

Your support has helped make all this possible.  I’ve seen it first-hand over the past six years.

You’ve allowed us to continue the need-blind admission policy so no student is ever turned away for financial reasons.  No other secondary school has a financial aid program as comprehensive as ours.

You’ve supported a legacy of excellence that shines most brightly in our faculty and academic program.  It’s paying off:  Last year, a record 86 percent of admitted students chose to enroll, joining us on campus just weeks ago.

You’ve also supported our efforts to provide the healthy, balanced campus life our students need and deserve. I’m enormously proud of our state-of-the-art Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center and the programming and care to which it is home.

You’ve helped us achieve so much.  But we can’t rest on yesterday’s success. There are many more lives to change. Knowledge and Goodness, The Andover Campaign is our catalyst.

Under the leadership of Peter and the trustees, and guided by the Academy’s strategic plan, we’ve set big goals – from ensuring that Andover remains need- blind, to building a dynamic campus that can support the needs of leading-edge 21st-century education.

Our work is more important than ever.  Andover’s mission—the charge laid down by our founders to instill both knowledge and goodness—is fiercely urgent and absolutely necessary.

We are living in a time of great change… in education for sure, but also in our society at large…  how we live, work, reason, and grow together… all of it is in flux.  It can be disorienting… for students, for parents, for all of us.

As someone whose research is focused on technological change, I see these effects on education every day on campus.  I also see the impact of our increasingly polarized politics and how hard our students are working to keep open minds and open hearts.

(Pause)

Here’s the good news: Andover is well positioned to thrive in this changing world—if we make the right choices and investments.

In 1959, at the start of another fundraising campaign, Headmaster John Mason Kemper said that schools like Andover needed to meet the great changes of that era “with new ideas, new attitudes, and new techniques and tools, while holding fast to the enduring values of our past.”

That’s even more true today.

Andover’s strength has always come from a special balance of continuity and change.  Our traditions have defined us.  Finis origine pendet is right there on our seal.  But our spirit of innovation is what’s made us excel.  Think of Thomas Cochran leading the way to build our modern campus in the 1920s, with our museums, library, and Chapel.  Ted Sizer bringing coeducation to Andover in the 1970s.  And Barbara Chase and Oscar Tang recommitting Andover to need blind 10 years ago, so that the Academy could live up to its promise of educating youth from every quarter.  In each case, visionary leadership and courageous thinking helped Andover set the platinum standard for secondary schools everywhere.

With Knowledge and Goodness, we’ll double down on Andover’s core values, which provide a foundation in a changing time—an enduring commitment to excellence and inclusion, an ethic of service and citizenship, and a laser-like focus on the minds and morals of our students.

At the same time, we’ll keep innovating. The Tang Institute is an incubator for emerging ideas in education. Our faculty are already adding to their teaching techniques and changing the way students learn.

Our Learning in the World program offers every student the opportunity to study off campus and experience a culture unlike their own. We are preparing global citizens like never before. I can’t think of anything more valuable in our present climate.

And with your help, our need-blind admission policy will continue allowing us to recruit the most talented, creative and diverse student body in the country.

This is what Knowledge and Goodness, The Andover Campaign is all about.  It’s how we’ll make sure Andover continues to change lives for years to come.

We like to say that the end depends upon the beginning.  Well, this is another beginning for Andover.  Right here, with all of you, tonight.  Thank you for your support of our school, our students and faculty and staff, and the values we share.  Thank you for all of it.

Now let’s go change some lives!

# # #

 


by jgpalfrey at September 19, 2017 10:11 PM

David Weinberger
[bkc] Hate speech on Facebook

I’m at a Very Special Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society Tuesday luncheon featuring Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management in conversation with Jonathan Zittrain. Monika is in charge of what types of content can be shared on FB, how advertisers and developer interact with the site, and FB’s response to terrorist content. [NOTE: I am typing quickly, getting things wrong, missing nuance, filtering through my own interests and biases, omitting what I can’t hear or parse, and not using a spelpchecker. TL;DR: Please do not assume that this is a reliable account.]

Monika: We have more than 2B users…

JZ: Including bots?

MB: Nope, verified. Billions of messages are posted every day.

[JZ posts some bullet points about MB’s career, which is awesome.]

JZ: Audience, would you want to see photos of abused dogs taken down. Assume they’re put up without context. [It sounds to me like more do not want it taken down.]

MB: The Guardian covered this. [Maybe here?] The useful part was it highlighted how much goes into the process of deciding these things. E.g., what counts as mutilation of an animal? The Guardian published what it said were FB’s standards, not all of which were.

MB: For user generated content there’s a set of standards that’s made public. When a comment is reported to FB, it goes to a FB content reviewer.

JZ: What does it take to be one of those? What does it pay?

MB: It’s not an existing field. Some have content-area expertise, e.g., terrorism. It’s not a minimum wage sort of job. It’s a difficult, serious job. People go through extensive training, and continuing training. Each reviewer is audited. They take quizzes from time to time. Our policies change constantly. We have something like a mini legislative session every two weeks to discuss proposed policy changes, considering internal suggestions, including international input, and external expert input as well, e.g., ACLU.

MB: About animal abuse: we consider context. Is it a protest against animal cruelty? After a natural disaster, you’ll see awful images. It gets very complicated. E.g., someone posts a photo of a bleeding body in Syria with no caption, or just “Wow.” What do we do?

JZ: This is worlds away from what lawyers learn about the First Amendment.

MB: Yes, we’re a private company so the Amendment doesn’t apply. Behind our rules is the idea that “You don’t have to agree with the content, but you should feel safe”FB should be a place where people feel safe connecting and expressing themselves. You don’t have to agree with the content, but you should feel safe.

JZ: Hate speech was defined as an attack against a protected category…

MB: We don’t allow hate speech, but no two people define it the same way. For us, it’s hate speech if you are attacking a person or a group of people based upon a protected characteristic — race, gender, gender identification, etc. —. Sounds easy in concept, but applying it is hard. Our rule is if I say something about a protected category and it’s an attack, we’d consider it hate speech and remove it.

JZ: The Guardian said that in training there’s a quiz. Q: Who do we protect: Women drivers, black children, or white men? A: White men.

MB: Not our policy any more. Our policy was that if there’s another characteristic beside the protected category, it’s not hate speech. So, attacking black children was ok but not white men, because of the inclusion of “children.” But we’ve changed that. Now we would consider attacks on women drivers and black children as hate speech. But when you introduce other characteristics such as profession, it’s harder. We’re evaluating and testing policies now. We try marking content and doing a blind test to see how it affects outcomes. [I don’t understand that. Sorry.]

JZ: Should the internal policy be made public?

MB: I’d be in favor of it. Making the training decks transparent would also be useful. It’s easier if you make clear where the line is.

JZ: Do protected categories shift?

MB: Yes, generally. I’ve been at FB for 5.5 yrs, in this are for 4 yrs. Overall, we’ve gotten more restrictive. Sometimes something becomes a topic of news and we want to make sure people can discuss it.

JZ: Didi Delgado’s post “all white people are racist” was deleted. But it would have been deleted if had said that all black people are racist, right?

MB: Yes. “If it’s a protected characteristic, we’ll protect it”If it’s a protected characteristic, we’ll protect it. [Ah, if only life were that symmetrical.]

JZL How about calls to violence, e.g., “Someone shoot Trump/Hillary”? If you think it should be taken down. [Sounds like most would let it stand.]

JZ: How about “Kick a person with red hair.” [most let it stand]

JZ: “How about: To snap a bitch’s neck, make sure to apply all your pressure to the middle of her throat.” [most let it stand][fuck, that’s hard to see up on the screen.]

JZ: “Let’s beat up the fat kids.” [most let it stand]

JZ: “#stab and become the fear of the Zionist” [most take it down]

MB: We don’t allow credible calls for violence.

JZ: Suppose I, a non-public figure, posted “Post one more insult and I’ll kill you.”

MB: We’d take that down. We also look at the degree of violence. Beating up and kicking might not rise to the standard. Snapping someone’s neck would be taken down, although if it were purely instructions on how to do something, we’d leave it up. “Zionist” is often associated with hate speech, and stabbing is serious, so we’d take them down. We leave room for aspirational statements wishing some bad thing would happen. “Someone should shoot them all” we’d count as a call to violence. We also look for specifity, as in “Let’s kill JZ. He leaves work at 3.” We also look at the vulnerability of people; if it’s a dangerous situation,
we’ll tend to treat all such things as calls to violence, [These are tough questions, but I’m not aligned with FB’s decisions on this.]

JZ: How long does someone spend reviewing this stuff?

MB: Some is easy. Nudity is nudity, although we let breast cancer photos through. But a beheading video is prohibited no matter what the context. Profiles can be very hard to evaluate. E.g., is this person a terrorist?

JZ: Given the importance of FB, does it seem right that these decisions reside with FB as a commercial entity. Or is there some other source that would actually be a relief?

MB: “We’re not making these decisions in a silo”We’re not making these decisions in a silo. We reach out for opinions outside of the company. We have Safety Advisory Board, a Global Safety Network [got that wrong, I think], etc.

JZ: These decisions are global? If I insult the Thai King…

MB: That doesn’t violate our global community standard. We have a group of academics around the world, and people on our team, who are counter-terrorism experts. It’s very much a conversation with the community.

JZ: FB requires real names, which can be a form of self-doxxing. Is the Real Name policy going to evolve?

MB: It’s evolved a little about what counts as their real name, i.e., the name people call you as opposed to what’s on your drivers license. Using your real name has always been a cornerstone of FB. A quinessential element of FB.

JZ: You don’t force disambiguation among all the Robert Smiths…

MB: When you communicate with people you know, you know you know them. “We don’t want people to be communicating with people who are not who you think they are”We don’t want people to be communicating with people who are not who you think they are. When you share something on FB, it’s not public or private. You can choose which groups you want to share it with, so you know who will see it. That’s part of the real name policy as well.

MB: We have our community standards. Sometimes we get requests from countries to remove violations of their law, e.g., insults to the King of Thailand. If we get such a request, if it doesn’t violate the standards, we look if the request is actually about real law in that country. Then we ask if it is political speech; if it is, to the extent possible, we’ll push back on those requests. E.g., Germans have a little more subjectivity in their hate speech laws. They may notify us about something that violates those laws, and if it does not violate our global standards, we’ll remove it in Germany only. (It’s done by IP addresses, the language you’re using, etc.) When we do that, we include it in our 6 month reports. If it’s removed, you see a notice that the content is restricted in your jurisdiction.

Q&A

Q: Have you spoken to users about people from different cultures and backgrounds reviewing their content?

A: It’s a legitimate question. E.g., when it comes to nudity, even a room of people as homogenous as this one will disagree. So, “our rules are written to be very objective”our rules are written to be very objective. And we’re increasingly using tech to make these decisions. E.g., it’s easy to automate the finding of links to porn or spam, and much harder for evaluating speech.

Q: What drives change in these policies and algorithms?

A: It’s constantly happening. And public conversation is helpful. And our reviewers raise issues.

Q: a) When there are very contentious political issues, how do you prevent bias? b) Are there checks on FB promoting some agenda?

A: a) We don’t have a rule saying that people from one or another country can review contentious posts. But we review the reviewers’ decisions every week. b) The transparency report we put out every six months is one such check. If we don’t listen to feedback, we tend to see news stories calling us out on it.

[Monika now quickly addresses some of the questions from the open question tool.]

Q: Would you send reports to Lumen? MB: We don’t currently record why decisions were made.

Q: How to prevent removal policies from being weaponized but trolls or censorious regimes? MB: We treat all reports the same — there’s an argument that we shouldn’t — but we don’t continuously re-review posts.

JZ: For all of the major platforms struggling with these issues, is it your instinct that it’s just a matter of incrementally getting this right, bringing in more people, continue to use AI, etc. OR do you think sometimes that this is just nuts; there’s got to be a better way.

There’s a tension between letting anyone see what they want, or have global standards. People say US hates hate speech and the Germans not so much, but there’s actually a spectrum in each. The catch is that there’s content that you’re going to be ok seeing but we think is not ok to be shared.

[Monika was refreshingly direct, and these are, I believe, literally impossible problems. But I came away thinking that FB’s position has a lot to do with covering their butt at the expense of protecting the vulnerable. E.g., they treat all protected classes equally, even though some of us — er, me — are in top o’ the heap, privileged classes. The result is that FB applies a rule equally to all, which can bring inequitable results. That’s easier and safer, but it’s not like I have a solution to these intractable problems.]

The post [bkc] Hate speech on Facebook appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at September 19, 2017 06:24 PM

Berkman Center front page
The Line Between Hate and Debate

Subtitle

featuring Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management in conversation with Professor Jonathan Zittrain

Teaser

As society figures out what is acceptable and what is harmful, can technology play a role in improving online debate?

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Sep 19 2017 12:00pm to Sep 19 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

The Internet has been billed as the great equalizer, breaking down barriers and increasing access to information and ideas. At the same time, it has allowed for the proliferation of abuse online – whether in the form of hate, harassment or offensive content. The freedom to express oneself is an important principle, but should it persist unfettered? How and where should we draw the line, and who – or what – should play a role in moderating online debate? Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management, and Jonathan Zittrain, Faculty Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Harvard professor, discuss online abuse and the role that technology can play in addressing it.

About Monika

Monika Bickert is Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management. Her global team manages the policies for what types of content can be shared on Facebook and how advertisers and developers can interact with the site. She also manages the company’s response to terrorist content online. Monika originally joined Facebook in 2012 as lead security counsel, advising the company on matters including child safety and data security.

Prior to joining Facebook, Monika served as Resident Legal Advisor at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, where she specialized in Southeast Asian rule of law development, including Southeast Asian governments’ response to terrorist insurgencies, child exploitation, and human trafficking. She also served as an Assistant United States Attorney for 11 years in Washington, DC, and Chicago, prosecuting federal crimes ranging from public corruption to gang-related violence. During her time in Chicago, Monika was the Northern District of Illinois’ coordinator for the prosecution of crimes against children, and she also received the Investigation of the Year award from Drug Enforcement Administration for U.S. v. James Austin, et al., a prosecution of 50 gang members and associates for coordinated narcotics trafficking that caused over a dozen deaths.

Monika received a B.A. from Rice University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Zittrain is the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at the Harvard Law School Library, and co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.  His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, human computing, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education.

He performed the first large-scale tests of Internet filtering in China and Saudi Arabia, and as part of the OpenNet Initiative co-edited a series of studies of Internet filtering by national governments: Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet FilteringAccess Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace; and Access Contested: Security, Identity, and Resistance in Asian Cyberspace.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Board of Advisors for Scientific American.  He has served as a Trustee of the Internet Society and as a Forum Fellow of the World Economic Forum, which named him a Young Global Leader. He was a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Federal Communications Commission, and previously chaired the FCC’s Open Internet Advisory Committee. His book The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It predicted the end of general purpose client computing and the corresponding rise of new gatekeepers.  That and other works may be found at <http://www.jz.org>.

Links to resources we want to share in advance of talk:

Download original audio and video from this event.

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events podcast to have audio from all our events delivered straight to you!

by candersen at September 19, 2017 04:00 PM

September 18, 2017

Justin Reich
Who, Me? Distributed Leadership in Schools
Teachers play an essential role in leading changes in teaching and learning in schools.

by Justin Reich at September 18, 2017 11:26 PM

Berkman Center front page
HUBweek 2017: Programming the Future of AI: Ethics, Governance, and Justice

Subtitle

featuring Professor Chris Bavitz, Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic and special guests

Teaser

How do we prepare court systems, judges, lawyers, and defendants to interact with autonomous systems? What are the potential societal costs to human autonomy, dignity, and due process from the use of these systems in our judicial systems?

Event Date

Oct 10 2017 12:00pm to Oct 10 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
Harvard Law School campus
Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East C, Room 2036 (HLS campus map)
RSVP required to attend in person
Event will be live webcast at 12:00 pm

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society will host a talk focused on the evolution of artificial intelligence, with a particular emphasis on ethics, governance, and criminal and social justice. Drawing from the research, community building, and educational efforts undertaken as part of our Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence initiative, we will hold a discussion to share and reflect on insights from ongoing activities related to the judiciary and fairness. Key questions that animate our work include: how do we prepare court systems, judges, lawyers, and defendants to interact with autonomous systems? What are the potential societal costs to human autonomy, dignity, and due process from the use of these systems in our judicial systems?

The discussion will be led by Harvard Law School Clinical Professor and Director of the Cyberlaw Clinic Chris Bavitz in conversation with special guests. This event will be live-streamed and archived on the Berkman Klein Center website.

About Chris Bavitz

Christopher T. Bavitz is Managing Director of Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic, based at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. He is also a Clinical Professor of Law at HLS, where he co-teaches the Counseling and Legal Strategy in the Digital Age seminar and teaches the seminar, Music & Digital Media. Chris concentrates his practice on intellectual property and media law, particularly in the areas of music, entertainment, and technology. He oversees many of the Clinic’s projects relating to copyright, speech, and advising of startups, and he serves as the HLS Dean’s Designate to Harvard’s Innovation Lab. Prior to joining the Clinic, Chris served as Senior Director of Legal Affairs for EMI Music North America. From 1998-2002, Chris was a litigation associate at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal and RubinBaum LLP / Rubin Baum Levin Constant & Friedman, where he focused on copyright and trademark matters. Chris received his B.A., cum laude, from Tufts University in 1995 and his J.D. from University of Michigan Law School in 1998.

by doyolu at September 18, 2017 03:26 PM

MediaBerkman
Jonathan Zittrain on Technology for the Social Good
Berkman Klein Center Faculty Chair Jonathan Zittrain discusses the development of the Internet — from its earliest stages to its present manifestations — as a technology for good or harm, depending on the human forces that wield it. Find out more about this event, and the Berkman Klein Center, here: https://cyber.harvard.edu/events/2017/luncheon/09/Zittrain

by the Berkman Klein Center at September 18, 2017 02:57 PM

September 15, 2017

Harry Lewis
Motion update
For those who are just coming up to speed, Harvard Magazine published a good summary of the situation at the time I filed the new version of the motion about club memberships.
The Crimson reports, on authority of a member of the Faculty Council, that the motion will be discussed at the October meeting of the Faculty, but not voted until the November meeting. This may or may not be true; I can't confirm it, since these matters are decided by the Docket Committee, which has not communicated any such decision to me. (The December 2016 FAS meeting was adjourned without a vote in a rather odd way, so the signatories to the motion are watching these procedural decisions rather closely this time.)
The Crimson has another story of interest, about a Title IX complaint against the University in which the Final Clubs are featured prominently. This news tends to support the theory that what got the ball rolling toward the mess we are in was fear that Harvard might be legally liable for a tort that happened at a final club. That would explain, for example, the insistence that the final decision about the clubs is for the president to make rather than the Faculty, in spite of the unambiguous language of the Statutes (she would be acting as a fiduciary, would go the logic, notwithstanding the assignment to the Faculty of responsibility for the discipline of students). It would explain the early public involvement of the Senior Fellow, who traditionally has not weighed in on questions about student parties, and the "regular" discussions taking place about final clubs between the College administration and the Corporation.  It would also explain the otherwise peculiar decision, even in the recent harsh version of the proposals, that the ethnic fraternities and sororities would be left alone, in spite of being doubly "exclusionary," on the basis of both gender and ethnicity. As they draw from several local universities, Harvard may have calculated that the risk of liability was small for events that might happen at them.
Connecting these dots suggests how the ball may have gotten rolling, but it is not in meant to question the sincerity of those who support the sanctions for other reasons. Whether or not this speculation is correct, I would fully support Harvard taking strong action to limit its risks, and protect students' safety to boot. (Though if risk mitigation really got this started, I wish the Corporation had been equally risk-conscious back in 2008, when it lost billions from the endowment overnight.)
On the other hand, the Title IX origin would make a great deal of what has been said over the past year rather incomplete and beside the point, if not disingenuous, and the actual solution proposed both overbroad and not even sure to include the original target in its kill zone. (Is the champagne being chilled in anticipation of Harvard's glorious victory over the KKG sorority?) It would also be worrisome in suggesting that the Corporation's interpretation of University governance is that the president has limitless authority to make any kind of decision over matters in which the University can be said to have any risk.
One more news item. The President has some words about the motion in her opening of term greetings. I will leave it to readers to make up their own minds about her characterization of the matter under discussion. But I would note that it is fairly unusual, and perhaps unprecedented, for the president to speak so strongly in public against a motion to be debated and voted by the Faculty at a meeting over which she will preside.

The first Crimson story linked above describes a one-pager I shared with the Faculty Council; I include it below for your information.

--------------------------

Harvard College shall not discipline, penalize, or otherwise sanction students for joining, or affiliating with, any lawful organization, political party, or social, political, or other affinity group.


Explanatory note. This motion is intended to give students who join or form legal clubs or similar organizations the same protections that existing policies afford to all other students.  It also secures their right of free association.  If the policy is adopted, students could not, simply because of membership in a legal club, social or political organization, be sanctioned by the Administrative Board or by the Honor Council, or deprived of any academic or extracurricular opportunity or honor for which they would otherwise be eligible.


This motion is a version of the motion submitted last year in response to the USGSO policy announced in May of 2016. When that policy was reconsidered, the motion was withdrawn. Now that the recommendations of the Clark-Khurana committee have proven to be even more expansive than the original proposal, it is time for the full Faculty to debate and decide the question of principle: should students ever be punished for joining private organizations?


To recap very briefly the main points raised in support of the motion last year:
  • Students should be punished for their acts, not their memberships.
  • The right of free association, like the right of free speech, should apply to students as it applies to all US citizens.
  • Harvard has never in modern times blacklisted any organization by prohibiting membership.
  • Harvard specifically prohibits even asking faculty candidates about club memberships.
  • In the 1950s, Harvard famously stood behind the right of faculty to join publicly unpopular but legally constituted organizations.
  • The Verba report on ROTC (written while ROTC banned gay students) stated the principle explicitly: To punish students for joining a discriminatory organization would be “a paternalistic policy inconsistent with Harvard’s general approach.” The Verba principle is in diametrical contrast to the view expressed last year that “of course we can discriminate against people who discriminate.”
The motion has been reworded to drop the term “discrimination,” which some found confusing or objectionable, and to use direct language instead. Further relevant discussion appears on the FAS Wiki.


In response to last year’s motion, some protested that bringing the McCarthy era into the conversation was alarmist, as the policy then proposed was narrowly targeted and could not possibly be a step down any slippery slope. The fact that the new proposal does indeed take several steps down that slope confirms that a broad statement of principle is needed.


It is urgent that the Faculty’s voice be heard corporately, not via hand-picked representatives. When the USGSO policy was announced in 2016, the president accepted it simultaneously. When the Implementation Committee report was issued last year, Dean Khurana accepted most of its recommendations simultaneously. There has been no indication that the Faculty will be asked to vote on the final policy. The president, the deans, and the Faculty itself need to know the Faculty’s view on the fundamental question asserted by this motion.


This motion has twenty-one signatories, including all twelve who signed last year’s version.

Harry Lewis, 12 September 2017

by Harry Lewis (noreply@blogger.com) at September 15, 2017 02:40 AM

September 14, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Cross-Border Data Access Reform

A Primer on the Proposed U.S.-U.K. Agreement

Teaser

A brief primer on how cross-border data access requests currently work, options for reform, and major challenges to reform ahead

Publication Date

13 Sep 2017

Author(s)

Thumbnail Image: 

Abstract

Cross-border data access reform may be on the legislative agenda in late 2017, with recent House and Senate judiciary committee hearings revisiting the topic. In light of this increasing interest, we thought it would be helpful to provide a brief primer on how cross-border data access requests currently work, options for reform, and major challenges to reform ahead. This document presents a short, high-level background review of the debate as it currently stands, particularly focusing on the DOJ’s 2016 proposal for reform.*

Governments need evidence to investigate and prosecute crimes, but increasingly that evidence takes the form of data stored on the servers of U.S. tech companies. In July 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released draft legislation that would address some of the challenges foreign governments face when seeking data related to criminal investigations from U.S. companies. Interest in making such changes continues to grow, with relevant laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), maybe seeing Congressional attention in late 2017, especially as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) comes up for renewal.

To access electronic content – including email, social media messages, and more – held by U.S. companies, a foreign country currently relies primarily on the processes set out in agreements called Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs), if that country has negotiated one with the U.S. MLATs with the U.S. require countries to meet U.S. legal standards when making requests for electronic content data, with less strict standards for metadata. Countries have grown frustrated with both the normative implications of the MLAT process and its typical lengthiness.

After substantial debate, and with many proposed ideas from civil society, industry, and academia, the Department of Justice (DOJ) in July 2016 released draft legislation intended to address these concerns. The proposal moves away from the treaty-based system currently underpinning the mutual legal assistance process. Instead, the new legislation would require “lighter touch” bilateral agreements on this issue between the United States and participating countries. Once countries are approved for these bilateral agreements, the legislation would allow them to submit requests for data, made pursuant to the requesting countries’ laws and stipulations in the legislation, directly to U.S. electronic service providers, instead of first going through U.S. courts. The U.K. would likely be the first country approved to make requests under this new legislation, but the legislation would also pave the way for agreements with other qualifying countries. This legislation advances a legal solution for cross-border data access that proponents hope is sufficiently appealing to foreign governments to forestall more damaging alternative responses to data access concerns, including country-wide service bans, mandated data localization, or forcing companies to make decisions in the face of a conflict of laws.

* This publication is an adaptation of a briefing document originally created by the authors to inform discussions in the Berklett Cybersecurity project meetings about the proposed U.S.-U.K. agreement on cross-border data sharing and related issues.

