Bibliotheca Class, and Learning and Teaching at Harvard

I’m having a huge amount of fun teaching a class at the Harvard Graduate School of Design with my friend Jeffrey Schnapp on the history, present, and future of libraries, called Bibliotheca.  The students are fantastic: twenty or so, mostly studying design and architecture, though there are graduate students in other fields.  We’re holding the class in an open, spacious basement room of the GSD’s Loeb Library, thanks to our collaborator Ann Whiteside, the library’s director.  Ann and her team are thinking collaboratively and creatively about how to use library space.  Opening up this big room, laden with visual materials, to us as an active teaching space is just one example of that.

Today, class opened with one student showing the photos he’d taken of a tour of the Harvard Depository, a huge facility about 25 miles off campus to provide storage and now access to books that don’t fit on campus.  A group of students from our class, plus a few others who heard about the trip and hitched a ride, piled into a bus we rented and spent a day last week on a spontaneous field trip.  The crew wants to go back with a video-camera.  The idea is to produce something, as part of the class, that we can publish openly about what we’re learning.  The photos prompt a series of questions about the organization of physical materials that tie straight into where we’re going with the class later.  It was an impromptu start to the class, unplanned, but opened new avenue.

After reflections on the HD visit, we welcome David Weinberger, author of Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder.  We’re talking about how the design of physical libraries and the design of virtual spaces for knowledge and information relate to one another.  The topics are free-ranging and deep, with David — he’s a ph.d. in philosophy by training — and the students pushing one another about the role of libraries, the need for librarians in the future, the timeline for coming to a largely digital experience v. our current hybrid experience, and so forth.

A few choice quotes from David W., plucked out of context: “I like the Library of Congress!” says David.  And: “we need a paper back-up: everyone realizes that.”  (But students push back: is the physical only important as a “back-up” to the digital?  And concerns about the stability of the digital as a format: does that argue in favor of the physical as a resource for redundancy, or as something that ought to be in the physical spaces that we call libraries.)  And, again from David: “there are huge values associated with local libraries.  I just don’t pretend know what the future of libraries is going to be.”

After David W. leaves us after the first two hours of class and we take a break, a group of students will present on their review of Louis Kahn’s iconic library at the Phillips Exeter Academy.  I know that library well, but only from the perspective of a learner: I spent many happy (and some stressed-out) hours there as a high school student.  I’m excited to hear what students of design make of it.  This is a design principle of the class: students work in teams, of their own forming, to present excavations of library design projects throughout the term and then develop a final project, also team-based, at the end of the semester.

What this class has me thinking this morning about is not just the substance — the future of libraries, the organization of knowledge, how we store and provide it and think about it — but also about the possibilities for teaching and learning.  Yesterday, Harvard announced a landmark new gift: $40 million to catalyze innovations in learning and teaching from Rita and Gustave Hauser.  If we have the chance to spend those resources, and ideally more, that it catalyzes from other donors, over the next decade to improve our learning and teaching, how might we go about that?  There are many, many worthy places to focus and many great things going on here at Harvard to build upon.

Technology should surely be part of that focus, but not the starting point.  In my view, the starting point should be our pedagogical goals, which vary by discipline.

What’s so rich about this experience for me (and perhaps for the students?) of this class is the chance to spend several hours a week with Jeffrey Schnapp and great students and library staff from Harvard and a broad array of guests who have meandered through our shared exploration.  Our guests have been great experts in the history and design of libraries, some from the Harvard faculty and others from elsewhere: Matthew Battles, Greg Nagy, Ann Blair, Katherine Park to name just some of those who have already been with us.  We’re tying our themes and our exploration into the reform of the Harvard Library system that we’re a few years into, and which has scared up a huge number of interesting problems that we can take up.  Several librarians are coming to all classes, and we’re opening up some classes to a much larger group of librarians.  It’s been great to learn from their perspectives and incredible knowledge.  The class feels porous and connected.

There are challenges with the Bibliotheca style of teaching.  It’s intense and time-consuming for the teachers; it has two faculty members involved, which means it is expensive on a per-student-unit-of-credit basis; it has great support and involvement from lots of community members who are volunteering their time; the students are (or seem) dug-in and helping to co-produce the class and its outputs.  It’s tied into hard problems that we face on our own campus, and might even help us solve (address, at least?) some of them.  But it’s a ton of fun and makes me so grateful to be at a place that supports, and even privileges, this kind of approach to teaching and learning.

