Most of you know how I love and admire Harvard and its Berkman Center for Internet & Society – largely because it was through an online component of a Harvard Law School distance course that I discovered Second Life! Harvard continues to have a large Second Life presence, including a replica of Austin Hall, the law school, which you can visit directly in Second Life by clicking here. There are not many activities at present, though you can sit in on Harvard lunches from time to time. The sim is open to anyone.
So I have to laugh, growl, and roll my eyes at the ridiculous article by Emily Brill in The Daily Beast entitled Harvard vs. Steve Jobs. Brill takes Harvard Law prof Jonathan Zittrain to task for being an “influential critic of Apple” while accepting funds from Apple’s competitors, including Microsoft, which was a sponsor of a guest seminar Zittrain offered recently at Stanford. Is this an accurate representation? Of course not.
Zittrain, the co-founder of the Berkman Center, is an enormously funny, articulate, and devastating critic of closed digital systems wherever they exist. (See his book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, plus books he has edited and contributed to, Access Controlled: the Shaping of Power, Rights and Rule in Cyberspace and Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering). And Apple is a company with one of the strongest lockdown mentalities around. It allows only one provider for its iPhone, closes its code, tightly conrols all its iPhone apps, even to the point of censoring a kiss! THAT is what bugs Zittrain. It also bugs everyone else in the world, including me. And I am a huge Apple fan, as anyone who has talked to me for more than 5 minutes knows. Apple creates wonderful, imaginative, fantastic technical wizardry. It’s a shame they build a fence around it.
Brill’s article comes several days after Zittrain, in acknowledgement of his simultaneous brilliance in law and technology, was awarded a joint appointment as professor of Computer Science in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), in addition to his professorship at the Harvard Law School. Zittrain is a champion of an open and secure Internet, and he fights censorship and unproductive control wherever he finds it. He was one of the first to recommend a code of conduct for companies operating in countries where the Internet is censored, and his work laid the groundwork for the Global Network Initiative to promote freedom of expression and privacy worldwide. I applaud him for his complex and sometimes unpopular work, and I for one think it’s great that Microsoft does too.
Just hanging out in front of Austin Hall at Harvard Law School in Second Life