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August 16, 2017

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


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

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

Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election


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


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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.)

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.

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


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


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


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 grave matters of university governance raised by the announcements, committees, and reports of the past year about student clubs.

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.  (The link is to a 2004 version of the Statutes, the current Statutes being unavailable on the Web, to the best of my knowledge.) Matters to be voted by the Faculty include any determination to phase out student membership in USGSOs 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, then the Faculty will forever cede an important power and will diminish their own standing to effect or change anypolicy.  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.

The Committee on Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations (the committee) co-chaired by Dean Khurana and Professor Clark is not a 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 remarks at 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 Statutes of the University clearly state—unless the Corporation has recently changed the Statutes without notifying the Faculty (the Statutes were altered several years ago to reflect the new calendar and changed date of Commencement).

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 just 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 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 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 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), can never produce meaningful or reliable 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 statistical measure of the varied views of the committee members.  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.  A vote so irregular, so contrary to any established committee procedure—and in violation of any valid way of voting on multiple options established in political or polling science—cannot and should not be trusted.  Moreover, neither of the two options that clearly received the mostvotes became the recommendation of the committee.

by Harry Lewis ( 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

July 31, 2017

John Palfrey
July 31 Community Letter

Today, Board President Peter Currie ’74, P’03,  and I wrote to the Andover community with an update regarding an independent investigation into matters of past sexual misconduct. As we’ve sought to understand and learn from these most troubling moments in our school’s history, we remain grateful to all who have shared information with us over the last several months. Each person who has come forward has shown tremendous courage. On behalf of the board, we extend our deepest apologies to these individuals and to all others who have been affected by any form of sexual misconduct at Andover. Our letter to the community includes a link to the full report from Sanghavi Law Office.

by jgpalfrey at July 31, 2017 09:11 PM

Harry Lewis
More Social Club Press
Two new items in the Boston Globe.

Sage Stossel (AB'93) has a hilariously apt cartoon about Harvard's new social club policy.

And Laura Krantz has a new story up. She had the wits to call Bowdoin and ask them about the comparison Harvard was using to justify its policy. Part of the answer is astonishing.
A spokesman for Bowdoin said that even though Harvard cited the college as a model, no one from Harvard contacted Bowdoin for information. Administrators were perplexed to read about their college in the news.
“Our decision was based on what was right at the time for Bowdoin and not necessarily relevant to what other colleges and universities face today,” college spokesman Scott Hood wrote in an e-mail to the Globe.
Really? The Clark-Khurana committee report presenting the new Harvard policy casually states that it was unlikely Harvard could come up with a better policy than Bowdoin's, and nobody bothered to call Bowdoin?

Bowdoin's policy may or may not have been a success at Bowdoin; there seems to be some difference of opinion about that. But there are many ways in which Harvard's situation does not parallel Bowdoin's, where the fraternities were on campus and residential. Nobody at Harvard is trying to avoid living in the Houses, which house something like 97% of undergraduates, even though not a single undergraduate is required to live on campus after the freshman year.

by Harry Lewis ( at July 31, 2017 02:53 PM

July 23, 2017

Harry Lewis
Social Club Press Roundup
Several articles of interest have appeared in the aftermath of the report of the Clark-Khurana committee, which recommends a total ban on "exclusive" social clubs.

There is no substitute for humor. It's actually too bad that Harvard didn't think of using this weapon against the more ridiculous of the clubs, rather than allowing itself to become the target. Like any good humor piece, this one makes a serious point. The rationales keep changing; the set of affected clubs keeps expanding; but the horror stories in the reports remain the same, because killing off the men's final clubs has always been the real agenda--a conclusion in search of an appropriate premise to imply it, now for more than a year. It cannot be an accident that discussion of sexual assault faded away last year once it became clear that closing down the final clubs could not be justified on that pretext.

By the way, not stated in this piece but certainly implicit is that the slope is indeed slippery. It was asserted repeatedly last fall that sanctioning the single-gender clubs could not possibly be a step down a slippery slope; the original policy had a very narrow and unique target, we were told. We have skidded quite a distance between last May and this July, but there are plenty of arguably obnoxious organizations left for Harvard to bar students from joining. I hope the next time someone asks whether this could be extended to a conservative religious group, we will not again be dismissively told that there is no slippery slope.

This piece, too, is brilliant, in an entirely different way. As it is behind a paywall (it appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education), I will quote just one passage to give the drift.

To quote the great philosopher Clint Eastwood, as Dirty Harry, "a man’s got to know his limitations." The same may be said of a university. Its jurisdiction and authority are rightly bounded by the perimeters of its campus. The certitude of its moral and intellectual prowess does not give it infinite license to control the private lives or thoughts of its students, to manage the affairs of society at large, or to deliver its principles as if tablets from on high. The evangelical zeal of any university, its messianic compulsion to promote progress (as it and it alone would define it), is a sure sign that it misunderstands its core responsibilities: educating its students and demonstrating by word and example the need to respect the rights of others to self-determination, even when adjudged to be wrong. A university on a mission is a dangerous thing in a pluralistic society, a betrayal of the diverse values it purports to represent, and a sure way to alienate those it seeks to enlighten.
The list of examples Gup goes on to cite certainly makes one wonder, as one of my colleagues did with me this morning, whether some future writer will look back on these events and ask, "What were they thinking?"

Seven Votes (Crimson)
This is the blockbuster news story of the year by the Crimson. If correct, and it seems well sourced and no corrections have been added to the story in the two days since it appeared, then the Clark-Khurana committee did not reach nearly so extensive a consensus as the report of that committee suggests. (I do not refer to this as a "faculty committee," since many members were not faculty, and faculty who are not also administrators were in the minority.) The committee members certainly have my sympathy--it's a complicated issue about which it had to reach a conclusion under time pressure and with limited information. (In fact, very little factual information is in the report. I wonder how carefully the policies of other colleges were studied. There are no thanks to people at Bowdoin or Yale who were consulted, no evidence of road trips, and very little if any numerical data.)

From the time I--respectfully and in good faith--withdrew my motion, I have said nothing about the committee or its work, until now. The stunning revelation is the one in the title--that apparently the recommendation for a total ban came out of a single up-or-down vote (described as a straw vote) among ten alternatives. The Crimson reports that seven of the 27 committee members voted in favor of the option that was then reported to be the committee's recommendation. Even middle school students learn not to conduct a vote that way when choosing a team captain--the results are meaningless. And here the vote is being used to radically restructure undergraduate life forever. This is the culmination of a consultative process that was supposed to get us to a unifying end to a year of divisive discussions set off when the policy was announced, out of the blue, as students and faculty were leaving town.

If true, the article confirms all the worst that our critics think of academia: That we come to conclusions first, write fake reports to justify those conclusions, fill them with phony numbers ("small minority") and sanctimonious language about our own moral superiority (really--"pernicious" appears four times), and then claim high moral ground we do not deserve. The sadness of this, unless the article is somehow debunked, is that it sullies the reputations of academics who make other decisions with human consequences--political scientists, climatologists, medical researchers, admissions professionals. It makes us a laughing stock, and that hurts us all.

Harvard alums furious over proposal to ban elite social clubs (New York Post)
I am quoted skeptically about a new argument for banning clubs: Harvard students can't handle being rejected from them. I don't doubt that this upsets people, probably more now than a couple of years ago. (Harvard's constant complaining about how important the clubs are has probably been good for recruiting.) I get it about the stress of competition--in Excellence Without a Soul I quoted one of my assistant deans as saying he loved athletes because "they are the only people here who know how to lose." I am just skeptical about the seriousness of the problem, and that a ban is a remotely sensible response. We are an educational institution, and there is no educational value in protecting students from the consequences of their choices by taking those choices away from them. In any case, I wonder if anybody really cares that much about the stress resulting from trying to get into a club--we seem fine when students get "lotteried by application" out of two or three Gen Ed courses, which they  actually need to take in order to graduate. (The Post had an earlier editorial, Harvard's plan to make sure undergrads never grow up.)

Harvard women's groups frustrated by efforts to ban them (Boston Globe)
This does a good job shifting the attention to the collateral damage done to women's clubs, most of which have little in common with the men's clubs that were the original target. One of the annoying attitudes one hears is that the clubs don't really add anything, so if they get injured in the process of killing off the minority that are widely agreed to be obnoxious, it will still be a win.

A cautionary tale for Harvard on male-only clubs (Boston Globe)
This article draws a parallel between the Harvard ban and a recent case at Wesleyan where a fraternity won a lawsuit against the university. Unfortunately it  seems to miss the point that the new Harvard policy, which is not based on gender, may have been designed to avoid the flaw that made Wesleyan vulnerable. On the other hand, given the chaotic design-making process described in the "Seven Votes" story, that speculation may be giving the Harvard process too much credit.


A year later, after so much has been written and said, I am exactly where I was last May. Students, just like the rest of us, should be able to join any private organization they want. We should all be held accountable for our actions, not for our choice of clubs. There are good reasons why Harvard prohibits us from asking about clubs when we make hiring decisions--because what clubs people belong to is nobody's business but their own. I will return to these thoughts on another occasion.

(updated 7/24 to reflect correction to the last Globe story)

by Harry Lewis ( at July 23, 2017 11:12 PM

Justin Reich
Memory, Transfer, & Metacognition - Defining Learning
To best serve students, we need to focus definitions of learning on process instead of performance.

by Beth Holland at July 23, 2017 09:23 PM

July 21, 2017

Center for Research on Computation and Society (Harvard SEAS)
Cynthia Dwork
Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science
Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
Affiliated Faculty at Harvard Law School

Cynthia Dwork, Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering, Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe

Read more about Cynthia Dwork

by Gabriella Fee at July 21, 2017 07:41 PM

Berkman Center front page


metaLAB AI Art Exhibition, Lightbox Gallery, Harvard Art Museums


metaLAB exhibits five new artistic projects playfully and critically engaging different aspects of Artificial Intelligence at Harvard Art Museum's Lightbox Gallery from August 8-13, 2017

Event Date

Aug 7 2017 10:00am to Aug 13 2017 5:00pm
Thumbnail Image: 

What can we learn by critically evaluating how we interact with, tell stories about, and project logic, intelligence, and sentience onto systems and machines? AI in Art & Design is focused on making expressive works that deal with the cultural and social dimensions of artificial intelligence. The goal is to provoke meaningful reflection in a variety of arenas, including in areas of privacy, human agency, philosophy, and moral responsibility.

From August 8-13, at Harvard Art Museum's Lightbox Gallery, metaLAB will be exhibiting five new artistic projects playfully and critically engaging different aspects of Artificial Intelligence.

There will be four gallery talks, and a launch event on Monday, August 7th in 214A Lewis Hall at Harvard Law School from 5-6pm.

This event is inspired and supported by the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, a research project at the Berkman Klein Center. In conjunction with MIT's Media Lab, the Initiative is developing activities, research, and tools to ensure that fast-advancing AI serves the public good.

Nobody’s Listening video still, 2017

Nobody’s Listening
Sarah Newman & Rachel Kalmar
Video installation with sound

Tuesday, August 8, 10 am-5 pm
Gallery talk 3 pm

Nobody's Listening is an artistic multimedia piece that draws on a database of secrets collected through interactive art installations over the past year. The work expresses human secrets through overlapping computer voices and a visual projection. Why do we trust our phones and computers? Where does the physical self end and the digital self begin? The playful installation explores our intimate but dubious relationship to machines, and reflects back our own humanness.

Turing’s Mill video still, 2017

Turing's Mill
Matthew Battles
Multi-channel video installation

Wednesday, August 9, 10 am-5 pm
Gallery talk 3 pm

Technologies are emerging that prompt a new public dialogue around the nature of cognition, consciousness, and the self. And yet questions underpinning this dialogue have fascinated philosophers throughout history. Is the mind a machine, like a mill or mechanical calculator; or is it spirit or essence, something made of colorless, massless, motionless stuff, transcendent and eternal? Can machines think—and have they been thinking all along? A multi-channel video installation, Turing's Mill is a kind of dossier of evidence for addressing these questions, gathered from found footage, new imagery, and the history of technology.


