Rebecca TFellows 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 CJack: Berkman Friends feels continuous with the in-person fellow relationships
Rebecca TMalavika: 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 WAndrew Lowenthal: The flip side of the marbling is the Hierarchy of participation - who gets to participate.
Rebecca TMatthew: 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 WHasit: 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 TMal: 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 WEllery: I wasn't part of academia before. The idea of teaching never seemed like a realist possibility, and it does now.
Rebecca TMatthew: 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 TEmy: 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 TQuestion: 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 TEmy: 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.
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 TNathan 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 WBecca: 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 TMal: 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 WTatiana: 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 TQ: Are people satisfied with their ability to interact across their particular areas of interest?
David WEllery: 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 TEmy: 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 BFeedback from ceiling: As a remote participant, I found colleagues were very open to collaboration -- mostly people I've met in the ceiling.
Rebecca Tq: how important have the working groups/self-organized groups been?
David WJack: 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.
Ivan SHi both - assuming this was a Berkman fellows-hour exercise, but if it's more than that, I know far too much about Kazakhstan - based there for around 5 years, often working on the above. Let me know!
Matthew BThanks, Ivan—this was indeed a fellows-hour exercise, the title of which reflects a task given to two who know far too little about Kazakhstan! There's no planned iteration here (although doing so would give us the chance to learn from you about Kazakhstan, which I'm sure would be rich and rewarding).
"There is incredible work being done, I want to look at it in parallel to my own project which is an interactive timeline of the Egyptian revolution. How can we develop *federated* media archives, make them useful to stakeholders, produce knowledge from them, address the issues that develop from them."
Jack Cushman: Berkman fellow; Working on Perma.cc and on a project to distribute dark archives to libraries. Internet Preservation Consortium, and the Personal Digital Archiving conference: two communities coming at these issues from very different perspectives.We have told people everything on Facebook will be there forever but it won't… interested in what can be added to the view that would add something new to the conversation, between the comprehensive institutional scale and the individual initiative scale. (MB: Something perhaps in the vein of communities?) (2)
Mosireenhttp://mosireen.org-- how to store their archive when they lost their office (see below)
Ben P9.5 Theses on Internet and Society9.5 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of the Internet and Society
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.
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?
One of the striking aspects of our conversation on Friday was the degree of emphasis on what we might call the disunity of the internet: its lack of self-identicality; its plural constitution, with uncanny global-local polarities and forces; its reliance, ultimately, on a seemingly unsupportable, provisional, and internally-contradictory tissue of metaphors, motivations, and systems. I choose the term "disunity" with intent here, because I sense some resonance with the "disunity of science" focus of the group of philosophers and historians of science known as the Stanford School—the community of science-studies scholars who share a critique of arguments for methodological and metaphysical continuity and contiguity in the natural sciences. I'm not going to presume to define the Stanford School further, as one of our discussants on Friday, Peter Galison, (as you all know I'm sure) is one of its leading figures. I'm bringing it up because as a research program, the work of the Stanford School offers a handy model—and perhaps a necessary one at this moment, or so it seems to me—for application to internet studies, which (it's surely unfair of me to say) has rapidly coalesced around a set of normative presumptions, ready-to-hand ontological assumptions, and tidy epistemic virtues (some of which, indeed, are contained or expressed in a few of the propositions enumerated above).
So maybe it's a meta-proposition that we (some of us, whoever is down for the project) set out to describe the dappled internet: a domain that's always local, with such localities coalescing around various projects of nomological machine-making that try to transform the provisional into the paradigmatic, the ephemeral into the essential, and the temporary into telos (or tautology)—often, but (crucially) not always, and never merely, for the sake of immediate capitalization.
Listening is the art of making others eloquent. The question today is how can we go from hearing sounds in a room to hearing eloquence?
Observation 1: To be a skillful listener it helps to have had the experience of being listened to.
Observation 2: The body often conveys more information than the voice. Non-verbal queues: facial expressions, body movements can convey feelings, responses, messages.