(P.S.: BTW, David has a new book coming out in January: Too Big to Know.  I’ve pre-ordered it already; you should too!  Plus, I read a late-stage draft, and it’s totally wonderful, building out the Everything is Miscellaneous argument, and many other strands, in fascinating ways.)

Hard Questions for #iLaw2011's Freedom of Information/Arab Spring Sessions

We’ve revived the iLaw program after a five-year hiatus. This year, it’s an experiment in teaching at Harvard Law School: part class (for about 125 students) and part conference (with friends from around the world here for the week). And JZ has taken the baton from Terry Fisher as our iLaw Chair.  An exciting day.

I’ve been preparing for two sessions on Day 1: “Freedom of Expression and Online Liberty” and then a case study on the Arab Spring (which will feature, among others, our colleague Nagla Rizk of the American University in Cairo). I’ve been thinking about some of the hard questions that I’m hoping we’ll take up during those sessions.

– What effect does a total shutdown of the network have on protests? I’ve been enjoying reading and thinking about this article on SSRN.  The author, Navid Hassanpour, argues (from the abstract): “I argue that … sudden interruption of mass communication accelerates revolutionary mobilization and proliferates decentralized contention.”

– We’ve assigned two chapters from Yochai Benkler’s landmark book, the Wealth of Networks (the introduction and the first 22 pages of chapter 7, which you can read freely online).  I am trying to figure out how well Yochai’s theoretical from a few years ago is holding up.  So far, so well, I think.  The examples in the second chapter that we assigned – Sinclair Broadcasting and Diebold – feel distant from the Arab Spring and Wikileaks examples that are front-of-mind today.  But the essential teachings seem to be holding up very well.  How might we add to the wiki, as it were, of WoN, knowing what we now know?  (Another way to look at this question, riffing off of something Yochai hits in his own lecture: what was the role of Al-Jazeera and other big media outlets, in combination with the amateur media and organizers?)

– We have gotten very good at studying some aspects of the Internet, as a network and as a social/political/cultural space.  We can show what the network of bloggers or Twitterers look like in a given linguistic culture.  We can show what web sites are censored where around the world (see the ONI).  We can survey and interview people about their online (and offline) behaviors.  But lots of things move very fast online and in digital culture, and it’s hard to keep up, in terms of developing good methods and deploying them.  What are the things that we’d like to be able to know about that we haven’t learned yet how to study?  Plainly, activity within closed networks like Facebook is a problem: lots is happening there, and surveys of users can help, but we can’t do much in terms of getting at Facebook usage patterns through technology (and there are privacy problems associated with doing so, even if we could).  Mobile is another: our testing of Internet filtering, for instance, is mostly limited to the standard web-browsing/http get request type of activity.  What else do we want/need to know empirically, to understand politics, activism, and democracy in a networked world?

– How much did the demographic element — a large youth population in several Middle East/North African cultures — matter, if at all, with respect to the Arab Spring?  How important were the skills, among elite youth primarily, to use social media as part of its organizing?

– How did the online organizing of the Arab Spring mesh with the offline activism in the streets?

– How much did the regional element matter, i.e., the domino quality to the uprisings?  Does this have anything to do with use of the digital networks, shared language, and social/cultural solidarity that crossed geo-political boundaries?

– What, if anything, does the Wikileaks story have to do with the Arab Spring story?  Larry Lessig pulls them quickly together; Nagla Rizk and Lina Attalah balk at this characterization.  We’ll dig in this afternoon.

– [Student-suggested topic #1, via Twitter:] What’s the effect of the US State Department’s Internet Freedom strategy?

– [Student-suggested topic #2, via Twitter:] Does the distribution/democratization of channels of discourse undercut rather than support dissent, organizing, etc.?

There’s much more to unpack, but these are some of the things in my mind…

Future of Law Libraries: The Future is Now?

A group of us is gathered today at Harvard Law School for a conversation about the future of legal information, libraries, and the law itself.  It’s a fun and diverse group — about 150 strong — in Austin Hall’s north classroom.  The wiki for the conference has the schedule, the participants, and a lot of great suggested readings in a wide range of formats.  I’m intending to live-blog here, with the usual typos and caveats and imperfections, as much of the day as I can.

