Hackpads are smart collaborative documents. .

David Weinberger

879 days ago
Rebecca T Fellows Hour about Fellows Program, 6.23.15
 
Premise: Ford wants a document showcasing Berkman’s fellows program as a model of a successful program.
 
Mainly focused on past 4-5 years, and focused on what is working now?
More qualitative; like a case study, not data report
 
Q: How would you define success as a fellow?
Matthew Battles: Opportunity to learn from a diversity of backgrounds, disciplines, and perspectives and skillsets. That cornucopia has been key to the success for me. I've particularly enjoyed learning from attorneys, an extraordinary immersion in a kind of discourse I haven't participated in.
 
Ellery Biddle: I know a lot of thought goes into the composition of how people play off of each other, and that's huge and hard to know.  It's a mysterious process that clearly has a big part of why that works.
 
Kit Walsh: Connections mean you're situated going forward outside of the center.  The benefit continues.
 
Jack C Jack: Berkman Friends feels continuous with the in-person fellow relationships
Rebecca T Malavika: Not overengineered.  Not polices.  Treated like adults.  Incentivizes you to make your own success.
 
Q: It is sufficiently engineered?
 
Nathan Freitas: Not consistent because it's what we make of it.  I'm happy with that, because I'll make a lot out of it.
 
Matthew Battles: The nature of the support is unique to this fellowship program.  I wonder how it works.  On one hand, this is distinct from other fellowship programs here at Harvard, where there is a stipend attached.  It's striking how entrepreneurial the Berkman program has been throughout its life without that support.  But the community and the sense of community, of fellows, of staff - the sense of community is a very strong one, and that's different from other fellowship programs too.  It's a strength that could be marbled; could be hard to unpack.
 
David W Andrew Lowenthal:   The flip side of the marbling is the Hierarchy of participation - who gets to participate. 
 
Rebecca T Matthew: have to wonder who can't be a part of this.  What is this community missing because there's no support for a certain set of cohorts that can't take the time and don't have the support to be hacking in this way.
 
David W Hasit: I was a joint fellow at Nieman. Nieman is very regimented. Events and things you are expected to do. I think I learned far more here than at Nieman because I was surrounded by people in my field there. 
 
The regimentation isn't a good thing or bad. It is what it is. 
Rebecca T Mal: there was a tension.  If there were time conflicts, you went to other events because they were paying you.
 
 
 
Q: What do you think this fellowship might do for you going forward/once you leave?
David W Ellery: I wasn't part of academia before. The idea of teaching never seemed like a realist possibility, and it does now.
 
Rebecca T Matthew: Consistently exciting is the infusion into the academy for people who are not career academics, and it's super healthy.  Excites me to see people coming from the outside.
 
Nathan Freitas: ITP had being an adjunct professor.  I prefer this model, because I had no time to associate with others there because I was teaching for no money.  I got to teach and got to have the title, which was great, but with Berkman it's been more of a retreat/meditation time to reflect.  There are different ways to bring industry into academia, and this is a good model.  Berkman doesn't feel like a drag on me.  I don't need a stipend because it's an energizing thing.
 
Mal: Lots of the tools and techniques we take for granted being here seem revolutionary outside of here.  It's a measure of success, where I feel I"m adding to a conversation now in ways I maybe didn't before. Hackpads, hackathons, breakout groups.I think it's just the mindset and the way you approach problem 
 
Hasit: it opens doors.  If you can say you come from a place like this that has a strong reputation, it helps.
 
Emy T Emy: Being able to participate in an academic community but not as an academic has been very valuable.  Berkman has provided me the intellectual space for me to put my policy and program experience into context of the field of Internet policy and digital inclusion.
 
Rebecca T Question: to what extent do you think the harvardness of Berkman makes it a success.
 
Kit: it helps the program take more risks.  HArvard has room to take the risks; if you're starting a new fellows program you may have more anxiety.
 
Mal: I say I'm at Berkman, not Harvard.  It doesn't sound like you're bragging.
 
Sandra: Many times people don't know Berkman, but they do know Harvard, so you can use that.  
 
