To follow up on the unintentional progress we are seeing with academic content being published openly on blogs at Institutions across the country I thought I’d share a story that tells a different tale. Last May I was lucky enough to attend the Berkman@10 conference at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law … one of the first general sessions was a conversation lead by John Palfrey related to Politics and the Future of Democracy. This was my first real view into the notion of nations filtering access to content by its citizens and it was a very powerful experience. During his talk he discussed the Farsi (Iranian) blogosphere and how explosive it is in terms of growth and productivity. He spoke of it as the fourth largest blogosphere (measured by language publishing) and the intense censorship that goes on in the country on topics such as politics, love, religion, and art. Those who write do so at great risk — not the kind of risk we worry about, the kind of risk that ends with people disappearing.
It is not a matter of freedom of speech, it is a matter of freedom after speech.
What struck me at the time was the passion of the bloggers in Iran to get the word out and share … they want so badly to speak out against the government, to show the world that they love art, that they appreciate culture, and so on. They want real change to come to their lives. Because of the level of Internet filtering that goes on, much of what is written within Iran never gets read within Iran … in other words they are writing things that their neighbors can never read. It was a moving thought about the power of the written word and the lengths people will go to for real change. I was reminded of this experience when I came across an outstanding video from the Vancouver Film School, Iran: A Nation of Bloggers. This is so worth the watch.
This puts the notion of easy publishing in a perspective many of us do not view all that often. I wonder what your reaction to this is and why we are so tied to a closed architecture when there are people willing to die for the ability to live in the open. Maybe I am comparing things that cannot/should not be compared, but it is sort of ironic is it not? We live in a place where access to knowledge is open, a place where I can publish instantly and (part of) the world can take part in the conversation, and yet we still work to build walls around our knowledge. I’m not too Polly Anna to think there isn’t a reason to protect intellectual property (not agreeing with an approach does not make it go away), but for crying out loud its time to cry out loud!
Wikipedia has become the icon of a different way of looking at how we can be productive and collaborative. Peer production has emerged as a defining feature of the networked information economy and the networked public sphere. Can we seriously begin to imagine that these practices should change our understanding of the possibilities of cooperative human relations? What are the forces pushing against cooperation, and how can they be addressed? What can we learn from life online about how better to design systems, both technical and institutional that will foster cooperation?
Overall session notes from John himself are available in the wiki. This session has been designed to be more interactive, so note taking will be less important to me than participating. I recommend following the wiki entry above. I will just jot bullet points from the primary arguments.
Time to get started … the first real talk is kicking off with Jonathan Zittrain, author of The Future of the Internet. I admit that I have his book resting on my desk in my office, but I have yet to read it. I am very interested in getting to it as it has been recommended by some very smart people, Lessig in particular talked at length about it during our lunch together at the 2008 TLT Symposium. Off to his talk … BTW, while some of this I really tried to capture, much of it is a collection of quotes I found interesting and want to return to for later reflection.
My colleague Chris Millet and I are sitting in very tight seats in Ames Courtroom on the campus of Harvard University getting set to listen the opening remarks for the Berkman@10, The Future of the Internet event. This is an event that I have been looking forward to for quite some time. I rarely get to attend events that I choose for my own development — I do a ton of travel, but the majority of it is related to University business. Being able to come and listen to people talk about the Future of the Internet is a real treat. I have been following the work of the Berkman Center and several of their fellows for quite some time now … names like Lessig, Jonathan Zittrain, Jimmy Wales, Doc Searls, David Weinberger, and so many others.
Throughout the day I will be doing my best to post thoughts related to the event as it unfolds. I will attempt to capture some salient thoughts that may provide some new opportunities for the work we do at Penn State and beyond. I’ll be on Twitter all day sharing some things as well and welcome any tweets @colecamplese with ideas, reactions, or questions.