Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights

The ESRC has awarded my colleagues and I support for a seminar series on ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity, and Rights’. This will involve: me and colleagues at the OII, University of Oxford; Dr Gillian Youngs, the principal applicant, recently appointed to a professorship at the Newport School of Art, Media and Design at University of Wales; Dr Tracy Simmons at the University of Leicester; and Professor Katherine Sarikakis at the University of Vienna (2011-13). [ESRC RES-451-26-0849] The project Web site is at:


Digital policy is high on political, communications and commercial agendas currently with the Digital Economy Bill (BIS 2009-10) currently going through Parliament following on from the Digital Britain Final Report in June 2009 (BIS 2009).  While the digital revolution is already well underway in the UK in terms of business developments and changes in daily life, these transitions mark a major policy and legislative push towards Britain’s digital future. Controversial areas such as copyright infringement, the future and functions of public service content, and the role of Ofcom are core to these changes.  In broader terms the potential for economic transformations and growth through the digital economy, new skills, innovation and creativity, are key concerns.

The three core areas of focus of the seminar series offer an original synthesis bringing together consideration of connectivity, creativity and rights to encourage links between technical, political and economic issues. The series will consider connectivity from social and skills-based as well as infrastructural and technical perspectives. Creativity will be examined in a wide sense including creative and media industries, transitions in public service and other forms of content, new knowledge and networking and political and commercial innovations. Rights points not only to the importance of digital inclusivity but broader concerns of digital empowerment through access not only to digital technologies but to the knowledge, skills and motivations that are required to use in imaginative ways and to their full potential. The benefits to individuals and communities as well as to the economy at large are at stake here. Across the seminar series different aspects of the digital knowledge economy, knowledge work and skills and rights issues will be addressed including from critical perspectives.

An innovative approach of the series will be to examine these areas through multi-stakeholder engagement to identify the practical implications and challenges as well as critical debates about winners and losers in the digital game. It will bring policymakers and politicians at different levels together with academics, regulators, communications, media and creative industry representatives as well as members of NGOs, social and digital entrepreneurs and innovators.

The organizers of the series recognize that at this moment of profound digital change an inclusive debate of the kind that can only be stimulated by bringing actors with contrasting interests together is crucial. Not least to identify major tensions and concerns as well as opportunities, but also any areas requiring a particular policy focus, including in relation to complex issues of access and digital rights at collective and individual levels. What kind of digital future is envisaged in Britain? Who continues to be left out or at risk of being left out of this digital future? What can be done to overcome major technical, knowledge and skills barriers to this? How much control needs to be exerted to achieve a safe online environment including for the most vulnerable? What new kinds of creativity and innovation are being unleashed by digital change and how can these be expanded? How is the public service ethos being tested and enhanced in the digital environment? These are the kinds of questions that are central to this series.

Seminar Format

There will be at least five seminars, with additional seminars possible through support from other sources. The first will be held over two days to launch the series and explore the linking themes in some depth, and then four one-day seminars to focus in detail on separate areas. The aim will be to have some core participants who will attend a number of the seminars and then participants related to each theme for the individual seminars. All seminars will have a mix of stakeholders, ranging across policy, business and civil society, in addition to academics to generate theory/practice connections in fresh and productive ways. The aim will be to involve between 30 and 40 people in each seminar including core group participants (regular attendees) and guest speakers and participants.

Dr Sarikakis


Tracy Simmons
Gillian Youngs

The series is international. First it aims to examine digital Britain in its global context. Secondly, it aims to do that in part through the direct participation in the series of leading scholars from North America, Canada, Europe and East Asia. Finally, it aims to harness digital media in its own methodology in engagement and outreach terms, such as by using the Internet to extend cost effectively the number of international speakers who can be invovled in the series, and by using the web to enable worldwide access to the series. By experimenting with popular social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, the series also aims to contribute to new models of academic practice.