Jonathan Sun
Interactive chatbot

Thursday, August 10, 10 am-5 pm
Chatbots are curious, sometimes helpful, and sometimes mystifying “creatures.” The subject of this installation is a chatbot named Sherlock, touted to be among the most advanced, intelligent AIs on the planet. So why would it want to talk to humans? This interactive installation will invite visitors to chat with Sherlock, a chatbot unlike one they’ve ever met.

Color Rx
Maia Leandra
Interactive Installation with color prescriptions

Friday, August 11, 10-4 pm
Gallery talk 3 pm

Color is ephemeral and complex. Its history, its substance, and its context link inextricably to our perceptions and experience. Color Rx uses a computer algorithm to diagnose a viewer’s subjective inputs and “prescribe a color” in response. The piece is grounded in questions about trust in or benefit from “smart” systems, often in contexts where the algorithms are opaque -- even when the output is very concrete (and in this case, colorful). In what ways is this system smart? Is it also intuitive, or even wise?  The installation contends with the meaning we ascribe to perceptions and experiences, especially when such experiences are designed for individual consumption. While many algorithmic forms of diagnosis can be shallow, the benefits can be deep. Drawing on historical information from the Forbes Pigment Collection, citations to scholarly texts, and the artist’s personal store of knowledge and intuition in the field, this piece explores the line between belief and truth, projection and reality, color and illusion.


AI Senses video still, 2017

AI Senses
Kim Albrecht
Sensors, software, computer, screen

Saturday/Sunday, Aug 12-13, 10 am-5 pm
Gallery talk Saturday, Aug 12, 3 pm

In current times, “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence” are buzzwords. But they are more than that—they influence our behaviors and understandings of the technologies they describe and the world they make. A lack of understanding of how these systems operate on their own terms is dangerous. How can we live and interact with this alien species, which we set forth into the world, if we know it through interfaces constructed to make the machine feel closer to the world we already know? This project visualizes sensor data that our cell phones and personal computers collect and digest on our behalf, to help us understand how these machines experience the world.

by djones at July 21, 2017 02:48 PM

July 20, 2017

Ethan Zuckerman
Defining(?) Disobedience

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, is fond of saying that you don’t win a Nobel Prize by following the rules.

Until Joi, Reid Hoffman and I started working to craft the Media Lab’s $250,000 Disobedience Award, I hadn’t realized that Joi was speaking literally as well as figuratively. Joi’s quip refers to Dr. Jerome Friedman, the MIT physicist who shared the 1990 Nobel Prize in physics for discovering that protons had an internal structure, which confirmed the existence of quarks. Friedman defied his advisor’s instructions and continued collecting data from the Stanford Linear Accelerator. As it turns out, the data he’d disobediently collected was what led to his key discovery.

Productive disobedience of the sort that yielded Dr. Friedman’s Nobel is not always easy to find. In Japan, where Joi has lived most of his life, it can be a challenge for people who’ve been taught to comply and obey throughout their academic and professional careers to break away from the expected path. In Silicon Valley, where disruption of existing business models is practiced almost as a religion, it can be difficult to find disobedient minds who consider the deep social consequences of their disruptions.

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, encouraged Joi to explore the idea of a Disobedience Award, providing $250,000 to fund an award for responsible, ethical disobedience. Given the opportunity, we knew we’d have a wealth of candidates. What we didn’t realize was how challenging it would be to define responsible and ethical disobedience, and to select a winner for whom the award would be both an appropriate recognition of their work and financial fuel for increased impact.

(Please see Joi and my essay on the Media Lab site about the inaugural Disobedience award winners.)

The Disobedience Award is inspired in part by the MacArthur “genius” grant, which sometimes recognizes a lifetime of achievement, but more often identifies relatively obscure scholars, artists and innovators whose work has the potential to transform the world. We decided to aim in a similar direction: we would accept both expected and unexpected nominees, and one criterion for selection would be whether the recognition our award might confer could transform someone’s life and work. This meant we were looking for people whose disobedience and resistance was ongoing, not purely something in their past.

Unlike the MacArthur grant, where the nomination and selection process is shrouded in secrecy, we wanted to make our process as transparent as possible. In addition to posting a call for nominees, we added a nominator prize, inviting whoever nominated the winner to join us at the Media Lab for the award ceremony. Recognizing the power of networks, our colleague Iyad Rahwan, suggested we use a tactic he’d used to help win DARPA’s Red Balloon challenge — award the nominator of the nominator as well. We encouraged anyone in the world to nominate either a candidate or someone they thought would have great ideas for candidates. We then contacted the nominators and invited them to submit their ideas.

The result? More than 7800 nominations from all over the world, and a major challenge for the selection committee. As the nominations came in, Joi and I recruited a team of twelve judges —
Farai Chideya, George Church, Sasha Costanza-Chock, Jesse Dylan, Jerome Friedman, Marshall Ganz, Andrew “bunnie” Huang, Alaa Murabit, Jamila Raqib, Maria Zuber, and ourselves — all with expertise in areas such as activism, journalism, science and the arts where we expected the most submissions. Our judges are distinguished, smart and very busy; people unlikely to have time to read 7800 applications. So our Disobedience Award team took on the challenge of weeding out duplicates and identifying the strongest 220 candidates.

Joi and I each pledged to read all 220 dossiers the team prepared, but we opened the process to as many of the selection committee as were able to participate. We held each finalist up to our mission to recognize a living person or group who is, or has been, engaged in acts of responsible, principled, ethical disobedience in pursuit of the public good. Not only did this focus the deliberations; it also gave us flexibility and helped us to address concerns in a free and frank way.

Cross-checking our lists, we identified seven finalists who’d been flagged by multiple judges. While there’s a great deal of refinement we hope to do before repeating this process next year, we all agreed we had a very strong set of final nominees for this inaugural award.

Before listing those finalists, it’s worth mentioning who was nominated and didn’t make it to our list. Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning were both nominated dozens of times, and Snowden himself spoke via video link at the conference where we announced the Disobedience Award last year. While no one questioned the impact of their disobedience or the risks each took, none of us felt that the recognition we could add would increase their fame or infamy.

Aaron Swartz was also nominated many times. Joi and I both knew Aaron and hosted a memorial at the Media Lab for him shortly after his death. While an award in Aaron’s memory would have been fitting recognition of Aaron’s principled and disobedient activism, we felt it was important that the award go to a recipient who could leverage both the award and its visibility to advance the issues they work on. While we chose not to award him the award posthumously, I can report that Aaron was very much on my mind as we chose honorees.

Our judges researched and wrote up “cases” for why they believed the seven finalists should receive the award. The best of these cases included arguments both for and against making the award, exploring the question of whose acts best exemplified pro-social disobedience.

Ultimately, we chose two winners of the Disobedience Award — people whose work reflects the hopes that led to the award in the first place: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician and medical school professor, and Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor, who first brought attention to the Flint water crisis. Their work combined activist energies with scientific research and made visible a public health crisis involving thousands. Their work has led to criminal involuntary manslaughter charges against Michigan public officials and has placed the issue of urban water quality — and urban infrastructure — at the center of American public debate.

We had not initially intended to offer honorable mention prizes, but our finalists were so strong, we asked Reid to offer additional funding. We were then able to award $10,000 each to James Hansen, an environmental science professor and advocate for intervention to combat climate change; The Water Protectors of Standing Rock, an historic gathering of tribes, allies, and people from all walks of life standing in solidarity to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline; and
Freedom University Georgia, a project to provide free college classes to undocumented students in Georgia who are charged out-of-state tuition to attend state schools.


The debates about who deserved recognition and who the committee did not agree to honor help illustrate how complex the concept of disobedience actually is.

Dr. Hansen’s nomination sparked debate about whether the award was exclusively for those in the midst of their life’s work, or whether it could honor a career well spent. At 76 years old, Hansen is widely recognized as a pioneer of climate change research. But he is less known than non-scholars who’ve worked on raising climate awareness. As well, he embodies disobedience within an institution. Hansen did much of his work while employed by NASA, facing substantial pushback as he made bold, data-backed predictions about climate change. So, to highlight those within powerful institutions standing up for what’s right in defiance of pressure, the committee decided it was important to honor his many contributions.

The Water Protectors of Standing Rock raised a set of issues we simply hadn’t considered: How do you properly honor a movement? This is a collaboration of Native Americans who organized a prayer camp to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline: Phyllis Young, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Jasilyn Charger, and Joseph White Eyes. Their efforts, supported by Sioux and Lakota elders, were joined by thousands of veterans, activists, and others. The Standing Rock nominations—as well as dozens for individuals and groups connected to Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black Lives, and for LGBTQ activists—reminded us that disobedience can be a team sport, that we can stand up as a group to pressure that might crush us as individuals.

Freedom University Georgia, which offers free classes on Sundays, was founded by professors at the University of Georgia who were outraged that undocumented students had to pay out-of-state tuition to attend state schools. Students in the program have gone on to universities in other states where laws are more flexible and just. In honoring Freedom University and its founders—Professors Betina Kaplan, Lorgia García Peña, Pamela Voekel, and Bethany Moreton—we hope to learn from their model and to challenge ourselves about how best to consider similar programs in our communities.

Perhaps most important is understanding the complexities involved in why we chose not to honor the remaining three finalists.

Alexandra Elbakyan is a Kazakhstani graduate student who has deeply challenged the scholarly publishing industry by using academic credentials to “unlock” millions of copyrighted research papers. Depending on who you ask, she is either bravely challenging a model of scientific publishing that leaves millions of researchers in poor countries without access to scholarship, or she’s irresponsibly destroying a critical component of academic research without considering the consequences. Our debate opened questions about why defiance is appropriate. Most of the committee was sympathetic to the aims of SciHub, but less so to the Library Genesis (LibGen), a subsequent project that has sought to open up a wider range of books as part of a broader attempt to make information free. Many committee members felt that Elbakyan had identified a situation worthy of defiance in the world of making research papers available to international scholars, but weren’t willing to accept the idea that making all books free was a worthy goal.

While we tried to build a diverse, international group of judges, our finalists were primarily people who work on issues well known and understood within the US. We had many nominees who, like Rafael Marques de Morais, do risky and important work in closed societies around the globe. I consider it a shortcoming of our process that we didn’t work harder to honor nominees working on issues our committee didn’t understand as well as issues like climate change or undocumented people. On the other hand, we had a rich discussion of the dangers of recognizing that some disobedience is more “comfortable” for the committee than others — one committee member made the argument that we wouldn’t want to honor Ai Wei Wei, because it’s easy and popular for a mostly American committee to show opposition to censorship and control of speech in China. Understanding how to honor and showcase disobedience in countries we know less about than the US or China will be an ongoing question for us as we revise and improve our process.

No issue challenged our committee as much as the question of honoring Omar Barghouti and the BDS movement. Those who favored recognizing his activism noted that BDS is the main non-violent movement to end Israeli occupation of Palestine, with the goal of creating a democratic Palestinian state, and is having great success putting pressure on the Israeli government. Given the apparent intractability of the Israel/Palestine situation, BDS offers hope that an international campaign like the one that challenged apartheid in South Africa could lead to change in Israel. Those who opposed honoring BDS pointed primarily to one of the most controversial aspects of the campaign: a cultural and academic boycott of Israeli artists, writers and scholars. For many members of the committee, an academic boycott was simply a non-starter — the free flow of ideas across borders is a fundamental principle of academia, and the idea of excluding Israeli academics instead of interacting with them was unacceptable.

Our award winners reflect the hopes that led to the award in the first place. Doctors Hanna-Attisha and Edwards are scientists who became activists, using rigorous research to investigate the concerns of citizens in Flint, Michigan and unravel a mystery that many in positions of power would have preferred to keep under wraps. Both faced harassment and ridicule for their work and risked academic sanction for defying conventions of peer review, as they sought to bring attention to Flint’s water crisis before more people were affected. Their work shows that science and scholarship are as powerful tools for social change as art and protest.

