2002 July 4 – How’s ILaw Going?

(entry last updated: 2002-07-05 08:04:01)

I see that Donna has pointed an ‘href-finger’ at me to talk a bit about how the ILaw Program has been going, so here’s my chance to express a few thoughts.

  • All in all, it’s been a great week. When I got started in this area, I knew that I had a lot of work to do to get "up to speed" and hearing Jessica Litman speak at MIT a couple of months ago crystallized that determination. From the perspective of gaining insights into not only what the legal issues are, but also into how legal professionals think, frame and research these topics has been extraordinarily enlightening. More importantly, to realize that not everyone in the legal profession takes themselves (and the conclusions of their peers) as seriously as some has been very refreshing.

  • Although the instructors will have an interesting time trying to tie all of what we’ve been learning together tomorrow afternoon, there is a key meta-lesson here that I have been happy to hear expressed – one that might not be terribly surprising to those of you who have clicked on the “Why FurdLog?’ link to the left. The Berkman Center operates from the same basic thesis that the program I work on at MIT does: there are some vitally important dimensions to the development of effective policy that require a formal, in-depth appreciation of the technology underlying the issues in question. Interestingly, TPP starts with engineers and teaches them economics, law and political economy while the Berkman Center starts with law/pre-law and teaches them telecomm, internet protocols and digital technologies. This is extremely exciting to me, and I expect that there will be some fabulous opportunities that could come out of this.

  • Since posting my earlier comments about Charlie Nesson’s session on Tuesday, I’ve gotten some feedback from him – essentially saying that I got at least some of the key points he was trying to make (or, at least, he agreed with the conclusions that I drew <G>). I’ve had some time to think on those ideas a bit more, and the one that is really gaining on me is the one that suggests that the way out of the "Lessig Quandry" lies in developing communities of creators employing the Internet, rather than consumers surfing the Internet. In a notable bit of self examination, I have to admit that what really has driven me to get involved in these problems stems not merely from my academic and pedagogical interests, but also from the threat that some of the (proposed) developments in cyberspace mean to me, personally, as a user of the Internet to deploy my work. The real sense of that threat is far more visceral (and thus, far more motivating) than anything else that brought me to this area, and it’s what keeps me going. Maybe Charlie’s right – maybe this is the hook that can get us over the hurdle that the "invisibility of architecture" creates for us.

  • It has been a real blast to get to see some real showmen at work. Every teacher knows that a successful lecture is as much a product of stage prescence and schtick as it is intellectual preparation, and all 5 of these have really got it. Jonathan Zittrain is just unconscious/unstoppable; Larry Lessig has a style of overhead/slide presentation that leaves me in awe (not to mention that everything Donna says about his Jedi power is true – Update: Here’s the link: search on "Jedi"); Terry Fisher’s dry wit is a wondrous way to underline his important points; Yochai Benkler brings impressive rigor and humor to his theory; and Charlie Nesson is a born showman with a sly skill at misdirection that belongs in a magic act. As one of Charlie’s feedback sheets says, we need to buy them the entire library of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, since it seems that every lecture has at least some element drawn from it.

  • Finally (at least for the moment – I have to meet some people from the class for dinner and then fireworks!), they did get a good start today on getting outside the "America box" – it’s a hard thing to do, partly because it’s where we live (and the center of empire) and partly because, at least at this moment in history, what happens in the US does have dramatic implications for the Internet worldwide. Today, we got to see how the mechanisms that we’ve been examining in our context play out in the developing world, and we have just gotten started being challenged to think about what influences can be brought to bear to rectify some of the ills that persist.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say, but I have to run. Have a great Fourth of July, everyone!