About the Berklett Cybersecurity Project

Launched in 2015, the Berklett Cybersecurity project is a unique forum for discussing true and important, and often novel, facts, and perspectives, and achieving surprising consensus on enduring questions of cybersecurity.  The project is led by Prof. Jonathan Zittrain and former National Security Agency (NSA) Director of Compliance John DeLong, in close collaboration with security technologist Bruce Schneier, and Matthew Olsen, the former Director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). More information about the project can be found on the Berkman Klein Center’s website: http://cyber.harvard.edu/research/cybersecurity

The Berklett Cybersecurity project is generously supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Research efforts that contributed to this publication were also supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. 

Producer Intro

Authored by

by djones at September 14, 2017 07:00 PM

September 13, 2017

John Palfrey
Opening All School Meeting, Phillips Academy, 2017-2018

All-School Meeting

John Palfrey, Head of School, Phillips Academy

September 13, 2017

Good morning, Andover!  I am psyched to see you all here.

The main point of this All School Meeting is simply for us to gather, in one space, to celebrate the start of the year.  It’s a great chance to acknowledge the special role that the faculty and staff play in our lives here.  And it’s a moment to celebrate the start to the senior year of the great Andover Class of 2018.

Phillips Academy is not a great place because it’s old.  It’s a great place because generation after generation of faculty and students, staff and alumni, have refused to rest on the laurels of past greatness.  Phillips Academy has always been a place where tradition and values matter a great deal – and you’ll hear much about non sibi, knowledge with goodness, and youth from every quarter during your time here – but also a place where innovation happens, where reform has happened in ways that are consistent with the school’s founding principles.

At this time of year, I always think of footsteps – those left by those who came before us and those that we will leave during OUR time at Andover.

First, let’s think about the effect of our footsteps on our natural environment.  I hope and trust that we are entering a new era of stewardship, in which we are all thinking carefully about how might protect the environment around us and do our part to combat the dangers of climate change.

My thoughts about footsteps this morning relate to treading lightly and carefully during our time here.  Those who are returning students to Andover know the rules when it comes to walking around campus.  One big one is to be sure to press the button before you cross the street, whether the sun is shining or not.  Take out your earbuds.  Look out for cars, make eye contact with drivers, and smile and wave if you are crossing in front of a car.  Please do this 100% of the time.

When it comes to walking on the grass, the rule goes something like this: one may walk on the grass if one is going to a spot on the grass, say, to have a picnic; but one should use the path, if one is merely walking from point to point on campus, across the grass.

And if you must cross the grass to get from point A to point B, returning students, what do you need to do?  Yes, zig-zag.

This rule seems quite sensible; I like it.  Please do play Frisbee and soccer and have picnics on the lawns at Andover.  Shame on us if we don’t take the time to enjoy the natural beauty of this campus, to enjoy the hard work of our friends in OPP, to share the gifts of the landscape architecture of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles Platt, and others.  This rule means that we are both enjoying and respecting the land we have been given, as stewards for the future.

I am reminded, too, of my own first all-school meeting, when I was a student.  It turns out my school called it “assembly.”  And it turns out, in case you haven’t heard, that I was at Exeter at the time.  The only thing I remember about that first assembly, other than the sense of excitement and electricity in the room, was that the head of school, Mr. Kurtz, built his remarks around a single line.  At Exeter at the time, one was not permitted to walk on the grass at all.  The main line of his speech, to his student body, was “keep off the grass.”  It was, of course, a double entendre – for those not taking French, he had a double meaning.  I didn’t forget either of those meanings for the four years I was boarding there.

At Andover, we have a different rule.  You are encouraged to use the grass in one of those two senses.

I underscore the second meaning: do not ignore those rules of community conduct.  Students may not in any instances use drugs and alcohol on this campus.  For that matter, we expect you to uphold all of our community expectations with respect to how we treat one another – in everyday encounters and in intimate moments.  We expect you to know what we mean by consent and to act accordingly – and yes, I am now talking about sex.  If anything about our community expectations is unclear, come see me or a dean or your house counselor or advisor.  It’s essential that we are all on the same page at the start of the year about the rules.

This metaphor is useful in thinking about the balance we seek to strike at Andover.  I encourage you to zig-zag on purpose; not all who wander, as the saying goes, are lost.  Do have fun; do take routes that are not-exactly-linear as you make your way through the school; and do follow the rules, with fidelity, along the way.

A second context for footsteps, meant as a metaphor for the effect of our footsteps on Phillips Academy as an institution.

One small suggestion I have for all of you is that, during your time here, you find for yourselves a favorite spot, somewhere on campus.  We all need a part of the school that gives us a sense of serenity, or happiness, or hope, for those days when we need something to help us to re-center ourselves, to reflect, to recharge our batteries.

Now in my sixth year as Head of School, I have come to love many parts of campus:  the inside of SamPhil, because I teach US History there: this chapel, because I cherish being with all of you (I mean that); the entryway to the Addison; the reading room of the OWH Library; a small library area of Phelps House, where I live with my family.

My very favorite place on campus happens to be a staircase – actually, two staircases.  These stairs are the stairs leading from the first floor to the second floor of Paresky Commons.  There is something about progress upwards, toward the divine, or towards the future, that I like about them.  Perhaps it has to do with the food, which is very good.  But mostly it has to do with the steps themselves.

The steps have indentations in the marble – indentations made by generations of students, faculty and staff who have gone before us.  I love these indentations because they remind me that we are not alone in this journey, not alone today and not alone over time.

As I walk up those steps, I realize that I am making those indentations deeper than they were before.  If I put a foot in the deepest part, I am making that indentation just a bit deeper.  If I step where others have not stepped so often, perhaps closer to the middle of the stair, then I make a tiny mark where others have not so frequently walked.

I know that my steps do matter, as your head of school.  But I also know that my steps do not really matter any more than any of your steps.  Perhaps I weigh a bit more than some of you, so my indentation is a bit deeper, or my footfall heavier than yours is, as you sprint more quickly from the first to the second floor.  But none of us can change this place very quickly with our footsteps.  None of us can change those steps, all that much, on our own.  And we will be followed – there will be a sixteenth head of school.  There will be a class of 2048, perhaps with some of your children in it, or my grandchildren.

These steps bring to mind one of the most memorable conversations I’ve had with an alumnus of Andover.  One morning, in my first summer on the job, I was invited to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Paresky, in their home to have a glass of lemonade and to hear about Andover.  I asked them why they loved the school so much and why they had given us the generous gift to renovate the “Commons” into “Paresky.”  I loved what the Pareskys said that day: it had to do with how much the school had given to David Paresky as a student, and to their own daughter Pamela, in particular, when she followed him to the school.

But it also was about the way that Mr. Paresky thinks about obligation: the notion that he had been given much by the school, at an early age; that he had gone out and done well – and many good works, in the true non sibi spirit – in his life; and that he believed that he needed to be a steward of Andover, that he had an obligation to give back.  We all get more from Andover than we give, he told me, and he wanted to be sure that the students at Andover today know about both the wonderful opportunity that you have while you are here – seize it! – and also about the extent to which great institutions like Andover don’t just happen.  They become great because generation after generation, students have been mindful of their own footsteps here and then have given back, when they’ve moved on from life on campus, out of a sense of love for the place and also obligation.

And that’s the key point about the footsteps.  Our words and our deeds while we are at Andover matter, just as they matter after we are gone from here.

As I wrote to you this summer, our theme for the year is citizenship.  As you think about the mark you want to make at Andover, I urge you to do so in the context of the larger world – not just what is going on inside the Andover bubble.  I expect every Andover student to engage in the issues of our time.  This summer gave plenty of examples: senseless violence in Charlottesville and Barcelona; lives disrupted by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma; proposals to end and reform DACA; and on and on.  Andover students come from a long and proud tradition of making a mark in the world through their footsteps.  I expect us to continue that tradition and in doing so, to be informed, engaged, productive citizens of our communities, nations, and the world.

As we do so, we should have fun – good, wholesome fun, of course.  We should have picnics and games on the grass.  We will work hard and we should play a lot too, and enjoy this community that we are so lucky to be a part of.

Before we go, I’d like to do a few quick things.  I’ve been so happy to hear the joyful voices of all of you students lighting up this campus since the Blue Keys started to cheer on the corner as new students arrived.

First: Juniors, Lowers, Uppers: the seniors came in with a lot of spirit this morning.  I want all the juniors, lowers, and uppers, to make some noise in appreciation of those students who go before you.  Let’s hear it for the seniors!

Seniors, you get another shot.  Let’s hear it for the juniors, lowers, and uppers, who are following in your enormous footsteps!  Make some noise!

And last, after this last cheer, the All School Meeting is adjourned.  I want you to do one last cheer – hold on! – and then walk out of this chapel into brilliant sunshine, ideally with a big smile on your faces, and perhaps a little attention, in the back of your minds, to your footsteps as you go.

All students, you are going to do this last cheer.  You are surrounded, in this community, by some of the finest adults I have ever had the privilege of meeting.  This is a mindful, inspired, caring community of teachers – and citizens – who have CHOSEN to devote their professional lives – and in many respects, their personal lives, too, as they live in the dorms with you and eat together and play together – to your education.  For our last cheer of the day, Andover students, and as our last act as we leave the chapel: Let’s hear it for ALL the teachers on this campus!

Thank you – All School Meeting is dismissed.


by jgpalfrey at September 13, 2017 05:53 PM

September 12, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Berkman Klein: Technology for the Social Good featuring Jonathan Zittrain

Subtitle

Learn more about us in an interactive discussion with Prof. Jonathan Zittrain, Berkman Klein Center Faculty Chair

Teaser

If you’re interested in connecting with the Berkman Klein Center's research, community, and events, or are just generally interested in digital technologies and their impact on society, please join us for this talk!

Parent Event

Berkman Klein Luncheon Series

Event Date

Sep 12 2017 12:00pm to Sep 12 2017 12:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University
 

Join us for our first Tuesday Luncheon Series of the academic year to learn more about the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University -- and its network of researchers, activists, faculty, students, technologists, entrepreneurs, artists, policy makers, lawyers, and more -- in an interactive conversation lead by Berkman Klein Center Faculty Chair Jonathan Zittrain. If you’re curious about connecting with our research, our community, or our events, or are just generally interested in digital technologies and their impact on society and the social good, please join us!

About Berkman Klein

We  bring together the sharpest, most thoughtful people from around the globe to tackle the biggest challenges presented by the Internet. As an interdisciplinary, University-wide center with a global scope, we have an unparalleled track record of leveraging exceptional academic rigor to produce real- world impact. We pride ourselves on pushing the edges of scholarly research, building tools and platforms that break new ground, and fostering active networks across diverse communities. United by our commitment to the public interest, our vibrant, collaborative community of independent thinkers represents a wide range of philosophies and disciplines, making us a unique home for open-minded inquiry, debate, and experimentation.

About Jonathan Zittrain

Jonathan Zittrain is the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at the Harvard Law School Library, and co-founder of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.  His research interests include battles for control of digital property and content, cryptography, electronic privacy, the roles of intermediaries within Internet architecture, human computing, and the useful and unobtrusive deployment of technology in education.

He performed the first large-scale tests of Internet filtering in China and Saudi Arabia, and as part of the OpenNet Initiative co-edited a series of studies of Internet filtering by national governments: Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet FilteringAccess Controlled: The Shaping of Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace; and Access Contested: Security, Identity, and Resistance in Asian Cyberspace.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Board of Advisors for Scientific American.  He has served as a Trustee of the Internet Society and as a Forum Fellow of the World Economic Forum, which named him a Young Global Leader. He was a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Federal Communications Commission, and previously chaired the FCC’s Open Internet Advisory Committee. His book The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop Itpredicted the end of general purpose client computing and the corresponding rise of new gatekeepers.  That and other works may be found at <http://www.jz.org>.

Download original audio and video from this event.

Subscribe to the Berkman Klein events podcast to have audio from all our events delivered straight to you!

by candersen at September 12, 2017 04:00 PM

danah boyd
Data & Society’s Next Stage

In March 2013, in a flurry of days, I decided to start a research institute. I’d always dreamed of doing so, but it was really my amazing mentor and boss – Jennifer Chayes – who put the fire under my toosh. I’d been driving her crazy about the need to have more people deeply interrogating how data-driven technologies were intersecting with society. Microsoft Research didn’t have the structure to allow me to move fast (and break things). University infrastructure was even slower. There were a few amazing research centers and think tanks, but I wanted to see the efforts scale faster. And I wanted to build the structures to connect research and practices, convene conversations across sectors, and bring together a band of what I loved to call “misfit toys.”  So, with the support of Jennifer and Microsoft, I put pen to paper. And to my surprise, I got the green light to help start a wholly independent research institute.

I knew nothing about building an organization. I had never managed anyone, didn’t know squat about how to put together a budget, and couldn’t even create a check list of to-dos. So I called up people smarter than I to help learn how other organizations worked and figure out what I should learn to turn a crazy idea into reality. At first, I thought that I should just go and find someone to run the organization, but I was consistently told that I needed to do it myself, to prove that it could work. So I did. It was a crazy adventure. Not only did I learn a lot about fundraising, management, and budgeting, but I also learned all sorts of things about topics I didn’t even know I would learn to understand – architecture, human resources, audits, non-profit law. I screwed up plenty of things along the way, but most people were patient with me and helped me learn from my mistakes. I am forever grateful to all of the funders, organizations, practitioners, and researchers who took a chance on me.

Still, over the next four years, I never lost that nagging feeling that someone smarter and more capable than me should be running Data & Society. I felt like I was doing the organization a disservice by not focusing on research strategy and public engagement. So when I turned to the board and said, it’s time for an executive director to take over, everyone agreed. We sat down and mapped out what we needed – a strategic and capable leader who’s passionate about building a healthy and sustainable research organization to be impactful in the world. Luckily, we had hired exactly that person to drive program and strategy a year before when I was concerned that I was flailing at managing the fieldbuilding and outreach part of the organization.

I am overwhelmingly OMG ecstatically bouncing for joy to announce that Janet Haven has agreed to become Data & Society’s first executive director. You can read more about Janet through the formal organizational announcement here.  But since this is my blog and I’m telling my story, what I want to say is more personal. I was truly breaking when we hired Janet. I had taken off more than I could chew. I was hitting rock bottom and trying desperately to put on a strong face to support everyone else. As I see it, Janet came in, took one look at the duct tape upon which I’d built the organization and got to work with steel, concrete, and wood in her hands. She helped me see what could happen if we fixed this and that. And then she started helping me see new pathways for moving forward. Over the last 18 months, I’ve grown increasingly confident that what we’re doing makes sense and that we can build an organization that can last. I’ve also been in awe watching her enable others to shine.

I’m not leaving Data & Society. To the contrary, I’m actually taking on the role that my title – founder and president – signals. And I’m ecstatic. Over the last 4.5 years, I’ve learned what I’m good at and what I’m not, what excites me and what makes me want to stay in bed. I built Data & Society because I believe that it needs to exist in this world. But I also realize that I’m the classic founder – the crazy visionary that can kickstart insanity but who isn’t necessarily the right person to take an organization to the next stage. Lucky for me, Janet is. And together, I can’t wait to take Data & Society to the next level!

by zephoria at September 12, 2017 02:34 PM

September 11, 2017

Justin Reich
Research "Proves" - Very Little
When reading articles that reference empirical research, we need to examine how the author makes assumptions before considering the study as "proof."

by Beth Holland at September 11, 2017 01:27 PM

September 06, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Ruling on Bail Instructive Re: Algorithms & Criminal Justice

Teaser

Prof. Chris Bavitz notes how a recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling might impact the use of algorithms in criminal justice.

Thumbnail Image: 

Prof. Chris Bavitz notes the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s recent ruling in Brangan v. Commonwealth  concerning the process of making bail determinations in Massachusetts, and how it might impact the use of algorithms in criminal justice.

If we are going to allow algorithms to play a role in certain aspects of the bail determination process, it is vitally important that we understand and make clear: (a) which questions those algorithms are helping to answer; (b) on what data sets those algorithms draw in reaching their conclusions; and (c) at what stages of a given legal analysis the outcomes prescribed by those algorithms may be relevant.

Read Chris Bavitz's Medium post

by djones at September 06, 2017 03:44 PM

September 05, 2017

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
MA SJC Ruling on Bail Instructive Re: Algorithms and Criminal Justice

One track of the Berkman Klein Center’s work on artificial intelligence ethics and governance concerns the use of algorithms, machine learning, and related technologies in ways that impact social and criminal justice. Among other things, this research examines technologies employed by courts in their disposition of criminal cases. Increasingly, judicial determinations are informed by software that helps judges perform “risk assessments” of defendants or otherwise process and weigh factors relevant to decisions about sentencing, parole, and the like. The Center (along with collaborators at the MIT Media Lab) is undertaking a number of efforts to evaluate ways in which these kinds of technologies might mitigate or exacerbate bias. The initiative has both technical and legal components, and a significant amount of our work to date has involved technologists and lawyers working together to correlate technical concepts with legal standards (and vice-versa). In the context of these efforts, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s recent ruling in Brangan v. Commonwealth — which has nothing to do with algorithms but concerns, broadly, the process of making bail determinations in Massachusetts — is of significant interest.

In assessing the use of technical tools in the context of bail, it is important to go back to first principles and understand the purposes behind bail and the forces that animate bail decisions in individual cases. In making a bail determination, a court is faced with a decision whether and on what terms (monetary and otherwise) to release a criminal defendant pending full adjudication of that defendant’s rights. Such decisions are complex and depend upon on analysis of factors that are often in direct tension:

  • To state the obvious, incarceration has significant adverse impacts on those who are incarcerated. Thus, any decision to deprive someone of her liberty (either prior to trial or following a finding of guilt) must take into consideration the defendant’s right to due process and the extraordinary damage that a jail term can have on one’s livelihood, family relations, and the like. At the bail stage, that decision must recognize the presumption that criminal defendants are innocent unless and until the state proves otherwise.
  • At the same time, lenient standards for pre-trial release might increase the likelihood that a criminal defendant will fail to return to court for a full adjudication of underlying charges. In some cases, releasing a criminal defendant might put victims or others members of the community at risk.

Against this backdrop, the Brangan case deals with a situation in which a defendant is “unable to give the necessary security for his appearance at trial because of his indigence” — a situation in which “the purpose of bail is frustrated.” The opinion (issued August 25, 2017 and authored by Justice Geraldine S. Hines) concerns a criminal defendant, Jahmal Brangan, held in Hampden County, Massachusetts jail since January 17, 2014 following his arrest for armed robbery. During the intervening three-and-a-half years, Mr. Brangan has been held subject to bail set at amounts ranging from $20,000 to $50,000 in cash (or $200,000 to $500,000 in surety). Mr. Brangan was unable to pay any of these amounts, and he thus remains incarcerated despite never having received a full and final adjudication of the criminal charges against him.1 On appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Mr. Brangan argued that, in setting bail, the lower court had “violated his right to due process because the judge failed to give adequate consideration to his financial resources, and set bail in an amount so far beyond his financial means that it resulted in his long-term detention pending resolution of his case.”

In its opinion, the SJC notes that the relevant statute — Massachusetts General Laws c. 276, § 57 — does not expressly identify ability to pay as among the factors a judge must consider when setting bail. The statute indicates that one imposing bail in the Commonwealth “shall take into consideration” the following factors (links added):

the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the potential penalty the person faces, the person’s family ties, employment record and history of mental illness, the person’s reputation, the risk that the person will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice or threaten, injure or intimidate or attempt to threaten, injure or intimidate a prospective witness or juror, the person’s record of convictions, if any, any illegal drug distribution or present drug dependency, whether the person is on bail pending adjudication of a prior charge, whether the acts alleged involve abuse, as defined in said section 1 of said chapter 209A, a violation of a temporary or permanent order issued pursuant to said sections 18 or 34B of said chapter 208, said section 32 of said chapter 209, said sections 34 or 5 of said chapter 209A or said sections 15 or 20 of said chapter 209C, whether the person has any history of issuance of such orders pursuant to the aforesaid sections, whether the person is on probation, parole or other release pending completion of sentence for any conviction and whether the person is on release pending sentence or appeal for any conviction.

Nevertheless, the Court identifies common law support for the proposition that “[a] Superior Court judge . . . must still consider a defendant’s financial resources when setting bail.” The Court specifically points to the SJC’s prior decisions in Commonwealth v. Torres, 441 Mass. 499, 504 (2004) and Querubin v. Commonwealth, 440 Mass. 108, 115 n. 6 (2003), which included “financial resources” as among the factors a judge should consider when conducting a bail hearing:

the factors that a judge is to consider when conducting a bail hearing are “(1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, (2) the accused’s family ties, (3) his financial resources, (4) his length of residence in the community, (5) his character and mental condition, (6) his record of convictions and appearances at court proceedings or of any previous flight to avoid prosecution or (7) any failure to appear at any court proceedings.”

Beyond statutory language and common law, the SJC looks to the federal and state constitutions and notes that both the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 26 of Massachusetts Declaration of Rights (i.e., the state constitution in the Commonwealth) expressly prohibit excessive bail. Such prohibition also finds support in the broader constitutional principles of due process and equal protection. Avoiding imposition of excessive bail and complying with constitutional mandates regarding due process and equal protection necessarily requires individualized, case-by-case determinations that include consideration of defendants’ ability to pay

The Court does not go so far as to hold that imposition of unaffordable bail constitutes a due process violation per se. On the contrary, the Brangan opinion serves to establish a framework for bail-setting without pre-determining outcomes in any particular case:

Although the judge must take a defendant’s financial resources into account in setting bail, that is only one of the factors to be considered, and it should not override all the others. Bail that is beyond a defendant’s reach is not prohibited. Where, based on the judge’s consideration of all the relevant circumstances, neither alternative nonfinancial conditions nor an amount the defendant can afford will adequately assure his appearance for trial, it is permissible to set bail at a higher amount, but no higher than necessary to ensure the defendant’s appearance.

Indeed, the Court notes that — in some cases — it may be permissible to detain a defendant prior to trial without bail as long as fundamental requirements of both substantive and procedural process have been met in reaching that result.

Applying this legal framework to the facts at hand, the Court expresses three sets of concerns in support of its decision that a new bail determination for Mr. Brangan is required. First, the Court notes that a defendant’s “dangerousness” is separate from whether or not he poses a “flight risk.” Under the applicable statute, the former may not be taken into consideration in assessing the amount of bail and may only be considered in the context of other conditions of pretrial release. The SJC finds that arguments presented in the Commonwealth’s briefs below conflated dangerousness and risk of flight and holds that the lower court’s bail determination did not adequately disentangle the two.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, the Court holds (footnotes and citations omitted):

[W]here, based on a defendant’s credible representations and any other evidence before the judge, it appears that the defendant lacks the financial resources to post the amount of bail set by the judge, such that it will likely result in the defendant’s long-term pretrial detention, the judge must provide findings of fact and a statement of reasons for the bail decision, either in writing or orally on the record. The statement must confirm the judge’s consideration of the defendant’s financial resources, explain how the bail amount was calculated, and state why, notwithstanding the fact that the bail amount will likely result in the defendant’s detention, the defendant’s risk of flight is so great that no alternative, less restrictive financial or nonfinancial conditions will suffice to assure his or her presence at future court proceedings.

Applying this standard, the Court finds that the bail order in question was deficient insofar as it did not evince consideration of Mr. Brangan’s financial resources and offered no explanation of “how the judge calculated the bail amount, how Brangan’s criminal history demonstrated that he posed a serious flight risk, or why that risk was so great that it necessitated a bail amount beyond his means.” (The Court also notes that the order failed to explain why the judge “rejected Brangan’s alternative proposal that he be released on $5,000 cash with the condition that he wear a GPS tracking bracelet.”)

Third, the Court holds that the long delay in bringing Mr. Brangan to trial must be considered in determining whether continuing pre-trial detention is justified.

The Brangan case is important on its merits and serves as a roadmap for judges, prosecutors, and defendants. For those approaching bail from a technical or design perspective, the case may be of interest for a slightly different set of reasons:

  • Bail may appear to present a paradigm for the type of straightforward judicial decisionmaking framework in which algorithms can play a role in processing information and balancing competing interests. But, the SJC’s opinion in Brangan underscores the complexities of bail and multivariate nature of a bail determination in any given case.
  • For those interested in “interpretability” in the context of algorithms,2 the opinion highlights the need for decisionmaking models that are transparent, trustworthy, replicable, and explainable. It also might serve to inform development of audit mechanisms for risk assessment tools in the context of bail, offering guidance regarding how judges must explain their decisionmaking processes as we seek to ensure the ability to review algorithmic decisions.
  • The decision underscores the need to draw from multiple data sources in order to arrive at reasonable and supportable bail determinations. Decisions may be informed by general principles (e.g., about the circumstances in which risk of flight is likely). But, individualized determinations based on specific facts about specific defendants’ financial circumstances are necessary to satisfy constitutional requirements.
  • On that note, if we are going to allow algorithms to play a role in certain aspects of the bail determination process, it is vitally important that we understand and make clear: (a) which questions those algorithms are helping to answer; (b) on what data sets those algorithms draw in reaching their conclusions; and (c) at what stages of a given legal analysis the outcomes prescribed by those algorithms may be relevant. Brangan‘s distinction between dangerousness and flight risk in the context of bail determinations made under 276 M.G.L. § 57 is instructive in this regard. The case makes clear that a bail determination might involve separate evaluations of two distinct factors: (i) whether a defendant, if released on bail, will pose a danger to a community, generally (or to particular past or potential future victims); and (ii) whether a defendant, if released on bail, is likely to leave the jurisdiction and/or otherwise fail to return for future court appearances. The case also makes clear that an analysis of each factor may be relevant at some stages of a monetary bail assessment and may be forbidden at other stages. If an algorithmic tool is used in making a legal determination (such as a decision about the conditions for pre-trial release), it is vital that a judge understand what that tool is assessing and in what ways that assessment may be relevant (or, conversely, in what circumstances consideration of that assessment may be prohibited) during the various stages of that legal determination.
  • In holding that the lower court erred by failing to consider Mr. Brangan’s alternative proposal – regarding a lower bail amount plus GPS tracking – the SJC demands not just an absolute assessment of whether to permit bail and at what amount but a relative assessment of the merits of alternative proposals and the ways in which those alternative proposals might, in different ways, help achieve the underlying goals of bail. This need to consider multiple options may inform the ways in which algorithmic risk assessment tools might be used in making bail or other similar determinations.
  • Finally, the Brangan decision highlights the importance of constitutional considerations in guiding bail determinations and defining both the universe of acceptable outcomes and the universe acceptable processes one might employ to achieve those outcomes in any given case. This is true regardless of the statutory architecture in place in a particular state.  Those designing tools to support judges must do so in ways that go beyond merely comporting with state statutes and must ensure such tools operate cognizant of and consistent with overarching considerations about due process and equal protection under law.

