Harvard Law School Berkman Center for Internet & Society The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School

TechnorealismConference on Technorealism
How should we think about technology?

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society invites you to attend "Introducing Technorealism: A New Way to Think about Technology, Politics, and Culture," Thursday, March 19, 3-6 pm, in Ames Courtroom, Austin Hall, on the Harvard Law School campus. There is no fee to attend the event, and preregistration is not required.

A dozen leading technology critics -- authors of acclaimed books, and leading journalists, editors, and commentators -- will discuss their collaboration on a set of principles that challenges the conventional dichotomy between cyber-utopianism and neo-Luddism.

3:00 pm - 4:15 pm: Panel One -- What is Technorealism? An Overview, moderated by Prof. Lawrence Lessig.
4:15 pm - 4:30 pm: Refreshment break/meet the panelists.
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm: Panel Two -- Hypertext and Hyperbole: Technorealism Applied, moderated by Prof. Charles Nesson and Jonathan Zittrain.

Participants: David Bennahum (Wired, Spin), Brooke Shelby Biggs (San Francisco Bay Guardian), Paulina Borsook (author, Cyberselfish), Marisa Bowe (Word), Simson Garfinkel (Boston Globe, Wired), Steven Johnson (author, Interface Culture; Feed), Douglas Rushkoff (author, Cyberia; Time Digital), Andrew L. Shapiro (Berkman Center, The Nation), David Shenk (author, Data Smog; NPR), Steve Silberman (Wired), Mark Stahlman (New York New Media Ass'n), Stefanie Syman (Feed).

Katie Hafner, Battle Cry of the Technorealists, New York Times, March 12, 1998, p. E3
Elizabeth Weise, Tract Waves Yellow Flag on Technology, USA Today, March 12, 1998, p. 3D
Ian Christe, Digital Dream Team Calls for 'Technorealism', Wired News, March 12, 1998

Questions? Call Sarah Hancur at 617-496-7403 or email hancur@law.harvard.edu.

Panel 1: What is technorealism?
   An overview (3:00 - 4:15)

For too long, public discussions of technology have been reduced to simplistic extremes: Are you for it -- or against it? Will it save society -- or destroy it? This panel will seek to articulate technorealism, a more nuanced and useful way to think about the changes that are occurring in computing and communication.

Technorealism is not a top-down philosophy, but rather a way of talking about a set of principles that many people already share. Yet, predictably, this view has been ignored by pundits and politicians who sensationalize technology with breathless tales of either high-tech doom or cyber-elation. Technorealism deflates myths such as the idea that technologies are neutral. Or that information is knowledge. Or that government has no role to play on the electronic frontier. Or that wiring the schools will save them.

Moderator: Prof. Lawrence Lessig. Panelists: Paulina Borsook, Simson Garfinkel, Douglas Rushkoff, Andrew Shapiro, David Shenk, Mark Stahlman

Panel 2: Hypertext and Hyperbole:
   Technorealism Applied (4:30 pm - 6:00 pm)

There's been much hand-wringing recently over the Matt Drudge phenomenon -- the idea that journalism's Big Media gatekeepers now face competition from any muckraker with a modem and moxie. News observers have been quick to belittle -- and even to demonize -- webzines, email lists, and other nontraditional online information sources. At the same time, some cyberspace denizens have professed their intent to ignore the basic components of traditional journalism.

This panel of leading journalists and editors (all of whom have worked in "old" and new media) will discuss a more subtle and accurate way -- a technorealist way -- to understand the possibilities and limitations of online communication, whether it be chat rooms, Drudge, or Microsoft's Slate. The panelists will also look more broadly at the social and political potential of new media, from interactivity to identity exploration to using the Internet as a tool for global organizing.

Moderators: Prof. Charles Nesson and Jonathan Zittrain. Panelists: David Bennahum, Brooke Shelby Biggs, Marisa Bowe, Steven Johnson, Steve Silberman, Stefanie Syman