Book Party for John Clippinger's A Crowd of One

This year, the Berkman faculty and fellows will publish four books on topics related to our field. Join us for the celebration of the first of the four to come out, John Clippinger’s “A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity,” published by PublicAffairs Books. The celebration will take place on Thursday, April 19, 2007,at 5:30 PM at Harvard Law School in Pound Hall 200 with John speaking about the book, and will continue with a cocktail reception at the Berkman Center at 6:30 PM, located at 23 Everett St., also located on the law school campus. Please send an e-mail to rsvp AT cyber.law.harvard.edu to let us know if you plan to attend.

Here’s the promo blurb: “John Clippinger, one of today’s preeminent experts on how technology influences business and society, offers a fresh and provocative perspective, grounded in everyday and historical examples, that presents a vision for a new scientific understanding of human nature and identity. In A CROWD OF ONE, Clippinger takes us through the historical origins of identity and the way it is influencing—and being influenced by—today’s world. He examines origin narratives from around the world and the religious underpinnings of many people’s identities, and explores the competing theories of human nature developed by Hobbes, Adam Smith, and some of the other leading philosophical minds throughout history. His conclusions will have profound implications for everything from social networking and virtual worlds, to leadership strategies in business and technology, to the structure of today’s military operations around the world.”

Mobile Identity Workshop and 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.

Interoperability and Innovation Research

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.

Interview with Urs Gasser

The Berkman communications team has been conducting a series of interviews with our fellows. The interviews are written up and posted to the Berkman website. The most recent interview is with Prof. Dr. Urs Gasser, a faculty fellow and the director of a research center at the University of St. Gallen. His center — along with a few others, like the OII, the Citizen Lab in Toronto, Dan Gillmor’s citizens’ media center — has become one of the key international partners to the Berkman Center in carrying out our mission.

An excerpt from the interview:

“Q: Have European markets taken a different approach than the U.S. towards regulating digital copyright? Is there an attempt being made to approach digital rights issues from a global perspective as opposed to a nation/market-specific point of view?

“Urs: Painted in broad brushes, it is fair to say that the U.S. and European copyright frameworks follow similar approaches as far as digital rights issues are concerned. This doesn’t come as a big surprise, since important areas such as, for instance, the legal protection of technological protection measures have been addressed at the level of international law – e.g. in the context of the WIPO Internet Treaties. However, the closer you look, the more differences among the legal systems you will find, even within Europe, where copyright laws and consumer protection laws, to name just two important areas, vary significantly if you move from – say – Germany to the U.K. as our Berkman/St. Gallen studies have demonstrated. But from the “big picture perspective” you are certainly right, there is a global trend towards convergence of digital copyright law, driven especially by TRIPS and the WIPO treaties, but also (and equally important) by bilateral free trade agreements.”

For more on Urs’ center and his colleagues, check out the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen (I am proudly a member of its Board), as well Daniel Hausermann’s blog.