1 Mr. Brangan was tried, but the trial judge declared a mistrial due to improper conduct by the prosecution. Various appeals and other procedural consequences followed, but a court-ordered retrial had yet to commence by the time the SJC reached its decision.

See, e.g.Finale Doshi-Velez, Been Kim, “Towards A Rigorous Science of Interpretable Machine Learning, v. 2” arXiv:1702.08608v2 (last revised March 2, 2017)Zachary C. Lipton, “The Mythos of Model Interpretability, v. 3” arXiv:1606.03490v3 (last revised March 6, 2017)Jesse Johnson, “Goals of Interpretability,” The Shape of Data (November 17, 2016).

Image, “John Adams Courthouse – Suffolk County Courthouse – Boston, MA – DSC04718.JPG,” courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, user Daderot, made available under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

by Christopher Bavitz at September 05, 2017 02:42 PM

September 03, 2017

ProjectVRM
Good news for publishers and advertisers fearing the GDPR

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is the world’s most heavily weaponized law protecting personal privacy. It is aimed at companies that track people without asking, and its ordnance includes fines of up to 4% of worldwide revenues over the prior year.

The law’s purpose is to blow away the (mostly US-based) surveillance economy, especially tracking-based “adtech,” which supports most commercial publishing online.

The deadline for compliance is 25 May 2018, just a couple hundred days from now.

There is no shortage of compliance advice online, much of it coming from the same suppliers that talked companies into harvesting lots of the “big data” that security guru Bruce Schneier calls a toxic asset. (Go to https://www.google.com/search?q=GDPR and see whose ads come up.)

There is, however, an easy and 100% GDPR-compliant way for publishers to continue running ads and for companies to continue advertising. All the publisher needs to do is agree with this request from readers:

That request, along with its legal and machine-readable expressions, will live here:

The agreements themselves can be recorded anywhere.

There is not an easier way for publishers and advertisers to avoid getting fined by the EU for violating the GDPR. Agreeing to exactly what readers request puts both in full compliance.

Some added PR for advertisers is running what I suggest they call #Safeds. If markets are conversations (as marketers have been yakking about since  The Cluetrain Manifesto), #SafeAds will be a great GDPR conversation for everyone to have:

Here are some #SafeAds benefits that will make great talking points, especially for publishers and advertisers:

  1. Unlike adtech, which tracks eyeballs off a publisher’s site and then shoot ads at those eyeballs anywhere they can be found (including the Web’s cheapest and shittiest sites), #SafeAds actually sponsor the publisher. They say “we value this publication and the readers it brings to us.”
  2. Unlike adtech, #SafeAds carry no operational overhead for the publisher and no cognitive overhead for readers—because there are no worries for either party about where an ad comes from or what it’s doing behind the scenes. There’s nothing tricky about it.
  3. Unlike adtech, #SafeAds carry no fraud or malware, because they can’t. They go straight from the publisher or its agency to the publication, avoiding the corrupt four-dimensional shell game adtech has become.
  4. #SafeAds carry full-power creative and economic signals, which adtech can’t do at all, for the reasons just listed. It’s no coincidence that nearly every major brand you can name was made by #SafeAds, while adtech has not produced a single one. In fact adtech has an ugly history of hurting brands by annoying people with advertising that is unwelcome, icky, or both.
  5. Perhaps best of all for publishers, advertisers will pay more for #SafeAds, because those ads are worth more.

If you’re a publisher, an advertiser, a developer, an exile from the adtech world, or anybody else who wants to help out, talk to us. That deadline is a hard one, and it’s coming fast.

by Doc Searls at September 03, 2017 07:07 PM

David Weinberger
Free e-book from Los Angeles Review of Books

I’m proud that my essay about online knowledge has been included in a free e-book collecting essays about the effect of the digital revolution, published by the Los Angeles Review of Books.

It’s actually the first essay in the book, which obviously is not arranged in order of preference, but probably means at least the editors didn’t hate it.

 


The next day: Thanks to a tweet by Siva Vaidhyanathan, I and a lot of people on Twitter have realized that all but one of the authors in this volume are male. I’d simply said yes to the editors’ request to re-publish my article. It didn’t occur to me to ask to see the rest of the roster even though this is an issue I care about deeply. LARB seems to feature diverse writers overall, but apparently not so much in tech.

On the positive, this has produced a crowd-sourced list of non-male writers and thinkers about tech with a rapidity that is evidence of the pain and importance of this issue.

The post Free e-book from Los Angeles Review of Books appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at September 03, 2017 03:37 PM

September 01, 2017

Justin Reich
Why Change? Launching Innovation in Schools
Preparing students for the challenges of the decades ahead requires understanding how computers are changing societies and labor markets.

by Justin Reich at September 01, 2017 02:01 PM

August 31, 2017

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Neil Thompson: Science is Shaped by Wikipedia: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial

Title: Science is Shaped by Wikipedia: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial

Abstract:

“I sometimes think that general and popular treatises are almost as important for the progress of science as original work.” - Charles Darwin, 1865

As the largest encyclopedia in the world, it is not surprising that Wikipedia reflects the state of scientific knowledge. However, Wikipedia is also one of the most accessed websites in the world, including by scientists, which suggests that it also has the potential to shape

Read more about Neil Thompson: Science is Shaped by Wikipedia: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial

by kmavon at August 31, 2017 06:40 PM

Neil Thompson
Assistant Professor of Innovation and Strategy at the MIT Sloan School of Management
Co-director of the Experimental Innovation Lab (X-Lab)
Associate member of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and the Broa
Neil

by kmavon at August 31, 2017 06:12 PM

August 29, 2017

Justin Reich
Research "Says" - Or Does It?
As educators, we need to be critical consumers of educational research before assuming that findings present the "truth."

by Beth Holland at August 29, 2017 09:56 PM

Miriam Meckel
Jenseits der Verantwortung

Donald Trump bezieht jede Position und keine. Das ist ein Mangel an moralischer Führung, der auch der Wirtschaft schadet.

Wer auf vielen Seiten steht, steht auf keiner. Das mag man als opportunistisch geschickten Schachzug betrachten. Wer auf keiner Seite steht, tut ja niemandem weh. Ganz so einfach ist es aber nicht. Seit Tagen verläuft ein Riss durch die US-Wirtschaft, seit bei einem Aufmarsch von Ku-Klux-Klan und Neonazis in Charlottesville ein mutmaßlicher Rechtsextremist mit dem Auto in eine Gruppe von Gegendemonstranten gerast war, eine Frau getötet und mehrere Menschen verletzt hatte. US-Präsident Donald Trump weigerte sich, Position zu beziehen. Er sieht die Verantwortung „on many sides“.

Für CEOs gilt das Primat der Wirtschaft. US-Nobelpreisträger Milton Friedman hat das 1970 auf den Punkt gebracht: „The business of business is business.“ Gibt es in der Wirtschaft eine Verantwortung jenseits von Ergebnisverantwortung? Aus moralischer Perspektive muss das jede Chefin und jeder Chef für sich entscheiden. Aus systemischer Sicht lässt sich Friedmans Allsatz infrage stellen. Wer sich nicht gegen Gewalt und politischen Missbrauch positioniert, hält vielleicht Trump bei Laune, nicht aber die eigenen Kunden. Im Internet tobt ein Kampf um die Reaktionen auf Charlottesville. „Ich liebe Under Armour“, schreibt eine Kundin der Sportbekleidungsfirma. „Aber wenn der Chef im Beirat des Präsidenten bleibt, werde ich zum Nike-Girl.“ Kevin Plank, Gründer und CEO von Under Armour, verließ das Gremium dann auch. Ebenso wie die CEOs von Intel und Merck USA. Elon Musk und Disney-Chef Bob Iger sind schon draußen, seit Trump das Pariser Klimaabkommen gekündigt hat. So langsam beginnen die Topmanagerinnen und -manager zu verstehen, dass Appeasement, die wiederholte Beschwichtigung, bei Trump nicht weiterhilft.

Loyalität durch Zugehörigkeit, das funktioniert nicht bei diesem Präsidenten, der immer alles auf sich bezieht und wie ein politischer Egoshooter auf alles feuert, was ihm in die Quere kommt – völlig losgelöst von bislang aufgebauten Beziehungen. Das ist das Kernproblem mit Trump und seinen Ausfällen. Er stellt die „Licence to operate“, die Betriebslizenz von Unternehmen infrage, sobald es eine Meinungsverschiedenheit gibt. Beziehungsmanagement zwischen Unternehmen und Regierungschef wird zum Pokerspiel.

Kenneth Frazier, CEO von Merck USA, hat das deutlich gespürt. Er war der Erste, der auf Charlottesville mit Rückzug aus dem Trump-Beirat reagierte. Der Präsident bedachte ihn daraufhin mit zwei Tweets, in denen er das Geschäftsgebaren des Unternehmens und dessen „Beschiss“ mit zu hohen Medikamentenpreisen angriff.

Auf allen Seiten gleichzeitig sein, das klappt nicht. Die Wirtschaft steht aufseiten ihrer Kundinnen und Kunden. Und auf der Seite unternehmerischer Freiheit, die in den USA immer besonders ausgeprägt und für viele andere Länder Vorbild war. Trump ruiniert diese herausragende Tradition. Das ist moralisches und ökonomisches Versagen.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at August 29, 2017 03:39 PM

August 28, 2017

Cyberlaw Clinic - blog
Welcoming Kendra Albert and Kicking Off the 2017-18 Academic Year!

With September just around the corner, we here in the Cyberlaw Clinic are eager to get the fall semester underway. And, we are especially excited to announce that the start of the new term comes with a new addition to our practice and teaching team in the form of the one and only Kendra Albert! Kendra is a familiar face around Harvard Law School and the Berkman Klein Center, having worked at Berkman before attending law school at HLS. Kendra was a student in the Cyberlaw Clinic during the spring term of their third year, back in 2016. Kendra spent a year in private practice at Zeitgeist Law in San Francisco from 2016-17 before rejoining us as a Clinical Instructional Fellow this week.  We are delighted to have Kendra on board and anticipate that they will contribute to a wide variety of our projects involving privacy, copyright, and related issues.

Kendra’s arrival comes in the midst of some additional staff changes at the Clinic. We are delighted to report that Jessica Fjeld has assumed the role of Acting Assistant Director of the Clinic and has been appointed a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. In that capacity, Jess will co-teach the Cyberlaw Clinic Seminar along with Clinical Professor Chris Bavitz this fall. Vivek Krishnamurthy will take on the role of Clinic Attorney, splitting his time between Clinic projects concerning technology and human rights and Berkman Klein Center research initiatives (primarily from his new homebase on the west coast).

Susan Crawford will continue to oversee projects relating to government use of technology and civic innovation, with support from Maria Smith on the Clinic staff and Clinic Advisor Waide Warner. And, Mason Kortz will round out the teaching team, continuing his first year as a Fellow with us and spearheading a lot of our initiatives involving civil liberties and big data.

Our incoming students will be pleased to know that the Clinic’s docket for the coming year is as diverse as ever, with the usual array of projects that touch on copyright, speech, privacy, security, and civic tech.  We anticipate playing a role in the United States Copyright Office’s triennial review of exemption requests pursuant to 17 USC § 1201; engaging in some amicus advocacy; and counseling cutting-edge organizations in fields ranging from arts, to ed tech, to legal services.

We also anticipate that the Cyberlaw Clinic staff and students will play a significant role in the Berkman Klein Center’s Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence initiative, launched earlier this year. Kira Hessekiel on the Clinic staff will help to support a number of research initiatives that focus on the broad theme of “algorithms and justice,” considering the ways in which technology can help to inform government decisions about allocation of scarce resources and assessments of risk in the criminal justice system.

All in all, it promises to be an extraordinary year!

by Clinic Staff at August 28, 2017 04:15 PM

John Palfrey
Start-of-School Message for our 240th Year at Andover

Dear Phillips Academy students:

That school-is-about-to-start feeling is upon us. There are a few summer days left to enjoy, Labor Day weekend still to look forward to, and all the excitement of early fall just around the corner. I write in part just to say that I’m thinking of all of you and excited to see you in person shortly.

In spite of this excitement and the joy I feel in anticipating your return to campus, I’m also mindful of the powerful effect of recent events in Charlottesville. The violence that we witnessed exposes the lingering force of white supremacy in this country, which must be condemned in no uncertain terms. As a school devoted to educating youth from every quarter, we cannot stand idly by in the face of racial hatred and violence. We are committed to equity and inclusion in our community and in the world at large. We renounce – in our teaching, in how we run the school and how we interact with one another – the idea of a racial hierarchy. And we renounce the violence perpetrated in the service of this pernicious hatred.

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a similar conversation over and over again. It’s a conversation about the United States of America, globalization, the media, and this moment in history. It’s also a conversation about education, learning and teaching, and how to be good citizens. As we start our 240th academic year, these issues are at the forefront of my mind and the minds of our faculty and staff at Andover.

In planning for how we will engage with you this year on campus, we re-affirm today our commitment to knowledge with goodness. Our job as adults at Andover is to teach the skills and impart the wisdom that you will need to be able to thrive after Andover – finis origine pendet. We seek to model the kind of goodness that we hope for you to embody as you develop and grow. Goodness calls for respect for one another; a commitment to learn with and from one another; civility in our interactions; support, empathy, and love for our peers in good times and in bad. Goodness means also that we hold ourselves and one another to a high moral standard. In so doing, we stand together in solidarity against hatred, bigotry, and violence.

Long before the summer took hold, we decided that the theme for this coming year at Andover will be about citizenship. As our theme for the year, citizenship strikes me as more apt than ever as we approach this particular fall. With all of you, I look forward to exploring what it means to be a citizen, both in the United States of America and in the countries from which many of you hail. I look forward to pushing hard on questions of civic duty, of moral obligation, of voting and participation. I look forward to asking hard questions about whether there can be such a thing as global citizenship in a world with so many different cultures and countries. As a United States History teacher, I can’t wait to explore with students the narrative of this country, what events and themes inform and connect to today’s events, and our hopes for a brighter future together. In All School Meetings, in advising groups and dormitories, in Paresky, in the Addison and the Peabody and OWH Library, and in all manner of classrooms, we will grapple with what it means to be citizens in a 21st century republic. I have every confidence that knowledge and goodness will emerge in ways large and small from this labor.

Enjoy these sweet last days of summer – and see you soon.

Sincerely,
John Palfrey


by jgpalfrey at August 28, 2017 04:06 PM

August 27, 2017

John Palfrey
Head of School Bookshelf, 2016-2017 edition (combined)

Last academic year I kept up my tradition of putting out free copies of books on a bookshelf outside my office each term for the faculty to take and read but I didn’t manage to post the lists here on this blog as I went along.  (Not that anyone complained!)  I thought I’d put the lists out all at once before we launch into a new school year.

Fall 2016

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010)

Timothy Garton Ash, Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World (Yale University Press, 2016)

Roberto Gonzales, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press, 2015)

Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press, 2014)

Lauret Savoy, Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape (Counterpoint Press, 2016)

Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow (Viking, 2016)

Winter 2017

Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power and Passion of Persistence (Scribner, 2016)

Note: Prof. Duckworth visited with Tang Institute fellows and staff last Fall and will be back again on September 13 for a public engagement at PA. We expect to make many copies of her book available again courtesy of one of our trustees.

Nicholas Guyatt, Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation (Basic Books, 2016)

Joi Ito and Jeff Howe: Whiplash: How to Survive our Faster Future (Grand Central, 2016)

Zadie Smith, Swing Time (Penguin, 2016)

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper, 2016)

Bonus entry:

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015)

Note: Astute observers will know that Mr. Coates’ book appeared on a previous HOS bookshelf.  It flew off the shelf at the time. I brought it back again as it was meant to be the subject of a town-wide reading program this spring.

Spring 2017

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (Knopf, 2017)

Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Crown, 2016)

Hisham Matar, The Return (Knopf, 2016)

Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays (Penguin, 2016)

Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Chessboard & the Web: Strategies of Connection in a Networked World (Yale University Press, 2017)

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel and Grau, 2014)

I am working on this fall’s list and always welcome ideas of things to read!


by jgpalfrey at August 27, 2017 05:53 PM

August 25, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Algorithms in the Criminal Justice System

Subtitle

Assessing the Use of Risk Assessments in Sentencing

Teaser

This paper focuses on the incorporation of risk assessment software into the criminal sentencing process, and offers a set of key considerations and questions for further research that can help local policymakers who are currently implementing or considering implementing similar systems

Thumbnail Image: 

Download from DASH

Authors: Priscilla Guo, Danielle Kehl, and Sam Kessler.

In the summer of 2016, some unusual headlines began appearing in news outlets across the United States. “Secret Algorithms That Predict Future Criminals Get a Thumbs Up From the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” read one. Another declared: “There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.” These news stories (and others like them) drew attention to a previously obscure but fast-growing area in the field of criminal justice: the use of risk assessment software, powered by sophisticated and sometimes proprietary algorithms, to predict whether individual criminals are likely candidates for recidivism. In recent years, these programs have spread like wildfire throughout the American judicial system. They are now being used in a broad capacity, in areas ranging from pre-trial risk assessment to sentencing and probation hearings.

This paper focuses on the latest—and perhaps most concerning—use of these risk assessment tools: their incorporation into the criminal sentencing process, a development which raises fundamental legal and ethical questions about fairness, accountability, and transparency. The goal is to provide an overview of these issues and offer a set of key considerations and questions for further research that can help local policymakers who are currently implementing or considering implementing similar systems. We start by putting this trend in context: the history of actuarial risk in the American legal system and the evolution of algorithmic risk assessments as the latest incarnation of a much broader trend. We go on to discuss how these tools are used in sentencing specifically and how that differs from other contexts like pre-trial risk assessment. We then delve into the legal and policy questions raised by the use of risk assessment software in sentencing decisions, including the potential for constitutional challenges under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, we summarize the challenges that these systems create for law and policymakers in the United States, and outline a series of possible best practices to ensure that these systems are deployed in a manner that promotes fairness, transparency, and accountability in the criminal justice system.

This is a paper of the Responsive Communities project produced by Harvard students Priscilla Guo, Danielle Kehl, and Sam Kessler. This paper is a product of the students' work in the HLS Responsive Communities Lab course, co-led by Susan Crawford and Waide Warner.

by gweber at August 25, 2017 05:01 PM

August 24, 2017

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Hiring Undergraduate Researchers!
August 24, 2017

CRCS has (paid) research opportunities available for undergraduate students interested in computational research that serves public interest. The different positions listed in the link below have differing skill requirements, although most of them require some programming and data analysis expertise. 

We are looking for student who are eager to participate in term-time research alongside faculty or postdoctoral fellows, for up to 15 hours per week. We will provide skill-building workshops twice a month (and we’ll feed you!). We will schedule these to accommodate

Read more about Hiring Undergraduate Researchers!

by kmavon at August 24, 2017 06:38 PM

Wayne Marshall
Everything You Wanted to Know About Despacito — and More!

despacito-vid-grab

“Despacito” has proven to be an amazing platform for Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber, reggaeton, and now … me.

Since April, I’ve been contacted by people looking for an explanation of how this song has proven so spectacularly successful, and whether I wanted to or not, I found myself having to think about it over the last several, surprising months. I’ve given quotes to reporters from Abu Dhabi, Montreal, and Texas —

The song — indeed, the phenomenon — has proven an excellent vehicle for thinking about reggaeton, “tropical” pop, and pop culture in the age of YouTube — 3 things I obsess over — and so when I brag-plained on Twitter last week about how “Despacito” has impacted my inbox, it ironically resulted in being asked to write a big ol’ piece myself about the song for NY Mag‘s Vulture. It seemed like a great opportunity to bring together the different angles from which I’ve been listening and watching, so I jumped at the chance.

Having penned my original “reggaeton longread” for the Boston Phoenix back in January 2006 (though I guess this is a contender too), it was a pleasure to return to the form and try to share some deep context with a larger audience than my academic work. So far, I’m pleased as perreo at the favorable reaction it has garnered. Check it out:

          vulture-article

///

While I’ve got you on the line — and while I’m here writing a rare blogpost — allow me to share a few related pieces.

First, I want to remind readers that I’ve spilled many more words than 3500 here and there on reggaeton, and if you’re up for, say, 10k words on the history of the genre, you can consult my chapter in our book.

You can also hear me speak around that many words about reggaeton — and offer plenty of A/V examples — in this lecture I presented at Berklee a few years back:

Second, I’m happy to appear this week as an ethnomusicological expert bigging up Munchi and connecting dots between reggae, reggaeton, and Dutch house in the this piece in the Washington Post that attempts to size up the legacy of moombahton.

Third, as I discussed in the “Despacito” piece, the song features a common chord progression, theoretically allowing one to mix and mash it with any number of previous pop songs. To demonstrate this, I mashed it up with the Cranberries’ “Zombie,” mainly using the instrumental guitar passages from the latter. I was happily surprised by how good “Despacito” sounds with a little grungy guitar, and it was also striking how much their poppy dynamics complement each other, stylistic differences notwithstanding.

See what you think (and thanks to Remezcla for the signal boost!); if you like it enough, here’s an MP3:

In order to make this work, I had to grapple with the audio in Ableton — and more than usual. It called to my attention a surprising fact about “Despacito”: it skips a beat (or a beat and a half, or so) twice during the song, before Bieber’s hook (which, without a pause, should land right on measure 21) —

despacito-pause

This is an odd feature for a digital-age dance number, and while some have speculated that it is the magic key to the song, I think it’s more likely an “accident” resulting from the post-hoc splicing in of the Biebz.

I couldn’t mash the song up with “Zombie” without fixing this irregularity. So I did a nerdy thing, and I fixed it —

despacito-fixed

It occurs to me that this may have bugged an occasional listener or dancer, or perhaps even caused an occasional trainwreck for a beat-matching DJ. If so, here you go (MP3):

Pasito, a pasito, y’all.

by wayneandwax at August 24, 2017 05:08 PM

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Gilad Lotan

Location: 

Maxwell Dworkin 119

by kmavon at August 24, 2017 04:06 PM

Barak Sober: "Iron Age Hebrew Epigraphy in the Silicon Age - An Algorithmic Approach To Study Paleo-Hebrew Inscriptions"

Location: 

Maxwell Dworkin 119

Speaker: Barak Sober (Tel Aviv University)

Title: Iron Age Hebrew Epigraphy in the Silicon Age - An Algorithmic Approach To Study Paleo-Hebrew Inscriptions

Abstract: Handwriting comparison and identification, e.g. in the setting of forensics, has been widely addressed over the years. However, even in the case of modern documents, the proposed computerized solutions are quite unsatisfactory. For historical documents, such problems are worsened, due to the inscriptions’ preservation conditions. In the following lecture, we will present an attempt at

Read more about Barak Sober: "Iron Age Hebrew Epigraphy in the Silicon Age - An Algorithmic Approach To Study Paleo-Hebrew Inscriptions"

by kmavon at August 24, 2017 03:48 PM

August 22, 2017

Harry Lewis
Guest post about the social club policy by Professor Richard Thomas
For now I would just associate myself with Daniel Gilbert's post. While I appreciate the time colleagues and staff members on the USGSO have put into the process, I find myself in complete disagreement with this recommendation, and consider David Haig's dissent the only reasonable response to the matter. By the Statutes of the University this issue belongs with the FAS faculty, and the attempt to finesse that reality is to be resisted in the most vigorous ways. Otherwise, why bother turning up to faculty meetings, standing for Faculty Council, doing anything but teach, advise students and write. If this maneuver works, I'll certainly save myself the monthly 2 hours.
More importantly the notion that we would forbid students from joining clubs that are not involved in illegal activities is odious. I hold no brief for these off-campus (they are) Final Clubs, but the idea that we would dismiss a student for belonging to them is repugnant and a moment's reflection about recent and less recent history would back that up. I also don't see why fraternities and sororities should be effectively banned. What harm do they do beyond taking students away from the Houses and (soon) the Smith Center?
The trumpeting of the cases of Bowdoin and Williams–fine colleges–is not encouraging. Is that what we aspire to be? Are their locations, size, complexity, truly comparable? I also gather the reality of the Williams situation may have been slightly misrepresented. 
Finally, there may be a student death tomorrow that may be connected somehow to one of these Clubs. So far I think those have happened mostly in the Houses. If that happens it will be tragic but would not change anything. The very possibility seems to have become a weapon in the arsenal of those who want this policy to happen. I think we should all resist this sort of sophistry.
Richard F. Thomas, George Martin Lane Professor of the Classics
(cross posted with permission from the FAS Wiki)

by Harry Lewis (noreply@blogger.com) at August 22, 2017 06:34 PM

August 21, 2017

Harry Lewis
Motion filed concerning club membership
Along with the co-signers listed below, I have submitted the following motion for the October 3 meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

---------

Harvard College shall not discipline, penalize, or otherwise sanction students for joining, or affiliating with, any lawful organization, political party, or social, political, or other affinity group.

