OII SDP 2007 (Epilogue): Last thoughts about Web Science and Academic Blogging or Why did not Academia came up with Wikipedia. And some acknowledgments too.

Conferences 2.0
Why Academic Blogging
What Is Web Science

If I were asked to summarize everything that’s happened at the Oxford Internet Institute Summer Doctoral Programme 2007 here at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society I would, undobtedly, quote Jonathan Zittrain in one of his comments past Thursday: Why did not Academia came up with Wikipedia?

To explain why, I can (1) draw a list of all the applications and/or online resources we used during the course, (2) write a little digression about academic blogging and (3) explain one of my recursive reflections during these days: what is Web Science.

Conferences 2.0

Speaking in public has changed, specially if you pretend the audience to interact. Solemn one way speeches are over; prettily packeted content is too. The full deployment of ways to interact with people and information during the course was astonishing. I might be forgetting some of them, but here comes a rough list:

  • Presentation tools, such as PowerPoint or the like. Some speakers also used mind-mapping applications. Some of them uploaded here.
  • The Live Question Tool, to publish questions on the fly why listening to the speaker
  • Wiki, as the main reference, schedule and content manager of the seminar
  • Blogs: many of them.
  • Flickr, for the photos
  • YouTube and other video streaming platforms to watch some footage
  • del.icio.us, for the links
  • BibCiter, for bibliographies…
  • …and eMule and Ares to share them in PDF or other formats on P2P networks
  • H2O Playlists, for academic references in general
  • Instant messaging, to keep in touch with people home or students
  • Skype, to call home
  • One ring to rule them all: OII/Berkman 2007 Summer Doctoral Programme planet aggregator
  • One ring to find them: Technorati
  • One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them: Google Reader
  • Facebook, with his corresponding group, to build and manage the social network
  • doppler, for the followup geolocation followup
  • Also for followup purposes and appointments Twitter or Upcoming
  • In the meantime, some of the attendants are sharing their music tastes through Last.fm
  • And, of course, there’s always plenty of e-mail.
  • And SMSs
  • And phone calls
  • All these things on mobile phones, public phones (using fixed liines), handhelds, laptops and desktops either connected via wireless or LAN, some owned, some accesible at public points.
  • Somebody even watched TV

And yes, most of them we used simultaneously all of the time, some of them were for post-conference purposes.

The fact: number of business cards delivered? Just one, to Samuel Klein in our visit to the OLPC Foundation.

The anecdote: Karoline Lukaschek asked me to borrow a pen for the card. I gave her a pen drive to download into it the photos on her camera card. Well, she just wanted to sign the greetings card for the Berkman staff. Weird.

Why Academic Blogging

The use and goals of these tools were many, but the main philosophy behind was absolutely the same: disclosure. Disclosure and engage in the conversation. As stated by John Palfrey himself the first day, blogging (and diffusion in general) will be the default; anyone interested in not to be blogged or whatever, should manifest it explicitly.

I still remember the reticences around when the MIT set up the OpenCourseWare project: nobody’s gonna enroll in your courses anymore, they said. Well, the reaction to this Berkman disclosure policy has been twofold and crystal clear:

  • For those not being able to attend the course, infinite gratitude (I’ve got e-mails) for sharing the materials, the experiences, the reflections, etc.
  • For those aiming to attend the course, no crowding out effect at all but the contrary: the awaiting of a long long year before the call for applications for SDP2008 is out. I’ve got e-mails too.

But besides this unselfish sharing of knowledge (I wasn’t actually being unselfish, but just taking notes on my geeky notebook: WordPress) the real thing has been networking. On one hand, the ones blogging during the seminars have created a densest grid of posts, interlinked ones to others, and by thus enriching one’s own posts about a subject or session.

On the other hand, some posts got out of the circle and were mentioned by some other people such as John Palfrey, Ethan Zuckerman or Doc Searls, to name some of the ones that linked to me. Other faculty linked other attendants as well.

And not just contact, but also good input, as Julen’s on the XXVIIth session about IP incentives and peer production.