As the first Disobedience Award, this year’s committee recognizes that we must refine our process, but we are proud of the results. Our discussions sparked deep conversation and — at times — disagreement on how best to organize and award such a public prize. But seldom are we given the opportunity at this scale to witness and congratulate such selflessness and dedication. It was a hopeful experience, one that challenges us, especially those in academia, to use our powers for good.

by Ethan at July 20, 2017 11:02 PM

David Weinberger
I didn’t like the new Planet of the Apes movie. [No spoilers.]

War for Planet of the Apes has 95% positive ratings at Rotten Tomatoes. Many of the cited reviews are effusive. For example, Charles Taylor at Newsweek calls it “a consistently intelligent, morally thoughtful and often beautiful picture.”

I’d rephrase that a bit. I think it was a dumb, predictable, boring movie with a couple of nice landscape shots. We went to see it on one of our few movie nights out because we’d enjoyed the first two in this series.

If WARPA weren’t about apes but was instead about the actual human ism‘s it intends to get us to see from the Other’s perspective — racism, colonialism, militarism — we’d view it as embarrassingly trite and shallow. Casting apes as the victims doesn’t make it any less so.

It doesn’t help that while the facial animations are incredible, the ape bodies look like pretty good animations of people wearing ape suits. Plus, I have to say that these apes’ lack of genitalia or assholes diminishes the vividness of the premise of the movie: the apes we’ve treated as an inferior species are deserving of respect and dignity. Instead, we get damn, dirty hairy aliens.

But most of all, there isn’t a cliche the movie doesn’t miss. If you’re sitting in your seat thinking that the next obvious thing to happen is X, then X will happen. Guaranteed. The only surprises are the plot holes, of which there are many.

The music is bad in itself and is used as a cudgel. They might as well have skipped the music and just put in subtitles like “Feel sorrow here.”

Full marks to Andy Serkis and the motion capture crew. As others have suggested, he deserves his Special Achievement Oscar already. Well, he deserved it for Lord of the Rings, but his work in this movie is absolutely its highlight. Steve Zahn also has a good turn as the comic relief. But poor Woody Harrelson is stuck with ridiculous lines and a clumsy narrative attempt to give his character some depth. His best moment is when he shaves his head in one of the movie’s embarrassing flags that it thinks it’s on a par with films like Apocalypse Now.

Also, this movie is no fun. It’s grim. It’s boring. It’s unfair to the humans.

That last point is not a political complaint because lord knows we deserve all the monkey feces thrown at us. It’s instead a complaint about the shallowness of the movie-making.

Overall, I’d give a 95% chance of disappointing you.

The post I didn’t like the new Planet of the Apes movie. [No spoilers.] appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at July 20, 2017 01:18 PM

Benjamin Mako Hill
Testing Our Theories About “Eternal September”
Graph of subscribers and moderators over time in /r/NoSleep. The image is taken from our 2016 CHI paper.

Last year at CHI 2016, my research group published a qualitative study examining the effects of a large influx of newcomers to the /r/nosleep online community in Reddit. Our study began with the observation that most research on sustained waves of newcomers focuses on the destructive effect of newcomers and frequently invokes Usenet’s infamous “Eternal September.” Our qualitative study argued that the /r/nosleep community managed its surge of newcomers gracefully through strategic preparation by moderators, technological systems to reign in on norm violations, and a shared sense of protecting the community’s immersive environment among participants.

We are thrilled that, less a year after the publication of our study, Zhiyuan “Jerry” Lin and a group of researchers at Stanford have published a quantitative test of our study’s findings! Lin analyzed 45 million comments and upvote patterns from 10 Reddit communities that a massive inundation of newcomers like the one we studied on /r/nosleep. Lin’s group found that these communities retained their quality despite a slight dip in its initial growth period.

Our team discussed doing a quantitative study like Lin’s at some length and our paper ends with a lament that our findings merely reflected, “propositions for testing in future work.” Lin’s study provides exactly such a test! Lin et al.’s results suggest that our qualitative findings generalize and that sustained influx of newcomers need not doom a community to a descent into an “Eternal September.” Through strong moderation and the use of a voting system, the subreddits analyzed by Lin appear to retain their identities despite the surge of new users.

There are always limits to research projects work—quantitative and qualitative. We think the Lin’s paper compliments ours beautifully, we are excited that Lin built on our work, and we’re thrilled that our propositions seem to have held up!

This blog post was written with Charlie Kiene. Our paper about /r/nosleep, written with Charlie Kiene and Andrés Monroy-Hernández, was published in the Proceedings of CHI 2016 and is released as open access. Lin’s paper was published in the Proceedings of ICWSM 2017 and is also available online.

by Benjamin Mako Hill at July 20, 2017 12:12 AM

July 18, 2017

David Weinberger
America's default philosophy

John McCumber — a grad school colleague with whom I have alas not kept up — has posted at Aeon an insightful historical argument that America’s default philosophy came about because of a need to justify censoring American communist professorss (resulting in a naive scientism) and a need to have a positive alternative to Marxism (resulting in the adoption of rational choice theory).

That compressed summary does not do justice to the article’s grounding in the political events of the 1950s nor to how well-written and readable it is.

The post America's default philosophy appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at July 18, 2017 02:39 PM

July 17, 2017

Justin Reich
Design Thinking for Reinvigorating Schools
High performing schools and successful students just don't happen, they are built by design.

by Justin Reich at July 17, 2017 11:25 PM

Harry Lewis
Further comments on the social club policy
FAS has set up a website for faculty to post comments about the policy. (Actually, the report, which links to the site, says "faculty and students," but students tell me they can't log into it.) Here is the comment I just posted there.


This drastic recommendation is the product of anecdote and generalization, rather than data and analysis. The anecdotes are largely about men’s clubs, and though the report doesn’t mention it, most of the students affected by the policy would be women. Rather than targeting the malefactors and placing them in statistical context, the report uses dramatic stories to justify moves against clubs that have done nothing wrong. It is as though an attack by somebody’s Rottweiler was justification enough for taking away other people’s service dogs, St. Bernards, and poodles.

The use of “exclusivity” to consign all the women’s clubs to the same fate as the most drunken of the men’s final clubs seems almost certainly designed to meet the President’s condition of not inviting a lawsuit—which recent Crimson reporting suggests may happen anyway. Women members will testify that these organizations have grown for reasons that have nothing to do with the drunken parties that happen at some male final clubs; alumnae have told me that the support they received from other members was not just enjoyable, but essential to their success at Harvard. The report offers no evidence that getting into one of the women’s organizations is particularly competitive, relative to the psychic rewards of membership (it is probably less stressful than repeatedly being “lotteried by application” out of limited-enrollment FAS courses). The report’s vague call for “increased efforts to foster other social opportunities for students” sounds a good deal like a recommendation to “repeal now and replace later.” Of course, the argument that women’s organizations are “discriminatory” is irrefutable—but also entirely abstract: no evidence is offered that men have ever wanted to join them.

But these are practical details. Even if we were to conclude that the clubs “should” not exist, and that our students and alumnae are exaggerating their importance, the whole idea of punishing students for joining private, off-campus organizations—for peaceably assembling, as the Bill of Rights puts it—is deeply wrong.

It is true that the rights enumerated in the First Amendment are dangerous to established order. As Americans, we can ridicule our president, and can gather peaceably together in groups that cause the authorities to suspect that we are up to no good. It took supreme confidence on the part of the Founders to build into the Constitution the assurance that the government would not interfere with these activities. It might watch us closely and stand ready to respond when we break a law, but Congress could not make the speech or assembly itself unlawful. The reason these things are allowed, even when they are considered obnoxious or worse by prevailing social standards, is that the Founders understood that society is not static, and they had confidence that an enlightened if not always harmonious society will in the long run be better off, that social progress will occur, if people are allowed to speak and assemble peaceably even for reasons the authorities find offensive.

Harvard is a private institution and is under no legal obligation to follow the principles that apply right outside Harvard Yard. On the other hand, we should consider ourselves to be, if anything, more enlightened than the average place in America, more capable of governance through the rule of reason. This absolute ban—modeled on a policy for rural institutions where fraternities were residential and the entire social structure was drastically different—projects a lack of confidence that students should be allowed the same freedoms that the Constitution guarantees to all citizens. It is as though we don’t think that appeals to facts and reason will work with our students, and therefore there is no other way to proceed except by making a rule and then enforcing it with discipline. Yes, something must be done, but it is simply not true that everything else has been tried. For example, as I testified to the committee, the College has never tried (that I am aware) even the simplest of campaigns: to tell students not to join or go to the worst of the clubs, and why, and to explain the same forcefully to the parents of incoming freshmen. My own freshman advisees last year, who entered the College when it was at peak alarm about the ills of USGSOs, reported that no one had said a word to them about this subject in any orientation, proctor meeting, or written communication.

We are an educational institution. We teach students in everything we do. If we can teach students to guard themselves against infectious diseases without quarantining them, we can get them to stay away from those clubs where we have good reasons to think they should not go. Let’s give our students, and ourselves, more credit than to say that the only possible response is an outright ban, which to be effective would have to be enforced by some system of tips from informants, surveillance of off-campus restaurants where suspiciously regular dinner meetings might be taking place, and Ad Board punishments.

To proudly adopt a ban would be to teach by example that when a national leader attacks the free press or peaceful protests, he may be responding quite appropriately to the irksome downsides of citizens’ exercise of their civil liberties. Just because the rest of the world is finding authoritarianism more congenial than personal freedom, that doesn’t mean Harvard has to follow suit.

by Harry Lewis ( at July 17, 2017 06:41 PM

David Weinberger
The Internet is also a thing

A list I am on is counseling that a particular writer not to be taken in by a tour of a data center or network operations center. These tours are typically given by PR guides and can leave the impression that the Internet is a set of writes owned by a corporation.

I certainly agree with both concerns. But, having been a Rube on a Tour more than once, I think technologists who are deep into protocol issues may underestimate how shocking it is to most people that the Internet is also a physical thing. Yes, I understand that the Internet is a set of protocols, etc., and I understand that that is usually what we need to communicate to people in order to counter the truly pernicious belief that Comcast et al. own the Internet. But the Internet is also, as instantiated, a set of coiled wires and massive industrial installations. Seeing the blinking lights on a bank of routers and being told by the PR Tour Guide that those signify packets going somewhere is, well, thrilling.

Every Internet user understands that there is a physical side of the Net. But seeing it in person is awesome and inspiring. That’s why Shuli Hallak‘s photos in Invisible Networks are so impressive.

It is tremendously important both conceptually and politically to understand that the Net is fundamentally not a thing and is not owned by anyone. But seeing in person the magnitude of the effort and the magnificence of the hardware engineering also teaches an important lesson: the Internet is not magic. At least not entirely.

The post The Internet is also a thing appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at July 17, 2017 04:30 PM

July 15, 2017

Jeffrey Schnapp
Intelligence on the Move

For several decades philosophers, psychologists, cognitive scientists, and education theorists have contested once prevalent accounts of human intelligence as a single, unified or monolithic thing, arguing instead for plural models that accommodate some degree of multiplicity in thinking/learning/knowing modes. The result has been controversy, particularly between advocates (like Howard Gardner) of expanded definitions of intelligence and those who propose instead more restrictive, measurable definitions that push various skill sets outside the bounds of “intelligence” proper. As its critics are wont to point out, the argument for multiplicity has less than rock solid empirical support. It’s hard not to sympathize, however, with its willingness to grapple with more fluid, less formal, agile modes of mental performance; with forms of reasoning that, for instance, that conjoin the mind with the hand, the realm of contemplative intellection with that of the bodily-kinesthetic.

One such realm is the world of sports and, in particular, motorsports, where cogitation takes place under extreme spatio-temporal constraints and where dislocations between simultaneous acts of perception (I’m looking up the track 300 meters at an upcoming turn) and moments of execution (I’m running line x through the prior turn right here and now) are the norm. I’ve ruminated a bit about these sorts of pressure-cooker situations in various writings: in “Three Pieces of Asphalt,” (Grey Room 11, [spring 2003]: 1-23); in a pseudonymously authored essay by a certain Pierre Niox–love it when the essay gets cited since Niox is the protagonist of a 1941 novel by Paul Morand–; but also, more recently, in FuturPiaggio – Six Italian Lessons on Mobility and Modern Life, where the intertwining of vehicles and minds in motion is a recurrent theme.