Robert Berring is the opening keynote speaker.  He started with references to John William Wallace, and an article on Wallace by Femi Cadmus (now of Yale, about to go to Cornell to be the law librarian there) that appeared in GreenBag.  Berring also recalls the work of the late Morris Cohen, who was the law librarian of both Yale and Harvard.  Forty years ago, Cohen called upon the profession to step back and to reflect on where we stand.  One of the books that Berring has recently read: Keith Richards’ autobiography.  Richards cared about the quality of the music.  And from there, to Confucius: the understanding at a deeper level of an entire way of life.  We need to work toward something that we’ve been working on all along, Berring said.  Librarians have always been, and are today, the great translators of legal information.  The big change of the recent decades: the culture of the book is not the culture that we live in today.  Books, now, have to justify their existence: they make sense and work for certain purposes, but now have to prove that they are the right format.  Librarians, too, will persist: we will justify our existence, too.  What we’ve been about: providing access to legitimate, stable information to the people who need it, as the translators.  Provocative closing thoughts: the legal education field is on the verge of enormous change, and librarians will need to be there to hold people’s hands as casebooks disappear, as the format of all these bits of information change, as the profession changes.

Carl Malamud and Joe Hodnicki lead the first session.  Carl cites Robert Byrd as his primary source for law and legal information.  As Byrd did, Carl re-tells the story of the Twelve Tables, a core element of the Constitution of ancient Rome.  The key part of the story: a demand for the codification of the law.  The beginning of written law, Malamud said, stemmed from this process, and represent the true formation of the republic.  The writing-down of the law and its safekeeping, Carl says, has become the job of the people.  Law libraries risk becoming a 7-11; instead, we should be the keepers of the Twelve Tables.  Our law libraries are not active in maintaining the corpus of American legal information, Malamud says.  Why have we not scanned the 25 million pages of Supreme Court briefs?  Why do we have $0.08 per page access to legal materials and state-level copyright over law?

Joe Hodnicki responds to Carl by describing a cultural divide between the legal documentation community and the law library community.  Print is just a technical accident that we’ve lived with for several hundred years, whereas text is not.  Text is enduring, Hodnicki tells us.  He points to the duopoly of Lexis and West, with their huge corpuses of text.  Print, today, is sold at a price that will price itself out of the marketplace, Hodnicki claims.  Fastcase is different, Joe says (looking directly at CEO Ed Walters).

Richard Danner starts up the Open Access session.  He provides us an update on our collective progress on implementing the Durham Statement.  He emphasizes that most scholars would publish in a law journal even if it were not in print.  (68%; whereas 32% said that print was still important to them)  Law journal editors expressed concern about the 32% that they would fear, in a competitive environment, they would lose.  Who will drive the movement toward electronic publishing for legal scholarship, Danner asks, given that student editors are in place only for a few years?  Even if they are committed to developing an open scholarly information environment, they often only get to that perspective late in their year or so in leadership.  Deans have not been strong leaders so far, even though in the long term they (and their schools) would benefit.  The law reviews of a few stop schools (Harvard and Yale, e.g.) could tip over to open access, and that might do it — but these top journals are today still making some money from print subscriptions.  Prof. Danner ends by pointing to cross-tabs that show that those who are younger are less likely to worry about publishing in print, which may be good news for open access for law scholarship in the future.

June Liebert responds to Dick Danner’s opening about open access with a peek where are are today.  It costs law schools $25,000 to $100,000 per article (cites to Prof. Richard Neumann).  She’s got an amazing set of five practical ideas for what we can do and can control as law librarians and law faculty: 1) new library publishing paradigm; 2) build institutional repositories; 3) focus on born digital documents first; 4) stop subsidizing journals in print — buy or print only where it makes economic sense; and, 5) faculty partner in the scholarship lifecycle.

Robert Darnton — eminent scholar and teacher of history and Harvard university professor and Librarian — kicks off the last pre-lunch session with a description of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).  Prof. Darnton tees up and debunks a series of myths about the DPLA: it’s *not* 1) utopia; 2) intended only to serve college professors; 3) cooked up at Harvard and elitist; 4) a threat to public libraries, not a complement; and 5) an anti-Google Books Search effort.  The DPLA is rather meant as a broad-based, open process and platform that will serve public libraries, academics, and individuals alike.

Siva Vaidhyanathan of Virginia responds to Bob by describing his idea for a Human Knowledge Project.  Side note: With my DPLA hat on, I am of a mind that the DPLA is one part of the Human Knowledge Project (HKP); if we were to stitch together, at the layer of open linked data, all the national and regional efforts like Europeana, we would have built just such a project.  The dream, Siva, says, is to provide universal, comprehensive access to knowledge.  Siva says that the Human Knowledge Project is a 50-year project, whereas the DPLA is a 10-year project.  To make the HKP happen, we need to coordinate and to compete; we need interoperability and open linked data; we need to emphasize search standards within and across these systems; we need to get serious about governance; we need global copyright reform.  The HKP ideals are high and broad and important and long-term — as well as achievable, Siva argues.  Very inspiring.