Explanatory note. This motion is intended to give students who join or form legal clubs or similar organizations the same protections that existing policies afford to all other students.  It also secures their right of free association.  If the policy is adopted, students could not, simply because of membership in a legal club, social or political organization, be sanctioned by the Administrative Board or by the Honor Council, or deprived of any academic or extracurricular opportunity or honor for which they would otherwise be eligible.

Boaz Barak
Shaye J. D. Cohen
Kathleen Coleman
Grzegorz Ekiert
James Engell
Benjamin M. Friedman
Daniel Gilbert
Barbara J. Grosz
David Haig
Harry Lewis
Richard Losick
Jason P. Mitchell
Michael Mitzenmacher
Eric M. Nelson
Steven Pinker
Hanspeter Pfister
Wilfried Schmid
Margo Seltzer
Richard Thomas
Helen Vendler
James Waldo

by Harry Lewis (noreply@blogger.com) at August 21, 2017 05:55 PM

Guest post by Boaz Barak on the social club policy
I thank the committee for their work, but find it unfortunate that two distinct issues have been entangled in this discussion.
One is the issue of promoting Harvard's "values" and in particular diversity and inclusivity, and the other is the issue of student safety.
Regarding the former, I find the suggested policy excessive. Between classes, the houses, and Harvard-sponsored extracurricular activities, we have enough access to the students to educate them as citizens and future leaders. We do not need to control their every waking moment. There is enough work for us to do to lead by example in promoting diversity on campus (in particular in fields such as computer science).
Student safety is paramount - we can't educate students if they are unsafe. Alcohol abuse and sexual assault are real issues that we should combat. Final clubs are not inherently unsafe (for example, to my knowledge, such concerns have not been raised regarding the all-female clubs). Rather it is the *actions* of *some* clubs that are problematic. I think Harvard can and should discipline students for harming fellow students or putting them at risk, whether on or off campus. (For example, by organizing a party in which students are encouraged to drink to excess and sexual assault takes place.) Indeed, in some cases Cambridge PD should be involved as well. But the key point is that we discipline students for their actions and not their associations.
Finally, the issue of sexual assault is far too important to be used as a pretext or vehicle for promoting grand social objectives, no matter how positive. The task force on the prevention of sexual assault had a great number of important recommendations, most of which had nothing to do with final clubs (which, as their report stated are "not the exclusive or even the principal cause of sexual assault").  I find it unfortunate that this issue has become the "tail that wags the dog" and a distraction from the efforts to address what is a real and urgent safety concern.
Boaz Barak, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science 
cross-posted with permission from the FAS Wiki

by Harry Lewis (noreply@blogger.com) at August 21, 2017 05:50 PM

August 20, 2017

Justin Reich
Building Culture and Community in the First Five Days, Weeks, and Months
In the first five days, weeks, and months of the school year, educators have the opportunity to create a school and classroom culture that values students' cultural identities and empowers students as global citizens.

by Beth Holland at August 20, 2017 07:54 PM

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Research Opportunities

The Harvard Center for Research on Computation & Society has (paid) research opportunities available for undergraduate students interested in computational research that serves public interest. The different positions listed below have differing skill requirements, although most of them require some programming and data analysis expertise. Instructions on how to apply are at the bottom.

We are looking for student who are eager to participate in term-time research alongside faculty or postdoctoral fellows, for up to 15 hours per week. We will provide skill-building

Read more about Research Opportunities

by kmavon at August 20, 2017 06:00 PM

August 18, 2017

Ethan Zuckerman
Mastodon is big in Japan. The reason why is… uncomfortable

Remember Mastodon? In April 2017, there was a wave of excitement about Mastodon, a federated social network begun in October 2016 by Eugen Rochko, a 24-year old German software engineer, as an alternative to Twitter. Recent news about CloudFlare’s decision to stop providing services to the Daily Stormer has me thinking about decentralized publishing, one possible response to intermediary censorship. As it turns out, it’s an interesting time to catch up on Mastodon, which has grown in a fascinating, and somewhat troubling, way. (Mastodon is one of the topics of the report Chelsea Barabas, Neha Narula and I released today, “Back to the Future: the Decentralized Web”.)

The enthusiasm earlier this year about Mastodon centered on the idea that the new distributed service could be like Twitter without as much harassment and hate speech. And indeed, using Mastodon is a lot like using Twitter – specifically, using Twitter through the excellent Tweetdeck client, which Rochko admits was his design inspiration – the structure of the service is sharply different from a centralized service like Twitter.

When you access Twitter (or Facebook, for that matter), you’re connecting to one in a cluster of servers owned by a single company, and managed if they were a single, huge server. There’s a single set of rules for acceptable behavior within the community, and a single directory of users – I’m @ethanz on Twitter whether you’re accessing the server from the US, Japan or South Africa.

Mastodon is different. It’s an open source software package that allows anyone with an internet-connected computer to set up an “instance”. The server administrator is responsible for setting and enforcing rules on her instance, and those rules can vary – sharply – from instance to instance. Each server has its own namespace. I’m @ethanz on octodon.social, but if you want to be @ethanz on mastodon.social, no one’s going to stop you. In this sense, Mastodon is less like Facebook and more like email – you can have your own address – and your own acceptable use policies – on one server and still send mail to a user on another server.

To have that ability to share messages with users of other servers, Mastodon has to support “federation”. Federation means that I can follow users on other Mastodon instances – you can have an account on mastodon.xyz and read my posts on octodon.social. It’s a bit more complicated than using a service like Twitter or Facebook, but it has the great advantage that communities of interest can have their own community rules. Don’t want adult content on your server? Fine – don’t allow it. Want to shield your child from adult content? Don’t federate your server with servers that allow NSFW content.

When the geek press began writing about Mastodon in April, the main story was about the community’s explosive growth. Tens of thousands of users joined in April, and some began to speculate that the network could serve as a challenger to Twitter.

It’s hard to say how fast Mastodon is growing, because it’s hard to say how big Mastodon is. The Mastodon Network Monitoring Project does its best to keep up, but servers come online and go down all the time. If you’re running a Mastodon server and don’t register or federate it (perfectly reasonable if you want a community just for people you invite) it won’t register on the project’s dashboard. So we might think of the 1.5 million registered users on ~2400 servers as the network’s minimum size.

Map of Mastodon instances from Mastodon Network Monitoring Project, August 17, 2017

Map those instances, and one thing becomes clear pretty fast: Mastodon is mostly a Japanese phenomenon. The two largest Mastodon instances – pawoo.net and mstdn.jp – have over 100,000 users each, significantly more than mastodon.social, the “mothership” site that Rochko himself administers. Three of the top five Mastodon instances are based in Japan, and the Mastodon monitoring project estimates that 61% of the network’s users are Japanese.

In one sense, this isn’t a surprise. Twitter is massive in Japan, where it has more users than Facebook, and is projected to be used by half of all social network users and a quarter of all internet users this year. But that’s not the whole explanation. Instead, we’ve got to talk about lolicon.

(I’m about to talk about cultural differences and child pornography. This is not a defense of child pornography, but it’s going to discuss the fact that different cultures may have different standards about what imagery is and is not acceptable. If that’s not okay with you, back away now.)

In the US, we have a strong taboo about sexualized imagery of children. People who are interested in sexualized imagery of children – whether it’s explicit photography or idealized drawings – are considered pedophiles, and the material they seek out is termed child pornography. (Let’s ignore for the moment the hypersexualization of tween girls in American popular culture – no one said cultural taboos have to be consistent.)

In Japan, there’s a distinction between 児童ポルノ – child pornography – and ロリコン – “lolicon”, short for “Lolita complex”. Child pornography is illegal in Japan and seeking it out would be deeply socially unacceptable. Lolicon, which includes animated cartoons and 2D drawings of young men and women in a way that is undeniably sexualized, sometimes through explicit depictions of sexual acts, is legal, widespread and significantly accepted. As Matthew Scala writes, “If you like ロリコン then you’re a nerd, but that’s not a big deal. It is legal and popular and sold in bookstores everywhere. I cannot emphasize enough that ロリコン is not only legal but really acceptable in Japan. It’s merely nerdy. On the other hand, if you like 児童ポルノ then you’re an evil sicko monster, and 児童ポルノ is highly illegal.” Or, as a Japanese friend of mine put it, “I think the sort of pedophilia tendency is considered nearly normal and tolerated but they are quite strict about the law around it now – not as strict as the US but realize that some things are illegal. But dreaming about these things isn’t illegal.”

(One more time – I’m not defending lolicon here, just explaining that lolicon is a thing, that it’s popular in Japan, and that this has implications for understanding Mastodon’s growth.)

Twitter’s rules about the acceptability of graphic content are vague – intentionally so. (I wrote the terms of service for Tripod.com, one of the first user generated content sites. When you administer a UGC site, vagueness is your friend.) Twitter’s rules state, “Twitter may allow some forms of graphic content in Tweets marked as sensitive media.” Those guidelines give Twitter’s administrators a great deal of freedom in removing lolicon and banning those who post it. You can still find lolicon on Twitter, but the service has evidently been quite aggressive in removing this sort of imagery. Lolicon fans became refugees. Scala, who wrote a helpful article on the migration of lolicon fans to Mastodon, argues that Japanese users had been looking for a Twitter-like platform where they could share lolicon writing and imagery for some time. They’d used earlier, less-user friendly decentralized social networks, and when Mastodon came around, they flocked to it.

And then Pixiv entered the picture. Pixiv is an enormously popular image archive site in Japan, aimed at artists who create their own drawings – it might be analogous to DeviantArt in the US, but focused on drawings, not photography. Lolicon is wildly popular on Pixiv, as you can tell from one of the signup pages.

One of several English language signup screens for Pixiv

In April 2017, Pixiv began hosting a Mastodon instance – Pawoo.net – that quickly became the most popular Mastodon server in the world. If you have a Pixiv account, it’s a single click to establish a Pawoo.net account. And if you monitor the feed on pawoo.net, you’ll see that a great deal of content features lolicon, much of it behind content warning tags. In response to the growth of pawoo.net, a number of large, predominantly North American/European Mastodon servers stopped federating posts from the Japanese site, as they were uncomfortable with lolicon appearing as part of their feed. Scala reports that Rochko modified the database on mastodon.social to make it possible to “silence” pawoo.net, so that posts only appear if you explicitly choose to subscribe to users of that server.

Needless to say, not every Mastodon administrator is excited that the protocol is being used to harbor lolicon. The terms of service for mastodon.cloud – the fifth largest Mastodon instance, and the largest based in the US – now explicitly prohibit “lolicon, immoral and indecent child pics”.

Community guidelines for mastodon.cloud, August 17, 2017

I started down the path to lolicon because I wanted to answer a simple question: was Mastodon growing as fast as it was back in April, and if so, why wasn’t I seeing more friends on the service? The answer seems to be that Mastodon continues to grow, but a major engine of its growth is Japanese erotica. And while I can see the headlines now – “Japanese Child Porn Powers Decentralized Publishing” – let’s be clear: this is exactly what decentralized publishing is good for.

The appeal of decentralized publishing is that it makes it possible to create online communities that operate under all sorts of different rulesets. If Twitter doesn’t find lolicon acceptable, lolicon fans can create their own online community with their own rules.

This is a hot topic at the moment. In the wake of neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, many internet intermediaries – companies and entities that provide services necessary to find, publish and protect online content – have chosen to stop providing services to white nationalist organizations. Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare, a company that provides scaling services for websites, wrote an especially blunt and honest post about his decision to remove the Daily Stormer from his servers, while simultaneously explaining that he personally had far too much power to control what content could be booted from the internet. “I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet.”

Human rights activists have been worried about intermediary censorship for a long time – I wrote a chapter on the topic for the 2010 book Access Controlled. Decentralized publishing solves some of the problems of intermediary censorship, but not all. As white supremacists are booted from platforms like Twitter and Reddit, they may well seek out decentralized platforms where they set their own rules. (Many have migrated to a platform called Gab, which is not decentralized, but has a set of community guidelines that welcome racist, nationalist speech.) Intermediaries like Domain Name Registrars and Content Delivery Networks may still refuse them service, but neo-Nazis on their own Mastodon server won’t be worried that they’ll be kicked off Twitter, like the Lolicon fans were.

The point of decentralized publishing is not censorship resistance – decentralization provides a little resilience to intermediary censorship, but not a lot. Instead, decentralization is important because it allows a community to run under its own rules. One of the challenges for Mastodon is to demonstrate that there are reasons beyond lolicon to run a community under your own rules. This is analogous to a problem Tor faces. People undeniably use Tor to do terrible things online, publishing and accessing hateful content. But Tor is an essential tool for journalists, whistleblowers and activists. It’s a constant struggle for Tor to recruit “everyday” users of Tor, who use the service to evade commercial surveillance. Those users provide valuable “cover traffic”, making it harder to identify whistleblowers who use the service, and political air cover for those who would seek to ban the tool so they can combat child pornography and other illegal content.

Fortunately, there are communities that would greatly benefit from Mastodon: people who’ve grown sick of sexism and harassment on Twitter, but still want the brief, lightweight interaction the site is so good at providing. One of the mysteries of Mastodon is that while many instances were started precisely to provide these alternative spaces, they’ve not grown nearly as fast as those providing space for a subculture banned from Twitter. The Mastodon story so far suggests that sticks may be more powerful than carrots.

While I suspect some advocates for distributed publishing will be disappointed that Mastodon’s growth is so closely tied to controversial content, it’s worth remembering that controversial content has long been a driver of innovations in communications technology – pornography arguably was an engine that drove the adoption of cable television, the VCR and, perhaps, broadband internet. Beyond porn, the internet has always provided spaces for content that wasn’t widely acceptable. When it was difficult to find information and LGBTQ lifestyles in rural communities, the internet became a lifeline for queer teens. Distributed social networks are a likely space for conversations about ideas and topics too sensitive to be accepted on centralized social networks, and it’s likely that some of the topics explored will be ones that become more socially acceptable over time.

Our team at the MIT Media Lab – Chelsea Barabas, Neha Narula and myself – are releasing a new report today on distributed publishing, titled “Back to the Future: the Decentralized Web” We end up speculating that the main barriers to adoption of decentralized platforms aren’t technical, but around usability. Most distributed publishing tools are simply too complex for most users to adopt. Mastodon may have overcome that problem, borrowing design ideas from a successful commercial product. But the example of lolicon may challenge our theories in two directions. One, if you’re unable to share content on the sites you’re used to using – Twitter, in this case – you may be more willing to adopt a new tool, even if its interface is initially unfamiliar. Second, an additional barrier to adoption for decentralized publishing may be that its first large userbase is a population that cannot use centralized social networks. Any stigma associated with this community may make it harder for users with other interests to adopt these new tools.

Mastodon is big in Japan… at least, in one subculture. Whether that bodes well or ill for widespread adoption of the platform more globally is something we’ll be watching closely as we work to understand the future of distributed publishing.

by Ethan at August 18, 2017 07:58 PM

David Weinberger
Journalism, mistrust, transparency

Ethan Zuckerman brilliantly frames the public’s distrust of institutional journal in a whitepaper he is writing for Knight. (He’s posted it both on his blog and at Medium. Choose wisely.)
As he said at an Aspen event where he led a discussion of it:

…I think mistrust in civic institutions is much broader than mistrust in the press. Because mistrust is broad-based, press-centric solutions to mistrust are likely to fail. This is a broad civic problem, not a problem of fake news,

The whitepaper explores the roots of that broad civic problem and suggests ways to ameliorate it. The essay is deeply thought, carefully laid out, and vividly expressed. It is, in short, peak Ethanz.

The best news is that Ethan notes that he’s writing a book on civic mistrust.

 


 

In the early 2000’s, some of us thought that journalists would blog and we would thereby get to know who they are and what they value. This would help transparency become the new objectivity. Blogging has not become the norm for reporters, although it does occur. But it turns out that Twitter is doing that transparency job for us. Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) at CNN is one particularly good example of this; he tweets with a fierce decency. Margie Haberman (@maggieNYT) and Glenn Thrush (@glennThrush) from the NY Times, too. And many more.

This, I think is a good thing. For one thing, it increases trust in at least some news media, while confirming our distrust of news media we already didn’t trust. But we are well past the point where we are ever going to trust the news media as a generalization. The challenge is to build public trust in news media that report as truthfully and fairly as they can.

The post Journalism, mistrust, transparency appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at August 18, 2017 02:14 PM

Miriam Meckel

Auf Verschleiß fahren? So geht Deutschland mit seiner Infrastruktur um. Professionelles Management dringend gesucht…

Der Vergleich ist fast zehn Jahre alt, hat aber für Furor gesorgt. Der Pulitzerpreisträger und Kolumnist der „New York Times“, Thomas Friedman, war durch die Welt gereist und kehrte mit dieser Erkenntnis zurück: „Wenn alle Amerikaner mal nach Berlin fahren könnten, um den luxuriösen Hauptbahnhof mit der schmuddeligen und maroden Penn Station in New York zu vergleichen, sie würden schwören, wir hätten den Zweiten Weltkrieg verloren.“

Inzwischen hat sich einiges verändert. Vor allem müssen die Amerikaner schon mit dem Zug in Berlin ankommen, um diesen Schluss zu ziehen. Wer geflogen kommt, landet in Tegel. Der Flughafen geht seit Jahren mit einer riesigen Überlast um und fertigt drei Mal so viele Passagiere ab wie eigentlich vorgesehen. Alles, weil der seit 2011 zur Eröffnung anstehende neue Flughafen nicht fertig wird. Und wenn er fertig wird, ist er gleich wieder zu klein. So lässt sich kein Blumentopf gewinnen.

In dieser Woche hat der Chef des Berliner Flughafens einen verräterischen Satz gesagt: „Wir fahren Tegel bewusst weiter auf Verschleiß.“ Das scheint für die deutschen Infrastrukturinvestitionen insgesamt Programmatik zu sein, und zwar auf allen Ebenen: Bund, Länder, Kommunen.

Wer in der Ferienreisezeit wieder einmal Stunden in den Infrastrukturstaus festsitzt, kriegt nicht nur Brückenschmerzen. Er gelangt auch zu der Erkenntnis: Wir sind längst dabei, den Kampf gegen Verschleiß und Verfall zu verlieren. Die Investitionen in die Infrastruktur sind in Deutschland von etwa fünf Prozent des Bruttoinlandsprodukts 1970 auf etwa zwei Prozent heute gefallen. Im selben Zeitraum hat sich die Last, die Brücken, Autobahnen und Verkehrsknotenpunkte tragen müssen, vervielfacht. Besonders drastisch zeigt sich der Verfall in den Kommunen und ländlichen Gebieten. Nach Zahlen der KfW gibt es dort eine Investitionslücke von 126 Milliarden Euro. Das ist kein Schlagloch in der Straße Richtung Zukunft, sondern ein gähnender Abgrund.

Verrückt ist: Geld gibt es nämlich genug. Es findet nur keine Verwendung. „Wir können zurzeit das Geld, was wir haben, nicht ausgeben“, sagt Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel. Recht hat sie, nur ist das leider keine Entschuldigung für die politischen Versäumnisse. Die wird kein „Planungsbeschleunigungsgesetz“ (CDU) und keine Verpflichtung zu öffentlichen Investitionen im Grundgesetz (SPD) als Wahlkampfhilfe ausgleichen. Mehr Bürokratie, um mangelnde Bürokratie zu verbessen? Oh Graus.

Die Politik sollte sich aus Planung und Management der Infrastrukturprojekte raushalten und sie professionellen Managerinnen und Managern überlassen. Die schaffen es fast überall auf der Welt, Flughäfen, Brücken und Straßen in der vorgesehenen Zeit fertigzustellen. Dafür wird dann schnell und vielleicht sogar auch mal nachts gearbeitet. Wenn das nicht gelingt, wird Reisen in Deutschland bald zum logistischen Nonsens. Das klappt vielleicht bei „Alice im Wunderland“. Aber die geht auch durch einen Spiegel und nicht über eine deutsche Brücke.

wiwo.de

by Miriam Meckel at August 18, 2017 01:13 PM

Ethan Zuckerman
Mistrust, Efficacy and the New Civics – a whitepaper for the Knight Foundation

When things get serious in the media space, my friends at the Knight Foundation rally the troops. Last week, I was invited to a workshop Knight held with the Aspen Institute on trust, media and democracy in America. I prepared a whitepaper for the workshop, which I’m publishing here at the suggestion of several of the workshop participants, who found it useful.

The paper I wrote – “Mistrust, efficacy and the new civics: understanding the deep roots of the crisis of faith in journalism” – served two purposes for me. First, it’s a rough outline of the book I’m working on this next year about mistrust and civics, which means I can pretend that I’ve been working on my book this summer. Second, it let me put certain stakes in the ground for my discussion with my friends at Knight. Conversations about mistrust in journalism have a tendency to focus on the uniqueness of the profession and its critical civic role in the US and in other open societies. I wanted to be clear that I think journalism has a great deal in common with other large institutions that are suffering declines in trust. Yes, the press has come under special scrutiny due to President Trump’s decision to demonize and threaten journalists, but I think mistrust in civic institutions is much broader than mistrust in the press.

Because mistrust is broad-based, press-centric solutions to mistrust are likely to fail. This is a broad civic problem, not a problem of fake news, of fact checking or of listening more to our readers. The shape of civics is changing, and while many citizens have lost confidence in existing institutions, others are finding new ways to participate. The path forward for news media is to help readers be effective civic actors. If news organizations can help make citizens feel powerful, like they can make effective civic change, they’ll develop a strength and loyalty they’ve not felt in years.

To my surprise and delight, the workshop participants needed little or no convincing that journalism’s problems were part of a larger anti-institutional moment in America. I brought in Chris Hayes’s idea that “left/right” is no longer as useful a distinction in American politics as “insurrectionist/institutionalist”, and we had a helpful debate about what it would mean to bring insurrectionists – those who believe our institutions are failing and need to be replaced by newer structures – into a room full of institutionalists – people who see our institutions are central to our open society, in need of strengthening and reinforcement, but worth defending and preserving.

What started to emerge was a two-dimensional grid of left/right and insurrectionist/institutionalist to understand a picture of American politics that can include both the Occupy Movement and Hillary Clinton as leftists, and Donald Trump and Paul Ryan on the right. While the US is currently wrestling with right-wing insurrectionism (and this meeting happened even before neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, VA and the President assured us that some of them were nice people) it’s important to remember that anti-institutionalism comes in a variety of flavors. (One researcher at the meeting observed that the common ground of insurrectionism may explain the otherwise weird phenomenon of Bernie supporters going on to support Trump.)

Mapping politicians on the twin axes of left/right and institutionalist/insurrectionist

Another idea that came up was that the categories of institutionalism and insurrectionism are fluid and changing, because revolutionaries quickly become institutions. When Google came into the search engine game, it was a revolutionary new player, upending Yahoo!, Lycos, Alta Visa and others. Twenty years later, it’s one of the most powerful corporate and civic actors in the world. Understanding that successful revolutions tend to beget institutions is helpful for understanding insurrectionism as a political pole. Some insurrectionists will win their battles and may find themselves defending the institutions they build. (I think fondly of my friend Joi Ito, who spent years as an enfant terrible in Japanese internet circles before becoming surprisingly acceptable as the director of the MIT Media Lab.) Others will hold onto insurrectionism even when their side wins – my friend Sami ben Gharbia moved seamlessly to being a critic of the Ben Ali government in Tunisia to critiquing the new government the Arab Spring brought to power.

Understanding that revolutions beget new institutions made me think of Pierre Rosanvallon’s work on Counterdemocracy, which isn’t as well known in the US as it should be. Rosanvallon observes that, during the French Revolution, a slew of new institutions sprang up to ensure the new leaders stayed true to their values. This wasn’t always a pretty picture – the Terror came in part from the institutions Rosanvallon explores – but the idea that democracy needs to be counterbalanced and bolstered by forces of oversight, prevention and judgement is one worth considering as we examine modern-day institutions and their shortcomings.

When a disruptive entity like Google or Facebook becomes an institution, it’s incumbent on us to build systems that can monitor their behavior and hold them accountable. It’s rare that existing regulatory structures are well-equipped to serve as counter-democratic institutions to counterbalance the new ways in which they work. As a result, there’s at least two ways look for change as an insurrectionist: you can identify institutions that aren’t working well and strive to replace them with something better, or you can dedicate yourself to monitoring and counterbalancing those institutions, building counterdemocratic institutions in the process.

What does this mean for the fine folks working with Knight on news and trust? The press is a key part of counterdemocracy. It needs to hold power responsible. As democratic institutions of power change, counterdemocratic systems have to change as well – nostalgia for how the press used to work is less helpful than understanding the way in which political and civic power are changing, so that the press can continue to act as an effective counterweight. The good news for me was that the folks at Knight are emphatically not holding onto a nostalgic view of the press, trying to return to a Watergate golden age. The bad news? Just like the rest of us, they don’t know what the shape of this emergent new civics is either.


Here’s a prettier version of this paper, hosted my MIT’s DSpace archive. What follows below is a less pretty, but web-friendlier version.

Mistrust, efficacy and the new civics:
understanding the deep roots of the crisis of faith in journalism

Ethan Zuckerman, Center for Civic Media, MIT Media Lab
August 2017

Executive summary
Current fears over mistrust in journalism have deep roots. Not only has trust in news media been declining since a high point just after Watergate, but American trust in institutions of all sorts is at historic lows. This phenomenon is present to differing degrees in many advanced nations, suggesting that mistrust in institutions is a phenomenon we need to consider as a new reality, not a momentary disruption of existing patterns. Furthermore, it suggests that mistrust in media is less a product of recent technological and political developments, but part of a decades-long pattern that many advanced democracies are experiencing.

