Blog Post

Notes from Jonathan Zittrain lecture at Duke Provost's Lecture Series

Jonathan Zittrain lecture
Provost's Lecture Series, Duke
5:00-6:30PM, March 3, 2010
Room 139, Social Sciences Building

Before the lecture I was able to get a short interview with Professor Zittrain on digital storytelling - stay tuned for that!

This was an extremely hard lecture to type notes for, because JZ made extensive use of the quadrant diagram below (picture courtesy of Paul Jones):

Pic of chart better seen in @zittrain s Future of the Interne... on Twitpic

In my notes, UL refers to the upper left quadrant, UR refers to the upper right, LR the lower right, and LL the lower left.

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When I walk in, JZ is sitting at a table at the front of the room in front of his computer. The lights are turned down a little to accommodate a projector screen. Downtempo music is playing when I walk in, then some acousticy music gets cut short in favor of a slow 50s jazz foxtrot. I think JZ is DJing a little bit.

Intro to Provost series by Clay. Series deals with preservation and use of materials. Last one will be David Ferriero, archivist of the US, former Duke librarian. Started Berkman Center - what we seek to learn is not already recorded, so self-study, and share.
Zittrain takes stage.

Lecture title: The historical record in the digital age.
vertical axis: top-down (upper end) /bottom up (lower end) rules emanate from one person to another - those empowered to shape the system are in identity with the system.
horizontol axis: hierarchy (on left end): system which precludes; polyarchy (on right end) - there is choice

roughly forms of govt can be mapped this way: going in a circle around the quadrants.
authoritarian (hierarchy, top down, UL quandrant)
democratic (representative govt) - every once in a while, the spy kills the general in Stratego
federalist - EU model with subsidiary. But you still can move.
corporate - markets as they are classically understood. a product you want, shaped to your desires. feedback between maker and buyer, but still a clear delineation between the two. still a dichotomy between buyers and makers.
anarchists - source of constraint can be the person next to you, not just bueaurocrats in DC
libertarian - highly skeptical of govt. best security is a shotgun.
communitarian - what everyone wants may outweigh minorities. can still bind people. if you dont like it, its not as clear that you can leave - may feel obligated to stay. but richer participation.

Now we can tell stories with the chart: antiglobalization story - its a problem. G8 protests. how do cultures move from one area of the quadrant to another?
the race to the bottom hierarchy that slides into polyarchy, Snow Crash Neil Stephenson - franchised corporations that help run your life. US is a franchise that competes. Chance of regulation decreases then. can be reversed - the race to the top?

Topeka, Kansas is now Google, Kansas for a month?! Govt entity willing to do that in order to satisfy a corporate interest?!

Use the chart to talk about how we remember what we remember. Models of info accumulation and attainment.

Metaphor: Garden of Eden, which has landmarks like the Tree of Life. No guard there! (Tough crowd, little laughter at joke!) library/state-defined knowledge. privileged source of information. can define what counts as knowledge.  books[ellers], newspapers, libraries a little lower, which end up separately from the govt. where we park stuff to get access to. cultural memory, oral traditions, tracts pamphlaters (not a lot of structure) rich polyarchy, bottom-up. knowledge component of culture.

models of control: how do these repositories get shaped and by whom? govts UL > people LR. What are you allowed to be the source of? i.e. speech.
libraries UR > people LR. what do you put on your shelves. what is mainstream knowledge that we all depend on? So those folks may want to shape what you get. OR govt > libraries > people indirect route.