Reversely, I could almost close the circle I opened when I first met online Tobias Escher, by meeting in person Helen Margetts and Ralph Schroeder, both working with him. The circle will actually close formally in September in York when I’ll meet Tobias himself.

What Is Web Science

This eagerness to use these many online tools leads me to my next topic of reflection. Because, somehow, I think it can be used as some kind of proxy to measure what has been one of the recurrent subjects of personal analysis these days.

Related to the Internet, in particular, and this ICT enhanced society, in general (informational society, information society, knowledge society… whatever), I believe there are two opposite approaches to do research about it.

The first one, the traditional approach, is taking the changes in the society as a second derivative: I do research in Intellectual Property and I found that the Internet is changing my field of knowledge, the target of my research, hence, I will study the interaction between Intellectual Property and the Internet.

Second, the one I’d call the Web Science approach and is better explained with an example: I want to explore the concept of the Digital Native (I actually do, specially his relationship with the concept of e-Awareness). To do so, I must know about psychology and neurosciences (as Mark Prensky did), about how technologies work (Web 2.0, usability, server-client technical relationships, AJAX), sociological implications (social networks, digital identities), economical (broadband diffusion, mobile penetration), legal (cybercrime, intellectual property, spam), political (civic engagement, hacktivism, e-democracy), education (e-portfolio, personal learning environments, long-life learning, e-learning, game-based teaching), communication (citizen journalism), art and culture (mashups, rip-mix-burn), and the longest et caetera ever.

People I know range from one endpoint to the other, being myself, philosophically, no doubt in one of the furthest edges of the Web Science approach. I don’t think there’s a best or a worst approach, but I also believe that:

  1. Some aspects of today’s (and tomorrow’s even more) life can only be fully explained (if possible) through a Web Science approach, e.g. Digital Natives
  2. Some other aspects can be perfectly be approached in the traditional way, but will require a “digital effort” that, if not done, no valid conclusions can emerge from such researches. Cybercrime is, all in all, crime, but it will be absolutely necessary to understand what an ISP or an IP is, what and how works digital watermarking or hashing or electronic certificates, the technical difference between phishingh and pharming. Or why e-Democracy and e-Governance will be “2.0” (and what this exactly means) or they just won’t be. Or why the number of secure servers is a good proxy to measure e-Business (I owe Michael Best pointing me to this last one, thank you!).

And I suspect that, besides our darkest geeky side, most of the scholars signing up to each and every new next killer app of the year just pretend to analyze things from the inside, to learn by doing, to catch up with our recent digital nationality.

The answer to the question Why did not Academia came up with Wikipedia? is, under this train of though, quite easy: we were far and outside. In another galaxy. In a dimension made out of atoms and time.


I can help but end this series of articles by thanking the people that made possible one of my best fortnights so far, both at the intellectual and emotional levels.

Amar Ashar, Suzanne Henry, Colin Maclay, John Palfrey, Jonathan Zittrain, Marcus Foth, Urs Gasser and Ralph Schroeder — the core organizing committee, if I’m not wrong — deserve my highest gratitude, the one you pay by giving them your home keys and a bed in your best room when they’re around town, just that one.

The Faculty leading the seminars is one of that treasures you’d like to keep forever, specially when knowing that they came just for the pleasure of it — and how accessible, willing to share and how good listeners they were.

The attending students — my colleagues… my friends — are responsible for one of my worst headaches (knowledge overload) and heartaches (emotions overdose) ever. Never forgive you about that. I mean it. I just wish the hangover will last for long if not forever… or even get worse.

Last, but not least, I have a huge debt with Tim Kelly, Pere Fabra and Julià Minguillón for their support in me coming here. You all added up to make it possible: thank you, thanks a lot.