Addressing mistrust in media requires that we examine why mistrust in institutions as a whole is rising. One possible explanation is that our existing institutions aren’t working well for many citizens. Citizens who feel they can’t influence the governments that represent them are less likely to participate in civics. Some evidence exists that the shape of civic participation in the US is changing shape, with young people more focused on influencing institutions through markets (boycotts, buycotts and socially responsible businesses), code (technologies that make new behaviors possible, like solar panels or electric cars) and norms (influencing public attitudes) than through law. By understanding and reporting on this new, emergent civics, journalists may be able to increase their relevance to contemporary audiences alienated from traditional civics.

One critical shift that social media has helped accelerate, though not cause, is the fragmentation of a single, coherent public sphere. While scholars have been aware of this problem for decades, we seem to have shifted to a more dramatic divide, in which people who read different media outlets may have entirely different agendas of what’s worth paying attention to. It is unlikely that a single, authoritative entity – whether it is mainstream media or the presidency – will emerge to fill this agenda-setting function. Instead, we face the personal challenge of understanding what issues are important for people from different backgrounds or ideologies.

Addressing the current state of mistrust in journalism will require addressing the broader crisis of trust in institutions. Given the timeline of this crisis, which is unfolding over decades, it is unlikely that digital technologies are the primary actor responsible for the surprises of the past year. While digital technologies may help us address issues, like a disappearing sense of common ground, the underlying issues of mistrust likely require close examination of the changing nature of civics and public attitudes to democracy.

Introduction
The presidency of Donald Trump is a confusing time for journalists and those who see journalism as an integral component of a democratic and open society.

Consider a recent development in the ongoing feud between the President and CNN. On July 2nd, Donald Trump posted a 28 second video clip to his personal Twitter account for the benefit of his 33.4 million followers. The video, a clip from professional wrestling event Wrestlemania 23 (“The Battle of the Billionaires”), shows Trump knocking wrestling executive Vince McMahon to the ground and punching him in the face. In the video, McMahon’s face is replaced with the CNN logo, and the clip ends with an altered logo reading “FNN: Fraud News Network”. It was, by far, Trump’s most popular tweet in the past month, receiving 587,000 favorites and 350,000 retweets, including a retweet from the official presidential account.

CNN responded to the presidential tweet, expressing disappointment that the president would encourage violence against journalists. Then CNN political reporter Andrew Kaczynski tracked down Reddit user “HanAssholeSolo”, who posted the video on the popular Reddit forum, The_Donald. Noting that the Reddit user had apologized for the wrestling video, as well as for a long history of racist and islamophobic posts, and agreed not to post this type of content again, Kaczynski declined to identify the person behind the account. Ominously, he left the door open: “CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.” The possibility that the video creator might be identified enraged a group of online Trump supporters, who began a campaign of anti-CNN videos organized under the hashtag #CNNBlackmail, supported by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who took to Twitter to speculate on the crimes CNN might have committed in their reportage. By July 6th, Alex Jones’s Infowars.com was offering a $20,000 prize in “The Great CNN Meme War”, a competition to find the best meme in which the President attacked and defeated CNN.

It’s not hard to encounter a story like this one and wonder what precisely has happened to the relationship between the press, the government and the American people. What does it mean for democracy when a sitting president refers to the press as “the opposition party”? How did trust in media drop so low that attacks on a cable news network serve some of a politician’s most popular stances? How did “fake news” become the preferred epithet for reporting one political party or another disagrees with? Where are all these strange internet memes coming from, and do they represent a groundswell of political power? Or just teenagers playing a game of one-upsmanship? And is this really what we want major news outlets, including the Washington Post, the New York Times and CBS, to be covering?)

These are worthwhile questions, and public policy experts, journalists and academics are justified in spending significant time understanding these topics. But given the fascinating and disconcerting details of this wildly shifting media landscape, it is easy to miss the larger social changes that are redefining the civic role of journalism. I believe that three shifts underlie and help explain the confusing and challenging landscape we currently face and may offer direction for those who seek to strengthen the importance of reliable information to an engaged citizenry:

– The decline of trust in journalism is part of a larger collapse of trust in institutions of all kinds
– Low trust in institutions creates a crisis for civics, leaving citizens looking for new ways to be effective in influencing political and social processes
– The search for efficacy is leading citizens into polarized media spaces that have so little overlap that shared consensus on basic civic facts is difficult to achieve

I will unpack these three shifts in turn, arguing that each has a much deeper set of roots than the current political moment. These factors lead me to a set of question for anyone seeking to strengthen the importance of reliable information in our civic culture. Because these shifts are deeper than the introduction of a single new technology or the rise of a specific political figure, these questions focus less on mitigating the impact of recent technological shifts and more on either reversing these larger trends, or creating a healthier civic culture that responds to these changes.

What happened to trust?

Since 1958, the National Election Study and other pollsters have asked a sample of Americans the following question: “Do you trust the government in Washington to do the right thing all or most of the time?” Trust peaked during the Johnson administration in 1964, at 77%. It declined precipitously under Nixon, Ford and Carter, recovered somewhat under Reagan, and nose-dived under George HW Bush. Trust rose through Clinton’s presidency and peaked just after George W. Bush led the country into war in Iraq and Afghanistan, collapsing throughout his presidency to the sub-25% levels that characterized Obama’s years in office. Between Johnson and Obama, American attitudes towards Washington reversed themselves – in the mid 1960s, it was as difficult to find someone with low trust in the federal government as it is difficult today to find someone who deeply trusts the government.

Data from Gallup, derived largely from the National Election Survey

Declining trust in government, especially in Congress – the least trusted branch of our tripartite system – is an old story, and generations of politicians have run against Washington, taking advantage of the tendency for Americans to re-elect their representatives while condemning Congress as a whole. What’s more surprising is the slide in confidence in institutions of all sorts. Trust in public schools has dropped from 62% in 1975 to 31% now, while confidence in the medical system has fallen from 80% to 37% in the same time period. We see significant decreases in confidence in organized religion, banks, organized labor, the criminal justice system and in big business. The only institutions that have increased in trust in Gallup’s surveys are the military, which faced Vietnam-era skepticism when Gallup began its questioning, and small business, which is less a conventional institution than the invitation to imagine an individual businessperson. With the exception of the military, Americans show themselves to be increasingly skeptical of large or bureaucratic institutions, from courts to churches.

Data on the left from Gallup. On the right are my calculations of drops in trust, based on Gallup data.

American media institutions have experienced the same decades-long fall in trust. Newspapers were trusted by 51% of American survey respondents in 1979, compared to 20% in 2016. Trust in broadcast television peaked at 46% in 1993 and now sits at 21%. Trust in mass media as a whole peaked at 72% in 1976, in the wake of the press’s role in exposing the Watergate scandal. Four decades later, that figure is now 32%, less than half of its peak. And while Republicans now show a very sharp drop in trust in mainstream media – from 32% in 2015 to 14% in 2016, trust in mass media has dropped steadily for Democrats and independents as well.

In other words, the internet and social media has not destroyed trust in media – trust was dropping even before cable TV became popular. Nor is the internet becoming a more trusted medium than newspapers or television – in 2014, 19% of survey respondents said they put a great deal of trust in internet news. Instead, trust in media has fallen steadily since the 1980s and 1990s, now resting at roughly half the level it enjoyed 30 years ago, much like other indicators of American trust in institutions.

It’s not only Americans who are skeptical of institutions, and of media in particular. Edelman, a US-based PR firm, conducts an annual, global survey of trust called Eurobarometer, which compares levels of trust in institutions similar to those Gallup asks about. The 2017 Eurobarometer survey identifies the US as “neutral”, between a small number of high trust countries and a large set of mistrustful countries. (Only one of the five countries Eurobarometer lists as highly trusting are open societies, rated as “free” by Freedom House: India. The other four – China, Indonesia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, are partly free or not free. Depressingly, there is a discernable, if weak, correlation (R2=0.162) between more open societies and low scores on Edelman’s trust metric.) As in the US, trust in media plumbed new depths in Eurobarometer countries, reaching all time lows in 17 of the 28 countries surveyed and leaving media contending with government as the least trusted set of institutions (business and NGOs rate significantly higher, though trust in all institutions is dropping year on year.)

So what happened to trust?

By recognizing that the decrease in trust in media is part of a larger trend of reduced trust in institutions, and understanding that shift as a trend that’s unfolded over at least 4 decades, we can dismiss some overly simplistic explanations for the current moment. The decline of trust in journalism precedes Donald Trump. While it’s likely that trust in media will fall farther under a government that presents journalists as the opposition party, Trump’s choice of the press as enemy is shrewd recognition of a trend already underway. Similarly, we can reject the facile argument that the internet has destroyed trust in media and other institutions. Even if we date broad public influence of the internet to 2000, when only 52% of the US population was online, the decline in trust in journalism began at least 20 years earlier. If we accept the current moment as part of a larger trend, we need a more systemic explanation for the collapse of trust.

Scholars have studied interpersonal trust – the question of how much you can trust other individuals in society – for decades, finding robust evidence of a correlation between interpersonal trust at a societal level and economic success. The relationship between interpersonal trust and trust in institutions is less clear: Sweden, for instance, is one of the world leaders in interpersonal trust, but one of the most mistrustful of governments and other institutions. Comparing the 2014 World Values Survey measure of interpersonal trust to the 2017 Eurobarometer survey of institutional trust shows no correlation. (R2=0.032) So while interpersonal trust has dropped sharply in the US (from 48% in 1984 to 31% in 2014, using data from the General Social Survey, the broader world shows fairly stable interpersonal trust. Yet a decrease of trust in institutions is widespread globally, as seen both in the Eurobarometer data and in Gallup OECD data. It’s not just that we trust each other less – people around the world appear to trust institutions less.

It’s also possible that reduced confidence in institutions could relate to economic stress. As numerous scholars, notably Thomas Piketty, have observed, economic inequality is reaching heights in the US not seen since the Gilded Age. The decrease of confidence in institutions roughly correlates with the increase Piketty sees in inequality, which is stable through the 50’s, 60’s and mid-70’s, rising sharply from there.

We might think of an explanation in which citizens, frustrated by their decreasing share of the pie, punish the societal institutions responsible for their plight. But with this explanation, we would expect to see rising inequality accompanied by a steady drop in consumer confidence. We don’t – consumer confidence in the US and in the OECD more broadly is roughly as high now as it was in the 1960s, despite sharp drops during moments of economic stress and a rise during the “long boom” of the ’90s and 2000s. It’s possible that citizens should be punishing governments, banks and businesses for rising inequality, but consumer behavior and confidence doesn’t corroborate the story.

I favor a third theory, put forward by Kenneth Newton and Pippa Norris, called the institutional performance model. Simply put, when institutions perform poorly, people lose trust in them: “It is primarily governmental performance that determines the level of citizens’ confidence in public institutions.” That trust in institutions, easily lost, takes a long time to regain. We might understand the collapse of confidence in US institutions as a set of high visibility crises: Vietnam and Watergate as eroding confidence in the federal government, the Catholic Church sex scandal destroying trust in that institution, the 2007 financial collapse damaging faith in banks and big business.

Newton and Norris developed their theories in the mid-1990s, noting that confidence in public institutions was plumbing new depths. In retrospect, their concerns seem well-founded, as the trends they observed have simply increased over time. In the mid 1990s, Newton and Norris were comfortable positing a relationship between society-wide interpersonal trust and trust in institutions – that relationship is less clear now, because interpersonal trust has remained fairly constant while trust in institutions has decreased. One explanation for the decrease in institutional trust is that institutions have performed poorly, and that citizens are increasingly aware of their shortcomings.

Cultural and technological shifts may have made it easier for institutions to lose trust and harder to regain it. Watergate returned the US press to its progressive-era muckraking roots and ended a period of deference in which indiscretions by figures of authority were sometimes ignored. (It’s interesting to imagine the Clinton-era press covering JFK’s personal life.) An explosion in news availability, through cable television’s 24-hour news cycle and the internet, has ensured a steady stream of negative news, which engages audiences through fear and outrage. The rise of social media fuels the fire, allowing individuals to report institutional failures (police shootings, for example) and spread their dismay to friends and broader audiences. Accompanying the evolution of media technologies is education: in 1971, 12% of Americans had graduated from college, and 57% from high school. By 2012, 31% had college degrees, and 88% had high school diplomas. The citizens of 2017 are better positioned to be critical of institutions than those of 1964.

If we accept any of these explanations for a decrease in trust in institutions, the obvious question emerges: How do we reverse this trend? How do we restore public trust?

It’s worth noting that those most concerned with restoring public trust tend to be elites, those for whom existing institutions are often working quite well. Eurobarometer’s 2017 report focuses on a widening trust gap between a well-informed 15% of the population and a less informed 85%. The well-informed minority scores 60 on Edelman’s trust index, while the less-informed majority is 15 points lower, at 45. The gap between elites and the majority is largest in the US – 22 points separate the groups.

One approach to institutional mistrust is to try and educate this disenchanted majority, helping them understand why our institutions are not as broken as we sometimes imagine. Any approach is unlikely to reach all citizens – some will remain frustrated and alienated, due to disinterest, misinformation, a healthy distaste for being told what to think, or due to the fact that their mistrust may be justified.

TV commentator Chris Hayes encourages us to recognize that those frustrated with institutions constitute a large and powerful segment of society. He suggests that dividing Americans into institutionalists, who want to strengthen and preserve our existing social institutions, and insurrectionists, who see a need to overhaul, overthrow, replace or abandon existing institutions, is at least as useful as dividing the population into liberals and conservatives. Insurrectionists include progressives (Bernie Sanders), libertarians (Rand Paul) and nationalists (Donald Trump), while both Republicans and Democrats are well represented within the institutionalist camp.

The defeat of a consummate institutionalist – Hillary Clinton – by an insurrectionist outsider suggests a need to take rising insurrectionism seriously. What if our citizens now include a large plurality unlikely to be persuaded to regain trust in our central civic institutions?

How mistrust reshapes civics

Assume for the moment that a large group of citizens is mistrustful of existing institutions. How do these citizens participate in civic life?

Low participation in congressional elections is often offered as evidence of the decline in American civic life. But in 2012, only 35 of 435 congressional seats were considered “swing” districts, where voting margins were within 5% of the national popular vote margin – the remaining 92% of districts strongly favor either a sitting Democrat or Republican. The safety of these districts leads to an extremely high rate of incumbent re-election, 95.9%. Combine the very low chance of making a difference in a Congressional election with extremely low trust in Congress (9% in 2016) and it’s easy to understand why many citizens – including some institutionalists – would sit an election out.

When we teach young people how to have a civic voice, we tend to emphasize the importance of voting as a baseline civic responsibility – as the bumper sticker says, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.” But at high levels of mistrust, voting doesn’t work very well. If we see Congress, the Senate or the presidency as dysfunctional institutions, either unlikely to accomplish much or to represent our interests, voting for representatives or encouraging them to advance or support legislation doesn’t feel like a powerful way to influence civic processes.

High levels of mistrust present a challenge for protest as well. Unless the goal of a protest – a march, a sit-in, an occupation – is the fall of a regime (as it was with the protests of the Arab Spring), then a protest is designed to show widespread support for a political position and influence leaders. The March on Washington, likely the most remembered event of the civil rights movement as it culminated in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, was, after all, a march on Washington. It sought to pressure President Kennedy and Congress to take action on civil rights legislation and is credited with creating the momentum for LBJ to act quickly on civil rights after Kennedy’s assassination.

What happens when protesters no longer trust that institutions they might influence can make necessary social changes? The Occupy movement was widely criticized for failing to put forward a legislative agenda that representatives could choose to pass. Occupiers, in part, were expressing their lack of confidence in the federal government and didn’t put forth these proposals because their goal was to demonstrate other forms of community decision-making. Whether or not Occupy succeeded in demonstrating the viability of consensus-based governance, the resistance of Occupiers to turning into a political party or advocacy organization shows a deep insurrectionist distrust of existing institutions and an unwillingness to operate within them.

The danger is that insurrectionists will drop out of civic life altogether, or be manipulated by demagogues who promise to obviate the complexities of mistrusted institutions through the force of their personal character and will. The hope is that insurrectionists can become powerful, engaged citizens who participate in civic life despite their skepticism of existing institutions. To make this possible, we need to broaden our understanding of what it means to be a good citizen.

There is a tendency to assume that the actions that constitute good citizenship are stable over time. Good citizens inform themselves about issues, vote in elections, contact representatives about issues they care about and, if they fail to be heard, protest peacefully and non-violently. Michael Schudson argues that this model of citizenship is only one of several that has held sway in the US at different moments in our nation’s history. Early in the American republic, “good citizens” would be expected to send the most prominent and wealthy member of their community to Washington to represent them, independent of agreement with his ideology. Later, good citizens supported a political party they affiliated with based on geography, ethnicity or occupation. The expectation that voters would inform themselves on issues before voting, vote on split tickets making decisions about individual candidates or vote directly on legislation in a referendum was the result of a set of progressive era reforms that ushered in what Schudson calls “the informed citizen”.

We tend to see the informed citizen as the correct and admirable model for citizenship a hundred years after its introduction, but we miss some of the weaknesses of the paradigm. Informed citizenship places very high demands on citizens, expecting knowledge about all the candidates and issues at stake in an election – it’s a paradigm deeply favored by journalists, as it places the role of the news as informing and empowering citizens at the center of the political process. Unfortunately, it’s also a model plagued with very low participation rates – Schudson observes that the voting was cut nearly in half once progressive political reforms came into effect. And while we often discuss civics and participation in terms of the informed citizen mode, he argues that America has moved on to other dominant models of citizenship, the rights-based citizenship model that centers on the courts, as during the civil rights movement, and monitorial citizenship, where citizens realize they cannot follow all the details of all political processes and monitor media for a few, specific issues where they are especially passionate and feel well-positioned to take action.

Young people in particular are looking for ways they can be most effective in making change around issues they care about. Effective citizenship, in which individuals make rational, self-interested decisions about how they most effectively participate in civic life, can look very different from the informed citizenship we’ve come to expect. Joe Kahne and Cathy Cohen surveyed thousands of youth in California and discovered that while participation in “institutional” politics (rallies, traditional political organizing, volunteering to work with a candidate) is low, there is strong engagement with “>”participatory politics”, sharing civic information online, discussing social issues in online fora, making and sharing civic media. And while young people may not be volunteering for political campaigns, they are volunteering at a much higher rate than previous generations, looking for direct, tangible ways they can participate in their communities.

We are beginning to see new forms of civic participation that appeal to those alienated from traditional political processes. One way to understand these methods is as levers of change. When people feel like they are unlikely to move formal, institutional levers of change through voting or influencing representatives, they look for other levers to make movement on the issues they care about.

In his 1999 book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lawrence Lessig argues that there are four primary ways societies regulate themselves. We use laws to make behaviors legal or illegal. We use markets to make desirable behaviors cheap and dangerous ones expensive. We use social norms to sanction undesirable behaviors and reward exemplary ones. And code and other technical architectures make undesirable actions difficult to do and encourage other actions. Each of the regulatory forces Lessig identifies can be turned into a lever of change, and in an age of high mistrust in institutions, engaged citizens are getting deeply creative in using the three non-legal levers.

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations of widespread NSA surveillance of communications, many citizens expressed fear and frustration. The Obama administration’s review of the NSA’s programs made few significant changes to domestic spying policies. Unable to make change through formal government processes, digital activists have been hard at work building powerful, user-friendly tools to encrypt digital communications like Signal, “>whose powerful encryption has now been incorporated into the widely used WhatsApp platform. Code-based theories of change allow programmers and engineers to become powerful social change actors, making new behaviors possible, whether they increase personal privacy or reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

Market-based theories of change use capitalism’s capacity for scaling to change the behavior of large groups of people. We usually think of Elon Musk as an inventive entrepreneur and engineer, but it’s also possible to think of him as one of the most effective activists working to halt climate change. By building a highly desirable electric car and the infrastructure to charge it at home and on the road, Musk may ultimately reduce carbon emissions as much as legislating global carbon markets. Market-based activists use boycotts, buycotts and social ventures to encourage consumers to make change using their wallets, a technique used since American colonists eschewed heavily taxed British goods, now organized and accelerated through communications networks.

If code-based theories of change are most open to engineers and market levers to entrepreneurs, norms-based theories of change have been embraced by those who make and disseminate media… which in the age of social networks includes the majority of Americans and the vast majority of young Americans. The Black Lives Matter movement is less focused on specific legislative change than on changing social norms that cause many people to see black males, especially young black males, as a threat. Laws are already on the books that should protect black males from police violence. But when a policeman perceives 12-year old Tamir Rice as a threat because he is a young black man playing with a toy, changing the norms of how African Americans are seen by police – and by society as a whole – is a high priority. Online, BLM protesters have focused on making unarmed deaths at the hands of the police highly visible, leading to a surge of media coverage in the wake of Michael Brown’s death, making these incidents at least 10 times as visible as they were before the Ferguson protests. (Forthcoming research from Center for Civic Media.)

Effective citizenship means that people look for the methods of social change they see as most effective. Young people often look for norms-based theories of change, taking advantage of their skills in building and disseminating media. Insurrectionists frustrated with legal institutions or with the behaviors of corporate America look for change through new technology and new ventures.

This shift in citizenship is still emerging. Media often hasn’t caught up with the idea that effective civic engagement happens outside the courts, the voting booth and Congress. This understandable overfocus on law-based theories of change leaves those frustrated with institutions frustrated with media as well. For insurrectionists who see Washington institutions as ineffective and untrustworthy, a strong media focus on these institutions can look like an attempt to maintain their legitimacy and centrality.

One of journalism’s key roles in an open society is to help citizens participate effectively. From close scrutiny of those in elected office to analysis of legislative proposals to editorial endorsements of candidates for office, news outlets help their customers make civic decisions. If mistrust in institutions is changing how people participate in civics, news organizations may need to change as well. We can recommit ourselves to explaining the importance and centrality of our institutions, but we run the risk of being insufficiently skeptical and critical, and the danger that we lose even more trust from our alienated and insurrectionist readers. Or we could rethink our role as journalists as helping people navigate this emergent civic landscape and find the places where they, individually and collectively, can be the most effective and powerful.

Dueling spheres of consensus

Shortly after the 2016 elections, a friend asked me to lunch. A Trump supporter, he knew we had voted differently in the election, and we both wanted to talk about the future of the country under the new administration. But he invited me specifically because he was angered by an article I’d written that grouped Breitbart founder Steve Bannon with alt-right leader Richard Spencer.

My friend explained that he read Breitbart religiously, not because he supports white supremacy, but because he supports net-zero immigration to the US as a strategy for raising the incomes of white and non-white Americans. Breitbart was the only major media outlet he found seriously discussing that policy stance. “If Bannon is beyond the pale, and Breitbart’s beyond the pale, does it mean that my views on immigration are beyond the pale? And what about the millions of Americans who agree with me?”

Research that Yochai Benkler and our team at MIT and the Berkman Center confirmed my friend’s assertion that Breitbart covered matters of immigration much more closely than other media outlets leading up to the 2016 election, focusing on the issue more than 3x as often as right-leaning outlets Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to the strong influence of Breitbart, we speculate, immigration became the most-reported on policy issue in the 2016 election, despite GOP efforts to soften the party’s stance on immigration to reach Latino voters.

The move of immigration from the fringe of the news agenda to a central topic is a phenomenon addressed by media scholar Daniel Hallin in his 1985 book, The Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam. Hallin argues that we should think of potential news stories as fitting into one of three spheres. In the sphere of consensus, there is widespread agreement on an issue or a position (democracy is the best form of government; capitalism is a good way to build an economy) and therefore it’s not worth our time to discuss. In the sphere of deviance, there is widespread agreement that a stance is beyond the pale (sexual relationships between adults and minors are natural and should be legal; collective ownership of all goods is the best way to end economic inequality) and also not worthy of discussion. The (sometimes very narrow) sphere of legitimate controversy includes the standard political debates within a society, and journalists are expected to show themselves as neutral on those topics legitimate to debate (tax cuts for the wealthy will lead to economic growth; for-profit insurers will only survive with federally mandated medical insurance).

Lobbyists, activists and PR professionals have used Hallin’s spheres to shape what’s at stake in public policy debates. Health insurance companies have worked hard to push the idea of single payer healthcare into the sphere of deviance, rebranding the idea as socialized medicine to associate it with a disfavored economic idea. By citing the small number of scientists who do not see evidence that humans are contributing to climate change, advocates have kept the phenomenon of global warming within the sphere of legitimate debate.

While Hallin’s Spheres are related to the Overton window – the idea that certain policy prescriptions are so radical that a politician could not embrace them without compromising her own electability – being consigned to Hallin’s sphere of deviance has psychological implications that falling outside the Overton window lacks. Advance a policy suggestion that is outside the Overton window and you suffer the disappointment that your idea is discarded as impractical. Stray outside the sphere of legitimate debate into the sphere of deviance, and your position becomes invisible to mainstream media dialog. Journalism scholar Jay Rosen observes, “Anyone whose views lie within the sphere of deviance — as defined by journalists — will experience the press as an opponent in the struggle for recognition. If you don’t think separation of church and state is such a good idea; if you do think a single payer system is the way to go… chances are you will never find your views reflected in the news. It’s not that there’s a one-sided debate; there’s no debate.”

The growth in media diversity brought about by the rise of the internet and social media means that if your ideas are outside the sphere of legitimate debate, you can simply find a media sphere where you’re no longer in the sphere of deviance. My friend, frustrated that he could not find media debating his ideas on immigration, began reading Breitbart, where his deviant ideas are within the sphere of consensus, and the legitimate debate is about the specific mechanisms that should be used to limit immigration. He is not alone. While less popular than during the 2016 election, Breitbart is the 61st most popular website in the US, close in popularity to the Washington Post. In our data set, which examines how websites are shared on Twitter or Facebook, Breitbart is the fourth-most influential media outlet, behind CNN, The New York Times and politics site The Hill.