Story about the internet online 1990. Boyle, Lessig, Reidenberg. Replace booksellers with gated services (AOL, compuserve, etc) BUT - internet develops in LR, people experimenting with network, which is way UR didnt see it coming. They thought they were competing against each other, not concerned with internet - online 1995. Internet doesnt have a CEO. ISPs are introduced, far UR - using protocols of internet to make money.

online 2000. internet and ISPs are almost the only game in town. Friendster UR turns out not to be as fun. Google comes along and start to occupy that quadrant. UR is still capable of shaping what their users experience, just like prior generation UR folks like AOL.

online 2008 - Prince Roy gets an antiaircraft platform! War, POWs!
Boyle in late 90s said: if you add China as a regulator, youve still got plenty of intermediaries you can lean on to help with regulation. Youd miss a lot if I took away the top 5 sites you use. modality that exacts a real influence on things.

library fits in the UR too - you may be more principled, ie. rejecting patriot act clauses. values caused them to lead the charge. but even libraries feel regulation effectuated by the govt. copyright is a good example. not enforced by govt, but private parties.
Why DRM doesnt work - 22 steps to get through it. give up on stupid library and go to bit torrent site.

libraries have contractual obligations, (like Content DM? he doesnt say that).
Revising the Record - rise of the net changes risks, and makes the top quadrants want to change it more.
slide: justifications
- national security
- privacy
- copyright
- fairness (jury taint, group insult,)
(missed the rest)
poison in milk paper - those charged with defending us cause panic. Streisand effect - whats this i hear about the milk supply?! 1998 - EPAs worst case scenarios tell us the worst thing you can imagine. For the purpose of informing nearby people - just so you know!! But the govt says - dont let anyone see that report! Govt reading rooms, frisked, devices taken away, read in the privacy of your own mind. Well-meaning but comical. Esp. when you think about the public record. What you end up with is oral tradition! Copyright act section 503. Impounding and disposition of infringing articles, not usually applied to books. freeburma.org - access has been denied.

Wired: German threat raises infowar fear. 2001. Neonazi sites: we reserve the right to plan a cybersecurity attack to bring it down. The germans are planning an attack says Wired.
Star wars kid- never intended to reach the internet. bad news for SWK. Cant do much about it.
Google bosses convicted in italy. BBC news. 3000 hours of video in a minute? Italy says too bad, youre responsibility. might have to change your business model.
Google changed its stance on china. Google regulating around the curve of the quadrants.
Govt initiated document. FOIA - govt needs a reason NOT to give them to us. 1995 ruling - govt planned to deal with emails - print out a copy, person gets to decide to delete email or not. Court says thats a joke! Bushs Dept of Justice says documents werent recoverable - sorry, cant get them anymore!

Private services that promise bring new depth and dimension to document destruction laughs.
formerly disappearing inc, omniva - the problem with email - nearly impossible to erase! solution is to screen each email. keys from the mothership allow you to get it. keys are no longer accessible. it doesnt exist unless you find a way to save it.
google books -  plan is theres ONE master copy, in  googles possession. you can get to it from anywhere. raises the fort knox problem all the stuff is in 1 place, that means i can get an order to excise that 1 copy. google has to comply, its the law. just like music from lala or pandora. holes appear in the historical record that way. thats a threat, but not many people see its urgent. pic of  Orwell 1984 on the Kindle. Then Amazon thinks it wasnt cleared to release, then sent a signal to delete all the 1984s on Kindles. You never bought 1984! That is terrifying says Zittrain. Not cloud computing, cause it physically resides on your device, but not yours - Amazon can still reach in and do something to it.

Zoning the record. Chance for compromise. What if the record wasnt binary. It exists depending on where you are. controlled detonation of IED on google vid. in the UK you see video, but US video is not playable in your country. Regional restriction. Then what record you get depends on where youre from. jurisdiction is most common, but what about down political lines. looks like compromise. we wont show it to you, but we wont take it down.

Scratching the historical record. trying to distort it with decoys. spoofing napster to death - flood the network with fake songs, e.g. Madonna. fighting piracy: our 3 point programs. Fake harry potter torrents commissioned by JK Rowling.
 
Rumsfeld says terrorists are better at manipulating the press. Air force psych ops! to convey selected info and indicators to foreign audiences to fuck with the behavior of others. do the indicators have to be true? probably not! Letting it fly anywhere but the US. Licoln Group gets DOD deal to work in Baghdad for disseminating propaganda through newspapers. 20 years later, its still in the record and it was fake.

