Cyberscholar Working Group >


Harvard-MIT-Yale Cyberscholar Working Group

Wednesday, January 26, 6:00pm ET
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St. 2nd Floor
RSVP is required to

The "Harvard-MIT-Yale Cyberscholar Working Group" is a forum for fellows and affiliates of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MITYale Law School Information Society Project, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to discuss their ongoing research.

This month's presenters will include:

What Should an Educated Person Know about Computers?
Brian Kernighan, Department of Computer Science, Princeton University

All of us are affected by computing, in ways we may not even realize. Some of the technology is highly visible, like laptops, cell phones and the Internet; most is invisible, like the processors in everything from gadgets to infrastructure, or the myriad systems that quietly collect personal data about us.

For the past decade, I have been teaching "Computers in Our World," a course for students in the humanities and social sciences. The course describes how computing works -- hardware, software, networks, and systems built upon them -- for a very non-technical audience. The intent, or perhaps just fond hope, is to help students understand computing and communications technologies, how to reason about how systems work, and how to be intelligently skeptical about technology and technological claims. I'm writing a book on this during my sabbatical at Harvard and the Berkman Center, and would love to get advice and opinions from the Cyberscholars group.

Brian Kernighan received his PhD from Princeton in 1969, and was in the Computing Science Research center at Bell Labs until 2000. He is now in the Computer Science Department at Princeton. His research areas include programming languages, tools and interfaces that make computers easier to use, often for non-specialist users. He is also interested in technology education for non-technical audiences.

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Visualizing Human Presence: Tools for the Social Study of Human, Remote, and Autonomous Operations
Yanni Loukissas, Postdoctoral Associate, Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The research team at the MIT Laboratory for Automation, Robotics, and Society (LARS) is developing tools for information visualization that will bring social science questions into view for human-centered computing. The goal is to create open-source software that will enable broad professional audiences to more easily trace social relationships in short (~10 minute), real-time, technical activities. This project will make timely use of data from ongoing LARS ethnographic studies in order to develop these tools and demonstrate their usefulness in understanding the changing meaning and importance of presence in human, remote, and autonomous operations. Visualizing Human Presence follows upon PI David Mindell’s most recent book, Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight (2008), which narrates the history of the Apollo guidance and control system and its relationship to debates about pilots’ roles in aviation during the twentieth century. The qualities of human participation in technical operations like Apollo have implications for control, repeatability, and safety. But perhaps more importantly, our enduring conceptions of human judgment, perception, and skill are shaped in the face of such interactions with automation and the importance they assign to human presence in different forms. The LARS team has already experimented with visualizing data from the Apollo 11 moon landing. The proposed tools for information visualization will generalize the lessons of Digital Apollo to help researchers, designers and operators of automated systems who wish to account for the human context of their work.

Yanni Alexander Loukissas, PhD is an interdisciplinary designer and researcher working across multiple fields, including visual art, architecture, computer science, and anthropology. His work is driven by a persistent interest in how new technologies shape our social, spatial and intellectual landscapes. At present, he is developing visualization tools for the study of human-machine relationships in complex environments. He is also writing a book based on his doctoral dissertation, "Conceptions of Design in a Culture of Simulation." Dr. Loukissas is currently a postdoctoral associate at MIT, where he works with the Laboratory for Automation, Robotics, and Society (LARS). He has taught at Cornell, MIT, and the Museum School. He also consults on projects that bring together art and technology in innovative ways. Most recently, he worked with Small Design Firm on an art information system for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He holds a PhD and a SMArchS in Design and Computation from MIT and a BArch from Cornell University.

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The Anonymous Internet

Bryan H. Choi, Kauffman Fellow,  Information Society Project at Yale Law School

In a set of recent publications, Jonathan Zittrain has posited that the key benchmark in designing future internet regulations should be “generativity,” a quality he defines as “a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences.” In this paper, I explore how we might implement a regulatory principle of least harm to generativity. In particular, I propose that we look to regulating anonymity as an alternative to regulating generativity. Not only would it be effective at mitigating much of the impulse to lock down new technologies, but it would be less intrusive because it is already consistent with the way we regulate behavior offline.

Bryan H. Choi (J.D. Harvard) is a Kauffman Fellow with the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Previously, he was a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. His research interests include anonymity, digital identity, privacy, and reputation, particularly as they relate to the internet.

Last updated January 27, 2011