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April 25, 2006 | Suw Charman Anderson

Jonathan Zittrain inaugural lecture

Wow, but sitting in Oxford University's Examination Halls is intimidating. I'm here for Professor Jonathan Zittrain's inaugural lecture, entitled Internet Governance and Regulation: The Future of the Internet - and How to Stop It. The Lecture Has a 'nerd-like joy' in what the technology offers. One pair of concepts that are evolving because of the internet is the public and the private. Slide of people queuing to see the queen on her 80th. Clear who is public. In the internet, the private is the realm of privacy, which JZ is tired of, specially 1. Privacy as Defence, views the gov't as trying to defend our privacy against those who would intrude: e.g. firms whom we ask to come up with a privacy policy which no one reads. Do they matter? I think not. Some legislative expansion - in CA, if you expose your customer data to others, you have to tell the public that their data has been compromised. Privacy has meant wondering about how tech could lock things up. E.g. DRM ebooks which stop you printing, but also feeds back info on which pages you linger on. Some backlash, e.g. against Sony BMG DRM rootkit debacle. Has commercial implications. Top 3 Sony XCP-related CDs 3. The Invisible Invasion - The Coral 2. Suspicious Activity - The Bad Plus 1. Healthy in Paranoid Times - Our Lady Peace This could lead to differential pricing, depending on people's attention. Or perhaps differential discounts. If you use a loyalty card, then perhaps the price of a loaf of bread becomes indeterminate - the sticker price is never paid, you just get a different discount. Or you could use this data for different level of service. Figure out who the good customers and bad customers are, and change the level of service. 2. Privacy as Strategy What is at the core of privacy. iPods. The market for iPod accessories is extraordinary. 32 million ipods, one every second. $1 billion for accessories, e.g. small dog that dances. Or the HMS Daring, a British warship with iPod docks and surround sound. We have an identity with that object that transcends its function as an MP3 player. Taking that identity and vesting it in other things is an expansion of the private sphere. YouTube.com allows people to submit videos and rate them. Makes 100m page views a month, but none of the content belongs to YouTube. Or iTunes podcasts, e.g. Harry Potter podcasts. Or virtual worlds, 100m people a month play interactive computer games. People invest their identities into the world to the point where if a game is shut down, it's like a piece of your identity is lost. Lots of examples where people invest some aspect of themselves, or create a new aspect of themselves. E.g. SorryWorld.com, after the election of George W.Bush, spawned a book, and ApologiesAccepted, and SorryJustIsn'tGoodEnough, and WeHaveNothingToBeSorryFor. What makes people do this? When we don't judge by a number of page views, but look at the way people relate, we are impressed. The way that these spheres expand, indicate: 3. Private is the New Public Yochai Benkler pointed out the NASA clickworkers study - bitmap images of the moon that people drew circles round. Asked the people round the world to do this, and did it in a week. OCR can take Tim Berners-Lee and turn it into The Timberners League... so can make OCR turn out better by turning it into a game where people shoot down the typos. ShotSpotter, mics in a neighbourhood which picks up a gunshot, triangulates and calls the police, and augments with a neighbourhood watch online that allows people to keep an eye on things and call the police. Central example of private positions cohering into a public whole is Wikipedia. Entries that we think most controversial are the ones that reflect the most care. Example, the Rachel Corrie page, which has a lot of controversy. Kinds of discussions over this entry that you could expect in an editorial office at Britannica. So you can see not just what the entry says, but also the discussion behind it, the logic in the decision. Wikipedia is a culture, an ethos, which helps the wiki to run. Pledgebank, started by Tom Steinberg. Allows people to pledge to pick up litter from the banks of the Isis if only 20 other people do too. Hence was the Open Rights Group was formed, with the commitment to pay £5 per week, if 1000 people also did. That's a new kind of public coming out of people feeling at home with these technologies. 4. Public vs. Government Example, the Chinese internet police. Or in the States, people protesting about AT&T handing your data to the NSA. Tor, the onion server that anonymises data via a route through lots of people's clients. Your choice of how you use the network affects how other people can - e.g. if you use Tor, you make it easier for other people to use Tor. Tor do not believe in anonymity at all costs, they have accountability methods to help them limit damage done by servers which misbehave. Recently in China, Google has submitted to censorship. If you try to set up a blog in China, MS Spaces will censor your title. Think about Google and other search engines. They offer no unique content, they just crawl other people's and rank it, by the rank the public assigns by linking to it. It taps into people's judgement. We can tap into people's judgement. For example, if you wanted to create a filter gauge, where people can triangulate where the blockage in the net is - with your computer config; your firewall; the net; your government. Need more study to have an understanding of the phenomenon of the internet which keeps pace with our ability to be the phenomenon. 