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SDP 2007 related posts (2007)

OII SDP 2007 (XXXIII): Summing up & what’s next

Unsorted, non-elaborated ideas that showed up on the last session:

OII SDP 2007 Reloaded

Organizing a conference on the previous days of the next edition of the SDP. During this year there’ll be a call for papers & review. This should be extended to the whole pool of SDP students since 2003. A journal or proceedings book would be a good output of the whole work. Seminars and workshops could wrap up the conference. Organizing committee: Vero, María, Karoline, Karen, Alla, Chintan, Daithí, Ismael

The idea of this event is:

a) first, to put together a call for papers (works in progress) to get a nice
feedback about the big (and small) questions that were put on the table in the
course of these last two weeks.

b) Second, this event would take the format of a working conference/workshop,
and invite faculty to comment and discuss ont eh work. In addition, we could
have a keynote speaker or two.

c) Tentative dates could be somewhere between May-June 2008. Ideally, the event
would take place in the OII.

d) In the spirit of having an open intellectual debate and collaboration, we’ll
open the call for papers to fellow OII SDP students from past years.

Led by Veronica Alfaro and María Gómez

Conference on the History of the Internet

Title proposal: From Whence to Whither: Intellectual Property, the Internet and what the Past has to offer the Digital Age. A Commemorative Conference in 2008

Led by Ben Peters

Links brainstorm

Credit of the brainstorm goes to all the participants of the course, students and faculty.


SDP 2007 related posts (2007)

OII SDP 2007 (XXXIV): The End of Core: should disruptive innovation in telecom invoke discontinuous regulatory response?

Student research seminar: Chintan Viashnav

In a highly abstracted conceptualization, both the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and the Internet consist of two components: the end-devices and the network that connects them. Traditional telecommunications regulation has assumed the presence of a network core that could be engineered to fulfill regulatory goals as well as a vertically-integrated industry structure that could meet regulatory obligations. In my dissertation, I propose to take the case of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), the technology that enables voice communications over the Internet, and argue that disruptive trends in technology are eroding the control in the core that was traditionally possessed by network designers and owners. This eroding control in the core has the potential to render the current VoIP regulation inadequate and unsustainable, requiring that future regulatory response be discontinuous from that of the past. This study uses a system dynamics model to study the dynamic complexity surrounding the current VoIP regulation and to understand policy options for preventing undesirable outcomes. The model consists of four sectors: the consumer adoption sector for modeling demand, the industry structure sector for modeling supply, the regulatory compliance sector for modeling the level of compliance, and the innovation sector for modeling innovation trends.

Current regulatory response to VoIP (goals)

  • Public Safety
  • Law Enforcement Capability
  • Equal opportunity
  • Economic Development
  • Competition

Of those five traditional aspects, just the two first are really developed. Disruptive trends such as VoIP erode assumed control in the core. With eroding control in the core meeting regulatory objetives will increasingly require regulatory responses discontinous from the past.

The functionality is dispersing to the end-deivde,k at the ownership of the Core (who’s in charge of guaranteeing the procedure of the communication) is fragmenting.

The End of Core can cause

  • Regulatory misalignment, and thus
  • Inefficiency in achieving regulatory compliance
  • Regulatory capture by new players
  • And may require discontinuing access-centric regulatory thinking… and understanding the value chain
  • Circum-innovation, and thus
  • arms race between proponents of compliance and non-compliance
  • And may require discontinuing command-and-control regulatory thinking… and understanding a collaborative model of regulation

System Dynamics Model: when a desired regulatory compliance takes place, circumvention actinos seem to wider the existing compliance gap. How to control the whole system?

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SDP 2007 related posts (2007)

OII SDP 2007 (XXXIII): Legal (and non-legal) approaches to the regulation of “web media”

Student research seminar: Daithí Mac Síthigh

In this seminar, I discuss my ongoing research topic on how media/brodcasting law is changed – or changes – in relation to new, Internet-based media. While this is not a new issue for scholars of the media or freedom of expression, the current ‘transition period’ is certainly a fertile one for the researcher. Acknowledging the range of recent publications and studies dealing with the US, I focus on the treatment of new media in Canada and the European Union. In this presentation, the relevant legislation, regulations and proposals for reform are discussed, and a range of theoretical approaches are highlighted; I touch on the role of technological determinism in the reformers’ strategies, and note my ongoing engagement with the work of Harold Innis and its relevance to contemporary debates. I conclude with some general observations and questions on the challenges presented by this particular project.