The international contributions to the series are vital when digital communication and problems and challenges affecting it have national dimensions and characteristics but also go well beyond them in creating an era of everyday global communication for leisure as much as work, consumption as much as production. The international aspects of the series will stimulate interesting comparative questions for research, contrasting areas of good practice, varied perspectives on issues such as risk, and different sets of policy priorities and objectives. The international character of the series will also significantly enhance its outputs, both in terms of the text and audiovisual material to be mounted online, but also the academic publications from the series. It is also anticipated  that new international networks will develop out of the series which will give academics at all levels of experience and others involved access to knowledge outside of the UK context. The in-depth quality of the seminars will offer plenty of opportunity for new research collaborations to be generated.

The ESRC Research Seminar Series ‘Digital Policy: Connectivity, Creativity and Rights’ (RES-451-26-0849) runs from 2011 to 2013 led by Prof. Gillian Youngs, University of Wales, Newport, with Dr Tracy Simmons, University of Leicester, Prof. Bill Dutton, Oxford Internet Institute, and Prof. Katharine Sarikakis, University of Vienna.

International Symposium on Freedom of Expression, Paris, 26 January 2011


UNESCO is holding an ‘International Symposium on Freedom of Expression‘ on 26 January 2011, with the support of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO. One panel session will focus on freedom of expression on the Internet, and we also expect that our UNESCO publication, entitled ‘Freedom of Connection – Freedom of Expression‘, will be launched. A penultimate draft of the manuscript is online at SSRN, but a print version will be available by the date of the symposium.

There has hardly been a more critical time to focus on freedom of expression. It is not simply WikiLeaks that makes this a timely topic, but also worldwide trends in policy and practice that could undermine expression online unless the larger ecology of policies shaping expression are more fully understood.

Symposium site at:

2010 Uehiro/Carnegie/Oxford Conference Conference on ‘Information Ethics: Future of Humanities’

This is a conference focused on information ethics, primarily from a philosophical perspective, but including a few empirical researchers such as myself and Helen Nissenbaum, and legal scholars, such as David Erdos. It is supported by the Uehiro Foundation, and organized by the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. Of course, as in most multi-disciplinary conferences, it is easy to feel quite marginal within this circle, but the issues arising are cross-cutting and open to debate from beyond philosophical perspectives – in fact, it is nice to remind others of the importance of social and empirical research. One of the most interesting aspects is the fact that I can’t find much about the conference online, so hopefully this post will correct that.

2010 Uehiro/Carnegie/Oxford Conference

Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th December 2010

Information Ethics: Future of Humanities


8.30 a.m. Registration opens.  Coffee, tea and muffins provided


9.00 a.m. Professor Julian Savulescu (Director, Oxford Uehiro Centre)


9.30 a.m. Is the Society of Cohabitation with Robots Possible?

Professor Toru Nishigaki (The University of Tokyo)

10.15 a.m. Short break


10.30 a.m. Beyond Humanisms

Professor Rafael Capurro (Steinbeis University Berlin)

11.15 a.m. Discussion

11.30 a.m. The Virtual Other: Thinking about virtuality and the future of ethics

Professor Lucas Introna (Lancaster University)

12.15 p.m. Discussion

12.30 p.m. Lunch


1.30 p.m. Ethical challenges of information poverty

Professor Johannes Britz (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

2.15 p.m. Discussion

2.30 p.m. Sustainability and self-organization: sustainability seen in the perspective of complexity and systems science and ethical considerations

Professor Wolfgang Hofkirchner (Vienna University of Technology)

3.15 p.m. Discussion

3.30 p.m. Refreshments


3.45 p.m.   The fuzzy brain: extended minds, neural interfaces and collective intelligence

Dr Anders Sandberg (Research Fellow, Oxford Uehiro Centre)

4.15 p.m. Discussion

4.30 p.m. Life-Log and Privacy

Dr. Fumio Shimpo (Keio University)

5.30 p.m. Discussion

6.30 p.m. Reception and Dinner to follow at St. Cross College hosted by
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton


The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton (opening speech)

Dr. Maruyama, Secretary General, The Uehiro Foundation

Dr. Rosenthal, President, The Carnegie Council

(Dress code: Business dress)


9.30 a.m. Registration opens.  Coffee, tea and muffins provided


10.00 a.m. Data Protection: An Appropriate Framework for Personal Information Ethics?