For the lunchtime keynote, Michelle Wu, Georgetown’s new law library director and professor, is making the case for Building a Collaborative Digital Collection, a Necessary Evolution in Libraries (forthcoming, Law Library Journal).  She says that Section 108 and a format-shifting argument make possible her proposal for shared print and scanned resources.  Librarians are adaptive, she says, and critical of existing products that are available.  If we can do it better, we need to get off the sidelines and drive information policy.  Librarians should be fighting for copyright reform, in particualar, Wu says.

After an un-conference break, we’ve re-convened to talk about hacking the casebook.  Our great colleague Jonathan Zittrain (JZ to those in the know) is in New Hampshire on vacation (his “first in ten years” as he reports), so I play a video presentation that he precorded.  Watch it here: available online here.  JZ’s talk, as you’ll see, is about the “hack the casebook” project to reconcieve and rebuild the law school teaching casebook from the ground up.  It’s built off of the H20 project and will be the torts casebook that JZ will teach from this fall.

John Mayer, Executive Director of CALI, responds, by talking about the eLangdell project.  John recalls a 2006 speech that he gave at Nova Southeastern Law School called “rip, mix, learn” on similar topics.  Law students spend about $1,000 per year on their books.  One of the tricks associated with this project is that faculty actually don’t agree on (at least) four things: definition of a casebook; definition of a chapter; copyright issues; and quality assurance.

Kathleen Price, professor emeritus of law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and long-time leader of the law library field, leads the final session.  Professor Price urges the law librarian community to take pleasure in the service we provide and the partnership between librarians, faculty, and students of law.  The law library profession is in fact a young profession: it goes back not even a full century, Price argues, dating back to just pre-WWII.  This first group, Price says, were the Brahmins.  Post-WWII, a new group entered the profession: outsiders who were teachers, who created teaching materials and bibliographic materials, and those who made foreign, comparative, and international law at LC something we could work with.  The group that entered the profession in the mid-1970s was also a crew of “outsiders,” including women who were excluded from the important law firms of the day (“we already have our woman…”).  This group also became very successful teachers — the generation of Bob Berring, Kathie Price herself, and others fall in this group.  Rising tenure standards have caused the law librarians since this generation to turn to scholarship of novel sorts (blogs, tweets, creation of institutional repositories) as well as fundraising and business responsibilities that are increasingly significant.  Who will replace those who are now coming up to retirement?  Three possible models: 1) faculty (or firm) services types; 2) the new technology librarians; and 3) foreign comparative and international law library specialists.  We are in a moment of flux in the field, Price says, as more and more people are interested in East Asia and African law, especially, as well as Latin American and Eastern European law.  These positions, Price notes, are all public services librarians.  We have to look to whether we can give up certain kinds of cataloging, especially if we can move metadata to the cloud and do it only once. Price concludes by asking a series of very hard questions about the future of the AALL as the primary source of continuing education for our field; the kinds of skills needed for future hires; and the kinds of teaching that make sense for law librarians.

Sarah Glassmeyer, faculty services librarian and assistant professor of law at Valparaiso University School of Law, responds to Prof. Price.  We need to work with people who are “not like us” — she cites both Carl Malamud and, well, me (a non-librarian).  Meg Kribble also gets a nice shout-out as a future law library leader.  Tom Bruce (not a lawyer or a librarian) gets a shout-out as a good mentor.  Glassmeyer worries about the generations connecting as well as they might.  Please, she says, let’s share stories across the generations — through informal mentoring, the “boomer librarians” have a lot to pass on, and the Gen X librarians need to step up (and be supported in doing so) as well.