  • Audiovisual Media Services directive
  • Telecoms
  • Media Pluralism

…vs. Canada

  • New Media Exemption order
  • Future Environment report
  • Mobile exemption oder
  • Diversity of voices

Harold Innis

  • time-binding and space-binding
  • the bias of communication
  • monopolies of knowledge
  • Toronto School
  • Intellectual father of Marshall McLuhan

Role of Technological Determinism in Law Reform

  • The influence/prevalence of technological determinism in the reform process
  • Analyse or criticise?
  • How much detail?
  • How much to explain?
  • Content Analysis or Narrative?

Technological neutrality

  • No “discrimination” between technologies
  • Regulate services not technologies
  • Canada: “section 3 mandate”
  • Net neutrality — danger!
  • “Non-Media-Law” regulation
  • Debate at WSIS

My reflections

  • I wonder whether, besides the geographical axis, a temporal axis could be added so other historic technology regulation shifts could be brought into the analysis, such as the changes the radio or the television implied for Law. Daithí Mac Síthigh states that it then becomes a problem of scope. Besides this, the shift we’re experiencing is richest enough to be analyzed on its own.

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SDP 2007 related posts (2007)

OII SDP 2007 (XXXII): Noank Media

Lead: Terry Fisher

Solutions to crisis to actual business model

  • Strengthening copyrights
  • Strengthening technologycal control
  • Alternative compensation system

My reflections

  • While the technological solution behind Fisher’s model (2004), at a retailer/private level (i.e. Noank), is quite compelling, the concept itself looks exactly like the Spanish model (1941), the difference being that this sort of a gone-techie Spanish model regards only and exclusively the diffusion of digital content.
  • I don’t think that Fisher’s model at a State level (just exactly as the Spanish one, where it is hugely critizised), basing on income taxation, is Pareto Superior but, on the contrary, clearly harms the welfare of some citizens that would be willing to pay for e.g. some kind of music but not for another one, being the possibility that the taxes associated to this last kind of music consumption (plus the sort of music I like) were far higher than the will to pay for music.
  • If based on the devices and services, some other experiences (e.g. the canon in Spain) clearly show that it’s Pareto inferior by large, as it taxes lots of people not using those devices for the purposes that caused the taxation (e.g. CDs to store one’s data backups and not music)
  • Digital fingerprints have, in fact, some privacy issues, as they can be correlated with IPs
  • Rights management agencies (at least in Spain) act somehow like this and they really struggle to make significative estimates of culture consumption. Actually, there’s the danger taht marginal artists are underrepresented.


Fisher III, W. W. (2004). Promises to Keep. Technology, Law, and the Future of Entertainment (Chapter 6). Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

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SDP 2007 related posts (2007)

OII SDP 2007 (XXXI): Wikipedia & Peer Production

Leads: Jonathan Zittrain, John Palfrey

We don’t know who uses Wikipedia, we don’t know what values does it vindicates

How do people actually use/abuse it?

  • many kids use it without participating/understanding; are kids plagiarizing
  • how easy is to become a Wikipedian: try participating earnestly; experiment with particular forms, like deleting articles; concerns about “going native”

Is wikipedia egalitarian?

  • who is participating, excluded
  • control of code – control of content
  • abuse of those who give freely?

Does peer production make us into the Borg?

  • effects of lack of singular authorship

Is Wikipedia accurate?

  • citing Wikipedia as a source

Why did not Academia came up with Wikipedia? Is Academia losing the sense of what’s important? And what’s important right now? Maybe the health of the Network is an issue that should be urgently addressed (disclaimer: I fully agree, but it’s Jonathan Zittrain who says this at the gates of the publication of his next book The Future of the Internet – and How to Stop It ;)


Zittrain, J. (2007). The Future of the Internet – and How to Stop It (Chapter 6). [forthcoming]. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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SDP 2007 related posts (2007)