[iDC] JZ introduction

Frank Pasquale frank.pasquale at gmail.com
Wed Oct 7 14:11:06 UTC 2009

I just wanted to welcome Jonathan to the list, and note a couple of
interesting points for IDCers:
1) Many of the solutions that JZ proposes in his book rely on distributed
efforts to keep the net open, secure, and free of bugs.  Would we call those
efforts "labor," civic minded virtual community building, or is some new
characterization necessary?  (If you want a concrete example, check out his
discussion here:

<http://www.bostonreview.net/BR33.2/zittrain.php>"Full adoption of the
lessons of Wikipedia would give PC users the opportunity to have some
ownership, some shared stake, in the process of evaluating code, especially
because they have a stake in getting it right for their own machines.
Sharing useful data from their PCs is one step, but this may work best when
the data goes to an entity committed to the public interest of solving PC
security problems and willing to share that data with others. The notion of
a civic institution here does not necessarily mean cumbersome governance
structures and formal lines of authority so much as it means a sense of
shared responsibility and participation. Think of the volunteer fire
department or neighborhood watch: while not everyone is able to fight fires
or is interested in watching, a critical mass of people are prepared to
contribute, and such contributions are known to the community more broadly."

2) I think that one of JZ's best ideas in Future of the Internet is getting
lawyers and activists involved in free culture, net neutrality, device
neutrality, and consumer protection movements to talk to each other more.
 The next step is likely broader engagement with the academy. He discusses
several values (like generativity) that are hard to quantify, and they will
be difficult for economists to adequately convey and measure for policy
makers.  I think other social scientists and cultural theorists should be
playing a larger role in exploring and elaborating these values.  But I also
worry that they will face the same temptations for desiccated "relevance"
and "objectivity" that earlier generations faced as they sought to influence
the state.  These forces are described quite well in Joel Isaac's article
"Tangled Loops" (at http://bit.ly/1WkNlD):

"Postwar leaders of the social and administrative sciences such as Talcott
Parsons and Herbert Simon were skilled scientific brokers of just this sort:
good 'committee men,' grant-getters, proponents of interdisciplinary
inquiry, and institution-builders. This hard-nosed, suit-wearing,
business-like persona was connected to new, technologically refined forms of
social science. No longer sage-like social philosophers or hardscrabble,
number-crunching empiricists, academic human scientists portrayed themselves
as possessors of tools and programs designed for precision social
engineering. Antediluvian 'social science' was eschewed in favour of
mathematical, behavioural, and systems-based approaches to 'human relations'
such as operations research, behavioral science, game theory, systems
theory, and cognitive science."

Is there a way to preserve open-ended and humanistic research on technical
topics while still remaining relevant to decisionmakers?  Or is the tension
between power and virtue inevitable?

all best,

Frank Pasquale<http://law.shu.edu/faculty/fulltime_faculty/pasquafa/pasquale.html>
Professor of Law, Cardozo Law School
Loftus Professor of Law, Seton Hall Law School
One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102

On Wed, Oct 7, 2009 at 1:35 AM, Jonathan Zittrain
<zittrain at law.harvard.edu>wrote:

> Hi there,
> I'll be participating in November's digital labor conference.  I've
> written a book called the Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop
> It, <http://www.futureoftheinternet.org/download>, in which I worry
> about shift in control of our tech environment away from individuals
> and towards consolidated private gatekeepers, in turn controllable by
> state regulators.  I think this shift is happening by our own choice,
> as we migrate away from flaky user-empowering systems that can too
> easily fall prey to malware, and towards more stable (and boring)
> environments, whether Internet appliances like Amazon's Kindle or
> cloud-computing environments like Yahoo! mail or Gmail.
> I think what I'll talk about in November are the ways in which human
> computing is also entering a cloud configuration: now someone can put
> a number of human minds onto a project or problem in proportion to
> the number of zeroes written on a check.  I worry about a new era of
> astroturfing in many areas of public life, both social and
> political.  (That's one reason why I'm interested in the recently
> announced FTC guidelines about disclosure when bloggers are paid to
> endorse products.)
> But for the most part I'll be at the conference to listen and
> learn.  I think I'm methodologically an outlier from the average
> workshop participant, so there will be lots that's new to me.  ...JZ
> Jonathan Zittrain
> Professor of Law
> Harvard Law School | Harvard Kennedy School of Government
> Co-Founder, Berkman Center for Internet & Society
> <http://cyber.law.harvard.edu>
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