Ron Wheeler, professor and director of the Law Library at the University of San Francisco School of Law, is the last speaker of the day.  Wheeler feels like he has one foot in two different generations.  In thinking about the future, he thought about the skills and attributes he is looking for in his new recruits.  People skills is the first thing.  It means interacting with patrons, not sitting at the reference desk.  The second is teaching innovation: more inventive, clever, interesting, and passionate about things like legal research.  The third is teamwork: not just those who tolerate teamwork, but those who thrive on teamwork and collaboration.  A fourth: people not afraid to lead.  We need to try new services and projects, and we need people who can run with them — even if they fail.  Not just managers; do-ers, too.  And networkers: those who can work with those outside their immediate network.  He wants also, to see those who are focused on sustaining a profession, not mailing it in.  Personality types: able to embrace change, those with flexibility and adaptability, people bored with the status quo.  He is eager to see those who have a passion for doing things that are non-traditional library work.  We should teach in new programs as they develop, help to solve problems for law schools and universities as they seek to innovate at the institutional level.  Technology skills — the skills that June Liebert has — in a broad range of types.  And — second to last — it’s diversity, racial and gender and lots of other kinds of diversity.  Finally: he wants people who will show up every day and work really, really hard.

[email protected] after Eight Years

More often that you might think, we get asked about how the [email protected] project (the server on which this blog appears) got started and why we at the Berkman Center maintain it.  I got several questions about it in the context of an event this week, in fact, eight years or so into the project.  I thought I’d write it up briefly as a first-person account, as a way to have some place to point people to when they ask.  It also seems to me to be a useful, if odd, bit of history to record about the use of social media in an academic community.  There are no doubt other ways to tell the story, but this is a blogs server after all, so I’ll lean into the medium as a way to deliver this message.

Early History

The story starts in the winter of 2002.  I was executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School (we have since become a university-wide center, but we were at HLS officially then).  It was cold, as it is in New England winters, and I was sitting in what will probably be my favorite all-time workspace, a gray, woodframe building on Massachusetts Avenue, in the northwest corner of the Harvard campus.  An email blinked across the screen, one of very many that day.  A trusted friend connected me to a man named Dave Winer.  I really really needed to meet Dave, the friend said.  And soon.  He made the virtual introduction to Dave, and we agreed to talk.

Within a few days, Dave was now on my actual doorstep, knocking on the locked door of the woodframe building.  Why was it locked?  It was locked because it was winter break at Harvard, a day or two before New Year’s, if I have it right.  Dave was in a hurry.  He had big ideas.  I sensed that I didn’t want to miss them.  There he was, ready to rock, he said, and what he wanted to work on would be transformative.

The basic idea was that we should encourage Harvard’s academics to start blogging.  He had a simple idea: let’s put up a blogs server (he happened to own a company that made one, as it turned out) and invite anyone in the community to start blogging.

It wasn’t long before we had appointed Dave to be a Berkman fellow.  It was very shortly thereafter that we had that blog server up and running.  Dave wrote about on his own blog, Scripting News, as did the Harvard house organ, the Gazette.  The launch was covered by the Harvard Crimson, too.

The community took things from there.  To where, we did not know, but it was fast and furious.  Dave taught everyone who would listen about what makes a weblog a weblog, which is still a useful post.  Dave and friends established an active blogging discussion group around the service; for about six years, this group met on most Thursdays in the Berkman Center’s space, but was otherwise independent of the Center.  Dave had lots of help; I recall much effort by Wendy Koslow, J, and many others.  Many people dug in; we argued about whether it was a good idea or not; and the community grew out of the conversation.  Much credit during this period goes to those who attended and coordinated the Thursday Blogs Group.  Dave also hosted what I think of as the first “unconference” in the form of “BloggerCon.”  The BloggerCon attendees, too, deserve much credit for the conversation that they kicked off and then sustained over several years.

As a brief technical overview: The system we used initially was called Manila, a platform developed by UserLand Software (which Dave owned; he let us use it for free).  Our deployment was successful: about 500 people, including faculty, students, fellows, staff, and alumni, created blogs in the first two years alone, mostly, I think, because Dave was out there talking people into it.  In 2006, we transitioned away from Manila, which had served us very well, to the evolving WordPress MU platform.  We made use of the transition to close down old and abandoned blogs.  That transition was difficult and complex, but provided us with a newer, more stable and flexible blogging platform on a more powerful server.

Today, we still offer free weblogs to any member of the Harvard community. We allow registration to anyone with an email address ending in harvard.edu, hbs.edu, or radcliffe.edu.

Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy

One of the most common questions we get about the blogs server project relates to the legal work we’ve done to manage the way the service operates, so here are a few thoughts on that front.  We use the classic combo of a terms of service and privacy policy that a few of us worked on in consultation with the community by the Berkman Center’s Clinical Program in Cyberlaw.  Prof. Phil Malone and generations of HLS clinical students have developed and maintained them, building on our informal first drafts.  These terms of service and privacy policy have been copied by many others, with permission — but we strongly encourage anyone to use, rip, mix, burn them in any way that helps your own project.  I can say that they’ve held up remarkably well over time, with only occasional needs for updates.  The call for dispute resolution has been minimal.  So, we welcome others to use our policies, but recommend that you customize them to suit your unique needs and run them by your general counsel’s office first. If you do use our policies, we request (but do not insist on) a link back to [email protected] as a courtesy.