Emy T Emy: Frankly, I don't know if Dept of Commerce would have let me work remotely and reduce my hours if the fellowship wasn't situated in Harvard or similar level academic institution.  I appreciate that the fellowship includes practitioners as well as academics.
 
David W Matthew: 
Andrew: It's not necessarily that people are turning up for the brad bt because they know the other people who are there. It does it a much easier ride than another fellows program. 
Matthew: There have been people reluctant to come beecause of the Harvard name and who don't want to be associated with Harvard.
Ellery: Or people who feel they don't belong. With GV, there are people who come to me from the community and say theat what were doing is cool and they wish they could do it. They feel it's for a different sort of person.
 
Rebecca T Nathan F: The people who have been here and the things that have been done here, stuff that's important for me and my community.  Humblebragging! s As a critique, I will say that I thought that more people would be around more often.  I've seen less of those types of people than I've thought.
 
David W Becca: Have you reached out to those people and have they turned you away?
NF: They haven't turned me away. But the abstract impression of Berkman is different from the reality.
Sands F: The expectations of which projects ...I've heard rumors outside of Harvard that Berkman is tending toward policy and governance and thus isn't as diverse as it used to be. I've heard people say they're not into governance so they wouldn't fit here The degree to which we exude certain types of focus afects who shows up here.
Mal: If you look at the success of the program itself, one of the greatest succeses is how many copycat institutions it's generated. I sometimes wonder idf Berkman is still #1. I keep coming back to JZ: We either do A which we're best at, or C where we take a risk. But we don't do B which other people are doing well. So the greatest success of Berkam is it's greatest competition.
 
Ellery: For our class (2014) the intro to Berkman wasn't very tight.  "Everyone who's part of the Berkman community is coming togeth and we'll be in the smae room and they'll be some big talks." But so much of the experience is social. Everone who knows one another are happy to see each other but the new kids didn't get a strong enough introduction to that. I was an interen some years prior so I knew more people, but I heard it from others in my class. "I don't know anyone."
 
Tatiana Indina: For a Russian being part of the B community is huge. It is a great honor. At the same time it's a challenge for people comeing from far away since the fellowship has different dimensions. E.g., some fellows get funding, some don't. Some are here all the time, some not. This creates a hierarchy that is especially difficult for people coming from far away. We were very happy to have a p2p grant with our center.  It's great we have tools for long-distance participating but that doesn't work as well for networking. Even email threads don
't help achieving that goal.
 
TI: Also, it's great to have different people from different fields. AT the same time, it's a challenge. Coming from a different background and studying a very specific topic it was hard to integrate it into the rest of Berkman. My culture was very culturally specific. There was no clear mechanism for how to participate in a dialogue. It's the same challenge as at any international conference. I don't know what could help. Maybe facilitating more for different cultural viewpoints and lines of research. We may be discussing something that doesn't exist in my country, or I'm talking something that exists only in my country. From one side people studying different things is a great thing, and on the other it can be hard connect. 
 
Rebecca T Mal: The network of centers is something that does a really good job.  Brings to bear multiple views etc - scale and diversity of things across the world I haven't seen other places do.
 
Sandra: Others may have/be coming from existing communities (such as the Network of Centers and Digitally Connected) where people find support. There are many ways people are working to integrate people who are outside of these things.
 
matthew B: opportunity to shape this.  SHape and texture of the conversation  - do more work as a community to express that we are a university wide center.  Growth on that into other spaces has been slow.  Opportunity to invite others.
 
David W Tatiana: The model is that Berkman is a self-organized community. Fellows are expected to organize themselves to make things happen. Many cultures are not familiar with those environments. You're used to being more regulated. Also the lack of networks. HArd to overcome this.  Would be helpful to have help doing this.
 
Rebecca T Q: Are people satisfied with their ability to interact across their particular areas of interest?
 
David W Ellery: vWillow and I have talked about doing a little more on Fellows Hours. We have missed opportunities just to hear what people are doing, just let someone talk for 20 mins. You could always just put up your hand and do it, but somehow it didn't happen. It could use a little kick. A half hour to talk about this.
 
