Paths Not Taken

EZ’s blog is always worth reading, but I found today’s post about the SDP particularly touching and revealing. He writes:

“I will admit, I still find something a bit disorienting about trying to advise PhD students. It’s become increasingly clear to me that I won’t be able to convince myself to return to school and complete a degree any more advanced than my BA. I find myself wondering, as I sit down to offer suggestions to soon-to-be-doctorate-holders whether I should preface my comments with, ‘You probably shouldn’t listen to a word that I’m saying, as I’ve never attempted to get research past an advisory committee, never structured a dissertation, and have almost no academic publications to my name.’ I’m perpetually thankful that Berkman creates an academic environment where these issues almost never surface, but there’s nothing like a building filled with smart, young doctoral students to make one wonder about one’s own academic path not taken.”

SDPers, read EZ’s blog, but don’t be fooled by this paragraph. I can’t think of a more misleading preface to a group of (clearly wonderful) mid-stream graduate students in Internet-related studies; I trust he didn’t do it. If anything, I think we should all pay particular attention to EZ in the academic environment. His work, to me, is proof-positive that there’s little or no correlation between the number of years spent in graduate school and the quality of academic insight, at least in our field. It’s not to say that a doctorate of whatever flavor isn’t worth doing; it is, in many many cases. But EZ’s career is one to examine, and his path taken one to consider, if you have that kind of talent.

(I just wait with bated breath for that book you’re writing, Ethan.)

Sunshine Hillygus on Internet and Campaigns

Prof. Sunshine Hillygus is presenting about her study of the persuadable voter here at SDP 2007. She has a book coming out with Princeton University Press shortly on her research. I asked her what the most surprising/biggest finding of her book is. She said that she is trying to get away from the question of “do campaigns matter?” to a more nuanced view of how the various actors (including voters and the candidates) are using new information in such a way that they change their minds, and one another’s minds, over the course of a campaign. She also alluded to the conclusion of the book, in which she is “sounding the alarm” about the hyper-targeting of voters based on the aggregation of new data elements and the used of these data to target individual voters in ways that raise privacy issues. I am eager to read the book!

Internet Filtering Session at the SDP 2007

This morning — at the Summer Doctoral Program in Cambridge, MA — we’re taking up the topic of Internet filtering and the work of the ONI (and what we’ve written about in our forthcoming book from MIT Press, called Access Denied). Some of the questions that students raised about the topic and after reading our work on it:

– One student says that her dad read a copy of Dr. Zhivago, censored at the time in his country, where each page was accessible to him only as a photograph. One of her points, I think, is that history repeats itself and we should understand how this story is a repeat and where it is new and different than previous stories of censorship. One student suggests, as a follow-up: let’s test the hypothesis that the Internet is revolutionary. A second of her points, I take it, is that people will figure ways around censorship in clever ways.

– How do you measure filtering of the Internet and then analyze what you’ve learned in a way that informs decision-making?

– How do you measure the impact of filtering on access to knowledge?

– Do we need to have ISPs that act like common carrier who do not ever filter?

– What is the role of large countries as neighbors to smaller countries, raised by the possibility of in-stream filtering?

– What is the role of the commercial filtering providers?

– How can we determine whether the practice of Internet filtering violates a universal right to access information?

– How can we study how copyright and trademark owners carry out filtering?

– Is there legitimate filtering? (A student posits: there is legitimate filtering, including via search engine. This concept invokes what Urs Gasser blogged about, provocatively, at the ONI conference about “best practices in Internet filtering.”)

– How do we study the circumvention piece and include it in our story? What about developing the tools of circumvention?

– How do you overlay cultural differences on this survey?

– To what extent does control of communications facilitate control of other institutions, tools, or otherwise? To what extent is control of communications a priority for a given authority?

– When does one state have the right and/or ability to influence what another state does in this domain?

See Daithi and Ismael for more, better than what I’ve posted here.

Summer Doctoral Program(me) Comes to Cambridge

In the course of the past 5 academic years, I’ve come to think that one of my favorite things that happens in our little world is the Summer Doctoral Program (or, Programme, as our friends at the Oxford Internet Institute, the OII). Three of the past five years it’s been in Oxford, where it was established by Bill Dutton and his team at the OII. Two years ago, it was in Beijing. This year, for the first time, it’s on American soil here at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

The SDP is for graduate students in Internet studies. The vast majority of students are ph.d. students. A few are lawyers, studying perhaps for a j.d. or an s.j.d. The 30+ members of the group are from many different places: this year’s group has every region of the world represented, I think. It’s a fun, interesting, serious two weeks of talking about our work, our areas of interest in future, our methodologies, and lots of other things.

It’s useful to me personally on many levels. I love to hear what 30+ ph.d. students are puzzling over. One of the big trends since 2003 has been the growth of projects related to web 2.0 and blogging and Wikipedia and so forth; the corresponding trend down has been the decrease in projects on copyright, DRM, and related concepts. Another big benefit is spending reflective time with these smart people as well as with my colleagues at OII (like Bill and Jonathan Zittrain), the University of St. Gallen (Urs Gasser and his team), and other guest faculty who join us (this year, a whole slew of Berkman fellows — Bill McGeveran and Dan Gillmor are already here; Henry Jenkins from MIT, and many other great people).

Expect lots of blogging, especially from Ismael of ICTology and the UOC in Barcelona. He’s working up a bibliography here, which I expect will become a great one.