Here’s one snippet from the essay that forms the book’s backbone:

Quickness is never absolute whether on a motorcycle as technically refined as an Aprilia or on another vehicle: all the more so when it comes to negotiating off-road terrain and asphalt twisties (not straight-line speed). Nor can quickness be reduced to abstract indicators such as traction, acceleration, or horsepower. Rather, velocity is a situated kind of performance, dependent upon complex interactions between the technical characteristics of a vehicle, pilot inputs (no two riders are exactly alike), and environmental factors such as the roadway surface, the geometries of the circuit, temperature, and weather. The management of high speed is an asocial, if not antisocial act. Less about adrenaline than on-the-fly calculation skills, it demands self-absorption and an intensely located form of human intelligence that is unlike the impish playfulness of operating a Vespa.

In the case of racing, what would ordinarily be threatening to one’s sense of bodily integrity must become as routine as a nod of the head. There is no such thing as looking too far down a race track, just as there’s no such thing as too much feel for the immediacy of the roadway. To race means to live a split consciousness between the here and now of performance, the onrushing future within the racer’s immediate field of perception, and cognitive processing of the constantly shifting, turbulent realities of competition itself. To neglect the first would be to give up the ability to adapt to the road’s real-time inputs. To neglect the second would be to sharply limit one’s navigational choices. To neglect the third would be to ride without strategic smarts: to forget to take defensive lines, to assume uncalculated risks, to chew through tires in haphazard fashion.

The argument of an essay on mobility and modern life is one thing. But I would be remiss if I didn’t note that, in addition to being a compelling physical object animated by the graphic intelligence of its art director (Daniele Ledda) and of the multiple generations of engineers, artists, and designers whose work it documents, FuturPiaggio is also a book that is conceptually consonant with questions of thinking under pressure, of seeing things before they can be fully “seen,” and of meshings of tunnel-like narrowness of focus and the distracted scanning of a fast-paced, rapidly shifting context. By design, it invites an act of reading that is plural, interleaving long forms with short forms, image assemblages with text, surface inscriptions with depths variously exposed as a function of the transparency of the paper and opacity of the chosen inks. There’s no single or simple line of reading through the stratigraphy of over- and under-printed texts, images, ghosted transparencies, fold-ins and fold-outs, and seams. Sometimes it’s the typography that takes the lead; sometimes it’s gridded arrays of archival photographs. Timelines of the major units that make up the Piaggio Group unfold on the literal fold of the book’s French-fold pages and require a 90 degree rotation in the axis of reading. There are poster-sized foldouts that also read vertically. The volume is in animated by an overall formal coherence, a unified circuit, but also local structures that come and go. In short, there’s work to do and discoveries to be made in the process of moving back and forth between FuturPiaggio‘s bolts on the front and the nuts and cotter pins the hold together the bundle from the back. Here’s a sampling of some of the layers in the mix.


The chapter leads of the six-part essay.


The section headings. These are layered with the main titles printed up front; the wallpapers underprinted either on versos or the next recto.


Two foldouts from a total of seven.


Two “snapshots”; (note the chronologies running along the folds between pages, the reading of which demands that the reader flatten out the fold).


An anthropology of the Vespa.



An entomology of the Vespa or the kickstarter as evolving limb.


The layout of the dictionary (where images from the archive are keyed to over one hundred playful definitions of Piaggio-generated and -related keywords).

Finally, for the impatient among you: go ahead and speed read 200 outward-facing pages + 200 inward-facing pages in a less than a minute (but practice this at least two to three thousand times if you wish to sharpen your speed reading skills):

by jeffrey at July 15, 2017 05:43 PM

July 14, 2017

Miriam Meckel
Inszenierung der Zerstörung

Die Gewalt bei G20 ist mit nichts zu rechtfertigen. Sie gehört geahndet. Mehr gibt es dazu nicht zu sagen. Oder doch?

Wer einmal live erleben wollte, wie sich Bürgerkrieg anfühlt, wurde am Wochenende in Hamburg gut bedient. Und darum ging es den menschlichen Steinschleudern und Brandbeschleunigern.

Kapitalismuskritik? Lächerlich. Da wird ein Apple-Store geplündert, und die Randalierer verticken die iPhones auf Ebay. Wie hieß es auf der linksradikalen Website Indymedia am 29. Juni 2016: „Wir träumen nicht, das Bestehende zu verändern, uns genügt, wenn wir es brennen sehen.“ Gewalt um der Zerstörung willen. Von politischen Konzepten hat sich dieser „Widerstand“ seit Langem verabschiedet. Es geht nicht um Weltverbesserung, sondern um Zerstörung und deren Inszenierung.

Und dabei haben die Randalierer mit manch einem G20-Gast etwas gemein. Die Show, die der türkische Präsident Erdogan, der russische Präsident Putin und US-Präsident Trump in Hamburg abgezogen haben, spottet einem modernen politischen Selbstverständnis. Protzerei, Machtgehabe und unerträglicher Narzissmus prägten das Bild. Der türkische Präsident kassiert mal eben in einer letzten Pressekonferenz den hart errungenen Minimalkompromiss beim Klimaschutz, den er zuvor selbst unterzeichnet hat.

Wladimir Putin räumt nach einem Geheimtreffen mit Donald Trump locker die Vermutung ab, Russland habe die amerikanischen Wahlen zu manipulieren versucht, derweil zeitgleich in den USA neue Belege fürs Gegenteil auftauchen. Und Donald Trump? Der mäandert durch diesen Gipfel wie eine mit Helium gefüllte Persiflage von Ludwig XIV. Zu den Errungenschaften des Gipfels fällt diesem Mann im Nachgang nichts ein. Stattdessen twittert er ein schlecht zusammengehacktes Video mit Bildern, auf denen immer nur einer zu sehen ist: er selbst.

Das ist übelste Form der Symbolpolitik. Sie steht dafür, wie Politik sich wandelt in ihrem Selbstverständnis. Weg von Modernität, Offenheit und Marktorientierung, hin zu Nepotismus, politischem Durchgriff und Protektionismus. Inszenierung um der Zerstörung willen.

Auf der Strecke bleibt, was die Bundesregierung in langfristigem Bemühen als zivilgesellschaftlichen Begleitprozess der G20 organisiert hat. Europas Idee vom politischen und wirtschaftlichen Multilateralismus wird zum Sidekick für die große Show der neuen Nationalisten degradiert. Und dafür bietet die G20-Inszenierung leider auch noch die richtige Bühne. Damit muss nun Schluss sein. Wer als Staatschef, wie der chinesische Präsident, nicht ohne eine 1000-Mann-Delegation verhandeln kann, soll zu Hause bleiben.

Vielleicht muss sich die Politik an der Stelle mal die Wirtschaft zum Vorbild nehmen: Die großen Deals entstehen nie aus großer Inszenierung, sondern durch lange, dezente, bilaterale Verhandlungen auf höchster Ebene. G20 als Prozess hat Sinn. Die Bilder eines inhaltlich mageren Gipfels haben Hunderte Millionen gekostet. Sie zeigen die neue Normalität: Stein um Stein auf der Straße. Zahn um Zahn am Verhandlungstisch.

by Miriam Meckel at July 14, 2017 12:17 PM

July 13, 2017

Eszter Hargittai
Science-a-thon 2017

Today is the first-ever Science-a-thon! Started by my graduate school pal Tracey Holloway, it’s a day to raise awareness of and funds for science. I copy her description here:

From Tracey Holloway:

Hi All –

You’ve probably heard about the study that over 80% of American’s can’t accurately name a living scientist — and my guess is that the numbers are similar when asking “what do scientists actually do?” Of course, we do lots of things – work in labs, go out in the field, teach classes, program computers – but the public doesn’t get to see this.

As a large-scale public outreach initiative, and the first major fundraiser for the Earth Science Women’s Network (ESWN), we’re launching Science-A-Thon. … an international “day of science” where participants share 12 photos over 12 hours of their day. From morning coffee through the ups and downs of a day in the life of a scientists (any scientist, any field of STEM, students, professionals – all are welcome).

We already have 100 scientists signed on – lots of earth scientists of course, but also cancer biologists, computer scientists, and more. Men and women, from 10 different countries so far. We’d love to have you! Just go to to sign up. (And you’ll get a great “I love science” t-shirt)

If you’re not up for showcasing your own day, you can support ESWN and Science-A-Thon by sponsoring your favorite scientists (like me!)

You can donate here, if you are so inclined, any amount is appreciated.

Even if you’re not interested in donating to the cause, I highly recommend checking out the #scienceathon hashtag on Twitter as it’s a great way to get a sense of what a scientist’s day looks like.

Below are my twelve images of the day.

Image 1/12

This is the main University of Zurich building that I passed with the tram this morning on my way to my office. (For those who’ve been reading CT for a while, yes, this is a change, I moved institutions and countries last year.)

Image 2/12

More here

Image 3/12

The occasional break is necessary to stay productive. My preferred quick distraction is Ingress. Fortunately, my office sits on a portal (or if I’m lucky, three) so it’s an easy quick break before diving back into work. (For those who speak Pokemon Go better, that translates to two Pokestops.)

Image 4/12

Research is rarely a solitary activity. Here I am meeting with one of my postdocs, Amanda Hunsaker, about researching older adults and Internet use. The beautiful plant in the corner is courtesy of a UZH program that includes someone coming and watering/dusting off/taking care of this marvel.

Image 5/12

I find that a good desktop setup is important for staying on task, this works well for me.

Image 6/12

Lots of research happens through group meetings, this one an advisory board meeting conference call for an important CDC-supported project.

Image 7/12

Touching base with my other postdoc, Marina Micheli, in preparation for a longer meeting tomorrow.

Image 8/12

Went for a walk in the office neighborhood. This piece is next to my building. From one side, it looks like an abandoned log, from the other you realize it’s public art. I’m not sure I would have ever noticed it were it not for the fact that it is a portal in Ingress.

Image 9/12

Science requires training future generations of researchers. Teaching courses, mentoring through research, and in this case grading their papers are ways I contribute to the cause.

Image 10/12

I’m old school when it comes to reading books, paper copies please.

Image 11/12

On my way home, I stopped at one of Zurich’s 1,200 fountains. That is, in fact, the number of fountains in the city. There are many that are quite beautiful. Zurich has the most fountains of any city in the world.

Image 12/12

As my last picture of the day, I share with you a picture of my screen with one of my Instagram accounts, the one with one sky photo a day. I started this photo project over a year ago (I’m on day 452 to be precise). Every day I take a photo of the sky. The sky can be so beautiful and so different. I thought it was worth a moment to pause and take it in every day.

by eszter at July 13, 2017 09:20 PM

Berkman Center front page
Berkman Klein Center Announces 2017-2018 Community


We are thrilled to announce the people who will join our community at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University as fellows, faculty associates, and affiliates for the 2017-2018 academic year.

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today announced the incoming and returning fellows, faculty associates, affiliates, and directors who together will form the core of the Center’s networked community in the 2017-2018 academic year.

The community contributes to the Center's mission of addressing issues at the intersection of technology and society, with a focus on the design and use of digital technologies for the social good. To name just a few examples, research foci include the use of algorithms in criminal justice; the way digital, political, and institutional forces influence popular concepts of race and gender; how digital technologies can be better deployed to confront public health emergencies; and how trauma and grief are expressed on social media in the context of urban violent crime. Members of the Center’s community pursue a wide range of research methods, networking efforts, and educational activities, as well as coding, prototyping, and building.

“This exceptional group reflects our broad reach and core focus on exploring important Internet issues in a global, intersectional context,” says the Center’s Executive Director and Professor of Practice Urs Gasser. “To bring such talented, inquisitive, and creative minds together in the pursuit of dialogue across disciplines, regions, and backgrounds, and to see their collaborations converted into new understandings, research, and tools in the service of the public interest is a true privilege.”