The ability to find a set of media outlets compatible with your political views is not new. Even in the days of political pamphlets and early newspapers, it was possible to experience a Federalist or Anti-Federalist echo chamber. The rise of large-circulation newspapers and broadcast media, which needed to avoid alienating large swaths of the population to maintain fiscal viability, led us into a long age where partisan journalism was less common. Even as cable news made partisan news viable again, broadcast news networks and major newspapers maintained aspirations of fairness and balance, attempting to serve the broader public.

Those economic models make little sense in a digital age. As purveyors of wholly manufactured fake news (like the Macedonian teens who targeted content at Trump supporters) know, there is a near-insatiable appetite for news that supports our ideological preconceptions. But it’s important to consider that people seek out ideological compatible media not just out of intellectual laziness, but out of a sense of efficacy. If you are a committed Black Lives Matter supporter working on strategies for citizen review of the police, it’s exhausting to be caught in endless debates over whether racism in America is over. If you’re working on counseling women away from abortion towards adoption, understanding how to be effective in your own movement is likely to be a higher priority for you than dialog with pro-choice activists.

Partisan isolationism is not just purely a function of homophily. The structure of internet media platforms contributes to ideological isolation. While Pariser and others trace these structural effects to Facebook and other highly targeted social media, I argued in Rewire that three different generations of internet media have made it possible to self-select the topics and points of views we are most interested in. The pre-Google web allowed us to self select points of view much as a magazine rack does: we choose the National Review over the Nation, or their respective websites. Unlike broadcast media, which lends itself towards centrist points of view to attract a wide range of ad dollars, narrowcast media like websites and magazines allow more stark, partisan divisions. With the rise of search, interest-based navigation often led us to ideological segregation, either through the topics we select or the language we choose to pursue them – the vegan cooking website is unlikely place to meet conservatives, much as searching for progressive voices on a hunting site can be frustrating. And the language we use to describe an issue – climate change, global warming or scientific fraud – can be thoroughly ideologically isolating in terms of the information we retrieve.

What’s different about social media is not that we can choose the points of view we encounter, but that we are often unaware that we are making these choices. Many people joined Facebook expecting the service would help them remain connected with family and friends, not that it would become a primary source of news. As of 2016, 62% of American adults reported getting some news via social media, and 18% reported often getting news through platforms like Facebook. These numbers are more dramatic for young adults, and likely increased during the 2016 presidential election. Because Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm presents content to you based on content you’ve liked and clicked on in the past, it has a tendency to reinforce your existing preconceptions, both because your friends are likely to share those points of view, and because your behavior online indicates to Facebook what content you are most interested in. Eli Pariser calls this problem “the filter bubble”, building on earlier work done by Cass Sunstein, which recognized the tendency to create “echo chambers” online by selecting media that fits our politics. Pariser argues (controversially) that algorithms used by Facebook and others increase this tendency.

It’s worth noting that the filter bubble problem isn’t inherent to social media. Twitter has pointedly not filtered their timeline, which avoids the filter bubble, but leaves responsibility for escaping echo chambers to the user. While you can decide to follow a different group of people on Twitter, research from Nathan Matias suggests that even highly motivated people are unlikely to make major changes in their online behavior in order to combat biases and prejudices.

Our team at the MIT Media Lab is working on Gobo, a new tool that allows you to filter your Facebook and Twitter feeds differently, using natural language processing and machine learning to build filters that can increase or decrease the political content of your news feed, give you more or fewer female authors, or consciously choose to encounter more news outside of your echo chamber. One of the key questions we seek to answer in buiding the tool is whether people will actually choose to use these filters. One hypothesis we hope to disprove is that, despite complaining about filter bubbles, many people seem to enjoy ideological isolation and may choose settings similar to what they encounter online now.

General interest media, like broadcast television and national newspapers, traditionally saw themselves as having a responsibility to provide ideological balance, global perspectives and diversity in their coverage. (Whether they succeeded is another question – I’ve heard many reports from people of color that they felt invisible in those “good old days” and far more visible in contemporary, fragmented media.) As that business model becomes less viable, because readers gravitate towards ideologically compatible material, it’s worth asking whether platforms like Facebook have an appetite for this work.

Thus far, the answer seems to be no. Facebook has assiduously avoided being labeled a publisher, trying to ensure both an escape from legal liability for content it hosts under the Safe Harbor provisions of US internet law, and to prevent itself from being criticized about exercising poor editorial judgement. The problems Facebook is confronted with are serious. Demands that the platform block “fake news” are challenging, given that most of what’s called “fake news” is not obviously fraudulent. If Facebook begins blocking platforms like Breitbart, it will be accused of censorship of political content, and rightly so.

One possible escape for Facebook is to eliminate algorithmic curation of newsfeeds, moving back to a Twitter-like world in which social media is a spray of information from anyone you’ve chosen to pay attention to. Another is to adopt a solution like the one we are proposing with Gobo, and put control of filters into the user’s hands. It’s an open question whether Facebook would choose a path forward that gives its users more control over their experience of the service.

In considering how platforms enable online discourse, we need to consider the idea that sharing content is a form of civic participation. Part of our emergent civics is the practice of making and disseminating media designed to strengthen ties within an identity group and to distinguish that group from groups that oppose it. Consider the meme-makers competing for $20,000 from Infowars. Many involved don’t believe that CNN is ISIS, as one popular meme allegesas Judith Donath explains, “News is shared not just to inform or even to persuade. It is used as a marker of identity, a way to proclaim your affinity with a particular community.”

Donath’s insight helps explain why factchecking, blocking fake news or urging people to support diverse, fact-based news is unlikely to check the spread of highly partisan news. Not only is partisan news comfortable and enjoyable (I find it reassuring to watch Trevor Noah or Samantha Bee and assume that friends on the right feel the same watching Fox News commentators), spreading this information has powerful social rewards and gives a sense of shared efficacy, the feeling (real or imagined) that you are making norms-based social change by shaping the information environment.

The research Benkler and our Media Cloud team conducted shows how rapidly these partisan ecosystems can come into being. Examining 1.25 million media stories and 25,000 media sources, we gave each media source a partisanship score based on whether people who shared tweets from the Democratic or Republican candidates also shared a story from a source. Stories from the New York Times were more often shared by people who’d retweeted Hillary Clinton than those who’d retweeted Donald Trump, but the effect was much more pronounced with Breitbart: Breitbart was amplified almost exclusively by Trump supporters. Our research shows a tightly clustered set of sites read only by the nationalist right. The vast majority of these sites are very new, most founded during the Obama administration. This community of interest has very little overlap with traditional conservative sources like the Wall Street Journal or the National Review. In our study, those publications are both low in influence and linked to by both the left and right, while the Breitbart-centered cluster functions as an echo chamber.

The emergence of echo chambers like the one around Breitbart further complicates fact-checking. danah boyd explains that in teaching students not to rely on Wikipedia, we’ve encouraged them to triangulate their way to truth from Google search results. On topics covered heavily in the Breitbartosphere but not addressed in the broader media universe, this leads to a perverse effect. Search for information on Pizzagate as the story was being developed on sites like Infowars and you would likely find links to other far-right sites promoting the story. By the time sites like the New York Times became aware of the story and began debunking it, many interested in the faux-scandal had persuaded themselves of its truth through repetition within a subset of closely related websites, to the point where an unstable individual took up arms to “self-investigate” the controversy.

Hallin’s spheres suggests we question whether we are encouraged to discuss a wide enough range of topics within the sphere of legitimate controversy. The problem we face now is one in which dialog is challenging, if not impossible, because one party’s sphere of consensus is the other’s sphere of deviance and vice versa. Our debates are complicated not only because we cannot agree on a set of shared facts, but because we cannot agree what’s worth talking about in the first place. When one camp sees Hillary Clinton’s controversial email server as evidence of her lawbreaking and deviance (sphere of consensus for many on the right) or as a needless distraction from more relevant issues (sphere of deviance for many on the left), we cannot agree to disagree, as we cannot agree that the conversation is worth having in the first place.

Much as there is no obvious, easy solution to countering mistrust in institutions, I have no panaceas for polarization and echo chambers. Still, it’s worth identifying these phenomena – and acknowledging their deep roots – as we seek solutions to these pressing problems. It is worth noting that the research Benkler’s and my team carried out suggests the phenomenon of asymmetric polarization – in our analysis, those on the far right are more isolated in terms of viewpoints they encounter than those on the far left. There’s nothing in our research that suggests the right is inherently more prone to ideological isolation. By understanding how extreme polarization has developed recently, it might be possible to stop the left from developing a similar echo chamber. Our research also suggests that the center right has a productive role to play in building media that appeals to an insurrectionist and alienated right-leading audience, which keeps those important viewpoints in dialog with existing communities in the left, center and right.

Fundamentally, I believe that the polarization of dialog in the media is a result both of new media technologies and of the deeper changes of trust in institutions and in how civics is practiced. The Breitbartosphere is possible not just because it’s easier than ever to create a media outlet and share viewpoints with the like-minded. It’s possible because low trust in government leads people to seek new ways of being engaged and effective, and low trust in media leads people to seek out different sources. Making and disseminating media feels like one of the most effective ways to engage in civics in a low-trust world, and the 2016 elections suggest that this civic media is a powerful force we are only now starting to understand.

Closing questions

I want to acknowledge that this paper may stray far from the immediate challenges that face us around issues of information quality, in the service of seeking for their deeper roots. My questions follow in the same spirit. For the most part, these are questions to which I don’t have a good answer. Some are active research questions for my lab. My fear is that we may have to address some of these underlying questions before tackling tactical questions of how we should best respond to immediate challenges to faith in journalism.

Trust:
– How long does it take to recover trust in an institution that has failed? What are examples of a mistrusted institution regaining public trust?
– Is the fall in institutional trust an independent or a joint phenomenon – i.e., does losing trust in Congress lessen our trust in the Supreme Court or the medical system
– Is trust in news media higher or lower in countries with strong public/taxpayer supported media? Does trust correlate positively or negatively to ad support? Privacy-invading tracking and targeting?
– If people don’t trust institutions, who or what do they trust? How do those patterns differ for more trusting elites and for the broader population?

Participation:
– What forms of participation (from the traditional, like voting, to the non-traditional, like making CNN-bashing memes) are indicators of future civic engagement? Should we be encouraging and celebrating a broader range of civic participation amongst youth? Amongst groups that see themselves alienated from conventional politics?
– Should media attempt to explain and engage audiences more deeply in institutional politics? Will acknowledging the limits of existing institutional politics restore trust in journalism, or damage trust in government?
– Should media celebrate and promote new forms of civic engagement? Will this further decrease trust in institutions? Increase a sense of citizen efficacy?
– What would media designed for increased public participation look like? Are there models in the advocacy journalism space, or in solutions journalism, constructive journalism or other movements?

Polarization:
– Is it reasonable to expect Americans to rely on a single, or small set, of professional media sources that report a relatively value-neutral set of stories? Or is this goal of journalistic non-partisanship no longer a realistic ideal?
– Could taxpayer-sponsored media serve a function of anchoring discourse around a single set of facts? Or will public media be inherently untrustworthy to some portion of American voters? Why does public media seem to work well in other low-trust nations but not in the US?
– Is there a role for high-quality, factual but partisan media that might reach audiences alienated from mainstream media?
– Should media outlets learn from what’s consensus, debatable and deviant in other media spheres and modify coverage to intersect with reader’s spheres? Is shifting the boundaries of these spheres part of how civics is conducted today?

by Ethan at August 18, 2017 01:45 AM

August 17, 2017

Harry Lewis
Guest Post by Professor Daniel Gilbert on the social club policy
This well-intentioned attempt to promote values that the Harvard community generally shares, such as egalitarianism, tramples on other values that the Harvard community generally shares, such as individual responsibility, freedom of choice and assembly, and so on. The USGSO Committee's letter to the faculty states "Core to our stated aspiration is the need to diminish the role of final clubs, fraternities and sororities and/or equivalent exclusive-membership private social clubs on Harvard's campus." If the last three words of this sentence were true, there would be few objections to the proposal. But they are not true. The committee proposes to punish students for engaging in lawful behavior off campus and not on it. In so doing, the proposal abrogates fundamental rights enjoyed by all American citizens, and treats our students like children whose behavior must be coerced rather than as adults who can and should be making decisions for themselves. There are a host of other things Harvard could consider doing to achieve its goals without resorting to draconian and paternalistic sanctions, and yet sanctions are the first and only thing it has ever tried. In addition, as Prof. Engell noted last year during a faculty meeting, Harvard's 5th statute clearly states that decisions about disciplinary matters rest with the faculty, and not with the President. The faculty, and only the faculty, should decide whether to accept the USGSO Committee's proposal.

Daniel Gilbert
Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology

Cross posted with permission from the FAS Wiki


by Harry Lewis (noreply@blogger.com) at August 17, 2017 10:35 PM

August 16, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Partisan Right-Wing Websites Shaped Mainstream Press Coverage Before 2016 Election, Berkman Klein Study Finds

Teaser

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today released a comprehensive analysis of online media and social media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The report, "Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election," documents how highly partisan right-wing sources helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.

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The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today released a comprehensive analysis of online media and social media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The report, "Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election," documents how highly partisan right-wing sources helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.

"In this study, we document polarization in the media ecosystem that is distinctly asymmetric. Whereas the left half of our spectrum is filled with many media sources from center to left, the right half of the spectrum has a substantial gap between center and right. The core of attention from the center-right to the left is large mainstream media organizations of the center-left. The right-wing media sphere skews to the far right and is dominated by highly partisan news organizations,” co-author and principal investigator Yochai Benkler stated. In addition to Benkler, the report was authored by Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, Bruce Etling, Nikki Bourassa, and Ethan Zuckerman.

The fact that media coverage has become more polarized in general is not new, but the extent to which right-wing sites have become partisan is striking, the report says. 

The study found that on the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations. Robert Faris, the Berkman Klein Center’s research director, noted, "Consistent with concerns over echo chambers and filter bubbles, social media users on the left and the right rarely share material from outside their respective spheres, except where they find coverage that is favorable to their choice of candidate. A key difference between the right and left is that Trump supporters found substantial coverage favorable to their side in left and center-left media, particularly coverage critical of Clinton. In contrast, the messaging from right-wing media was consistently pro-Trump." Conservative opposition to Trump was strongest in the center-right, the portion of the political spectrum that wielded the least influence in media coverage of the election. 

In this recently-emerged universe, Breitbart stands at the center of a right-wing media ecosystem and is surrounded by sites like Fox News, the Daily Caller, the Gateway Pundit, the Washington Examiner, Infowars, Conservative Treehouse, and Truthfeed, according to the report’s analysis. 

 

 

Figure 8: Network map based on Twitter media sharing from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016 with nodes sized by number of Twitter shares (explore this map in higher resolution) 

The report finds that political clickbait sites—hyperpartisan sites that frequently engage in dubious reporting—exist on both sides of the political spectrum, but these sites played a larger role on the right than the left. On the more insular and partisan right, the “fake news,” or political clickbait sites were a more integral part of the media sphere. On the left, readers gravitated towards center-left large media organizations which moderated the impact of political clickbait on the left.
 
This overall trend and the quantitative differences in coverage were far more consequential than the circulation of outright false stories, the analysis found. "Although fake news--fabricated and verifiably false reporting--was a phenomenon during the election, it had a minor effect on the media ecosystem of the presidential election according to our findings. A much larger concern was the misleading reporting that was propagated through partisan networks," co-author and Media Cloud technical lead Hal Roberts stated. 

The report found that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Trump’s agenda. Immigration received more attention than any other substantive issue. However, it was eclipsed by the attention given to the scandals surrounding Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server and the Clinton Foundation, which were perpetuated through the release of hacked emails. These two topics, immigration and emails, defined the public narrative around the choices for voters in the 2016 election. 

The Berkman Klein study is based on an analysis of more than 2 million stories related to the election published online by approximately 70,000 media sources, between May 1, 2015, and Election Day in 2016, as well as an analysis of how often sources were linked to by other online sources and how often they were shared on Facebook or Twitter. 

The study analyzed:

  • Cross-linking patterns between media sources to offer a view of authority and prominence within the media world.
  • Sharing of media sources by users on Twitter and Facebook, which provides a broader perspective on the role and influence of media sources among people engaged in politics through Twitter and Facebook.
  • The differential media sharing patterns of Trump and Clinton supporters on Twitter, which enables a detailed analysis of the role of partisanship in the formation and function of media structures.
  • Content analysis using automated tools  to support the tracking of topics over time among media sources.
  • Qualitative media analysis of individual case studies to enhance our understanding of media function and structure.</ul>

The research used Media Cloud, an open-source dataset and suite of analysis tools jointly run by the Berkman Klein Center and MIT’s Center for Civic Media. An earlier version of the research appeared as a report in March in Columbia Journalism Review.

Explore the data here

For more information about this report, please contact the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University at press@cyber.harvard.edu.

About Media Cloud
The Media Cloud project is an open platform for the qualitative and quantitative study of online media. Media Cloud archives and analyzes hundreds of millions of stories published online and makes that data available through a suite of web tools as well as an API, both freely available to the public and implemented through an open source code base. The project is a joint effort by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the MIT Center for Civic Media. 

 

by nbourassa at August 16, 2017 02:30 PM

Miriam Meckel
Die Zukunft verschlafen

Deutschland, Land der Ideen? Nicht mal die wichtigste deutsche Industrie weiß, wofür sie künftig stehen will.

Nur unter vier Augen oder in vertraulichen Hintergrundgesprächen schimmert die Wahrheit durch. Dann blickt man auch bei Regierungsmitgliedern in sehr besorgte Gesichter, und gelegentlich fällt ein Satz, der das Ausmaß dessen beschreibt, was uns noch erwartet. Es ist die Rede vom Diesel und der Zukunft der deutschen Automobilindustrie. Dort tun viele noch immer so, als seien verpestete Innenstädte, mannigfaltiger vermuteter Betrug bei den Abgasmesswerten oder die schleppende Entwicklung beim Elektroauto kurzfristig lösbare Probleme. Viel Rauch um nichts, der nur entsteht, weil mal wieder die Grünen, überambitionierte US-Behörden oder ein paar verirrte Apokalyptiker am deutschen Selbstbewusstsein herumzündeln. Aber das steht doch wie eine Eins. Sind wir nicht Meister der industriellen Fertigung?

Mag sein. Aber manchmal kommt der Punkt, an dem andere Talente gefragt sind. Sich neu zu erfinden, zu erkennen, was sich gerade grundlegend ändert, um nicht nur irgendwann auf den längst fahrenden Zug aufzuspringen, sondern ihn selbst in Gang zu setzen. Auch ein bisschen weniger selbstbesoffen auf den unzerstörbaren Reiz von „made in Germany“ zu setzen, gehört dazu.

In der Autoindustrie lässt die Erkenntnis weiter auf sich warten. Und mit jedem Monat wird die Zeit knapper, um die industrielle Umwälzung selbst anzutreiben, statt zum Getriebenen zu werden. Mit mehr als 400 Milliarden Euro Umsatz ist die deutsche Autoindustrie mit ihren Zulieferern nicht nur die wirtschaftlich wichtigste Branche, sondern auch wesentlicher Treiber von Deutschlands Exportboom. Wenn der Diesel aber nicht zu retten ist und in gut 20 Jahren jedes dritte Auto weltweit ein Elektroauto sein wird, dann sind die Aussichten noch düsterer, als der verdreckte Qualm aus manipulierten Motoren es derzeit nahelegt.

Es ist also höchste Zeit, dass die deutschen Autobauer diesen Wandel mit mehr Tempo und Konsequenz angehen. Und dass die Bundesregierung aufhört, in Brüssel und den USA Lobbying für den Status quo zu betreiben. Denn selbst wenn sich der Qualm des Abgasskandals irgendwann mal wieder verzogen haben sollte, werden wir sehen: Gelöst wurde nur ein Problem der Vergangenheit. Die Zukunft haben derweil andere in die Hand genommen.

Deutschland hat schlicht keine Idee davon, wofür es künftig stehen will. Als Land mit dem zweithöchsten Durchschnittsalter weltweit (nach Japan) ist das vielleicht nicht verwunderlich. Läuft doch alles angenehm ruhig, bitte bloß nichts ändern. Wo die Bürgerinnen und Kunden nicht mehr als den Ist-Zustand von Unternehmen und Regierung verlangen, fahren die ganz entspannt auf Sicht. SPD-Kanzlerkandidat Martin Schulz hat nun gefordert, eine Investitionsverpflichtung des Staates ins Grundgesetz zu schreiben. Das ist sicher gut gemeint. Aber doch auch nur das Bemühen, volkswirtschaftlich Selbstverständliches in verfassungsrechtlichen Fettdruck zu überführen.

by Miriam Meckel at August 16, 2017 02:03 PM

Berkman Center front page
Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Teaser

In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda.

Publication Date

16 Aug 2017

Author(s)

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Executive Summary

In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.

Our data supports lines of research on polarization in American politics that focus on the asymmetric patterns between the left and the right, rather than studies that see polarization as a general historical phenomenon, driven by technology or other mechanisms that apply across the partisan divide.

The analysis includes the evaluation and mapping of the media landscape from several perspectives and is based on large-scale data collection of media stories published on the web and shared on Twitter.

Overview of Methods

  • Cross-linking patterns between media sources offer a view of authority and prominence within the media world.

  • The sharing of media sources by users on Twitter and Facebook provides a broader perspective on the role and influence of media sources among people engaged in politics through Twitter and Facebook.

  • The differential media sharing patterns of Trump and Clinton supporters on Twitter enable a detailed analysis of the role of partisanship in the formation and function of media structures.

  • Content analysis using automated tools supports the tracking of topics over time among media sources.

  • Qualitative media analysis of individual case studies enhances our understanding of media function and structure. 

 

Key Takeaways

Donald Trump succeeded in shaping the election agenda. Coverage of Trump overwhelmingly outperformed coverage of Clinton. Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.

 

Figure 1: Number of sentences by topic and candidate from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

Attempts by the Clinton campaign to define her campaign on competence, experience, and policy positions were drowned out by coverage of alleged improprieties associated with the Clinton Foundation and emails. Coverage of Trump associated with immigration, jobs, and trade was greater than that on his personal scandals.

Immigration and Muslims/Islam were the two most widely covered substantive issues of the campaign.

Figure 2: Number of sentences by substantive topic and candidate from media on the open web

Immigration emerged as the leading substantive issue of the campaign. Initially, the Trump campaign used a hard-line anti-immigration stance to distinguish Trump from the field of GOP contenders. Later, immigration was a wedge issue between the left and the right. Pro-Trump media sources supported this with sensationalistic, race-centric coverage of immigration focused on crime, terrorism, fear of Muslims, and disease.

While coverage of his candidacy was largely critical, Trump dominated media coverage.

Figure 3: Valence and focus of the 100 most linked-to stories. Stories were hand-coded for topic and tone.

The media landscape is distinctly asymmetric.

The structure of the overall media landscape shows media systems on the left and right operate differently. The asymmetric polarization of media is evident in both open web linking and social media sharing measures. Prominent media on the left are well distributed across the center, center-left, and left. On the right, prominent media are highly partisan.

Figure 4: Partisan distribution of top 250 most-linked-to media sources by total inlinks* *“Inlinks” refers to the incoming cross-media hyperlinks to stories and media sources.

Twitter is a more partisan environment than the open web media landscape.

Figure 5: Partisan distribution of top 250 media sites by Twitter shares

Facebook is more partisan than Twitter.

Figure 6: Partisan distribution of top 250 media sites by Facebook shares

From all of these perspectives, conservative media is more partisan and more insular than the left.

The center-left and the far right are the principal poles of the media landscape. 
The center of gravity of the overall landscape is the center-left. Partisan media sources on the left are integrated into this landscape and are of lesser importance than the major media outlets of the center-left. The center of attention and influence for conservative media is on the far right. The center-right is of minor importance and is the least represented portion of the media spectrum.

Figure 7: Network map based on open web media from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016 (explore this map in higher resolution) 

Conservative media disrupted.
Breitbart emerges as the nexus of conservative media. The Wall Street Journal is treated by social media users as centrist and less influential. The rising prominence of Breitbart along with relatively new outlets such as the Daily Caller marks a significant reshaping of the conservative media landscape over the past several years.  

Figure 8: Network map based on Twitter media sharing from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016 with nodes sized by number of Twitter shares (explore this map in higher resolution) 

Figure 9: Network map based on Twitter media sharing from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016 with nodes sized by number of Facebook shares (explore this map in higher resolution

On the partisan left and right, the popularity of media sources varies significantly across the different platforms. On the left, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, and Vox are prominent on all platforms. On the right, Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Caller, and the New York Post are popular across platforms.

Table 1: Most popular media on the right from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

 

Table 2: Most popular media on the left from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

On the most widely covered topic of the election, immigration, Breitbart was the most prominent site. On Twitter, it is far above the rest.

Figure 10: Network map based on Twitter sharing for the topic of immigration (explore this map in higher resolution)

Breitbart’s key role in the media landscape during the election was particularly pronounced in coverage of immigration. On Twitter, Breitbart stories on immigration were shared more than twice as often as stories from the Guardian, which ranked second.

 

Disinformation and propaganda are rooted in partisanship and are more prevalent on social media.

The most obvious forms of disinformation are most prevalent on social media and in the most partisan fringes of the media landscape. Greater popularity on social media than attention from media peers is a strong indicator of reporting that is partisan and, in some cases, dubious.

