Berkman in the News
In an age of eBooks, Google, and Smartphones, many have questioned the importance of libraries. John Palfrey ’01, has penned a new book, which he calls “a love letter to libraries,” that makes the case that libraries are more relevant than ever. Palfrey, who currently serves as Head of School at Phillips Academy, Andover, and as director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, spoke about his new book, “BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever In An Age of Google,” at HLS on June 22. Palfrey previously served as vice dean for Libraries and Information Resources at Harvard Law School and as executive director of the Berkman Center from 2002 to 2008.
“I am delighted that the Ransom Center has joined other world-class institutions such as Harvard University, Yale University and Cornell University in opening up material,” said Peter B. Hirtle, fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society and a senior policy advisor at Cornell University Library.Future efforts will involve removing restrictions for other materials believed to be in the public domain and making them available through the Ransom Center’s digital collections portal.
Google’s decision to remove “revenge porn” from its search results is the latest in a string of efforts made by Internet companies to help thwart harassment online, and a win for advocacy groups that have been working on the issue. But any decision by Google to limit its search results automatically sends ripples through First Amendment circles. To get a sense of what this means for Google and the rest of us, we asked Andy Sellars, a First Amendment Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, to walk us through the issue.
“Digital gerrymandering occurs when a site instead distributes information in a manner that serves its own ideological agenda,” wrote Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law and computer science at Harvard University, in the New Republic. “There are plenty of reasons to regard digital gerrymandering as such a toxic exercise that no right-thinking company would attempt it.”
“More and more communities understand that high-speed wired Internet access represents critical infrastructure right up there with telephone and roads,” said David Talbot, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. “Community networks are often seen as a way to advance economic development, attract high-tech businesses, cut municipal costs, and bring competition to the market.”
“Long-term, there’s no reason all of these tasks need to be carried out by one company,” says Ben Doernberg, a bitcoin expert and research assistant at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “A designer in Brazil can build a lovely mobile app that sends your ride request to a matching engine based in San Francisco that pulls trust ratings from a blockchain-based decentralized identity system. When someone in Chicago makes a better matching engine, decentralized Uber switches over and doesn’t miss a beat.”
On April 2, Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain ’95 addressed the impact of algorithms on our lives, on and offline. His lecture “Love the Processor, Hate the Process: The Temptations of Clever Algorithms and When to Resist Them” marked his appointment as George Bemis Professor of International Law.
For Fisher’s course, groups of 25 students and their TFs logged on to an Adobe conferencing system each week and spent an hour and a half in the same virtual room, debating the cases at hand. Granted, there were a few more technical difficulties to iron out, but “It’s remarkably similar to teaching in person,” says Ana Enriquez ’10, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and CopyrightX’s head TF. In fact, she says, the diverse online student pool created openings for particularly rich discussions, as artists and filmmakers could weigh in with their professional experiences.
To Ryan Budish, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the Internet of Things means that “anything that can be connected to the Internet will be.”“The benefits are tremendous,” says Mr. Budish. From immediate convenience and comfort to bridging the information gap, the Internet of Things has applications across many fields. Budish gives two examples to detail the scope of the Internet of Things: mobile payment systems such as Android Pay or Apple Pay and automatic airplane maintenance checks – such as sensors embedded into machinery to report back its health and issue alerts before it fails.
What is the role of the library in the information age — is it a repository for the great art, a building with free web access, or — as was the initial intention — a place for learning and research? Can it adapt to changing times while staying true to its original mission? Jonathan Zittrain is the director of the Harvard Law School Library, and the author of “Why Libraries (Still) Matter.” “Libraries are often the places of last resort to find that thing that nobody bothered to hang onto, but that they later regret losing,” Zittrain said Tuesday on Boston Public Radio. “That’s kind of the Norway seed bank — that after the apocalypse we can reboot everything courtesy of a handful of the libraries of last-resort, of which the Boston Public Library is also thought of [as] one.”