For the reax and take-aways from today’s Mobile Identity workshop, see Berk-people Urs Gasser, Doc Searls, Dave Winer, among others. And if you’re in downtown San Francisco this evening (Friday, 1/26/07), swing by the Hotel Vitale for the Berkman West reception!
Later this week, the Berkman Center heads west to San Francisco. We’re hosting an unconference on Mobile Identity, led by fellows Doc Searls, John Clippinger, Mary Rundle, Urs Gasser and others. It’s free and open, but you should sign up if you’d like to come, as space is limited. CNet is kindly hosting us. We’re also planning an informal reception for Berkman Center alums and friends; let one of us know if you’ll be in San Francisco on Friday night and we’ll ping you an invite.
Today, the Berkman Center joins Urs Gasser and all our friends from the University of St. Gallen in hosting a workshop on interoperability and innovation, in Weissbad, Switzerland. We are in the company of an interesting, eclectic group of technologists, academics, and NGOs leaders. The briefing papers are online.
This workshop is one in a series of such small-group conversations intended both to foster discussion and to inform our own work in this area of interoperability and its relationship to innovation in the field that we study. This is among the hardest, most complex topics that I’ve ever taken up in a serious way.
As with many of the other interesting topics in our field, interop makes clear the difficulty of truly understanding what is going on without having 1) skill in a variety of disciplines, or, absent a super-person who has all these skills in one mind, an interdisciplinary group of people who can bring these skills to bear together; 2) knowledge of multiple factual settings; and 3) perspectives from different places and cultures. While we’ve committed to a transatlantic dialogue on this topic, we realize that even in so doing we are still ignoring the vast majority of the world, where people no doubt also have something to say about interop. This need for breadth and depth is at once fascinating and painful.
In addition to calling for an interdisciplinary and international group of researchers or research inputs, there is no way to talk about interop in a purely abstract way: interop makes sense conceptually online in the context of a set of facts. We’ve decided, for starters, to focus on digital media (DRM interop in the music space in particular); digital identity; and a third primary case (which may be e-Communications, web services, and office applications). One of our goals in this research is to integrate our previous work on digital media, digital ID, and web 2.0 and so forth into this cross-cutting topic of interop.
Another thing is quite clear, as stated most plainly and eloquently by Prof. Francois Leveque of the Ecole des Mines: we need to acknowledge what we do not know, and we really do not know — empirically — to what extent interop has an impact on innovation. A major thrust of our work is to try to establish models of analysis that might help, in varying factual circumstances, in the absence of empirical data as to the costs and benefits of a certain regulatory decision.
This research effort is supported primarily by a gift from Microsoft (as always in our work with corporate sponsors, this gift is unrestricted and mixed with other such unrestricted funds, as well as our core funding from various sources, to mitigate the risk that we are influenced in our work by virtue of sponsorship). We have been blessed by our partners in industry, including many at Microsoft from the Legal and Corporate Affairs group, led by Annemarie Levins on this project, by their willingness to share with us an in-depth view of their work across a range of areas on interop. We’ve also been supported by the input from technologists at IBM and Intel in this event, and many other firms, through our interviewing process. We’d love to hear from other industry, and non-industry, players with an interest in this field.
I think the key aspects of this conference are figuring out how to make this digital identity business 1) real and understandable to non-technical people (use case-driven, etc.) and 2) a genuine improvement over what we have today, or have had in the past (privacy-enhancing? a better online experience? better grease for commercial transactions?).
Doc says that Mash is Up and he has a pic of Esther and her PC.
Esther Dyson, in the opening session, tells us she hinks we should call the conference “Presentation of Self.”
Kim Taipale, says that the identity we’re talking about is about little more than “allocation of risk.”
Christine Varney (former Clinton administration senior official, now of Hogan and Hartson) says that privacy is really about trust, with four elements that went by really fast.
Here’s Charlie Nesson doing the welcome with me. In case you were wondering, his T-Shirt says “Gay? Fine by me.”
Here’s my profile (identity?) on the IDMashup conference CMS. I am eager to see what happens with/to it, if anything. (Have I just filled in another form? I suppose it’s the job of all of us to ensure that this is not the case, that it’s more than just that.)
On the topic of Harvard’s own identity, a wonderful post on “Harvard through Canadian Eyes” from Kaliya, Identity Woman.
Tomorrow morning, we begin the digital identity mash-up conference. I have reason to expect a particularly cool demo from Louise Guay, CEO of My Virtual Model.
Whether you’re in Cambridge, MA, or not, come visit and participate in the community hub.
And follow along with Beth Noveck and all manner of other wonderful people coming to join us, and no doubt blogging it.
A year’s research on the digital identity metasystem, led by Berkman fellow John Clippinger, culminates in the Identity Mash-up conference June 19 – 21. The participant and speaker lists are already taking excellent shape. The idea is to explore in depth the development of a federated system of digital identities and to explore ways in which this “meta-system” can be privacy-enhancing, giving users more control over their personal data and how it’s used, and fostering the development of a more accountable Internet (the last bit is my own editorializing; many won’t agree, I suppose). The event is sponsored by Microsoft, Best Buy, and others. Registration is open.
John Clippinger, Oliver Goodenough, and company have brought the question of the future of digital institutions to the Berkman Center today. We’ve been visited by old friends — David Johnson, Urs Gasser, Judith Donath — as well as distinguished neighbors from elsewhere at Harvard — including Prof. Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Prof. Joseph Nye, former dean of the Kennedy School. Prof. Nye is up on his MySpace, Second Life, among other digital bona fides. This gathering is the latest in the collaborations between the Berkman Center and the Gruter Institute. We welcome others to participate in this ongoing set of conversations about the digital identity metasystem and how it relates to big themes like trust, accountability, governance on the Internet, and the like.