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August 19, 2008

[berkman] Hub 2 – Community-involved development via SecondLife

Gene Koo and Eric Gordon are giving a Tuesday lunch talk on “Hub2: Creating Deliberative Publics through Virtual Worlds.” [I’m taking quick notes and will undoubtedly get some stuff wrong.]

Hub2 is a partnership with Boston (Harvard is sponsoring the project) to enhance the community participation process. It’d be good to have a platform for deliberative process. But land use discussions typically ahve their own technical jargon. And it can be hard to imagine what a place will be like when all you have is a 2D map. It’d be better to be working in 3D space, so you can see what t’d be like to move these trees over there, or widen the path, etc. Instead of having the community react — yes or no — to a design, why not have the community participate in the design?

Hub2 aims are providing a design process that is experiential, embodied, constructive. Hub2 heads towards “augmented deliberation”: Imagine, design, engage, activate (= IDEA). They’re using SecondLife for this. They hope citizens will use it as a design tool and come up with an affirmative vision of what they want. And because you can walk through the virtual space, you develop an informed opinion. Gene and Eric ask people to try out the space in various roles, e.g., a 33 yr old who walks her dog twice a day or as someone in a wheelchair.

The project has set up Boston Island in SecondLife and have the last name “bostonian.” They are using it for augmented deliberation about Harvard’s Honan Library Park development in north Allston, MA. Local residents get together, try out layouts, leave comments (in visual flags). Residents can access the site either at home or using the public access systems in the library; the libraries have Hub2 staff people there to help people with the system. (They have thought about the fact that they’re putting public records into a proprietary data format, but SL is the best choice.)

Over 60 teenagers have spent time on the system, along with about 30 other residents. That’s more than have participated in the traditional process.

Q: I’m glad you’re dealing with the digital divide issues. But this is a 1.2 acre park out of 350 that Harvard owns in Allston…
A: There will be more open spaces.

Q: Should we open this process up to the world?
A: It’s a local issue
A: Keeping it local builds consensus
A: Maybe. You’d want to make clear who is local and who isn’t. It might even help to defuse the situation in which the locals want a design that is impractical or reflects the needs of those who happened to have engaged in the process.

Q: Maybe you should be talking with SL about how to make the archives more open.
A: Yes. But our main goal is to improve the design process. [Someone on the irc chat points to a BBC piece on archiving virtual worlds.] [Tags: ]

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May 7, 2008

Harvard Law goes Open Access

The Harvard Law faculty has voted unanimously for an Open Access policy based on the one that the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences passed a few months ago. Yay!

John Palfrey, Harvard Law’s new vice dean for library and information resources (and, of course, the soon-to-be-former exec dir of the Berkman Center) gets to implement this happy policy.

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February 15, 2008

Brad Sucks’ surprises

Brad Sucks came to Harvard this week and gave a performance-conversation and addressed the class I’m co-teaching with John Palfrey (blogged here and here). There were a few surprises.

What was not surprising was that Brad’s totally delightful, frank, and just a good guy.

First, he pronounces his last name (Turcotte) as Tur-COTT, not Tur-COAT. I stand corrected. Also, he likes his name written as “Brad Sucks,” not “BradSucks.” Sorry twice, Brad!

Second, especially during the class, I was struck by how different copyright looks to Brad than it looks to, well, lots of others. It’s not just that copyright protection looks to Brad like a limitation on how widely his music spreads and his musical career builds. Rather, it was how foreign copyright looks to him. From what he said, it seems like an imposition of an artificial construct place on top of the work.

Here’s what I think is happening, although I can’t say that this is what Brad is thinking. To people who think of music as a work, copyright looks like the natural boundary of their work, the ethical edge of their work itself. Others (Brad, maybe?) think of music not so much as a work as a shared experience, as a connection with listeners. For them, listening is co-creation. The work feels more like a performance to them. The concept of copyright doesn’t fit easily over such a view.

Third, Brad surprised both the class and the attendees at the performance-conversation with his claim that he is a “horrible capitalist” who gives his songs away for intensely practical reasons, not because he’s an anti-copyright activist.

Thanks for coming, Brad. And thanks for being so BradSucksy. [Tags: ]

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January 29, 2008

Course begins

I’m too nervous to be able to blog about the course I’m co-teaching with John Palfrey, beyond saying that we had our first session yesterday, and there’s a course blog open to the students as posters and to anyone as a reader. (We didn’t have time yesterday to tell the students the URL, so none have posted there yet.) Well, I will say a couple more things: The title of the course is “The Web Difference,” and it’s about whether and how the Web is different, and what that means for law and policy. Also, JP is an awesome teacher. OMG.

What the heck. Yesterday, after going through preliminaries and intros, JP led the class for half an hour in a discussion of a case in which awful things were said on a discussion board, yet the discussion board owner was not held liable. If those things had been said in a newspaper, the paper could have been sued. What’s the difference in the two situations and why might the law be different in them? I led a similarly-themed discussion, far more awkwardly, about whether friendship on the Web is “real” and how it differs from real world friendship. [Tags: ]

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