At Berkman

by Eszter Hargittai on September 22, 2008

I’m on leave this year as a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Berkman is an amazing community of people working on important and exciting projects concerning the social and policy aspects of the Internet. In just three weeks of affiliation, I’ve already participated in countless wonderful conversations with people who share my passion for studying digital media and have learned lots about related issues. My main goal for the year is to write a book on Internet use and social inequality. My biggest challenge will be staying focused on that task instead of starting up numerous collaborations with my colleagues given the many areas of overlap in our interests.

Berkman sponsors some great events that are open to the public. This Tuesday evening will be one such event: a talk and reception celebrating the recent release of the book Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. I’m still working on a separate post about the book, but wanted to post a note now given the date of the event. This will be a great opportunity to meet lots of people affiliated with the Digital Natives project upon which the book is based.



Lisa 09.22.08 at 2:31 pm

Congratulations on your fellowship and good luck on your project. Exciting experiences like that usually germinate work in the years to come–so even if you must stay on task for now, I’m sure we’ll hear of something amazing you done that is just sprouting now.


Bob B 09.22.08 at 3:54 pm

The MIT isn’t too far from Harvard so you’ll be able to meet up with Tim Berners-Lee, the Brit who invented the world-wide web:


M. Gordon 09.22.08 at 4:44 pm

How do you get to go on leave two years in a row? What is NW paying you for anyway?


eszter 09.22.08 at 5:41 pm

Matt, it’s not two years in a row, I was at NU last year. My last leave was in 2006-07.


M. Gordon 09.22.08 at 5:43 pm

Damn, I’m getting old. I can’t even remember when you were here. Still, isn’t two leaves in three years a lot for most people? Are you just that awesome?


HH 09.22.08 at 6:57 pm

The governing paradigm for the history of the early years of the Internet is a massive rear guard action by the non-digital interests. The established pre-digital institutions and their credentialing mechanisms are fighting a disciplined withdrawal, in which they give up as little ground as possible and inflict as much damage as they can on the adversary.

An ironic subplot of this great defensive maneuver is the sponsorship of Internet “research” by institutions that have everything to lose from a radical alteration of the mechanisms of society. Specifically, the credentialing and funding machinery of schools like Harvard and MIT depend on defense of their geographic organization. Thus it should not be surprising to see that the Internet scholarship coming out of these institutions is timid, narrow, unimaginative, and reassuring to the old order.

If Ezter were truly a powerful thinker in sympathy with the future of the Internet, she would take on credentialization, the central redoubt of the geographically chartered educational institutions. It is their ability to issue vocational licenses and secure career placements that make the obsolescent geographically chartered schools so powerful. Take that away, and they will vanish.

Universal digital communication means universal faculties and credentials awarded according to capability, not by paid course credits. The future of Internet Society will not be discovered at Berkman, but the rate of its arrival will likely be delayed by the work done there.


Righteous Bubba 09.22.08 at 7:06 pm

Good luck and have fun.


Seth Finkelstein 09.22.08 at 10:18 pm

Congratulations. And be wary. Berkman has many nice, nice, people, who make their living as consultants or marketers or similar to large corporations regarding how to basically (my terms) use the Internet to profit via emotional manipulation and digital-sharecropping. Again, these people are extremely personable, tops in what they do. But what they do is not necessarily such a great thing.

See my column to Lessig on anti-corruption for an oblique critique:

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