We have always supported the use of RSS to syndicate content on our blogs server. In fact, the Berkman Center, on behalf of the President and Fellows of Harvard College, is the copyright holder (as a light-handed “Trustee”) of the RSS 2.0 specification. Through the use of RSS, content on our blogs server is syndicated all over the web, as well as being used in other sites around Harvard that support RSS, such as the Harvard course management platform, iSites.  Please find some further technical notes below from my friends in the technical side of our house.

Academic Implications

The context in which we most often get questions about this service is from people interested in whether it’s been a good idea or not from an academic perspective.  My answer is: yes, absolutely, for us, anyway.  The benefits have been many.

The most immediate was that our in-person conversations were enhanced by the discussions that had occurred online in between our f2f meetings.  We’d often be in a meeting of fellows or faculty, or in a class, and someone would mention the blog post of another colleague from the intervening week, and how someone else had responded.  It helped to establish a common language and served as a sustaining force for the conversation that helped a highly distributed community to thrive.

On an experimental front, I think this project helped us in our desire to push forward the use of social media in academic life in ways that helps to build communities around ideas.  Even when people in our community moved off to other blogs platforms or universities or the Dreaded Private Sector, the links that we built with one another on this server have persisted.  Students have used this server as they began their important public careers; I recall Ory Okolloh starting her first blog in a class I was teaching at Harvard Law School well before the fabulously-successful Ushahidi project got going and her many other good works around the world.  I think some skeptics about blogs (you know who you are!) got more interested in them through the early instantiation of this project and became champions of this and other important online media.  The start of podcasting can be traced in part to the syndication of audio recordings that Chris Lydon, Dave Winer, and Bob Doyle (the Wikipedia entry on the history of podcasting has more).  To this day, students, faculty, fellows, staff and alumni of Harvard cut their teeth on this blogs platform.  A few of us have used it continuously since its launch.

Has [email protected] transformed the academy?  Of course not.  But eight years after its launch, it’s still a worthy experiment.  Few such experiments are.  This community and this technology are still changing and growing in important ways.  I’m grateful to all those who helped get it started; have maintained it (Hal Roberts, Sebastian Diaz, and their teams leap to mind); and gotten into social media in the academic world by using it.

Digital Public Library of America, Session IV

These are my live-blog notes for the fourth and final full session at the DPLA content and scope working session:

1) The messy issue of rights and permissions for in-copyright works is the biggest issue that the DPLA will face.  (We have a workstream set up for legal issues on the wiki.)  A variant of this issue: the DPLA could play a role in ensuring that usage rights for end-users are not as untenable (silly?) as the recently-announced HarperCollins’ 26 lends rule.   As another related point: We should have a legislative solution to tricky copyright restrictions in mind, as a proposal (or a package of proposals), but we need also to make progress absent, or at least prior to, legal change.  In addition to orphan works issues, there are copyright issues laden in scholarship associated with computation and massive data sets, as an example.

2) Don’t undercut public libraries as you build a Digital Public Library of America.  There’s a risk that the success of a #dpla might result in politicians and other funders seeing less utility in local public libraries.

3) The world is going mobile on such a massive scale.  We need to build that in from the start.  There are over 5 billion active mobile users.  Mobile broadband is growing in penetration, and nearly a third of users globally have a smart-phone.  In 2013 – 2014, more people will access information on the web via a mobile device than on a laptop or desktop.  We have to bring the DPLA to the people.

(Side-note: Dan Cohen has posted his #dpla comments to his blog.)

Digital Public Library of America, Session III

Here are some quick notes on three take-aways from Session III at the Content and Scope planning meeting of the Digital Public Library of America.

1) Materials that are in copyright will have to be thought about by the DPLA differently (the red zone) from those in the public domain (green) or orphan works and gray literature (yellow).  But ideally the members of the public accessing the works would not know about these differences when approaching the content.  This issue leads to the tiering issue (or perhaps we need a different word) for DPLA.  From a user perspective, could we make it not matter whether the material, before coming to DPLA, was red, yellow, or green?  There are a variety of ways that might come to pass, including a possible alternative compensation model for books as a way to pay creators.  (For a proposal to create two types of alternative compensation system in a parallel field, music and movies, see William W. Fisher, Promises to Keep, Ch. 6).