The coming academic year will include increased joint efforts with MIT to explore the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies, an extension of core questions that have long motivated the Berkman Klein Center’s research. “We live in a world of tightly coupled and rapidly evolving autonomous systems that advise us or act without any advice at all,” says Berkman Klein Center co-founder Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law and professor of computer science at Harvard University. “Thinking through how these global systems affect us, and how they might be deployed in the spirit of the public interest while, like the Internet, largely in private hands, draws upon and calls us to new work across many people in the humanities, engineering, law, and social science -- and industry.”

The class of fellows will primarily work in Cambridge, Massachusetts, alongside Berkman Klein faculty, students, and staff, as a vibrant community of research and practice.

Honoring the networked ethos at the heart of the Center, faculty associates and affiliates from institutions the world over will actively participate as well. These relationships, as well as the countless fruitful engagements with alumni, partners, interns, and other colleagues, are fundamental to the Berkman Klein Center’s work and identity, and serve to increase the capacity of the field and generate opportunities for lasting impact.

The Berkman Klein fellowship program aims to “create a protocol, a culture, a spirit that puts the emphasis on being open, being kind, being good listeners, being engaged, being willing to learn from one another.” We are excited to start this next year together with the following people who will continue our work as a community in this light.

Joining the community in 2017-2018 as Berkman Klein fellows:

Doaa Abu-Elyounes is an S.J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School, where she researches the effect of artificial intelligence algorithms on the criminal justice system. She will focus on algorithmic accountability and governance of AI in criminal justice.

Pritha Chatterjee is a public health journalist and a recent graduate of the Masters in Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She will work at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on health communication as a route to trigger behavioral change in public health policy.
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Joanne K. Cheung, an artist and designer studying at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, will focus her research at the Berkman Klein Center on building better civic spaces. She seeks to examine the features of places that support public assembly, how these spaces are used and regulated, and how we can design civic spaces where everyone realizes a gain by participating.
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Emily Dreyfuss, a journalist at Wired, will study how the internet and social media change the way culture is formed and history is written, and the role journalism should play in verifying and creating that record. Emily is the 2017-2018 Nieman-Berkman Klein Fellow in Journalism Innovation.
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Jenn Halen is a political scientist and a former National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow whose research broadly focuses on the ways that new and emerging technologies influence, and are influenced by, politics. She will study the complex social and political implications of advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, especially as it relates to issues of governance.
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Chien-Kuan Ho is a prosecutor in the Taichung District Prosecutors Office of the Ministry of Justice in Taiwan. He will research the guidance for prosecutors regarding discovery practices in criminal cases, and how to gather evidence in the digital world.


Nathan Kaiser, a lawyer practicing with the firm Eiger in Greater China, has a keen interest in the convergence and friction between technology and law, as well as politics. Among others, he will examine artificial intelligence, data protection, and blockchain efforts, from an Asian and Chinese legal perspective.
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Emad Khazraee is a sociotechnical information scientist and an Assistant Professor in the school of information at Kent State University. While at the Berkman Klein Center, he will work on his book project on the evolution of digital repertoires of collective action, and he will continue to study the relationship between digital technologies, new media, and social change.
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Jenny Korn is an activist of color for social justice and scholar of race, gender, and media with academic training in communication, sociology, theater, public policy, and gender studies from Princeton, Harvard, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She will examine identity and representation through online and in-person discourses, focusing on how popular concepts of race and gender are influenced by digital interactions, political protest, and institutional kyriarchy.
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Yvonne MacPherson is the U.S. Director of BBC Media Action. At the Berkman Klein Center, she will examine a host of digital solutions used to respond to global health emergencies and focus on understanding the impact these solutions have on human behavior and social norms.


Mary Minow is a lawyer, librarian, and current consultant to the American Library Association on Fake News. She plans to work on a library-based approach to help users of social media identify and check out questionable news content.


Sunoo Park is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science (cryptography) at MIT. She is interested in privacy (in all its polysemous glory) and in understanding the ways that hiding information can influence the incentives and behavior of participants in systems.


Desmond Patton is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Columbia University and Director of the SAFElab. While at the Berkman Klein Center, he will write manuscripts that examine the link between social media communication, grief, trauma, and gang violence among youth in Chicago.
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Kathy Pham is a high-energy computer scientist and cancer patient sidekick, most recently on the founding product and engineering team of the United States Digital Service, and on the advisory boards of the Anita Borg Institute and the "Make the Breast Pump Not Suck" research effort. She will explore artificial intelligence with an emphasis on healthcare.
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Keith Porcaro is the CTO / General Counsel at SIMLab, and Principal at Digital Public. He will research legal structures for governing digital assets, and continue his work building and studying participation in complex systems.
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Jie Qi is co-founder of Chibitronics, which produces friendly toolkits that blend electronics and programming with paper craft. She will explore open license approaches to invention, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship.
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Suchana Seth, a data scientist, will continue her work on operationalizing ethical machine learning and artificial intelligence in the industry.
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Luke Stark, a Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology at Dartmouth College, will unpack the connections between the design of digital interfaces and personal privacy preferences in an era of social media increasingly focused on emotional expression and analysis.
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Soroush Vosoughi is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Laboratory for Social Machines at MIT, having received his Ph.D. from the same lab. His background is in machine learning, natural language processing, and network science, and he will focus his research on the spread of false information on social networks.
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j. Wahutu is a Sociology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and is affiliated with the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at UMN. While at the Berkman Klein Center, he will work on revising his dissertation among other projects related at the intersection of surveillance, sovereignty, and media representations of genocide and mass atrocity in Africa.


Joining the Berkman Klein Center’s Board of Directors, as previously announced:

Professor Ruth Okediji, who was the Heiken Visiting Professor in Patent Law at Harvard Law School in 2015-2016, is an expert in innovation policy, intellectual property, and economic development in the context of international institutions and public international law. Her scholarship has influenced intellectual property law and policies throughout Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas. She also serves on the boards of Creative Commons and IP-Watch.
Professor Margo Seltzer is an accomplished computer scientist and software entrepreneur, was co-founder and CTO of Sleepycat Software, the makers of Berkeley DB, and is an Architect for Oracle Corporation. Among her many professional affiliations, Professor Seltzer serves on the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies. She has long been a Berkman Klein Center collaborator and in addition to her Directorship will spend the 2017-2018 academic year as a Faculty Fellow on sabbatical at the Center.
Professor Rebecca Tushnet is a leading First Amendment scholar who focuses on copyright, trademark, and false advertising law. In her spare time she is a member of the legal team of the Organization for Transformative Works, which advocates for the rights of remixers and makers of fanworks.

Joining as faculty associates:

Jonathan Albright, Sandra Braman, Nick Couldry, Phillipa Gill, Carla Reyes, Gabe Teninbaum, Kristjan Vassil, and Arun Vishwanath

Joining as affiliates:

David Arney, Victoria Baranetsky, Seth Berman, Bao Kham Chau, John Collins, Jonathan Donner, Joan Donovan, Danit Gal, Saba Ghole, Dipayan Ghosh, Daniel Greene, Andrew Gruen, Mary Jo Kaplan, Vasilis Kostakis, Joanne McNeil, Tracy Mitrano, John Nay, Kathryn Peters, Alvand Salehi, Boaz Sender, Ashley Stelfox, Berk Ustun, and Stephen Walter


The Berkman Klein Center remains proud of and grateful to the following returning community members who will retain affiliations in the coming year.

Returning as fellows:

Chinmayi Arun, Sandra Cortesi, Jack Cushman, Kate Darling, John DeLong, Juan Ortiz Freuler, Ashveena Gajeelee, Mary Gray, Ben Green, Natalie Gyenes, Malavika Jayaram, Rey Junco, Rachel Kalmar, Mason Kortz, Rosemary Leith, Andres Lombana, Patrick Murck, Sarah Newman, John Palfrey, Leah Plunkett, Hal Roberts, Bruce Schneier, Dave Talbot, and Alexandra Wood

Returning as faculty associates:

Ifeoma Ajunwa, Virgilio Almeida, Meryl Alper, Susan Benesch, Fernando Bermejo, Lionel Brossi, Herbert Burkert, Sasha Costanza-Chock, Tressie McMillan Cottom, David Cox, Primavera De Filippi, Juan Carlos de Martin, Jens Drolshammer, Niva Elkin-Koren, Christian Fieseler, Mayo Fuster Morell, Christoph Graber, Kishonna Gray, Shane Greenstein, Eldar Haber, Samer Hassan, Jerome Hergueux, Benjamin Mako Hill, Joichi Ito, Dariusz Jemielniak, Beth Kolko, Harry Lewis, David Malan, Catharina Maracke, James Mickens, Justin Reich, Colin Rhinesmith, Nagla Rizk, Cynthia Rudin, Benjamin Sachs, Brittany Seymour, Aaron Shaw, Clay Shirky, Alexander Trechsel, Lokman Tsui, Zeynep Tufekci, Effy Vayena, and Dorothy Zinberg

Returning as affiliates:

Kendra Albert, Ellery Biddle, Doreen Bogdan, Catherine Bracy, Scott Bradner, Amy Brand, Ken Carson, Amber Case, Yasodara Cordova, Kate Coyer, Nighat Dad, Shannon Dosemagen, Andy Ellis, Bruce Etling, Mailyn Fidler, Camille Francois, Nathan Freitas, Mariel Garcia Montes, Asme Gizaw, Jason Griffey, Elizabeth Hansen, Felipe Heusser, Dean Jansen, Amy Johnson, Jonas Kaiser, Adi Kamdar, Simindokht Kargar, Yarden Katz, John Kelly, Danil Kerimi, SJ Klein, Kate Krontiris, Amanda Lenhart, Greg Leppert, Mary Madden, An (Xiao) Mina, Grace Mutung'u, Helmi Noman, Paulo Rogerio Nunes, Crystal Nwaneri, Matt Olsen, Matthew Pearl, Grif Peterson, Karin Pettersson, Nani Jansen Reventlow, Andy Sellars, Ben Sobel, Gosia Stergios, Anke Sterzing, John Stubbs, Jonathan Sun, Shailin Thomas, Micky Tripathi, Paola Villarreal, Kevin Wallen, Waide Warner, Sara Marie Watson, Sarah West, and Meng Weng Wong

Returning as the Fellows Advisory Board:

Judith Donath, Eszter Hargittai, Colin Maclay, Wendy Seltzer, Jake Shapiro, David Weinberger, and Ethan Zuckerman

About the Berkman Klein Center

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is dedicated to exploring, understanding, and shaping the development of the digitally-networked environment. A diverse, interdisciplinary community of scholars, practitioners, technologists, policy experts, and advocates, we seek to tackle the most important challenges of the digital age while keeping a focus on tangible real-world impact in the public interest. Our faculty, fellows, staff and affiliates conduct research, build tools and platforms, educate others, form bridges and facilitate dialogue across and among diverse communities. More information at

by djones at July 13, 2017 04:00 PM

Harry Lewis
The new policy about social clubs
The report of the committee chaired by Professor Clark and Dean Khurana has now been posted. Harvard Magazine has a good summary, including a link to the report: Harvard Committee Recommends Banning Clubs. The Boston Globe also has a story, in which I am quoted: Harvard panel recommends barring students from final clubs. Here is the full text of what I sent the reporter:
The recommendation manages to put Harvard in a position that combines arrogance with insecurity. The University would suspend ordinary freedom of association rights so that Harvard can pick which off-campus clubs students can join. And at the same time the report displays a lack of confidence in Harvard's mission to educate students to make choices for themselves. Instead Harvard would do the easy thing: make a law and punish the nonconformists. This is not the way to prepare the citizens of a free society. 
It contains one particularly significant sentence: “The President will make the final decision.” So we have a committee, hand-picked by the dean, declaring that the matter is not under Faculty jurisdiction. I don’t know how the Faculty will react to the policy itself — I would like to think they would not support it — but I would be very surprised if they would agree that this matter is not within their authority to decide.
There is a great deal more to be said about this. The same rhetorical devices are being used as in the past: Some clubs are bad, so we must ban all clubs. We'll have to figure out later how to replace the positive roles some clubs play in the lives of some students, once we have killed them off. No data (read Professor Haig's minority opinion at the end). No acknowledgment that most of the groups and students affected are not the final clubs and their members.