Among the set of top 100 media sources by inlinks or social media shares, seven sources, all from the partisan right or partisan left, receive substantially more attention on social media than links from other media outlets.

These sites do not necessarily all engage in misleading or false reporting, but they are clearly highly partisan. In this group, Gateway Pundit is in a class of its own, known for “publishing falsehoods and spreading hoaxes.”

Disproportionate popularity on Facebook is a strong indicator of highly partisan and unreliable media.

A distinct set of websites receive a disproportionate amount of attention from Facebook compared with Twitter and media inlinks. From the list of the most prominent media, 13 sites fall into this category. Many of these sites are cited by independent sources and media reporting as progenitors of inaccurate if not blatantly false reporting. Both in form and substance, the majority of these sites are aptly described as political clickbait. Again, this does not imply equivalency across these sites. Ending the Fed is often cited as the prototypical example of a media source that published false stories. The Onion is an outlier in this group, in that it is explicitly satirical and ironic, rather than, as is the case with the others, engaging in highly partisan and dubious reporting without explicit irony.

Asymmetric vulnerabilities: The right and left were subject to media manipulation in different ways.

The more insulated right-wing media ecosystem was susceptible to sustained network propaganda and disinformation, particularly misleading negative claims about Hillary Clinton. Traditional media accountability mechanisms—for example, fact-checking sites, media watchdog groups, and cross-media criticism—appear to have wielded little influence on the insular conservative media sphere. Claims aimed for “internal” consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem were more extreme, less internally coherent, and appealed more to the “paranoid style” of American politics than claims intended to affect mainstream media reporting.

The institutional commitment to impartiality of media sources at the core of attention on the left meant that hyperpartisan, unreliable sources on the left did not receive the same amplification that equivalent sites on the right did.

These same standard journalistic practices were successfully manipulated by media and activists on the right to inject anti-Clinton narratives into the mainstream media narrative. A key example is the use of the leaked Democratic National Committee’s emails and her campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, released through Wikileaks, and the sustained series of stories written around email-based accusations of influence peddling. Another example is the book and movie release of Clinton Cash together with the sustained campaign that followed, making the Clinton Foundation the major post-convention story. By developing plausible narratives and documentation susceptible to negative coverage, parallel to the more paranoid narrative lines intended for internal consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem, and by “working the refs,” demanding mainstream coverage of anti-Clinton stories, right-wing media played a key role in setting the agenda of mainstream, center-left media. We document these dynamics in the Clinton Foundation case study section of this report.

Read the Introduction

Related press coverage:
Down the Breitbart Hole (New York Times)
Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda (Columbia Journalism Review)
Researchers Examine Breitbart's Influence On Election Information (NPR)
The great divide: The media war over Trump (CBS)

Producer Intro

Authored by

by djones at August 16, 2017 12:00 PM

August 15, 2017

Ethan Zuckerman
The Village of Peace. And Coca. Lots of Coca.

A year ago, I had the opportunity to go to Colombia for the first time, as part of a delegation from Open Society Foundation. We were trying to understand the affects Colombia’s long guerilla war had on the society and what we might expect from the peace referendum planned for a few months later.

The referendum failed, but the peace didn’t, and Colombia seems to be transforming. I returned to Bogota in November 2016 to speak at a national journalism event. My friends who’d judged the contest marveled that this was the first year where the best reporting was not about the war, but about social issues: homosexuality, drug use, women’s roles in the workforce. “It’s almost like we’re a normal country,” one of the judges told me, laughing.

I wrote about my experiences visiting a small village where coca farming is the primary local industry. I’d hoped to sell the piece to one of my editors in the US, but I couldn’t get any traction. It’s sat open in a browser tab for a full year as I’ve felt guilty about not finding a way to share this story with a wider audience.

Colombia is in the news again, with the demobilization of the FARC in its final steps. And coca, the center of the story I wanted to tell, is back in the news, with record levels of Colombian countryside planted with coca bushes. Once again, authorities are trying to lure coca farmers into growing substitution crops… and once again, the economics of the equation don’t make sense to the farmers.

I re-read the piece today, and I still think it’s important for understanding some of the challenges Colombia still faces, especially in areas outside of the major cities. If you like it, please share it, so I can feel less badly about failing my friends in Lerma by not getting the New York Times or National Geographic to pick this up. :-)


The village of Lerma, Colombia is 700 kilometers from Bogota, 150 kilometers from the border with Ecuador, and a long, long way from anywhere I’ve ever been before. My companions and I flew from Bogota to Popayán, a provincial capital of whitewashed houses, countless churches and cobblestone streets, then took a bus three hours down the Pan American highway, onto smaller roads and ultimately nine kilometers of dirt and gravel. I spent the trip losing my breath at the beauty of the mountain scenery and trying not to lose my breakfast, my nerve or my mind as our driver slalomed through bus-plungeworthy curves.

We had come to Lerma for the reason outsiders ever come to Lerma: coca.

I am a member of the global board of the Open Society Foundations and a team from our organization had come to Colombia to learn about the economic and social challenges the country is facing as it goes through a peace process at the end of a 50 year war with the FARC, a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla army which has engaged in terrorism, kidnapping for ransom and drug production and trafficking. We’d come to Lerma to meet farmers who were cultivating coca not to sell for cocaine production, but for licit uses: a nutrient-rich flour, a medicinal tea, for chewing as their ancestors had for centuries.

Posters advertising the festival of coca, and a coca-laced beverage in a home outside Lerma

Posters advertising the festival of coca, and a coca-laced beverage in a home outside Lerma

What we found was more surprising than licit coca. We found a community that had once descended into unimaginable violence and had remade itself into what residents proudly call “a village of peace”.

Our hosts in Lerma met us with lemonade spiked with coca leaf powder and sweet local basil, and lead us into a covered town square, where we sat on concrete bleachers while schoolchildren played chirimía, a local musical style that features reed flutes and drums. After the performance, schoolteacher Tocayo offered a remarkable history of the town to us and to a group of elementary school students.

Leader of the school Chirimía ensemble presents her group

Leader of the school Chirimía ensemble presents her group

In his account, Lerma was a peaceful village where people cultivated plantains, yucca and chickpeas, as well as small coca crops, until the Peace Corps arrived in 1979. Yes, according to local legend, those idealistic volunteers were the agents of Lerma’s destruction, bringing to the rural community the chemical techniques for extracting cocaine from coca leaves. Once the Peace Corps volunteers had done their sinister work, Lerma farmers quickly realized they could make far more money growing and processing coca, so they abandoned subsistence farming and became narcotics providers.

By the early 1980s, Lerma had attracted the attention of the Escobar network, Colombia’s most powerful drug cartel. The cartel bought Lerma’s coca leaves and paste, turning the village into a boom town. Lerma residents put new roofs on their houses, bought cars and motorbikes, and guns. They partied, drinking heavily and partaking of their new crop. The town’s population surged from 400 to 2,000. By 1983, the international market was glutted with cocaine and prices began to fall. Accustomed to their new wealth, Lerma’s residents began mugging each other to make ends meet, and those who hadn’t already arm themselves bought guns.

If other villages in the region were terrorized by the FARC or by M-19, a Bolivarian guerrilla group, Lerma was terrorized by the people of Lerma. Over the course of five years, at least 20% of the town’s population was murdered. The murder rate sparked on Thursdays, the town’s market day, when farmers came in town to sell their crops and spend their money in local bars, where all-day drinking sessions often devolved into gunfights. According to Rudy Gomez, a schoolteacher in Lerma, “La gente decía que si se pusiera una lápida en cada sitio donde había caído un muerto, no habría por dónde caminar” (The people say that if there was a stone at every place where someone died, you wouldn’t be able to walk.)

In 1988, a group of schoolteachers and widows intervened, pressuring bar owners and liquor stores to shut their doors in the hopes of ending the violence. For ten years, Lerma was a dry town, and citizens turned from drinking to rebuilding the town. One of the town’s few university graduates, Walter Giviría, returned to his hometown to teach and invited friends to join him. The young teachers turned empty bars into classrooms, eventually raising enough money to build a sprawling elementary and high school. By focusing on the next generation, the town followed the advice of an old proverb, which says, “For new birds, you need new eggs” – those who’d grown used to easy drug money might not be saved, but the new generation could be.

Presenting the local history and the town seal of Lerma. The "e" in the town's name is a coca leaf.

Schoolteacher Tocayo presenting the local history and the town seal of Lerma. The “e” in the town’s name is a coca leaf.

“We succeeded in making social change,” explained Tocayo, “but not in economic change.” Instead of two murders a week, Lerma experienced a decade without violent deaths. But the village was still desperately poor. Lerma tried to shift from coca to sugarcane, but the switch was economically disastrous. And so, at least 40 families in Lerma grow coca as part or all of their crop.

Our tour guide, “Gato”, led us up a steep mountain path to a farm in the shadow of El Cerro de Lerma, a 2500m peak that dominates the local skyline. We’d been told we were meeting the largest local landholder, and I’d been expecting an elaborate hacienda. Instead, carefully tended low hedges led us to a small, tidy mud brick house surrounded by what appeared to be wild jungle. Once Celima, the farmer, began pointing out that this tree grew oranges, that one tangerines, a third bananas, did I began to understand that the jungle was the farm. To the trained eye, the apparently random explosion of green was a carefully planned garden. We walked past a shallow fish pond, covered with thick netting to deter birds, through thickets of coffee bushes, yucca and pineapple plants.

Showing off the achiote harvest.

Celimo, showing off the achiote harvest.

Turning a corner past an achiote tree, we entered the coca fields, head-high bushes reaching up to strands of barbed wire strung at 2.5m above ground-level as a trellis for the plants. Planted at the feet of each bush were bean plants – the farmer explained that the beans would climb the coca plants. (Using legumes to fix nitrogen to fertilize other plans is a time-honored technique, reportedly taught to colonial farmers in New England by native Americans. Celimo confirmed that he used almost no commercial fertilizer, not out of a desire to seek organic certification, but because it’s expensive and hard to transport to his fields.)

Local politician Gustavo Muñoz borrowed a machete from the farmer and cut chunks for fresh sugarcane for members of our group. I asked why sugarcane had failed as a commercial crop in Lerma, since it clearly grows well in local soils. The answer is complicated, and helps reveal why crop substitution, the coca-combating philosophy promoted by the Colombian government, is having trouble catching on. First, the farmer explained, the US government had sprayed the entire village with herbicides shortly after they’d converted to sugarcane, seeking to kill remaining coca crops. But beyond that frustrating setback, simple economics lead farmers to grow coca. Our host explained that sugarcane takes a year to mature before you can harvest it, while coca will begin producing harvestable leaves within four months. Sugarcane can be harvested once a year, while coca produces four crops a year. And while sugarcane does poorly in drought, coca is extremely drought-tolerant.

We paused to eat cancherina, a mixture of roasted corn flour, quinoa flour, sugar and coca flour into a gritty powder that’s best eaten while drinking lots of water. It’s traditional traveling food in the Andes, and it was good preparation for the next leg of our trip, a 4km hike further into the mountains to another farm, where we saw a legacy of the failed experiment with sugarcane: an iron press designed to extract cane juice from sugarcane.

The sugar press. All we need is horses. And a way to get the product to market. And a bigger press. And sugarcane that grows four times a year.

The sugar press. All we need is horses. And a way to get the product to market. And a bigger press. And sugarcane that grows four times a year.

The press is designed to be operated by horses who pull poles to turn the heavy gears, an unthinkable luxury for most people in the town. (Our group of twenty takes turns riding three horses on the rocky trails, apparently a large percentage of the local equine supply.) And even this press isn’t up to national standards – to sell cane juice to the national sugar company, Gato explains, the farmer would need a much larger, and much more expensive gas-powered press. And if the government provided funding for a gas-powered sugar press? The heavy, hard to transport cane juice is still 6km from town on a rough muletrack. “And so…” his explanation trails off. And so, we grow coca.

And so, we eat coca. Lunch at the farm is a little like dinner with your hippie friends who insist in putting marijuana in everything they cook. Coca flour accents a rich achiote-driven stew full of sweet corn and potatoes. A coca leaf, carrot and lime salad accents guinea hen over rice, or, for the vegetarians, handmade noodles flecked with coca leaf. Unlike your hippie friends, the campesina women can cook, and we linger over a dessert of corn and pumpkin in coconut milk, talking about the role of farmers in Colombian society, who sometimes see themselves almost as an ethnic group distinct from urban Colombians.

And then we pick coca.

It’s really not hard – bushes grow all around the mud-brick buildings and picking involves stripping the leaves from a branch. In three minutes, we filled a huge basket with leaves, which were transferred to a clay oven over a slow fire. After roasting the leaves for half an hour, our hosts offered an explanation that characterized coca leaves as female and a white rock they’re consumed with is male, encouraging us to put bundles of leaves into our cheeks and slowly soften them with our jaws, then take a pinch of white rock and add it to the mass in our mouths. (It seems likely that the rock is sodium bicarbonate, which activates the alkaloids in the leaves.)

IMG_4726
In the coca bushes

The leaves are bitter and tangy, but not unpleasant, and they almost immediately numbed my mouth and tongue. And while I didn’t feel high, I did feel surprisingly good, given that the hike back to town, in midday heat and high altitude, was brutal. Gato explained that the people of Lerma routinely walked to the PanAmerican highway, 20 kilometers from town, to demand services from the central government by blocking that critical route, chewing coca all the way.

As my companions shopped for coca-derived souvenirs, I felt like the trip had opened more questions for me than it had answered. How had this village been spared guerrilla violence since conquering its own demons in the 1980s? Was the lovely and peaceful town we were visiting supported by subsistence farming, or was coca production driving the local economy? And where was all that coca going? We were the largest group of visitors the town had ever received, and Gato reported that small groups came roughly once a month – it doesn’t require all that much coca to produce the “hayu” cookies I took home. (Hayu is the local indigenous word for coca, and part of Lerma’s rebranding campaign involves celebrating the virtues of the local herb, Hayu.)

Gustavo Muñoz, local counselor, sugar cane harvester, caballero.

Gustavo Muñoz, local counselor, sugar cane harvester, caballero.

My translator Juan learned more of the truth talking to politician Gustavo Muñoz as we toured the high school’s computer lab. “I’m Colombian. I know that every place that has coca has a master. Who’s the master in Lerma?” he asked. The answer is both complex and encouraging. M-19, the guerrilla army influential around Lerma, demobilized and became a political party in the late 1980s. When a paramilitary – nominally opposed to the FARC and other guerrilla groups, but often just a front for narcotrafficking and extortion – tried to move into the village in the 1990s, the villagers resisted and the paramilitaries couldn’t get a foothold and moved on.

Between its success story of moving beyond cocaine and alcohol towards peace, and its track record of chasing out paramilitaries, the guerrilla army powerful in southern Cauca – the ELN – tends to treat Lerma with some respect. While two ELN camps are within walking distance of the village, our hosts report that their presence in the village is limited to occasional visits by commanders who share their mobile phone numbers and ask villagers to call if “anyone unusual” – aka, paramilitaries – comes to town.

IMG_4787
ELN hasta siempre – ELN forever

We got a sense for just how close the ELN is to Lerma as we left town. Shortly after the dirt road turned back to pavement, but before we hit the Panamerican, we passed a house emblazoned with the graffito “ELN hasta siempre” (ELN forever). Two kilometers later, we passed a government checkpoint.

Just we left Lerma for Popayán, Muñoz pulled me aside for a negotiation, asking me to use my (non-existent) pull with Bogota to ensure the government paved the road into town. I explained that I didn’t have any political power, but that I would write about my visit to Lerma and explain that, with a better road, it would be a remarkable destination for ecotourism, for visitors who wanted to learn more about Colombian agriculture and the cultural use of coca.

That’s all true. What’s also true is that the future of towns like Lerma is critical to the future of Colombia. For more than 50 years, Colombia has faced armed insurgencies whose powerbase is in rural areas hundreds of kilometers from Colombia’s cosmopolitan cities. As long as those villages feel invisible to Bogota, as long as they see no economic options beyond coca, they are likely allies to ELN and any other rebel movements outside the current peace negotiations.

(While the national referendum on the peace process is only weeks away, the subject of the peace vote didn’t come up in Lerma until we brought it up. Our friends assured us that they’d all vote for peace, mostly because former president Uribe is urging his supporters to vote no, and they cordially loathe Uribe.)

While the FARC has come to the table, the ELN has not, and there’s no guarantee that peace with the FARC will force ELN into negotiations. One possibility is that ELN may take in FARC dissidents who’ve rejected peace and become more active in kidnapping and cocaine production. Another is that ELN may remain a small force focused on local grievances and not on the national political process. While FARC’s Marxist politics incline it towards seeking political power in Bogota, ELN was founded by Catholic priests steeped in liberation theology who felt Bogota was not helping the poor. While ELN has become criminal organization engaged in kidnapping for ransom, it’s not hard to imagine sympathy for some of their positions from farmers who feel excluded from Colombia’s economic transitions.

Riding, and limping, into Lerma after visiting a farm in the mountains.

Riding, and limping, into Lerma after visiting a farm in the mountains.

The Colombian state needs a much stronger presence in towns like Lerma if it wants to counter the influence of the ELN, and that presence needs to start with aggressive infrastructure-building and economic development efforts. As we navigated endless switchbacks on our return to the provincial capital, we passed farm after farm selling tangerines, a dozen for $0.30, because there’s no good way to bring their products to national and international markets. It’s just too easy for farmers to make coca paste (a crack-like substance smoked locally as “bazuco”) and sell it to guerrilla armies, paramilitaries or any other broker taking advantage of the consequences of America’s failed drug wars: an increase in price with little reduction of supply.

Coca flour cookies and other Lerma souvenirs

Coca flour cookies and other Lerma souvenirs

Can Lerma find a way to build an economy around legal coca? It seems almost impossible. But this is a town that kicked out guerrillas and paramilitaries, bars and guns while searching for peace. Don’t ever underestimate the people of Lerma.


There’s little written about Lerma available online in English or in Spanish. This 2013 piece in Cali’s El País offers a recounting of Lerma’s origin story. This 1995 story from El Tiempo looks at the role of teachers in transforming the town and notes Lerma’s attempts to become a sugar producer.


Should you go to Lerma? Absolutely, yes! And absolutely not!

Let me explain. On the one hand, Lerma is one of the loveliest villages I’ve visited anywhere in the world, and I learned more about Colombian agriculture and rural development in a single day that I could have imagined. (And I almost tried to kidnap one of the cooks because the food was so good.) However, the roads to Lerma are often closed due to protests. And ELN attacks do still occur in the area. We traveled to Lerma by coordinating closely with CASA, a local organization that works on rural development in Cauca state. If you wanted to visit Lerma, it would be wise to coordinate with a local group that knows the area well.

by Ethan at August 15, 2017 10:06 PM

Joseph Reagle
The Google Memo

Earlier I reviewed the literature on whether there is a distinct geek style of thinking?. This question recently went mainstream as a consequence of James Damore’s “Google Bro” memo. I was tempted to carefully parse though all the claims myself, but others did so for me.

If your interested in reading thorough reviews of what we understand about gender and cognition, I recommend:

  • Lise Eliot, 2009, “Pink brain, blue brain: How small differences grow into troublesome gaps – and what we can do about it”.
  • Cordelia Fine, 2010, “Delusions of gender: How our minds, society, and neurosexism create difference”.
  • Cordelia Fine, 2017, “Testosterone rex: Myths of sex, science, and society”.

In particular, Eliot’s take (and book title) capture my understanding: on average, there are more similarities than (small) differences. At the extremes, there are differences, but society has a way of essentializing and exaggerating such differences in a way that is worth actively countering.

I also recommend the following five pieces that speak directly to Damore’s biological claims and their cultural implications.

by Joseph Reagle at August 15, 2017 04:00 AM

August 14, 2017

David Weinberger
Machine learning cocktails

Inspired by fabulously wrong paint colors that Janelle Shane’s generated by running existing paint names through a machine learning system, and then by an hilarious experiment in dog breed names by my friend Matthew Battles, I decided to run some data through a beginner’s machine learning algorithm by karpathy.

I fed a list of cocktail names in as data to an unaltered copy of karpathy’s code. After several hundred thousand iterations, here’s a highly curated list of results:

  • French Connerini Mot
  • Freside
  • Rumibiipl
  • Freacher
  • Agtaitane
  • Black Silraian
  • Brack Rickwitr
  • Hang
  • boonihat
  • Tuxon
  • Bachutta B
  • My Faira
  • Blamaker
  • Salila and Tonic
  • Tequila Sou
  • Iriblon
  • Saradise
  • Ponch
  • Deiver
  • Plaltsica
  • Bounchat
  • Loner
  • Hullow
  • Keviy Corpse der
  • KreckFlirch 75
  • Favoyaloo
  • Black Ruskey
  • Avigorrer
  • Anian
  • Par’sHance
  • Salise
  • Tequila slondy
  • Corpee Appant
  • Coo Bogonhee
  • Coakey Cacarvib
  • Srizzd
  • Black Rosih
  • Cacalirr
  • Falay Mund
  • Frize
  • Rabgel
  • FomnFee After
  • Pegur
  • Missoadi Mangoy Rpey Cockty e
  • Banilatco
  • Zortenkare
  • Riscaporoc
  • Gin Choler Lady or Delilah
  • Bobbianch 75
  • Kir Roy Marnin Puter
  • Freake
  • Biaktee
  • Coske Slommer Roy Dog
  • Mo Kockey
  • Sane
  • Briney
  • Bubpeinker
  • Rustin Fington Lang T
  • Kiand Tea
  • Malmooo
  • Batidmi m
  • Pint Julep
  • Funktterchem
  • Gindy
  • Mod Brandy
  • Kkertina Blundy Coler Lady
  • Blue Lago’sil
  • Mnakesono Make
  • gizzle
  • Whimleez
  • Brand Corp Mook
  • Nixonkey
  • Plirrini
  • Oo Cog
  • Bloee Pluse
  • Kremlin Colone Pank
  • Slirroyane Hook
  • Lime Rim Swizzle
  • Ropsinianere
  • Blandy
  • Flinge
  • Daago
  • Tuefdequila Slandy
  • Stindy
  • Fizzy Mpllveloos
  • Bangelle Conkerish
  • Bnoo Bule Carge Rockai Ma
  • Biange Tupilang Volcano
  • Fluffy Crica
  • Frorc
  • Orandy Sour
  • The candy Dargr
  • SrackCande
  • The Kake
  • Brandy Monkliver
  • Jack Russian
  • Prince of Walo Moskeras
  • El Toro Loco Patyhoon
  • Rob Womb
  • Tom and Jurr Bumb
  • She Whescakawmbo Woake
  • Gidcapore Sling
  • Mys-Tal Conkey
  • Bocooman Irion anlis
  • Ange Cocktaipopa
  • Sex Roy
  • Ruby Dunch
  • Tergea Cacarino burp Komb
  • Ringadot
  • Manhatter
  • Bloo Wommer
  • Kremlin Lani Lady
  • Negronee Lince
  • Peady-Panky on the Beach

Then I added to the original list of cocktails a list of Western philosophers. After about 1.4 million iterations, here’s a curated list:

  • Wotticolus
  • Lobquidibet
  • Mores of Cunge
  • Ruck Velvet
  • Moscow Muáred
  • Elngexetas of Nissone
  • Johkey Bull
  • Zoo Haul
  • Paredo-fleKrpol
  • Whithetery Bacady Mallan
  • Greekeizer
  • Frellinki
  • Made orass
  • Wellis Cocota
  • Giued Cackey-Glaxion
  • Mary Slire
  • Robon Moot
  • Cock Vullon Dases
  • Loscorins of Velayzer
  • Adg Cock Volly
  • Flamanglavere Manettani
  • J.N. tust
  • Groscho Rob
  • Killiam of Orin
  • Fenck Viele Jeapl
  • Gin and Shittenteisg Bura
  • buzdinkor de Mar
  • J. Apinemberidera
  • Nickey Bull
  • Fishomiunr Slmester
  • Chimio de Cuckble Golley
  • Zoo b Revey Wiickes
  • P.O. Hewllan o
  • Hlack Rossey
  • Coolle Wilerbus
  • Paipirista Vico
  • Sadebuss of Nissone
  • Sexoo
  • Parodabo Blazmeg
  • Framidozshat
  • Almiud Iquineme
  • P.D. Sullarmus
  • Baamble Nogrsan
  • G.W.J. . Malley
  • Aphith Cart
  • C.G. Oudy Martine ram
  • Flickani
  • Postine Bland
  • Purch
  • Caul Potkey
  • J.O. de la Matha
  • Porel
  • Flickhaitey Colle
  • Bumbat
  • Mimonxo
  • Zozky Old the Sevila
  • Marenide Momben Coust Bomb
  • Barask’s Spacos Sasttin
  • Th mlug
  • Bloolllamand Royes
  • Hackey Sair
  • Nick Russonack
  • Fipple buck
  • G.W.F. Heer Lach Kemlse Male

Yes, we need not worry about human bartenders, cocktail designers, or philosophers being replaced by this particular algorithm. On the other hand, this is algorithm consists of a handful of lines of code and was applied blindly by a person dumber than it. Presumably SkyNet — or the next version of Microsoft Clippy — will be significantly more sophisticated than that.

The post Machine learning cocktails appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at August 14, 2017 01:30 AM

August 10, 2017

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
CRCS Seminar Series

CRCS hosts a biweekly seminar from 11:30am – 1:00pm on Mondays in Maxwell Dworkin, Room 119. CRCS fellows, faculty and friends are encouraged to join us. CRCS also hosts informal discussions on seminar off-weeks (alternating Mondays, 11:30am – 1:00pm)

Read more about CRCS Seminar Series

by Gabriella Fee at August 10, 2017 01:08 AM

August 09, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online

Teaser

This collection of short essays and opinion pieces on harmful speech online covers a broad spectrum of thought and ideas from the Berkman Klein community.