Sands: The ten min talks...
 
NF: We did a speed dating thing +1
 
Andrew: It comes down to managing scale. The community has grown but maybe not the infrastructure to support it. If you're going to be at this scale, the infrastructural requirement grows. You can self-organize to a degree. But there's a line at which it becomes unrealistic. How much does the Center want to put into supporting the community. Where do we want to scale this to and where's the sweet spot? Balancing initiative 
 
Emy T Emy: Yes, I'd like to hear more about what people are working on and give them the chance to go in-depth, i.e. allocate at least an hour for them to talk.
 
Monica B Feedback from ceiling: As a remote participant, I found colleagues were very open to collaboration -- mostly people I've met in the ceiling.
 
Rebecca T q: how important have the working groups/self-organized groups been?
David W Jack: Angry Tech has been important to our experience. Coming back to acadmeic,s having a place to dip my toes into those waters was important. 
...
933 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Ben Peters , Matthew Battles , David Weinberger 933 days ago
Ben P 9.5 Theses on Internet and Society9.5 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of the Internet and Society
 
David W
  • IMO, the first title is better. Also much easier to remember and get right when you're googling for it.
Almost half a millennium ago, on 31 October 1517, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences critiquing a broad and powerful institution that had, in his view, distorted then contemporary social life. Like Luther, we--a few digital media scholars and technology critics--too have invested our lives in something we want at times to believe in, cannot always bring ourselves to do so, and therefore seek to critique and reform: the internet. What follows then are a few provisional intellectual gambits offered in the spirit of an anti-manifesto, a statement of what we think we do know, what we do not know, and seek to critique about the uneasy power and efficacy of the internet. Genuine network reformation will require far more than 95 theses gathered from many more voices. 
 
1. We the people online do not yet know who we are. It is clear that we must govern ourselves better, although it is not yet clear how to, or who will, do so. We do not know the worlds contained in the World Wide Web—nor can anyone claim in good faith to know the legions we contain. 
 
2. Once upon a time many of us thought the internet was a good thing. We were wrong. The internet is not a good thing; nor is it a bad thing; in fact it is not a thing at all. It is many things. We declare there is no such thing as the internet, or at least we may say there is no single internet. There are and will be many more internets. (And yes, Al Gore did help build parts of them and yes, George W. Bush accidentally did  popularize the term “internets,” however misplaced both appear in popular memory today.) Perhaps “singularity” talk feels so 1990s-ish today simply because that was the only decade (if ever) the internet appeared in the singular. 
 
3. The experience of the world online is the most recent chapter in neoliberalism, and we are failing to account for the costs of that political economic system. Both our languages for operating in as well as our business models for organizing that system are not sustainable. Clickbait and advertising will not and cannot pay for it all. There is no natural or inevitable reason that business or policy solutions necessarily exist to the considerable access, censorship, class, cultural, environmental, gender, power, privacy, race, security, silo, and other problems in our online worlds. There is in fact nothing natural or inevitable about life online.
 
4. "Bit" from "it." Cyberspace is made of atoms and atoms precede bits. The information physicist John Wheeler once declared “it from bit” to suggest that matter (“it”) rests on quantum bits. By reversing the aphorism, we emphasize the online world cannot be separated from the very material universe it inhabits. The virtual exists courtesy of matter, and our demands on it continue to reshape the face of the earth: in the name of the internet, mountains are being razed, rivers displaced, rockets launched, coal burned, oceans crossed, and bodies bent and burdened. The phrase "media environment" is a redundancy: media are material environments. Whatever they are, the internets are not virtual. 
David W
  • Does this thesis have any effect on any of the others? The Net certainly has a physical component, but does its physical instantiation define what you mean by "Internet" in the rest of these theses? If not, then this thesis is a laudable call for ecological awareness, but feels out of place in the logic of the piece.
5. Our modern lot is to live in society with machines. It is high time we learned how to do so. Here are two endpoints from which to begin thinking about humans, society, and machines: first, machines are already people. The modern world is all about people in the sense that every machine is already the product and extension of human senses, knowledge, and industry. Second, people are already machines: the modern world is all about machines in the sense that social and technical systems have always enabled and constrained human action. These approaches do not necessarily contradict one another. We all are at different times and places both cogs and cognizant actors in the social machinery of modernity. (Much the same can and has been said about the supposed animal-human divide as well.) However we think about it, humans build what we know and we are. There is perhaps nothing more human than artifice.
 