2) A user may have multiple roles: on the one hand, may be an author who wants credit or payment for her work, and on another is seeking low-cost or free, unfettered access to the work of others.  And diversity of users becomes tricky when one adds the international access dimension.

3) A five-year (or other) moving wall strategy, in partnership with publishers, seems like an attractive possible approach to digitizing materials and making them available.  One might be able to enable payment for a series of years and then return the works to the public domain.  But there may be issues lurking here, too.

The moderator adds some more: a) the scope and content of #dpla must include materials that are not just in the public domain, which leads to sustainability and incentives; b) talking about services and lots of added values, with many players with multiple roles, where many people in the ecosystem of publishing, reading, and using information have a stake in the success of #dpla; c) library materials should be made available to the public in ways that are as free, open and useful as possible.

Digital Public Library of America, Session II

My three take-away points/topics from the second session, focusing on characteristics of public domain collections and open business models:

1) We have done a lot of work toward collection-building in a DPLA.  We need to learn from the experience of our own projects in the United States and those of others that are underway today.  Europeana is an especially important reference point, as are many other current and past major mass digitization projects.

2) We need to avoid going it alone.  A shared vision and collaboration is crucial.  The time for doing “our own thing” in our own way is over.  The DPLA needs to aim to establish a system or a platform that will support collaboration across a broad range of participants doing relevant work who are willing to work together.  We need to respect the identities of those who have developed or hold content.  And a distributed library system can be very resilient and diverse and strong as a result.  We need to allow lots of people to succeed via the DPLA.  (One might consider what needs to be centralized, such as indexing, while having the bulk of the system, content, and so forth distributed/federated.)

3) Even sticking with public domain materials won’t be cheap or easy.  While some say “scanning is the easy part,” there are still major costs and challenges given the scope of what we seek to accomplish — and we need a model to sustain the work over time.  Digitization is very expensive, and almost exclusively grant-funded today.  And it’s necessary to get to a critical mass of information for it to be useful to users, which we can only get done by collaboration (see 2, above).  There are best practices that we ought to learn from with respect to scanning — and all else that we have to do, such as metadata creation and collection, user interface, search and discovery, etc.  Despite the exciting progress across many projects to scan much information, a business model for any DPLA that can mix open and paid is extremely important to develop for sustainability purposes.

One person adds two additional key points (related to mine, but said another way) from this session, so I add them here:

a) We can’t anticipate uses.  Stay flexible.

b) We need to think about standards and metadata as a core part of the enterprise.

Digital Public Library of America, Session 1 Notes

Here’s my rough live-blog (while moderating; please excuse briefness) of the key points and problems from session 1 of the Digital Public Library of America working meeting on “Scope and Content” of a possible DPLA, today at the Harvard Faculty Club in Cambridge, MA:

1) We began with a voice from public libraries and one from research libraries.  The dichotomy broke down quickly, even as both focus areas seem important at the outset.  The group appeared to be in “violent agreement” as to seeing a spectrum of users rather than two completely disconnected categories (public/research).  The stronger form of this argument: perhaps we should even focus on activities/uses/functions rather than a sense of user identities if possible.

2) There is a key problem potentially in the way: we as libraries don’t have the ability to provide access to users to all materials that we previously could.  The digital age cuts against broad access in some ways.  Do we take on this problem, which is one of technology, contract, markets, culture?

3) There are three ways in which to see our current posture (at least):

a) We have what we need to build a DPLA.  Some say that we have what we need, and we just need get on with it.  The approach should be: “Buy what we can, scan what we can’t.”

b) Others disagreed with this view.  Law reform, they argue, is an important, necessary part of what we want to do.

c) Others still view that not only do we not have everything we need, it’s getting worse (see, in a way, the concerns that JZ builds out in the Future of the Internet — and How to Stop It).

We’ll round up these types of issues and discussion points and include on the DPLA wiki after the session.  Please join on in.  In the meantime, check Twitter #dpla for updates on the fly of the meeting discussion itself.

Fifth Conference on Law and Mind Sciences

In studying the practices of young people with respect to information and technology, one of the themes that comes up all the time is whether or not “their brains are being rewired” as they use new media.  Conversations about how kids interact with one another through social media often turn to questions of whether or not young people who spend a lot of time on Facebook (or, previously, MySpace, Friendster, and so forth) are less happy, less truly social, or other undesirable things.  It is plain that those who study mind science have an enormous amount to contribute — if not the most important things to contribute — to our shared understanding of what is going on with youth, information, and technology in the 21st century.