Observation 3: Truly transformational listening = body + words + emotion. Transition from leader/expert to couch: engaging with and supporting others to solve problems themselves rather than solving for them.
On followup questions:
Kate: We are wired to be attentive, including behavior, viewpoints, and inflection mimicking those we are talking to.
Sara WPublic narrative from Marshall Ganz (self, us, now)
Some indicator are identity indicators, as list of IPs or domains. But what are the behavioral? indicators for malicious activity?
One example: Volume as a general pattern for types of behavior.
Another is outbound traffic: are there ways this can be suspicious?
Question: How to combine indicators to make them more useful.
One model: Can you use identity indicators to build reputation? For example, allowing emails from unknown actors but not allowing attachments until two-way correspondence takes place. Protocols for engaging with potentially malicious activity can make these practices a little more work
Related idea to the repetitional approach is identifying anomalous activity, such as a user connecting from an abnormal IP range or increased volume of activity.
I'm interested in the economies of slums, for instance. Are you looking into those sorts of things?
YB: The first step is realizing that the enthusiasm for the sharing economy is weeping the enthusiasm for the possibility of decentralized or collective action. Using the same language confuses two distinct things.
Couchsurfing and AirBnB are not the same thing: the difference is money. Is it a social interaction? A sense of gift-giving? Indirect reciprocity? More direct?
I share your intuition that it is more like alienated day laborers and job security? But perhaps from the perspective of the users, if not the drivers, it is about a sharing community. I see P2P lending as something quite distinct if it is acutally done well: a genuine mutualist credit network as a way to replace the banking piece. Crucial there is the social embedding of the interaction.
Q: On a related note, capitalism happens very differently in different countries: e.g. Sweden and the US.
And I agree with you about the sharing economy being a buzzword, but the networked economy: understanding the potentials of the system, flows of capital, where exploitation takes place, and the role of labor in the system. Exploitation is a useful lens here: understanding how networked economies are exploited, rather than critiquing 'sharing economies' which falls into the trope of the buzzword.
YB: That's why I see our role as facilitating a discussion about the future of acpitalism, not driving a critique of it. I don't think the approach of true sharing economies is a broad critique as much as a focus on driving other reforms. Addressing the foundations of a neoliberal framework that forms the basis of the US and UK developments (and to a lesser extent other anglophone countries). Yes, this needs to be mapped to the question of alternate pathways in market societies.
As to using the meme, that depends on the conversation. I see currently an initial battle against the appropriation of the term 'sharing' by something that isn't. Rather than studying how these economies should be defined by an alternative word. Maybe the conversation is already there; I want to see 'sharing' used when we carpool or crash on someone's couch. That's not the same as renting.
SJ: I think there are spectra here: including a spectrum from sharing that feels like a gift to the recipient and involves no mutual compensation, and exchanges that feel totally like renting. (as someone who uses AirBnB regularly for a sharing experience!)
visualizes words that are frequently used and who is using them.
helps show who is talking in the same way about something and who is dicscussing things differently
Dalia: So why are we looking at this?
There was a war in Gaza and nearly everyone was covering things. There were a lot of different perspectives.
Samuel KLots of different words were playing in those media sources. Rockets, children, playing. we tried to understand which communities were there, where they lay on the spectrum, whether there was a 'pro-israeli to pro-palestinian spectrum' and where the major media in the US, UK, other countries lay on it.
<showing slides with six colors for different clusters>
Clusters: ?, humanitarian rights media, left-leaning media (huffpost, democracy now); right-wing military.
There weren't pro-israeli or pro-palestinian poles/clusters. It was more a group of clusters all competing with one another [for attention?]
We've gone back and forth between handpicking media sources and choosing those that are most used / cited in debates. Getting a balanced set of Israeli and Palestinian sources seemed desirable for some use cases but clearly that inject your own selection bias.
We want to:
+ Tune how you pick the community size. Ask for more or fewer communities, to tease out subtle communities or to cluster them together. Think of it as turning up resolution (and noise).