5. Public vs. Public The force of aggregating people who feel really empowered to move their private selves into public spaces, is so powerful that it can be used for things that may seem undesirable. The number of security incidents on the net has increased dramatically. Spam on the rise, has been for a long time. Rise of MAPS, a list of net addresses believed to be spammers. Made it available to Hotmail as a blacklist, so if one person didn't like you you couldn't email Hotmail. How do think about net security? In other places it's done by the authorities, but not online. How do you tell the p2p consciousness of the net to mind due process? 80% of students in the US have an entry in Facebook. People take photos and put them up and tag them. Won't be long before cameras upload to Flickr as soon as they are taken. With Riya, once one photo is tagged with a person's name, all of them are. This is troubling. The Christian Gallery took photos of women seeking abortions, so suddenly your identity is searchable online as soon as a photo is taken. Makes for a much more identifiable world than a more chaotic world. Gawker Stalker. As soon as a star is spotted, its online so people can go see celebs. There's a chance here now to enter a cafe and know if any friends are within 100 yards, any of my friends' friends? Graduates of Oxford? Can use reputation system to winnow large groups of strangers down. Cyworld -rating sexiness, fame, friendliness, karma, kindness. That can end up in the real world. All this can be aggregated together. But it can throw up odd juxtapositions. Then the logic moves towards systems that say 'this subversive read this, this subversive read that, that person read both so may be a subversive'. How do we determine the validity of judgements of others about us when we can't see them? IETF Principles, at the beginning of the internet - anyone can join - keep it simple - keep it open - tech meritocracy - hum consensus (ask people to hum if they agree) - people are reasonable - people are nice This is embedded in the fabric of the internet, e.g. the way ethernet works. This is one institution that gives us a hint about having faith in people, even though people might let you down. Wikipedia is good at this too - when people do something horrible on Wikipedia, they get sent a nice not asking them to be constructive. On the other hand: ICANN ITU Worlds Summit on the information society All the wrong way to think about Internet governance. Best thing about them is that they keep the busybodies in a room talking to each other. The right questions for us to ask is: What are the digital environments that inspire people to act humanely? - town hall vs. mob; the smaller the group the better sometimes. - apprenticeship; people come to understand the culture that they are looking to master from the people who are already there - availability of exit; if you don't like it, you can leave - having a stake in what you're doing; get people involved in something that matters. includes the freedom to do wrong. what makes Wikipedia work is that you have the opportunity to do wrong, and every time you go there and don't do it, you affirm something to yourself and to others. Third set of institutions - university. People in lectures use their laptops poorly, playing cards, poker, etc. Not just the pupils, but also the staff, using things like 'SA Grader', a site that grades your essay. But this sort of automatic semantic analysis, you get the same grade if you just list the words alphabetical. Try to protect the wrong things, e.g. trying to copyright lectures. Why you saw Fathom.com, which is now an archive, but hasn't figured out that the future of the internet in this environment should be great. They should put the same kind of effort in as arranging a playlist. Should have lecture playlists - these are the books and readings i think are great, and this is the order you should read them in. Should know that if classes are studying the same thing, they should be connected. That's the functionality that the internet invites us to build. What we ask students to do is write essays, turn them into one person who reads them. What if we asked them to put them on Wikipedia. Innocentive.com, which puts a bounty on problems in chemistry. It's a wonderful thing that libraries are scanning the works of dead people to make them available to the rest of us forever. Our next challenge is how to make sure that the works we produce anew are ones that stand on the shoulders of our technology in ways that weren't possible before the net. The internet Archive, trying to make sure that everything on the web stays forever, for future historians. Looking forward, we have a chance to build monuments to humanity. Not the pyramids, made as a monument to one person. Instead, what can we build together as a group where, yes, there will be inaccuracies but our role is to join the fray. Our role as academics is to invite people in.

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Comments (4)

  1. Gerv:
    May 02, 2006 at 09:52 PM

    I can't see a "contact us" link on the website, so...

    What happened to the ORG response to the Gowers review? The blog is still a copy of the Call plus a few comments. Please, please tell me that you submitted one...

  2. suw:
    May 02, 2006 at 09:59 PM

    We did submit, but we only finished it Friday and I need to get it up on the wiki. Mad week this week, will try to do it Friday.

  3. Glyn:
    May 31, 2006 at 06:16 PM

    ORG response to the Gowers review http://www.openrightsgroup.org/orgwiki/index.php/Gowers_Review_Submission

  4. Jessica:
    Sep 24, 2006 at 04:54 AM

    Your point about SA Grader isn't quite accurate. It's a tool for teachers/professors/TAs to use, not an end in itself. So alphabetical lists won't make the grade unless a human operating the program decides that the student should receive a passing score. Even then, the program is likely to add far more comments about the topical content and the writing structure than a typical teacher hyped up on caffeine all night grading will give.

    As for the place of technology in the writing classroom, Texas A & M says it better than I can.



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