Publication Date

14 Aug 2017

Thumbnail Image: 

 

This collection of essays includes perspectives on and approaches to harmful speech online from a wide range of voices within the Berkman Klein Center community. Recognizing that harmful speech online is an increasingly prevalent issue within society, we intend for the collection to highlight diverse views and strands of thought and to make them available to a wide range of audiences.

We issued an open call to our community for short pieces that respond to issues related to harmful speech online. Through this collection, we sought to highlight ongoing research and thinking within our extended community that would be available to readers in a way that is more accessible than traditional academic research. The 16 short essays compiled in this collection are authored by a global group of friends, colleagues, and collaborators. We hope that this diverse mix of perspectives, viewpoints, and data points provokes thought and debate, and inspires further exploration.

Evidence of the complexity of the issue is that no two writers sought to cover the same topic from a similar point of view; from legal perspectives to research results to paradigm-shifting provocations, a multitude of topics, opinions, and approaches are included. Many pieces draw from research, while others are more opinion-based, indicating that discourse around this topic can be inherently opinionated and passionate as well as scholarly and academic. Some pieces are written in a style evocative of advocacy, whereas others are written with scholarly communities in mind. The range of perspectives and opinions found here—and the lack of consensus on some topics—highlight the dynamic complexity of the issues and how competing values are frequently entangled.

The pieces  are organized into three categories: Framing the Problem, International Perspectives, and Approaches, Interventions, and Solutions. The first and last sections include essays that build upon our understanding of their categories, and the section on International Perspectives addresses specific geopolitical contexts and ways in which the regulation of harmful speech may or may not be serving the citizens of a particular country or region. 

Essays included in this collection

Framing the Problem

The Right to ‘Offend, Shock or Disturb,’ or the Importance of Protecting Unpleasant Speech by Nani Jansen Reventlow

How Cyber Harassment Laws May Encourage Online Speech by Jonathon Penney

The Multiple Harms of Sea Lions by Amy Johnson

The Problem with Sexting Isn’t What You Think It Is by Rey Junco

Goodbye to Anonymity? A New Era of Online Comment Sections by Casey Tilton

International Perspectives

State Power and Extremism in Europe: The Uneasy Relationship Between Governments and Social Media Companies by Kate Coyer

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law: Using Hate Speech Laws to Limit Digital Rights by Nighat Dad and Adnan Chaudhri

Internet Shutdowns: Not the Answer to Hate Speech in Africa by Grace Mutung’u

Approaches, Interventions, and Solutions

Civil Society Puts a Hand on the Wheel: Diverse Responses to Harmful Speech by Susan Benesch

Moderation and Sense of Community in a Youth-Oriented Online Platform: Scratch’s Governance Strategy for Addressing Harmful Speech by Andres Lombana-Bermudez

If We Own It, We Define It: Self-Regulating Harmful Speech Dilemma by Helmi Noman

Difficult Speech in Feminist Communities by Kendra Albert

Comment Moderation by Algorithm: The Management of Online Comments at the German Newspaper "Die Welt" by Anke Sterzing, Felix Oberholzer-Gee, and Holger Melas

Decoding Hate Speech in the Danish Public Online Debate by Lumi Zuleta

Verification as a Remedy for Harmful Speech Online by Simin Kargar

Ensuring Beneficial Outcomes of Platform Governance by Massively Scaling Research and Accountability by J. Nathan Matias

Producer Intro

Authored by

by nbourassa at August 09, 2017 09:35 PM

August 08, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Harmful Speech Online: At the Intersection of Algorithms and Human Behavior

Subtitle

A workshop exploring how algorithms and human behavior interact to spread harmful speech online, but also to enable novel responses to it

Teaser

How do algorithms and human behavior intersect to impact the spread and study of harmful speech online?

On June 29-30, 2017, the Berkman Klein Center in collaboration with the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and ISD Global held a workshop that explored how algorithms and human behavior interact to create new problems related to harmful speech online, as well as new solutions and responses. Over 60 experts from a variety of disciplines, sectors and geographies met at Harvard Law School to reflect on these issues and to generate ideas for how society might seek progress.

A summary of the event can be found on Medium.

The event was held at Harvard Law School and convened over 60 stakeholders from academia, civil society organizations, and major technology companies—including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft—and featured talks, group discussions and breakouts. The hosts included Rob Faris, Berkman Klein Center research director; Urs Gasser, the center’s executive director; Sasha Havlicek, CEO of ISD; and Nicco Mele, director of the Shorenstein Center.  The major goal was to foster collaboration and idea-sharing; not release new findings. The event was conducted under the Chatham House Rule; participants were recontacted to provide permission to use quotations or attributions appearing in this report.

Introducing the topic, Faris, Mele, and Havlicek pointed to the enormous gap—in terms of resourcing, activism, and even basic research—between the problems of harmful speech online and the available solutions. Harmful speech and extremism in online spaces can have an enormous impact on public opinion, inclusiveness, and political outcomes. And as Mele put it, we are in “uncharted territory” when it comes to addressing these problems, which underscores the importance of convening groups from academia, civil society, and industry to address the challenges.

Read our Medium post

by nbourassa at August 08, 2017 10:22 PM

David Weinberger
Messy meaning

Steve Thomas [twitter: @stevelibrarian] of the Circulating Ideas podcast interviews me about the messiness of meaning, library innovation, and educating against fake news.

You can listen to it here.

The post Messy meaning appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at August 08, 2017 03:26 PM

August 07, 2017

David Weinberger
Cymbeline: Shakespeare’s worst play (Or: Lordy, I hope there’s a tape)

The hosts of the BardCast podcast consider Cymbeline to probably be Shakespeare’s worst play. Not enough happens in the first two acts, the plot is kuh-razy, it’s a mishmash of styles and cultures, and it over-explains itself time and time again. That podcast is far from alone in thinking that it’s the Bard’s worst, although, as BardCast says, even the Bard’s worst is better than just about anything. Nevertheless, when was the last time you saw a performance of Cymbeline? Yeah, me neither.

We saw it yesterday afternoon, in its final performance at Shakespeare & Co in Lenox, Mass. It was fantastic: hilarious, satisfactorily coherent (which is praiseworthy because the plot is indeed crazy), and at times moving.

It was directed by the founder of the company, Tina Packer, and showed her usual commitment to modernizing Shakespeare by finding every emotional tone and every laugh in the original script. The actors enunciate clearly, but since we modern folk don’t understand many of the words and misunderstand more than that, the actors use body language, cues, and incredibly well worked out staging to make their meaning clear. We used to take our young children to Shakespeare & Co. shows, and they loved them.

I’m open to being convinced by a Shakespeare scholar that the Shakespeare & Co.’s Cymbeline was a travesty that had nothing to do with Shakespeare’s intentions, even though the players said all the words he wrote and honored the words’ magnificence. I’m willing to acknowledge that, for example, when Imogen and King Cymbeline offer each other words of condolence about the death of the wicked, wicked queen, Shakespeare didn’t think they’d wait a beat and then burst out laughing. But when Posthumus comes before the King at the end, bemoaning the death of his beloved Imogen, I would not be surprised if Shakespeare were to nod in appreciation as in this production the audience bursts into loud laughter because Imogen, still in disguise as a boy, is scrambling towards Posthumus, gesticulating ever more wildly that she is in fact she for whom he mourns. Did Shakespeare intend that? Probably not. Does it work? One hundred percent.

These two embellishments are emblematic of the problem with the play. In that final scene, it is revealed to the King in a single speech that the Queen he has loved for decades in fact always hated him, tried to poison him, and was a horrible, horrible person. There’s little or nothing in the play that explains how the King could not have had an inkling of this, and he seems to get over the sudden revelation of his mate’s iniquity in a heartbeat so that the scene can get on with its endless explication. The laugh he shares with his daughter gets a huge laugh from the audience, but only because the words of sorrow Shakespeare gives the King and Imogen seem undeserved for a Queen so resolutely evil; the addition of the laugh solves a problem with the script. Likewise, Imogen’s scramble toward Posthumus, waving her arms in a “Hey, I’m right here!” gesture, turns Posthumus’ mournful declaration of his devastation at the death of Imogen into comic over-statement.

To be clear, most of the interpretations seem to bring Shakespeare’s intentions to life, even if unexpected ways. For example, Jason Aspry’s Cloten was far different from the thuggish and thoroughly villainous character we expected. Asprey played him hilariously as a preening coward. This had me concerned because I knew that he is killed mid-play in a fight with the older of two young princes who have been brought up in a cave. (It’s a weird plot.) How can the prince kill such an enjoyable buffoon without making us feel like someone casually shot Capt. Jack Sparrow halfway through the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie? But the staging and the acting is so well done that, amazingly, the biggest laugh of the show came when the prince enters the stage holding Cloten’s severed head. (Don’t judge me. You would have laughed, too.)

So, this may well be Shakespeare’s worst play. If so, it got a performance that found everything good in it, and then some.

 


 

I do want to at least mention the brilliance and commitment of the actors. Some we have been seeing every summer for decades, and others are new or newer to us. But this is an amazing group. Among the cast members who were new to us, Ella Loudon was amazing as the older prince. I feel bad singling anyone out, but, there, I did it.

 


 

Finally, Shakespeare & Co. doesn’t post videos of performances of their plays after they’ve run. It makes me heartsick that they do not. I’ve asked them about this in past, and apparently the problem is with the actors’ union. I was brought up in a pro-union household and continue to be favorably inclined toward them, but I wish there were a way to work this out. It’d be good for the world to be able to see these exceptional performances and come to love Shakespeare.
It would of course also be good for Shakespeare & Co.

The post Cymbeline: Shakespeare’s worst play (Or: Lordy, I hope there’s a tape) appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at August 07, 2017 02:47 PM

August 05, 2017

Harry Lewis
Guest post about governance by Professor James Engell
This comment addresses issues of University governance.  The current policy of discipline (“sanctions”) for students entering the College this fall was never voted by the Faculty and cannot be regarded as legitimate.  Any policy regarding discipline (“sanctions”) or prohibitions against certain behaviors should be voted by the Faculty.  This is clearly stipulated by the University Statutes(especially the 5th and 11th Statutes).  This includes any determination to phase out student membership in USGSOs (or other organizations) and effectively to prohibit such membership as a precondition of being a member of the College.  No administrator—Dean or President—has the inherent statutory power to make or change any policy of discipline or sanction.  This power belongs to the Faculty.  If the Faculty permit this particular power to be exercised by some other body or by any administrator without expressly delegating it, then the Faculty will forever cede an important power and will diminish their own standing to effect or change any policy.  Furthermore, any policy that has not been voted and adopted by the Faculty, and thus does not appear in the Handbook for Students, would almost surely be subject to legal challenge if that policy were enforced.  Despite this, even this current website declares, "The President will make the final decision."  This is not shared governance.  Such an assumption of presidential power further diminishes the power of the Faculty.  As such power is further eroded, members of the Faculty will inevitably take less interest in matters that they feel–that they are told--they cannot decide.  Already many colleagues believe that Faculty meetings are too orchestrated and consistently assume a preordained outcome.
The Committee on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations (the committee) co-chaired by Dean Khurana and Professor Clark is nota faculty committee and should not be called a faculty committee.  It is an administration-faculty-student committee.  (Or it may be called, as the ROTC committee of similar composition was called in the early 1990s, simply a committee.)  I have never heard a committee with such a composition ever before referred to as a “faculty committee.”  Calling it that gives the false impression that all or almost all its members belong to the teaching faculty.  I believe that the report of the committee never refers to the committee itself as a faculty committee.  Of twenty-seven members, eleven are tenured faculty, two are untenured faculty, two Allston Burr assistant deans, six are administrators appointed by various deans or other administrators, and six are students apparently selected by administrators and not elected or selected by their peers as representatives.  This mix of members may be desirable.  However, a committee so composed is not a faculty committee.  In fact, teaching faculty are in a minority unless the Allston Burr assistant deans are counted as teaching faculty (the masthead of the committee does not indicate a teaching appointment for either).  Even if they are counted, then Faculty are in the barest majority.  Despite all this, according to the Crimson (July 21, 2017), a spokesperson for Dean Khurana, Rachael Dane, in an email to the Crimson referred to the committee as “the faculty committee.”
As reference to my remarksat the December 6, 2016, FAS Faculty meeting will indicate, the current policy of sanctioning students, which is a policy of discipline, cannot be regarded as institutionally legitimate.  By extension, despite its good will and work, the Implementation Committee is also illegitimate.  All disciplinary policy and its enforcement comes directly by a vote of the Faculty unless the Faculty delegates it to some other body or person by a vote, or unless in very rare cases there is strong evidence that a student has violated the University policy on Rights and Responsibilities.  That is what the Fifth and Eleventh Statutes of the University clearly and unambiguously state.
The Faculty have never taken a vote on the current policy.  The Administration never presented that policy to the Faculty for a vote, despite several opportunities.
The recommendation of the committee as issued constitutes a form of discipline, too; or if it is argued that it does not, then it forms a sweeping change in the manner in which the College will police and dictate the social lives of students and take action against students (discipline them) if they violate the policy.  Such a change should be voted by the Faculty.
For Dean Smith to say in his charge to the committee that, “Any recommended change to our current policy must be approved by the President of the University” is to abrogate without warrant or precedent whatever mode of shared governance we enjoy.  It also further ensconces the “current policy” as legitimate when it is not.
Dean Smith also stated at a Faculty meeting this spring that the manner in which we are proceeding is what “we have always done.”  With forty years experience on the Faculty and attendance at nearly every FAS Faculty meeting during those decades (when I was not on leave), as well as membership in over three dozen faculty committees (including Faculty Council, twice, and its Docket Committee), as well as committees with students and administrators as equal voting members, including the Committee on College Life in the 1980s at the time when the University and the male final clubs parted ways, I disagree.
In press reports late in 2016, Senior Fellow Lee is quoted as saying, “I think rather than getting into a struggle over who has the right to do what, I think what [Faust] said is we have a shared responsibility to solve these issues.  I think the first major step was the policy,” meaning the current policy of disciplinary sanctions.
The Senior Fellow of the Corporation, a lawyer, thus stated that it is not worth deciding who, or what body, in the University, has the right to do what.  Taken at face value, imagine what that statement means.  He does not reference the Statutes.  They do not favor his view.  The Statutes do not struggle on this matter.  The Statutes are clear.  Only the Faculty as a body has the power to act in this matter.  Yes, we have a shared responsibility to solve these issues.  Yet, the actual power to discipline—“power” is the word in the Statues—is vested in the Faculty.  Mr. Lee thinks the first step should be certain disciplinary sanctions, and that is his opinion.  But such power unambiguously rests with this Faculty.  Otherwise, the Faculty might as well never meet again and simply do whatever the Dean, the President, and the Senior Fellow of the Corporation say should be done, no matter what issue is at stake.  Not even power over the curriculum is granted Faculty privilege in the Statutes equal to the power of the Faculty to determine discipline.
Mr. Lee said, “I think rather than getting into a struggle over who has the right to do what . . . we have a shared responsibility to solve these issues.” Yes, we have that responsibility.  So, why worry who or what body or person has the right to act or to set any policy?  In a weird mirror image of what sometimes—and perhaps even now—occurs in our national polity, why indeed worry?  Why not let the executive do what it wishes—especially if the executive deems that it alone has ultimate power to determine how to “solve these issues”?  As Dean Smith told the committee, “Any recommended change to our current policy [itself a policy never voted upon] must be approved by the President of the University.”  Who cares about precedents, process, Statutes, or the constitutional fabric?  Why not summarily strip flag burners of citizenship and students of fellowship eligibility?  Why bother with written Statutes and honored principles?  Why deliberate?  Why vote?
It is said by some that a vote will come—though perhaps it will be cast procedurally as simply a vote on relatively brief language, perhaps involving multiple changes, in the Handbook, and reserved, as such a vote usually is, for the last FAS faculty meeting of the year, May 2018.  What we need is a vigorous Faculty debate on the current policy of sanctions and on the recommendations of this committee.  We need that debate sooner rather than later.
Town Halls and meetings outside regular Faculty Meetings are no substitute for Faculty debate in Faculty meetings.  Town Halls may be useful, but Town Halls also permit one to say that Faculty have been consulted and heard without actually calling anything to a debate or vote of the Faculty.
The Administration has done much maneuvering to keep Faculty votes from occurring.  Rules of Faculty Procedure were violated in the December 2016 meeting more than once.  That meeting was even adjourned contrary to the Rules of Faculty Procedure.  Professor Haig’s motion this past spring was referred to the committee in a manner extremely rare and only at the behest of the Docket Committee.  His motion concerning oaths (affirmations, pledges—a part of the recommendations of the committee) pertains to the actual though illegitimate current policy, which remains in force, but the committee appears to fail to address directly Professor Haig’s motion in any context other than, it seems, to advocate that the recommendation of the committee not be embodied in an explicit pledge or oath but in language contained in the Handbook.
Finally, if the account of the committee votes and voting procedure given in the Crimson (July 21) is accurate, then there is no basis to believe that a majority or even the largest plurality of the committee voted in favor of what was stated as the recommendation of the committee.  This is deeply disturbing.  Even if one eliminates the four options that received no votes, voting on 6 options when several have significant overlap, and permitting each committee member to vote for more than one option though not at the same time stipulating the exact number of votes that each committee member must cast (two, for example, or three), produces unclear results.  At best the process of voting was so irregular and botched as to be inconsequential or nugatory, giving only the most general impression of committee views; certainly, the process of voting in the committee cannot be regarded as determinative nor as a genuine measure of the varied views of the committee members.  If it is argued that it was “approval voting,” then committee members should have been told that.  And, despite its advocates, approval voting cannot measure the degree of preference that members may have between one option they view as preferable to the status quo versus another option they also view as preferable to the status quo.  At worst, the process of voting may have been designed to obfuscate and make elastic the very act of voting itself in order to permit the declaration of a recommendation that had been determined beforehand by one or both the co-chairs of the committee who knew that such a recommendation had at least some support.  Moreover, neither of the two options that received the most votes became the recommendation of the committee.
James Engell

Professor, FAS

(Updated August 17, 2017 to match final version of the text posted to the FAS Wiki)

by Harry Lewis (noreply@blogger.com) at August 05, 2017 04:19 PM

August 03, 2017

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Director's Letter and CRCS Annual Report
August 3, 2017


Greetings CRCS fans!

I am delighted to present you with our first ever annual report. When I became director of CRCS in 2015, I looked forward to connecting CRCS to the greater Harvard community. I’m happy to report that we’ve made great strides in that direction and that more remains to be done.

We continue our close, cooperative relationship with the Berkman Klein center,

Read more about Director's Letter and CRCS Annual Report

by Gabriella Fee at August 03, 2017 07:30 PM

August 02, 2017

danah boyd
How “Demo-or-Die” Helped My Career

I left the Media Lab 15 years ago this week. At the time, I never would’ve predicted that I learned one of the most useful skills in my career there: demo-or-die.

(Me debugging an exhibit in 2002)

The culture of “demo-or-die” has been heavily critiqued over the years. In doing so, most folks focus on the words themselves. Sure, the “or-die” piece is definitely an exaggeration, but the important message there is the notion of pressure. But that’s not what most people focus on. They focus on the notion of a “demo.”

To the best that anyone can recall, the root of the term stems back from early days at the Media Lab, most likely because of Nicholas Negroponte’s dismissal of “publish-or-perish” in academia. So the idea was to focus not on writing words but producing artifacts. In mocking what it was that the Media Lab produced, many critics focused on the way in which the Lab had a tendency to create vaporware, performed to visitors through the demo. In 1987, Stewart Brand called this “handwaving.” The historian Molly Steenson has a more nuanced view so I can’t wait to read her upcoming book. But the mockery of the notion of a demo hasn’t died. Given this, it’s not surprising that the current Director (Joi Ito) has pushed people to stop talking about demoing and start thinking about deploying. Hence, “deploy-or-die.”

I would argue that what makes “demo-or-die” so powerful has absolutely nothing to do with the production of a demo. It has to do with the act of doing a demo. And that distinction is important because that’s where the skill development that I relish lies.

When I was at the Lab, we regularly received an onslaught of visitors. I was a part of the “Sociable Media Group,” run by Judith Donath. From our first day in the group, we were trained to be able to tell the story of the Media Lab, the mission of our group, and the goal of everyone’s research projects. Furthermore, we had to actually demo their quasi functioning code and pray that it wouldn’t fall apart in front of an important visitor. We were each assigned a day where we were “on call” to do demos to any surprise visitor. You could expect to have at least one visitor every day, not to mention hundreds of visitors on days that were officially sanctioned as “Sponsor Days.”

The motivations and interests of visitors ranged wildly. You’d have tour groups of VIP prospective students, dignitaries from foreign governments, Hollywood types, school teachers, engineers, and a whole host of different corporate actors. If you were lucky, you knew who was visiting ahead of time. But that was rare. Often, someone would walk in the door with someone else from the Lab and introduce you to someone for whom you’d have to drum up a demo in very short order with limited information. You’d have to quickly discern what this visitor was interested in, figure out which of the team’s research projects would be most likely to appeal, determine how to tell the story of that research in a way that connected to the visitor, and be prepared to field any questions that might emerge. And oy vay could the questions run the gamut.

I *hated* the culture of demo-or-die. I felt like a zoo animal on display for others’ benefit. I hated the emotional work that was needed to manage stupid questions, not to mention the requirement to smile and play nice even when being treated like shit by a visitor. I hated the disruptions and the stressful feeling when a demo collapsed. Drawing on my experience working in fast food, I developed a set of tricks for staying calm. Count how many times a visitor said a certain word. Nod politely while thinking about unicorns. Experiment with the wording of a particular demo to see if I could provoke a reaction. Etc.

When I left the Media Lab, I was ecstatic to never have to do another demo in my life. Except, that’s the funny thing about learning something important… you realize that you are forever changed by the experience.

I no longer produce demos, but as I developed in my career, I realized that “demo-or-die” wasn’t really about the demo itself. At the end of the day, the goal wasn’t to pitch the demo — it was to help the visitor change their perspective of the world through the lens of the demo. In trying to shift their thinking, we had to invite them to see the world differently. The demo was a prop. Everything about what I do as a researcher is rooted in the goal of using empirical work to help challenge people’s assumptions and generate new frames that people can work with. I have to understand where they’re coming from, appreciate their perspective, and then strategically engage them to shift their point of view. Like my days at the Media Lab, I don’t always succeed and it is indeed frustrating, especially because I don’t have a prop that I can rely on when everything goes wrong. But spending two years developing that muscle has been so essential for my work as an ethnographer, researcher, and public speaker.

I get why Joi reframed it as “deploy-or-die.” When it comes to actually building systems, impact is everything. But I really hope that the fundamental practice of “demo-or-die” isn’t gone. Those of us who build systems or generate knowledge day in and day out often have too little experience explaining ourselves to the wide array of folks who showed up to visit the Media Lab. It’s easy to explain what you do to people who share your ideas, values, and goals. It’s a lot harder to explain your contributions to those who live in other worlds. Impact isn’t just about deploying a system; it’s about understanding how that system or idea will be used. And that requires being able to explain your thinking to anyone at any moment. And that’s the skill that I learned from the “demo-or-die” culture.

by zephoria at August 02, 2017 01:50 AM

August 01, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Professors Nesson, Zittrain Seek Executive Assistant

 

Apply Here!

Duties & Responsibilities: We are searching for a “rock star” executive assistant who possesses initiative, judgment, good cheer, and the highest integrity. He or she will provide stability and organization in a hectic and sometimes chaotic team-based office environment. A strong work ethic, tenacity, and the desire to work in a teaching- and learning-based institution will prove invaluable.

This EA relishes the opportunity to oversee and manage the academic lives of two full-time Harvard Law School professors and Center co-directors. Professor Charles Nesson requires a high competency when it comes to course planning, scheduling, and online services such as course websites and lodging legal filings, as well as the ability to think laterally when solving problems, with a willingness to take broad ideas and pare them down to manageable action items. Professor Jonathan Zittrain requires an intense ability to focus on calendaring and scheduling mindful of a variety of people and priorities; a willingness to multitask and add, drop, or reorganize priorities at a moment’s notice; and openness to changing or rethinking existing practices.

Professor Nesson and Zittrain’s work with the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society adds an extra layer of responsibilities to a typical EA role, including some scheduling of events and meetings at BKC, as well as working with BKC staff to coordinate projects, papers, and directors’ meetings. Professor Zittrain is also the director of the Harvard Law School Library, which requires working directly with Library staff, including its Innovation Lab, on projects, papers, and initiatives, and ensuring timely follow-up in all interactions.

A successful candidate will be committed to supporting Professors Nesson and Zittrain, as well as Harvard as a whole, in achieving academic success; all the while honing his or her own administrative skills and developing into a supportive leader within the office and the University.

Basic Qualifications: 3+ years of experience supporting high level, busy professional.

Additional Qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree preferred. Must have solid experience managing calendars and interacting/problem solving with a wide range of constituents, and working both independently and as part of a team. Excellent oral and written communication skills required. Proven strong organizational skills, superior attention to detail, ability to handle large work volume and juggle priorities independently. Proactive, flexible, self- motivated work style and proficiency with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, critical. Ability to learn new software programs as needed.

Location: USA - MA - Cambridge
Union: 55 - Hvd Union Cler & Tech Workers
Salary Grade: 054
Schedule: Full-time, Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm
How to Apply: Apply directly on the Harvard jobs website. Search for the job using the following requisition ID: 43179BR.  All offers to be made by HLS Human Resources.

EEO Statement: We are an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other characteristic protected by law.

Apply Here!

by djones at August 01, 2017 01:00 PM

Feeds In This Planet