Latvia Tony Snow, we go off the record becomes senior administration official Bizarre Kabuki theatre! Shows NY times article. Dan Bartlet and snow playing deep throat! They didnt put on sunglasses, everybody in the room did! Wonkette, magically become anonymous. Later that day, Snow introduces himself as senior administration official! Catastrophic, no. but still important.
Photos being clearly photoshopped in papers. Reuters photo example. Yahoo later says, whoops, sorry, now its gone. Official response from Reuters: you must not do more with photoshop than you used to do in the darkroom.

Solutions - what do we do? rise of digital tech not making a more accurate.
first- get rid of fort knoxes. make multiple copies. like libraries. LOCKSS, long lasting tortoise! role for libraries to play. answer to google or kindle situation. do what you do, but these libraries each get there own copy to. to check against other libraries and checked against master copy to detect hand in the cookie jar. inverting disappearing inc. encrypt stuff with keys that go public after 50 years that come undone day by day. vaults only open at the right time. good compromise.
wayback machine by Brewster. somebody needs a copy of this stuff! copies everything! duke.edu down to the day! but hes still just one person to arrest or die. so damned valuable nobody wants to sue him out of existence, has a buy right now.

Filtering and zoning problems.
go from site to site, unless the site has been brought down by something. links that dont persist. not good that links go down, which is status quo right now. what could we do to prevent that? strength in numbers. the principles of mutual aid to gather folks into a stronger force.  like elk! proposal: mirror as you link. so you can circumvent down nodes. ask server, would you like this to persist? works both ways, you can opt out. extremely simple - just do it through apache and mircosoft. protect info that is born and stays digital. if ISPs or filters get in the way, its just participating in a web robustness scheme, not poking china in the eye ideologically.
solutions all involve the LL quadrant - start in bottom-up and polyarchy and move left. wikipedia moved LR to LL.

Cartoons that shook the world, Jytte Klausen, Yale press. Gillings posting cartoons. Yale excised all the depictions right before press. overwhelming judgement was that violence might occur. tough call, Duke provost says i would have gone to press. JZ says "Have I got a 2nd edition for you", that's what you call calling the bluff! lots of laughs. you can see them right now on dozens of other sites. why isnt wikipedia afraid? its an unthinking machine! decentralized threats are met effectively by decentralized media, rather than kevlar coated media. JZ didnt want to be the skunk at the garden party - covered Mohammed image in wiki page displayed. discussion page says heres a wikipedia plugin to install to avoid seeing it! Some college editors were suspended.

Star Wars Kid - what bothers him most is that people might know his name. Wikiepdia article does not have his name in it. extensive argument about including his name. not relevent to the historical record. Communitarian - you cant just include the name because you want to.
This is the power of the 4th quadrant, loosely federated with others. someone is wrong on the internet - kcxd. Wikipedia is participation in how the record will be defined. its this kind of dialogue: this should be at the center of education.

2nd garden metaphor: public park. Boyle, tragedy of commons. impose 4 quadrants on it and try to understand the tragedies. UL litter police clean up, lots of costs. UR - corporate solution. hire someone to clean it up, or prisoners - divorces people form the park. LR - not much, leaves it to individuals, not a lot of grip. LL has the low hanging fruit, where we havent tried a lot of solutions, where the potential for innovation lies. focus attention there. structure the park with litter bins, with cute signs. Stupid sign on paper towels makes you use less of them. Dont wash your hands says duke, use the sanitizer to save money. "OK, youre duke, ill do it!" prevailing on people to act humanely. Feel better after theyve done it. best quadrant to produce our digital record.

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Mike

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2 comments

Did anyone else there take notes on this? Want to try an experiment on his communitarian edict? Let me know if you'd like to help smooth out these very rough attempts to grasp what was a pretty mind-expanding lecture for me.

I'll post the interview on the HASTAC Scholars blog once I've done some editing of the video.

Thanks,

Mike

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The lecture is now on Duke's YouTube channel in case you are still looking to round out your fantastic notes, Mike.  Here's the url:

 

http://youtu.be/_kpur7yJ7EE

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