Today, Prof. Jon Hanson is hosting the Fifth Conference on Law and Mind Sciences at Harvard Law School.  The idea, dating back to 2007, has been to “introduce to scholars and students of law and legal theory intriguing, relevant research from social psychology, social cognition, public health, and related disciplines and to stimulate a productive, interdisciplinary exchange between scholars across these fields.”  It’s a rare and fun opportunity to hear from a broad range of mind scientists about their work and how it might intersect with ours in the field of law.

For instance, Dr. Laura Kubzansky (Harvard School of Public Health) discussed the relationship between stress and resilience.  (One data point that jumped out very clearly: the biggest contributor to some terrible health effects is work-related stress.)

Dr. Kristina Olson (Yale psychology department), an expert on children’s social cognitive development, spoke directly to some of the issues that we wonder about in the Youth and Media Policy group at the Berkman Center with respect to social inequalities.  Very young children (aged 3 – 5), her research shows, have an understanding of social inequality.  Even three year olds are more likely to presume that whites in America are more likely to be rich than black Americans (whether or not the children asked were white or black).  Another interesting finding of Dr. Olson’s was the likelihood of small children, each of whom has been allocated a stuffed animal to give to one person, to give the gift to a person who had allocated resources more equitably than others.

Arnold Ho (soon-to-be-minted ph.d. in psychology at Harvard) works on social dominance theory.  He introduced the theory to those of us previously ignorant of it (myself included) and showed how new research on the biased perception of biracials (Asian-White and Black-White biracials, in his work) may serve a hierarchy-increasing function.

There were many additional wonderful presentations and take-aways, especially in Jon Hanson’s own closing lecture.  My three thoughts at the end of the day: 1) how fun it is to feel allowed to be a student again, where the topic on the table is relevant to my area of work, but is not something about which I know the first thing; 2) how much more we can learn about kids and technology if we study the methods and the learning of mind sciences researchers; and 3) how valuable Jon Hanson’s work on the way we make policy judgments generally is for anyone studying the law or making normative judgments about how to order society.

Collective Management of Copyright: Solution or Sacrifice?

The Kernochan Center at Columbia University Law School is hosting its annual symposium today in NYC on the timely issue of collective management of copyright.

Non-IP lawyers may be scratching their heads after reading that sentence.  What, after all, is collective management of copyright?  Daniel Gervais, the opening keynote speaker, starts the conference by answering that question, as he has in much of his terrific scholarship (including his edited book on Collective Management of Copyright; see ch. 1, up to page 28).  Collective management, Gervais tells us, is a way to make the copyright system work in a complex world of many stakeholders.  A collective management organization (CMO) aggregates a series of rights held in private hands and then issues licenses on a broad, common basis to users.  The historical uses of this approach date back to the 1700s in France, when dramatic works began to be managed on a collective basis.  More recently, also in Europe, many CMOs have emerged to manage rights in a range of settings.  We also see collective management in the music business in the United States.

The reason that I’m particularly interested in collective management of copyrights right now has to do with books and other materials collected and distributed by libraries.  I am working, along with other colleagues, on the nascent idea of a Digital Public Library of America.  We are exploring how we might develop a way to make much more in the way of digitized works available broadly, through online or physical libraries, in a public-spirited way that ensures also that authors and other creators continue to get paid for their work.   The proposed Google Books Search Settlement, pending before Judge Chin in federal court here in New York, would be another example of a privately-orchestrated collective management system for books.  Our DPLA idea might well take the form of a collective management arrangement with tiered access to different sorts of data.

To answer the question posed by the conference title: I think collective management of copyright is generally speaking a useful solution to problems of fragmentation, scale, and complexity in a digital era.  These schemes are not perfect, and nor do they represent a panacea.  My view is that well-designed collective management schemes may well provide the best way to serve the shared interests of creators, publishers, and the public in the context of libraries and otherwise.  I am eager to work with others to explore how a collective management arrangement might help to establish a DPLA.

As a side note, we are releasing today a wiki where anyone can join in the effort of developing this idea.  For instance, see the page devoted to the track dealing with Legal Issues, seeded by Prof. Pam Samuelson of Berkeley Law and her team.

And thanks and congratulations to June Besek, Pippa Loengard, Prof. Jane Ginsburg, and their team and students at Columbia for this helpful and impressive conference.