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

Web of Ideas

Web of Ideas is a Wednesday night discussion series at the Berkman Center for the 2004-2005 school year. Discussions will be lead by Berkman Fellow David Weinberger, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto and author of Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Each session will begin with a 20 minute discussion-opener, followed by open conversation. Food will be provided, and meetings will take place at the Berkman Center (Baker House, 1st floor conference room) at 6pm unless otherwise noted.

The goal of the discussion series is to examine the effect of the Web on how we understand ourselves and our shared world.

Web of Ideas #8: The Time of the Net

2/28/2005 10:35 am

Many of our metaphors about the Internet treat it as a place, which is perfectly appropriate. But many - perhaps all? - Net phenomena have a temporal dimension which is not "merely" metaphorical. For example, weblogs are able to become proxy selves because they have permanent addresses, IM's distinguishing characteristic is that it's interruptive of the now, and discussions are presented as threaded to sort through overlapping chronologies. How else does time manifest itself on the Net? How is it different from real world time and our traditional conception of time as a series of atomic moments? This session will take place on Wednesday, March 2nd from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the Berkman Center.

Session #7: Netty Friends

2/15/2005 10:03 am

There's no doubt that we're forming relationships over the Internet that feel something like friendship. But are they different enough from real-world friendships that they need their own term? How are they different? Are they better or worse? Is there a version of Gresham's Law at work here: Inferior Net-based relationships are driving out good real-world ones? Are there gender-based differences? Come to an open discussion this Wednesday, February 16th, from 6-7:30pm at the Berkman Center.

Session #6: Everything is Miscellaneous

1/21/2005 1:43 pm

In a change of pace, David Weinberger will do a rough run-through of a talk he's giving in a couple of weeks, asking for advice about its contents:

For 2,500 years, knowledge was shaped like a tree. It had a root, branches and leaves. Now that we're digitizing all the information we can lay our mitts on, it's becoming clear that trees make sense within the constraints of the real world but are far too limited when it comes to organizing information in the digital world: Trees assume a leaf really should be on only one branch, favor neatness over mess, are owned by the people who own the knowledge, and assume the universe can be known ahead of time. We are instead rapidly inventing new principles oforganization, from faceted classification to bottom-up folksonomies. If we change the most basic principles of organization, what will happen to knowledge and to the institutions that take their shape from knowledge?

This session has been rescheduled and will take place on Wednesday, February 2nd from 6:00-7:30pm.

Session #5: Is the Web a Medium?

1/4/2005 9:47 am

At one level, the Web is a medium through which messages are passed from A to B. But if we acknowledge that the medium affects the messages or even that the medium is the message, the very idea that it's a medium obscures much of importance about the Web. (This is true not only of the Web.) For example, a medium succeeds if messages arrive intact, but language succeeds in a much wider and deeper variety of ways. Messages are discrete while language depends on being ambiguous. More important, the view of the Web as a medium obscures the persistence of interdependent meaning that makes the Web into a world, not just a medium...Or does it?

This Web of Ideas Session will take place on Wednesday, January 12 from 6:00-7:30 pm at the Berkman Center.

Session #4: The Social Effect of Architecture

12/3/2004 2:03 pm

This week's Web of Ideas features a special guest, David P. Reed, one of the Internet's architects and most articulate thinkers. He is a co-author of the seminal paper on the "End-to-End" architecture of the Net, the creator of what's now called Reed's Law that locates the value of the Internet in its ability to enable groups to form, and is leading proponent of Open Spectrum research. Series host David Weinberger, a Berkman Fellow, will interview Dr. Reed about what effect the technical architure of the Internet has on its social uses, leaving plenty of time for open discussion. Note: This will not be a technical session and is likely to range over the many topics Dr. Reed studies. This session will take place on Wednesday, December 8 from 6:00-7:30 at the Berkman Center.