6. What we currently call “the internet” stands as synecdoche for a longer media revolution and its discontents. The current media environment may very well be about access. Its potentials—moving data from point A to B, surfacing new voices, forming niche interest groups, punctuating our attention with links, etc.—are often the potentials of access, and so too are its problems—surveillance, spam, bullying, etc.—the problems of access and its threats—censorship, discriminatory pricing, gatekeeping, copyright overreach, etc.—are also threats to access. Or it may be about still other things: the scaling of data, self-organizing forces, time-axis manipulation, moving images, etc. Perhaps the most certain thing about the longue durée of the current media revolution will be no different than that of previous revolutions: new media will bring significant consequences about which there will not be—and perhaps especially online cannot be—consensus until well after the new is no longer new. Meanwhile, much that has always mattered—matter, bodies, ethics, ideas, institutions, civilian empowerment—will continue to matter, no matter how implausibly nightmarish or fantastic our imaginations of the networked future may roam.
 
7. We must also improve how we talk about our situation. The term internet (like other collective things) is both unlike and like everything else. The language and metaphors used to describe activity online and off has to date and will continue to fall short. Sometimes, unclear metaphors are the problem: data are not capital, computers are not minds, and cyberspace is no space at all. For those with access to it, the net has no edge and the distinction between "offline" and "online" clouds over more than it reveals. At other times, clear language too can be the problem, when institutions use it to exacerbate already existing power differentials in society. The rich will grow richer at the expense of others so long as the language of the internets (law, code, etc.) primarily serves their interests: consider, for example, how the term keywords, a general marker of culture and political economy, now primarily serves digital marketers and search engine optimizers online. There does not yet exist a language sufficient to account for the costs, capacities, and consequences of our networked world. 
 
8. Perhaps no initial task is as consequential as the questions we ask and how we formulate them. We have never had so much to learn, and the costs of not learning and imagining more have never been so high: What will come after the internet? How can we best prepare for that future? How can we repair what is broken now? How, if at all, can modern networked societies flourish without surveillance, states, or capitalism? How does democracy actually work: how could it work, not in theoretic flourishes of digital democracy punditry, but in actual real life practice? What can be automated, and will and should it be? What can be informated, and will and should it be? What, if not everything, is worth preserving? What are the costs of archiving the past and of surveilling the present, and how, if at all, are those activities different? How and who should account for and regulate the work of complex systems, including algorithms? Which business models, policy platforms, and education programs will prove the most sustainable, enforceable, and beneficial for the current world? What might be a workable vocabulary for addressing and working through these questions? How did the current vocabulary for the same come to be and what are its consequences? Who will decide? How we will decide that question? How will "we" include and exclude? Who benefits from asking and addressing these questions, and why? 
 
9. We have also never known so much as we do now, and the benefits of what we have learned and can learn have never been so great. Perhaps the shortest story of the observable universe—ranging from a nanosecond after the big bang through the evolving solar, stellar, planetary, biological, agricultural, literate, industrial, and now information chapters of history—is that of the uneven accumulation and concentration of power and knowledge resources. The internet has not reversed that trend; if anything it has helped both spread knowledge resources as well as accelerate power differentials. What we do with that power and knowledge—which theses we postulate and pursue, and how—is perhaps the pressing question for those with the will to do something about it.  
 
9.5 Now is the time for reform, even if that means nothing more than trying to be clear about what we do not yet know and what we must learn and do. Nothing will necessarily change unless we shoulder the responsibility to dispute and reform that which does not best serve the people and the earth we inhabit: perhaps the only guarantee on the path forward is that, without hard questions, there are no guarantees. Which theses, hypotheses, contentions, and questions must be raised, and why do they matter? 
 
Continue the conversation here
 
 
 

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