Whirlwind day at Harvard's Berkman Center

Summary:I wanted to publicly say thanks to the folks at The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School (HLS) for having me over for most of the day Tuesday (earlier this week).  I'm purposely not naming names because I know I'll leave someone out and I don't want to do that.

I wanted to publicly say thanks to the folks at The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School (HLS) for having me over for most of the day Tuesday (earlier this week).  I'm purposely not naming names because I know I'll leave someone out and I don't want to do that.  It was a great day that I won't soon forget. Not only was it great to be on campus at the Law School and meet the fellows and others associated with the Berkman Center, it was a real privilege to lead the discussion for Berkman's Tuesday Luncheon Series and then participate in one of Jonathan Zittrain's lectures to HLS students.

Zittrain, who co-founded the Berkman Center, is an absolutely brilliant lecturer with a real gift for teaching. It was more like a performance because of his comedic style that kept the class laughing (never at the expense of learning) --- especially during his description of the SCO-IBM lawsuit (easy pickin' for someone like him, given all the nutty aspects of the case).  I found myself wishing I had teachers like that when I was in college.  Then, I was wishing I was in law school.  Harvard Law School.  His lecture was that inspiring. 

Not only was Zittrain current and on topic (talking about Larry Page's keynote at CES last week), the classroom environment at HLS is first rate.  As he was talking, two students were sitting up front mining the Web for relevant sites.  When I was called upon to talk about the Net's future lock-in points, I mentioned the challenges that could turn up in API licensing for mashups.  In trying to describe what a mashup is, I gave Jeff Marshall's (of FrozenBear) GoogleMaps+HotOrNot mashup as an example but didn't have to bother explaining what it did.  Within seconds of mentioning it, the mashup was being displayed on the big screen behind me.  Coolio! (to steal one of Marc Canter's favorite words).  By the way, Jeff Marshall is one of the many innovative mashup developers that's attending the Mashup Camp that I'm organizing

In addition to speaking at the Berkman Center's luncheon series and participating in Zittrain's lecture, I also had a chance to sit in on one of their private fellows' meetings.  I was advised beforehand that the discussion was off the record.  But, suffice to say that it was a real treat to be in the heart of Cambridge with some of the most prestigious thought leaders (when it comes to law, Internet, society, and democracy) as they talked about making the world a better place as though they could actually do it. I walked away realizing that they can.  Individuals can make a difference.

Finally, the folks at the Berkman Center hit me with an exit interview that they've already posted on the Web.  They gave me a chance to talk about some of the issues that we didn't have time to cover at the the luncheon; subjects such as media transparency, open document formats, and the three legged stool that my father (also a media man) taught me about before I started my first job in journalism. Here's one quote from the interview in response to a question about blogging:

.....New information comes out by the second instead of the day, week or month and the established media has no choice but to keep up. They can keep their heads in the sand if they want to and argue that their faster much more nimble competition has a credibility issue. But the truth is available from the blogosphere. We're seeing it time and time again. It may be hard to find, but it's there. And it's a problem for the established media and the journalists who work for them. Sooner or later, something has to give and it's going to be headcount at the established media. They'll cut into non-essential staff and work hard to preserve their editorial forces. But it's only a matter of time until they start cutting into bone....

Thanks again to everyone at the Berkman Center for welcoming me that day.  Finally, a plug for next Tuesday's luncheon speaker: Dan Gillmor.  Dan recently joined Berkman's roster of fellows and he'll be talking about citizen media.  If you can't be there in person, you can tune in via Webcast.

Topics: Legal

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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