Skip to the main content

Digital Democracy 2003 website:

Harvard Law School
Tuesdays, 5:00 - 7:00 p.m., Hauser 104

Instructors: Prof. Charles Nesson, Andrew McLaughlin, Michael Best, Geoffrey Kirkman, Colin Maclay, James Moore, John Palfrey, and Ethan Zuckerman


Over the past 15 years, digital information and communication networks have spread rapidly across the globe, bringing with them hopes for, and claims of, fundamental change in the dynamics of power and influence across a range of political, economic, social, and semiotic dimensions. With a global scope, this course will take a close look at the possibilities, achievements, and failures of digital technology to decentralize and democratize. Topics to be covered include political democracy (transparency and the rule of law; digital electronic voting and online elections; e-government and the provision of online government services; Internet-based campaigning and activism; the emergence of global digital constituencies and online protest movements; government efforts to control access to information); economic democracy (the "digital divide"; ICT development strategies; digital entrepreneurship; privatization and liberalization of communications infrastructure; network interconnection; new definitions of property rights and protections; open source vs. proprietary software); social democracy (education and e-learning; the formation of coherent political and other interest groups); and semiotic democracy (meaning the decentralization of the power to make cultural meaning, i.e., peer-to-peer file sharing, digital music, blogging and other personal publishing, network filtering and censorship).

Together with Professor Charles Nesson, the course will be taught collaboratively, colloquium-style, by a Berkman Center team of experts in Internet law, policy, technology, and development: Andrew McLaughlin, Ethan Zuckerman, John Palfrey, James Moore, Colin Maclay, Geoffrey Kirkman, and Michael Best.

Students interested in writing their Third-Year Paper in conjunction with this course should contact Professor Nesson. Students who wish to pursue a clinical component as an optional course element should contact Diane Cabell at the Berkman Center.

Course work will include a paper, participation in an online forum adjunct to the class, and several special sessions over the term.

Enrollment is limited to 60 students.