I think the most interesting question may prove to be the constitutional issue suggested in the second part of my statement to the Globe. The report assigns responsibility for enforcing the policy to the Administrative Board. The Administrative Board administers the policies for undergraduate affairs adopted by the Faculty, which draws its authority over undergraduate affairs from the Fifth and Twelfth Statutes. The report says that no special oaths will be needed because the policy will be incorporated into the Handbook. But nothing gets incorporated into the Handbook by presidential fiat. The Faculty votes the Handbook every year, and votes major changes to it individually before the Handbook as a whole gets voted at the end of the academic year. It simply makes no sense to say that the President will decide this and then it will go into the Handbook, unless the fundamental principle of faculty governance over undergraduate affairs has been altered in the Statutes. "The President will decide" and "it will go in the Handbook and be enforced by the Administrative Board, whether the Faculty like it or not" are inconsistent statements, unless the Statutes have changed.

by Harry Lewis ( at July 13, 2017 05:00 AM

July 12, 2017

Justin Reich
From "EduSpeak" to a Language of Pedagogy
To better define learning, we need to stop using "EduSpeak" and return to the theoretical language of pedagogy.

by Beth Holland at July 12, 2017 04:06 PM

David Weinberger
Net neutrality still matters. A lot.

Net neutrality regulates the organizations that provide access to the Internet — to our Internet — to make sure that they do not play favorites.

Net neutrality is not a layer on top of the Internet. It is not a regulation place on the Internet. It is the Internet, as Doc Searls and I explained way back when in a post called World of Ends.

Tell the FCC that this matters to you.

The post Net neutrality still matters. A lot. appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at July 12, 2017 01:13 PM

July 11, 2017

Berkman Center front page
On the Biomedical Elite: Inequality and Stasis in Scientific Knowledge Production


In this report, we examine the relationship between commonly used metrics and funding levels for investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health, the largest public funder of biomedical research in the United States, in the years 1985-2015. We find that funding inequality has been rising since 1985, with a small segment of investigators and institutes getting an increasing proportion of funds, and that investigators who start in the top funding ranks tend to stay there (which results in stasis, or lack of mobility).

Publication Date

11 Jul 2017

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By Yarden Katz and Ulrich Matter
Researchers and research institutes are increasingly being evaluated using metrics (from bibliometrics to patent counts), which are core instruments of a longstanding effort to quantify scientific productivity and worth. In this report, we examine the relationship between commonly used metrics and funding levels for investigators funded by the National Institutes of Health, the largest public funder of biomedical research in the United States, in the years 1985-2015. We find that funding inequality has been rising since 1985, with a small segment of investigators and institutes getting an increasing proportion of funds, and that investigators who start in the top funding ranks tend to stay there (which results in stasis, or lack of mobility). Furthermore, funding levels are a strong quantitative predictor of the interrelated set of metrics frequently used by economists and policy makers to evaluate scientific research. Our results suggest that the widespread system of metrics favors a minority of elite, highly funded researchers and institutes. Current attempts to "optimize'' science are inextricably linked to the concentration of funds in the biomedical research system and are likely to further reduce diversity in the research community.

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by gweber at July 11, 2017 07:01 PM

July 10, 2017

Berkman Center front page
The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund Commits $7.6 Million to Support the Development of AI in the Public Interest


With the Berkman Klein Center and  MIT Media Lab as academic anchor institutions, the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund announced today funding for nine organizations to amplify the voice of civil society in shaping the evolution of AI, bolstering efforts to promote the development of ethical, accountable systems that advance the public interest.

With the Berkman Klein Center and  MIT Media Lab as academic anchor institutions, the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund today announced funding for nine organizations to amplify the voice of civil society in shaping the evolution of AI, bolstering efforts to promote the development of ethical, accountable systems that advance the public interest. Launched in January 2017 with $27 million contributed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Omidyar Network, LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Jim Pallotta, the Fund has committed an initial $7.6 million in grants for new and ongoing initiatives.

The Berkman Klein Center and the MIT Media Lab received $5.9 million, which will enable work in three initial core areas: media and information quality; social and criminal justice; and autonomous vehicles. Additional projects and activities will address common challenges across these core areas such as the global governance of AI and the ways in which the use of AI may reinforce existing biases, particularly against underserved and underrepresented populations.

“We are deeply grateful for the generous support by the Ethics and Governance of AI Fund, which takes our productive collaboration with the MIT Media Lab to the next level and enables us to build new bridges between the worlds of engineering and computer science, public policy and law, and social science as applied to autonomous systems ” said Urs Gasser, executive director of the Berkman Klein Center and Professor of Practice at Harvard Law School. “I’m also very excited about the Fund’s commitment towards supporting a broader global conversation around AI, bringing perspectives and voices from other parts of the world to our open and collaborative effort.”

For more information on this initial round of funding, read the full Fund press release.  We invite you to learn more about the Berkman Klein Center’s AI ethics and governance activities on our updated project page.

by gweber at July 10, 2017 01:46 PM

July 07, 2017

Miriam Meckel
Die ökonomisch Überflüssigen

Die Union verspricht Vollbeschäftigung. Sie ignoriert die Revolution der Arbeit. Die Folgen sind absehbar.

Es gab noch einen biblischen Hoffnungsschimmer: Die Letzten werden die Ersten sein, heißt es doch im Neuen Testament. Wir wissen nicht, ob Matthäus diesen Satz auch für Wahlprogramme tauglich befunden hätte.

Das nun endlich auch von CDU/CSU vorgelegte enthält leider keine Überraschungen, keine außergewöhnlichen Ideen. Es ist die Ausgeburt soliden Handwerks im Schnitzen alten Holzes. Auch wenn ein Berg sehr lange kreißt, gebiert er eben doch nur eine Maus.

Das freilich sieht bei den anderen Parteien ganz ähnlich aus und müsste daher kaum gesondert erwähnt werden, setzte das Programm der Unionsparteien nicht in einem seiner drei Schwerpunkte auf einen wohl bekannten Begriff: die Vollbeschäftigung.

An der sind wir in Deutschland nach gängiger Zählung mit 5,5 Prozent Arbeitslosenquote schon recht nahe dran. Vollbeschäftigung als politischer Selbstläufer also, wenn die wirtschaftliche Lage so bleibt, wie sie ist? Träumt weiter. Nach einer kürzlich veröffentlichten Studie des McKinsey Global Institute lässt sich die Hälfte aller mit insgesamt 16 Billionen Dollar bezahlten Arbeit in der globalen Wirtschaft durch bereits verfügbare Technologien ersetzen. Die meisten Jobs, wie wir sie heute kennen, werden in den nächsten Jahren verschwinden. Dafür werden viele neue, andere entstehen.

Die Übergangsphase zwischen dem Arbeitsmarkt von heute und morgen aber wird hart werden. Nicht jeder Taxifahrer kann Programmierer, nicht jede Versicherungsangestellte Designerin neuer Computerspiele werden. Die Hälfte der arbeitenden Bevölkerung, deren Jobs von Maschinen und Software billiger und besser gemacht werden können, wird zum Digitalprekariat – „wirtschaftlich überflüssige Menschen“, wie der israelische Historiker Yuval Noah Harari sie nennt. Sie sind nicht nur arbeitslos, sondern nicht mehr kompatibel mit den Anforderungen der digitalen Wirtschaft.

Das wird die größte globale Arbeitsmarktumwälzung seit der industriellen Revolution. Wir können dann schon über Halbbeschäftigung froh sein. Man braucht nicht allzu viel Fantasie, um sich vorzustellen, welche Folgen das hat. Nicht dazugehören zu können macht einsam und aggressiv. Anfällig auch für die Vorbeter der einfachen Wahrheiten und Lösungen. Was sollen diese Menschen tun, wenn keine Arbeit mehr für sie da ist? Und woher nehmen sie ihr Selbstwertgefühl, das in unserer Gesellschaft ganz wesentlich von der eigenen Arbeit gespeist wird?

Wie dieser Übergang gemeistert und sozial abgefedert werden kann, das müssten die beiden ehemaligen Volksparteien zum Thema machen. Zum Beispiel durch eine Unternehmenssteuerreform, die radikal entbürokratisiert und entlastet, und alle Maßnahmen, die in die Aus- und Weiterbildung der Belegschaft gehen. Stattdessen betet man lieber das Goldene Kalb der Vollbeschäftigung an. Das wird sich rächen. Die Umkehr des Matthäus-Satzes lautet: Die Letzten werden die Letzten sein.

by Miriam Meckel at July 07, 2017 12:07 PM

July 05, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Global Data Flows and the Implications for Health Access in Developing Countries


featuring HLS Professor Mark Wu


What types of policies concerning cross-border data flows should developing countries be adopting and advocating to safeguard their interests, particularly with respect to health care?

Event Date

Jul 24 2017 12:00pm to Jul 24 2017 12:00pm
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Monday, July 24, 2017
12:00pm – 1:30pm

Harvard Global Health Institute Conference Room
42 Church St. Cambridge, MA 02138
RSVP required

Global Access in Action: Conversations in Global Health, Innovation, & the Digital World

This event is being sponsored by the Harvard Global Health Institute and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Governments around the world are increasingly regulating the flow of cross-border data on the basis of privacy, security, and other public interest concerns. These policies take on a variety of forms, such as data localization requirements and obligations for service providers to make data available to law enforcement authorities under certain circumstances. What types of policies concerning cross-border data flows should developing countries be adopting and advocating to safeguard their interests, particularly with respect to health care? Join us for an open discussion.

About Global Access in Action
Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, conducts action-oriented research into access to lifesaving medicines, and alternative incentives for the development of medical treatments for underserved populations. Improving access and promoting socially beneficial innovation are key strategies for combatting the communicable disease burden that disproportionately harms the world’s most vulnerable populations.

About the GAiA Brown Bag Series
The GAiA brown bag series, "Conversations in Global Health, Innovation & the Digital World," is a collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute to facilitate discussion among researchers, scholars, practitioners, and others engaged in the development of legal and policy frameworks that govern innovation and global commercialization of medicines. The next brown bag event will be July 31st, and will feature GAiA Affiliate John Stubbs discussing Trump's America First Trade Agenda: What It Means for Access to Medicines.

About Mark Wu
Mark Wu is an Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and a Director of the Berkman Klein Center. His work focuses on international trade and international intellectual property matters.

Prior to joining HLS the faculty in 2010, Mark Wu was an Academic Fellow at Columbia Law School and a law clerk to Judge Pierre N. Leval of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He has served as the Director for Intellectual Property in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, where he led negotiations on the IP chapters of various free trade agreements. In addition, he worked as an engagement manager for McKinsey & Co., as an economist and operations officer for the World Bank in China, and as an economist for the United Nations Development Programme in Namibia.

by djones at July 05, 2017 07:59 PM

danah boyd
Tech Culture Can Change

We need: Recognition, Repentance, Respect, and Reparation.

To be honest, what surprises me most about the current conversation about the inhospitable nature of tech for women is that people are surprised. To say that discrimination, harassment, and sexual innuendos are an open secret is an understatement. I don’t know a woman in tech who doesn’t have war stories. Yet, for whatever reason, we are now in a moment where people are paying attention. And for that, I am grateful.

Like many women in tech, I’ve developed strategies for coping. I’ve had to in order to stay in the field. I’ve tried to be “one of the guys,” pretending to blend into the background as sexist speech was jockeyed about in the hopes that I could just fit in. I’ve tried to be the kid sister, the freaky weirdo, the asexual geek, etc. I’ve even tried to use my sexuality to my advantage in the hopes that maybe I could recover some of the lost opportunity that I faced by being a woman. It took me years to realize that none of these strategies would make me feel like I belonged. Many even made me feel worse.

For years, I included Ani DiFranco lyrics in every snippet of code I wrote, as well as my signature. I’ve maintained a lyrics site since I was 18 because her words give me strength for coping with the onslaught of commentary and gross behavior. “Self-preservation is a full-time occupation.” I can’t tell you how often I’ve sat in a car during a conference or after a meeting singing along off-key at full volume with tears streaming down my face, just trying to keep my head together.

What’s at stake is not about a few bad actors. There’s also a range of behaviors getting lumped together, resulting in folks asking if inescapable sexual overtures are really that bad compared to assault. That’s an unproductive conversation because the fundamental problem is the normalization of atrocious behavior that makes room for a wide range of inappropriate actions. Fundamentally, the problem with systemic sexism is that it’s not the individual people who are the problem. It’s the culture. And navigating the culture is exhausting and disheartening. It’s the collection of particles of sand that quickly becomes a mountain that threatens to bury you.

It’s having to constantly stomach sexist comments with a smile, having to work twice as hard to be heard in a meeting, having to respond to people who ask if you’re on the panel because they needed a woman. It’s about going to conferences where deals are made in the sauna but being told that you have to go to the sauna with “the wives” (a pejoratively constructed use of the word). It’s about people assuming you’re sleeping with whoever said something nice about you. It’s being told “you’re kinda smart for a chick” when you volunteer to help a founder. It’s knowing that you’ll receive sexualized threats for commenting on certain topics as a blogger. It’s giving a talk at a conference and being objectified by the audience. It’s building whisper campaigns among women to indicate which guys to avoid. It’s using Dodgeball/Foursquare to know which parties not to attend based on who has checked in. It’s losing friends because you won’t work with a founder who you watched molest a woman at a party (and then watching Justin Timberlake portray that founder’s behavior as entertainment).

Lots of people in tech have said completely inappropriate things to women. I also recognize that many of those guys are trying to fit into the sexist norms of tech too, trying to replicate the culture that they see around them because they too are struggling for status. But that’s the problem. Once guys receive power and status within the sector, they don’t drop their inappropriate language. They don’t change their behavior or call out others on how insidious it is. They let the same dynamics fester as though it’s just part of the hazing ritual.

For women who succeed in tech, the barrage of sexism remains. It just changes shape as we get older.

On Friday night, after reading the NYTimes article on tech industry harassment, I was deeply sad. Not because the stories were shocking — frankly, those incidents are minor compared to some of what I’ve seen. I was upset because stories like this typically polarize and prompt efforts to focus on individuals rather than the culture. There’s an assumption that these are one-off incidents. They’re not.

I appreciate that Dave and Chris owned up to their role in contributing to a hostile culture. I know that it’s painful to hear that something you said or did hurt someone else when you didn’t intend that to be the case. I hope that they’re going through a tremendous amount of soul-searching and self-reflection. I appreciate Chris’ willingness to take to Medium to effectively say “I screwed up.” Ideally, they will both come out of this willing to make amends and right their wrongs.

Unfortunately, most people don’t actually respond productively when they’re called out. Shaming can often backfire.

One of the reasons that most people don’t speak up is that it’s far more common for guys who are called out on their misdeeds to respond the way that Marc Canter appeared to do, by justifying his behavior and demonizing the woman who accused him of sexualizing her. Given my own experiences with his sexist commentary, I decided to tweet out in solidarity by publicly sharing how he repeatedly asked me for a threesome with his wife early on in my career. At the time, I was young and I was genuinely scared of him; I spent a lot of time and emotional energy avoiding him, and struggled with how to navigate him at various conferences. I wasn’t the only one who faced his lewd comments, often framed as being sex-positive even when they were an abuse of power. My guess is that Marc has no idea how many women he’s made feel uncomfortable, ashamed, and scared. The question is whether or not he will admit that to himself, let alone to others.

I’m not interested in calling people out for sadistic pleasure. I want to see the change that most women in tech long for. At its core, the tech industry is idealistic and dreamy, imagining innovations that could change the world. Yet, when it comes to self-reflexivity, tech is just as regressive as many other male-dominated sectors. Still, I fully admit that I hold it to a higher standard in no small part because of the widespread commitment in tech to change the world for the better, however flawed that fantastical idealism is.

Given this, what I want from men in tech boils down to four Rs: Recognition. Repentance. Respect. Reparation.

Recognition. I want to see everyone — men and women — recognize how contributing to a culture of sexism takes us down an unhealthy path, not only making tech inhospitable for women but also undermining the quality of innovation and enabling the creation of tech that does societal harm. I want men in particular to reflect on how the small things that they do and say that they self-narrate as part of the game can do real and lasting harm, regardless of what they intended or what status level they have within the sector. I want those who witness the misdeeds of others to understand that they’re contributing to the problem.

Repentance. I want guys in tech — and especially those founders and funders who hold the keys to others’ opportunity — to take a moment and think about those that they’ve hurt in their path to success and actively, intentionally, and voluntarily apologize and ask for forgiveness. I want them to reach out to someone they said something inappropriate to, someone whose life they made difficult and say “I’m sorry.”

Respect. I want to see a culture of respect actively nurtured and encouraged alongside a culture of competition. Respect requires acknowledging others’ struggles, appreciating each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and helping each other through hard times. Many of the old-timers in tech are nervous that tech culture is being subsumed by financialization. Part of resisting this transformation is putting respect front and center. Long-term success requires thinking holistically about society, not just focusing on current capitalization.

Reparation. Every guy out there who wants to see tech thrive owes it to the field to actively seek out and mentor, support, fund, open doors for, and otherwise empower women and people of color. No excuses, no self-justifications, no sexualized bullshit. Just behavior change. Plain and simple. If our sector is about placing bets, let’s bet on a better world. And let’s solve for social equity.

I have a lot of respect for the women who are telling their stories, but we owe it to them to listen to the culture that they’re describing. Sadly, there are so many more stories that are not yet told. I realize that these stories are more powerful when people are named. My only hope is that those who are risking the backlash to name names will not suffer for doing so. Ideally, those who are named will not try to self-justify but acknowledge and accept that they’ve caused pain. I strongly believe that changing the norms is the only path forward. So while I want to see people held accountable, I especially want to see the industry work towards encouraging and supporting behavior change. At the end of the day, we will not solve the systemic culture of sexism by trying to weed out bad people, but we can work towards rendering bad behavior permanently unacceptable.

by zephoria at July 05, 2017 07:55 PM

Berkman Center front page
Trump's ‘America First’ Trade Agenda: What It Means for Access to Medicines


Featuring GAiA Affiliate John Stubbs


US foreign policy regulates, incentivizes and subsidizes access to medicines for patients around the world, from intellectual property protection and market access commitments in trade agreements to assistance programs like PEPFAR. What existing policies is President Trump likely to change, what new policies will his administration introduce, and how will these changes affect global health outcomes?

Event Date

Jul 31 2017 12:00pm to Jul 31 2017 12:00pm
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Monday July 31st, 2017
12:00 pm to 1:30 pm

Harvard Global Health Institute Conference Room
42 Church St. Cambridge, MA 02138
RSVP Required

US foreign policy regulates, incentivizes and subsidizes access to medicines for patients around the world, from intellectual property protection and market access commitments in trade agreements to assistance programs like PEPFAR. What existing policies is President Trump likely to change, what new policies will his administration introduce, and how will these changes affect global health outcomes?

About Global Access in Action
Global Access in Action, a project of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, conducts action-oriented research into access to lifesaving medicines, and alternative incentives for the development of medical treatments for underserved populations. Improving access and promoting socially beneficial innovation are key strategies for combatting the communicable disease burden that disproportionately harms the world’s most vulnerable populations.

About the GAiA Brown Bag Series
The GAiA brown bag series, "Conversations in Global Health, Innovation & the Digital World," is a collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute to facilitate discussion among researchers, scholars, practitioners, and others engaged in the development of legal and policy frameworks that govern innovation and global commercialization of medicines.

About John Stubbs
A former staffer with the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), John Stubbs is a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society where he is researching transparency and international trade agreements.

From 2001-2007 John served three consecutive USTRs to advance US objectives among foreign and domestic constituencies. John created numerous initiatives to increase stakeholder participation in trade policy development, including the first online access ramp for US private sector advisors to view classified materials. During John’s time at USTR, the United States successfully launched the Doha Development Agenda at the WTO and approved Free Trade Agreements with 13 countries.

In 2007 John founded Romulus Global Issues Management, a Washington, DC-based consulting firm that helps executives navigate cross-border issues related to crisis, transition or growth. In particular, John’s work focuses on technology transfer, adoption and uptake in emerging markets. Romulus consultants have worked in more than 80 countries and clients include multinational corporations, startups and non-governmental organizations.

John has played a role in creating several new ventures. He founded the Global Innovation Forum and led the organization from 2009-2014. In 2008 John helped launch Farmstead Wines, a boutique importer of sustainably produced wines, and in 2011 he co-founded ecommerce company The Daily Hookup, Inc.

John received his BA in economics from George Washington University where he was President of GW’s policy debate team. He is a board member of the National Foreign Trade Council Foundation, a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Krewe of Bacchus in New Orleans, Louisiana.

by djones at July 05, 2017 07:51 PM

July 04, 2017

Paying for media with #customertech


What we have today with giant silos dominating everything is what Hugh Macleod and I many years ago together called an egology. Hugh illustrated one this way:


Here’s what’s going to happen when the whole cryptocurrency / ICO / token / blockchain / distributed ledger / distributed-everything finishes going down: We will each have far more command of what and how we pay for everything, how we remember what we paid, how we run our personal and social lives online, and how we control our relationships in an open marketplace no longer dominated by giant corporate silos and fiat currencies.

That’s my bet, anyway. Because I see the pendulum swinging away from platforms, and up the stack to new protocols. Union Square Ventures illustrates it this way:


That was a few months back. I was at a talk Nick Grossman gave a few days ago, and I believe he didn’t have Blockchain above the second image. But you get the point: thick protocols, thin applications.

I see this happening with IPFS, with the Bitcoin and Etherium protocols, with JLINC and other efforts.

The res


by Doc Searls at July 04, 2017 01:35 AM

June 30, 2017

Jonny Sun and Jonathan Zittrain on Joke Tweets, Memes, and Being an Alien Online
Join Jonny Sun, the author of the popular Twitter account @jonnysun, for a conversation in celebration of his new book “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too” by jomny sun (the aliebn). This debut illustrated book is the unforgettable story of a lost, lonely, and confused alien finding friendship, acceptance, and love among the creatures of Earth. Constructed from many of Jonny’s re-contextualized tweets, the book is also a creative thesis on the narrative formats of social media, and a defense of the humanity-fulfilling aspects of social media born out of his experiences on Twitter. About Jonny Jonathan Sun is the author behind @jonnysun. When he isn’t tweeting, he is an architect, designer, engineer, artist, playwright and comedy writer. His work across multiple disciplines broadly addresses narratives of human experience. As a playwright, Jonathan’s work has been performed at the Yale School of Drama, and in Toronto at Hart House Theater and Factory Theater. As an artist and illustrator, his work has been exhibited at MIT, Yale, New Haven ArtSpace, and the University of Toronto. His work has been appeared on NPR, Buzzfeed, Playboy, GQ, and McSweeney’s. In his other life, he is a doctoral student at MIT and Berkman Klein fellow at Harvard. 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. For more on this discussion visit:

by the Berkman Klein Center at June 30, 2017 03:41 PM

David Weinberger
Hallucinating, not lying?

If we listen to what Donald Trump is telling us in plain and strong language, we should conclude that he is suffering from hallucinations — hallucinations of women bleeding.

Twice now he has claimed that blood was pouring out of women he feels were antagonistic of him: Megyn Kelly and Mika Brzezinski. We all saw that Kelly in fact was not bleeding. Brzezinski flat out denies her face was bleeding and says there are photos to prove it.

Then there’s this new story about Trump telling twenty Congressmen about seeing blood coming out of Brzezinski’s eyes and ears on another occasion.

These comments are so weird that the best explanation the media has put forward is that they are metaphors that illuminate Trump’s dark, dark reaction to being challenged by strong women.

But I think we should seriously consider that he was not talking metaphorically. He saw blood coming out of their faces.

At least the question needs to be asked of him. And then we need to re-read the 25th Amendment.

The post Hallucinating, not lying? appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at June 30, 2017 02:18 PM

Miriam Meckel
Ehe eine alleine ist

Mit der Öffnung zur Ehe für alle rettet Angela Merkel ihre Koalitionsoptionen. Ihre Nein-Stimme zeigt: Für gesellschaftliche Modernisierung steht diese Kanzlerin nicht.

Kosten: keine. So steht es lapidar unter Abschnitt D des neuen Gesetzes „zur Einführung des Rechts auf Eheschließung für Personen gleichen Geschlechts“. Das ist eine recht eindimensionale Betrachtung der Dinge. Tatsächlich kostet es kein Geld, Paragraf 1353 des Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuches zu ändern. Aber jenseits des administrativen Aufwands hat das Gezerre um die Ehe für alle sehr viel gekostet.

Seit fast zwei Jahren liegt der Gesetzesentwurf vor, den Union und SPD wegen des Widerstands der Union im Rechtsausschuss exakt 30 Mal blockiert haben. Es blieben noch verfassungsrechtliche Fragen offen, so die Begründung der Union. Die einzig wesentliche lautet: Warum haben die Unionsparteien so lange an der rechtlichen, ökonomischen und sozialen Diskriminierung von homosexuellen Partnerschaften festgehalten, während die Bevölkerung längst mit großer Mehrheit die Ehe für alle unterstützt.

Der Prozess kratzt an der Glaubwürdigkeit der Bundeskanzlerin. Angela Merkel hatte den politischen Schleudergang dieser Woche am Montagabend bei einem Talk der „Brigitte“ in Gang gesetzt, als sie mit verquasten Sätzen von einem „einschneidenden Erlebnis“ erzählte. Das dreht sich um zwei Frauen, die mehrere Pflegekinder großziehen. Warum dieser Heureka-Moment jetzt zustande kam, bleibt unklar.

Merkel hat über Jahre mit einem schwulen Vizekanzler regiert, von dessen Mann sie wie selbstverständlich als dessen Mann sprach. Will man nicht davon ausgehen, dass die persönlichen Erfahrungen der Kanzlerin jeweils unmittelbar nach dem Geschehen wieder der Amnesie anheimfallen, gab es genug einschneidende Erlebnisse mit homosexuellen Menschen, die sie als Regierungspartner, Parteimitglieder und Berater um sich hat. Von denen hat ihr sicher mal jemand gesagt, wie es sich anfühlt, aufgrund des eigenen Lebens und Liebens rechtlich schlechter gestellt zu werden.

Das einschneidende Erlebnis führte nun also dazu, dass die Entscheidung über die Ehe für alle zur „Gewissensentscheidung“ wird. Damit ist sie neben der Präimplantationsdiagnostik und der Sterbehilfe in guter Gesellschaft. Das Gewissen wird zum Verladebahnhof für den Tauschhandel zwischen Machtpolitik und gesellschaftlicher Wirklichkeit. Das hat das Gewissen nicht verdient.

Eine sehr einfache und ehrliche Erklärung für den gesellschaftspolitischen Fukushima-Moment der Kanzlerin liegt in den Koalitionsaussichten für die nächste Regierungsperiode. Nachdem außer der AfD alle anderen möglichen Koalitionspartner die Ehe für alle zur Koalitionsbedingung ausgerufen hatten, sah Merkel sich politisch isoliert. Mithilfe des Gewissens anderer hat sie sich Luft verschafft. Das ist machtpolitisch vielleicht geschickt. Gesellschaftspolitisch wüsste man von der deutschen Kanzlerin immer noch gerne, wie sie selbst die Sache sieht. Das sagt sie aber nicht. Parteipolitisch sind ihr die Kosten dafür wahrscheinlich zu hoch.

by Miriam Meckel at June 30, 2017 10:50 AM

June 28, 2017

Berkman Center front page
The Shifting Landscape of Global Internet Censorship

An Uptake in Communications Encryption Is Tempered by Increasing Pressure on Major Platform Providers; Governments Expand Content Restriction Tactics


Documenting the practice of Internet censorship around the world through empirical testing in 45 countries of the availability of 2,046 of the world’s most-trafficked and influential websites, plus additional country-specific websites.

Publication Date

29 Jun 2017


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This study, conducted by the Internet Monitor project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, documents the practice of Internet censorship around the world through empirical testing in 45 countries of the availability of 2,046 of the world’s most-trafficked and influential websites, plus additional country-specific websites. The study finds evidence of filtering in 26 countries across four broad content themes: political, social, topics related to conflict and security, and Internet tools (a term that includes censorship circumvention tools as well as social media platforms). The majority of countries that censor content do so across all four themes, although the depth of the filtering varies.

The study confirms that 40 percent of these 2,046 websites can only be reached by an encrypted connection. While some sites can be reached by either HTTP or HTTPS, total encrypted traffic to the 2,046 sites has more than doubled to 31 percent in 2017 from 13 percent in 2015. Meanwhile, and partly in response to the protections afforded by encryption, activists in particular and web users in general around the world are increasingly relying on major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Wikipedia.

These trends have created challenges for state Internet censors operating filters at national network levels. When an entire website is encrypted, it is not easy to detect and selectively block a particular article on Wikipedia or a particular dissident’s social media profile. Unless a platform agrees to remove content, a country must either block the whole site, or allow everything through. The study finds that the increasing adoption of HTTPS has reduced the blocking of communications in some cases and has led to broader crackdowns in others.

Producer Intro

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by djones at June 28, 2017 08:28 PM

David Weinberger
Re-reading Hornblower

I read all of C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series when I was in high school.

I’m on a week of vacation — i.e., a nicer place to work — and have been re-reading them.

Why isn’t everyone re-reading them? They’re wonderful. Most of the seafaring descriptions are opaque to me, but it doesn’t matter. The stories are character-based and Forester is great at expressing personality succinctly, as well as taking us deep into Hornblower’s character over the course of the books. Besides, all the talk of binneys ’round the blaggard binge don’t get in the way of understanding the action

Some prefer Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin “Master and Commander” series. They are wrong. I believe the Internet when it says O’Brian’s battles are more realistic because they’re based on actual events. I don’t care. I do care, however, about O’Brian’s clumsy construction of his main characters. I can sense the author trying to inflate them into three dimensions. Then they’re given implausible roles and actions.

Of course you may disagree with me entirely about that. But here’s the killer for me: O’Brian relies on long pages of back-and-forth dialogue…while not telling you who’s talking. I don’t like having to count back by twos to find the original speaker. All I need is an occasional, “‘Me, neither,’ said Jack.” Is that asking too much?

Anyway, take a look at Hornblower and the Atropos to see if you’re going to like the series. That begins with a few chapters of Hornblower arranging the logistics for the flotilla portion of Lord Nelson’s funeral. If you find yourself as engrossed in chapters about logistics as I did, you’re probably hooked forever.

The post Re-reading Hornblower appeared first on Joho the Blog.

by davidw at June 28, 2017 05:56 PM

June 27, 2017

Berkman Center front page
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy


Microsoft Research's Social Media Collective and Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society welcome author Cathy O'Neil


Please join us for a timely discussion of the role of data science in public life. All are welcome at this free event open to the public!

Event Date

Jul 11 2017 12:00pm to Jul 11 2017 12:00pm
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Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Microsoft Research's Social Media Collective​
New England Research and Development Center
1 Memorial Drive
1st Floor/Horace Mann
Cambridge, MA 02142​

More information and REGISTER HERE
Arrive early for a seat/grab lunch, served at 11:30AM​

Microsoft Research's Social Media Collective and Harvard University's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society welcome author Cathy O'Neil to NERD. O'Neil will read from her award-winning book, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (2016). The reading will be followed by an informal mixer for MSR, NERD, Garage and BKC interns.

Please join us for a timely discussion of the role of data science in public life. All are welcome at this free event open to the public!

About Cathy O'Neil

Cathy O’Neil earned a Ph.D. in math from Harvard, was a postdoc at the MIT math department, and a professor at Barnard College where she published a number of research papers in arithmetic algebraic geometry. She then switched over to the private sector, working as a quant for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw in the middle of the credit crisis, and then for RiskMetrics, a risk software company that assesses risk for the holdings of hedge funds and banks. She left finance in 2011 and started working as a data scientist in the New York start-up scene, building models that predicted people’s purchases and clicks. She wrote Doing Data Science in 2013 and launched the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia in 2014. She is a regular contributor to Bloomberg View and wrote the book Weapons of Math Destruction: how big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. She recently founded ORCAA, an algorithmic auditing company.

About Microsoft Research's Social Media Collective

Over the last decade, social media has become a vital tool for our engagement with the people who matter to us, the work we do, and with the wider public world. From email to Facebook, mobile phones to Twitter, people now use a vast array of social technologies as part of their everyday lives and practices. Our primary purpose is to provide a rich contextual understanding of the social and cultural dynamics that underpin these social media technologies.

Our research collective brings together social scientists and humanists from anthropology, communication, economics, information, law, media studies, women’s studies, science & technology studies, and sociology. Through a variety of methodological and theoretical lenses, we provide insight into how social media is reconfiguring sociality, labor, ethics, and the public realm. Much of our work centers on emergent Web 2.0 technologies, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. but we also look to situate these new forms in the longer history of information and communication.


by candersen at June 27, 2017 06:49 PM

AI and the Law: Setting the Stage


We as a society are only beginning to understand the ethical, legal, and regulatory challenges associated with AI, as well as develop appropriate governance models and responses.

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Urs Gasser shares some initial thoughts regarding the role of law in the age of AI:

While there is reasonable hope that superhuman killer robots won’t catch us anytime soon, narrower types of AI-based technologies have started changing our daily lives: AI applications are rolled out at an accelerated pace in schools, homes, and hospitals, with digital leaders such as high tech, telecom, and financial services among the early adopters. AI promises enormous benefits for the social good and can improve human well-being, safety, and productivity, as anecdotal evidence suggests. But it also poses significant risks for workers, developers, firms, and governments alike, and we as a society are only beginning to understand the ethical, legal, and regulatory challenges associated with AI, as well as develop appropriate governance models and responses.

Read Urs Gasser's Medium post

by djones at June 27, 2017 04:39 PM

Tressie McMillan Cottom on the Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy
More than two million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges, from the small family-run operations to the behemoths brandished on billboards, subway ads, and late-night commercials. These schools have been around just as long as their bucolic not-for-profit counterparts, yet shockingly little is known about why they have expanded so rapidly in recent years—during the so-called Wall Street era of for-profit colleges. In Lower Ed Tressie McMillan Cottom—a bold and rising public scholar, herself once a recruiter at two for-profit colleges—expertly parses the fraught dynamics of this big-money industry to show precisely how it is part and parcel of the growing inequality plaguing the country today. McMillan Cottom discloses the shrewd recruitment and marketing strategies that these schools deploy and explains how, despite the well-documented predatory practices of some and the campus closings of others, ending for-profit colleges won’t end the vulnerabilities that made them the fastest growing sector of higher education at the turn of the twenty-first century. And she doesn’t stop there. With sharp insight and deliberate acumen, McMillan Cottom delivers a comprehensive view of postsecondary for-profit education by illuminating the experiences of the everyday people behind the shareholder earnings, congressional battles, and student debt disasters. The relatable human stories in Lower Ed—from mothers struggling to pay for beauty school to working class guys seeking “good jobs” to accomplished professionals pursuing doctoral degrees—illustrate that the growth of for-profit colleges is inextricably linked to larger questions of race, gender, work, and the promise of opportunity in America. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with students, employees, executives, and activists, Lower Ed tells the story of the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of a for-profit education. It is a story about broken social contracts; about education transforming from a public interest to a private gain; and about all Americans and the challenges we face in our divided, unequal society. About Tressie Tressie McMillan Cottom, PhD, is an assistant professor of sociology and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center. She is co-editor of two volumes on technological change, inequality and institutions: "Digital Sociologies" (2016, UK Bristol Policy Press) and "For-Profit Universities: The Shifting Landscape of Marketized Higher Education" (2017, Palgrave MacMillan). Her book "Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy" (2017, The New Press) has received national and international acclaim. Professor Cottom serves on dozens of academic and philanthropic boards and publishes widely on issues of inequality, work, higher education and technology. You can read more at Find out more about this event here:

by the Berkman Klein Center at June 27, 2017 04:14 PM

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