Dr. David Erdos (University of Oxford)

10.45 a.m. Discussion

11.00 a.m. Moral Panics Over the Internet

Dr. William H. Dutton (University of Oxford)

11.45 a.m. Discussion

12.00 p.m. Lunch


1.00 p.m. Humanity and Freedom from the Viewpoint of Information

Dr. Tadashi Takenouchi (The University of Tokyo)

1.45 p.m. Discussion

2.00 p.m. Does Privacy in Context endorse Moral Relativism?

Professor Helen Nissenbaum (New York University)

2:45 p.m. Discussion

Mr. Hisateru Onozuka (Director, Uehiro Foundation)

A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society

A Decade in Internet Time: Symposium on the Dynamics of the Internet and Society

University of Oxford

21-24 September 2011

Event: Symposium

Location: OxfordUniversity of Oxford with sessions at the Social Sciences Manor Road Building, and Said Business School

Organized by: Oxford Internet Institute and iCS (the journal Information, Communication and Society)

Sponsors include: Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group)

The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and the journal, Information, Communication and Society (iCS) are co-organizing a symposium to critically assess the last decade of social research on the Internet and identify directions for research over the next. The symposium will be held in Oxford from the afternoon of 21 September until noon on the 24th. This event will be punctuated by a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the OII, providing an opportunity to relate broader lessons for the field to the case of one of the first departments at a major university focused on the societal implications of the Internet and related information and communication technologies. Ten years is only a moment in the span of social research, but eons in Internet time. Has social research across the disciplines been up to the challenges?

There will be parallel sessions across the days, with late-afternoon plenary sessions, and ample time for informal discussion. One plenary session will focus on the Anniversary of the OII. The parallel sessions will focus on the presentation of papers submitted for review in response to this call.

Invited Keynotes

Manuel Castells is Research Professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), in Barcelona. He also a University Professor and the holder of the Wallis Annenberg Chair of Communication Technology and Society at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, the Marvin and Joanne Grossman Distinguished Professor of Technology and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Internet Studies at Oxford University. He was Professor of Sociology and of City and Regional Planning at the University of California, Berkeley (1979-2003).

Vint Cerf is a computer scientist who is recognized as one of the ‘fathers of the Internet’. His contributions have been widely acknowledged by many honorary degrees and awards, including the National Medal of Technology, the Turing Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and membership in the National Academy of Engineering. Vint Cerf is currently Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google. [Provisional Acceptance]

Andrew Graham is the Master of Balliol College, University of Oxford, and founding Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Oxford Internet Institute. He was the driving force in establishing the OII and was the Acting Director of the OII until July 2002. An Oxford graduate, Andrew Graham became economic adviser to Prime Minister Harold Wilson, 1967–69, before joining Balliol as a Tutorial Fellow in Economics. He returned to 10 Downing Street as a Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister, 1974–76 and later, from 1988–94, became economic advisor to the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and, from 1992, Leader of the Labour Party, John Smith.

Laura DeNardis is a Research Scholar, Lecturer, and the Executive Director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. DeNardis is an Internet governance scholar and the author of Protocol Politics: The Globalization of Internet Governance (MIT Press 2009), Information Technology in Theory (Thompson 2007 with Pelin Aksoy), and numerous book chapters and articles. DeNardis received a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech, a Master of Engineering degree from Cornell University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Engineering Science from Dartmouth College.

Eszter Hargittai is Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Faculty Associate of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University where she heads the Web Use Project. Eszter received a B.A. in Sociology from Smith College and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University where she was a Wilson Scholar. She was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford (2006-07) and a fellow at the Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin (2007). Currently, she is a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

Lisa Nakamura is the Director of the Asian American Studies Program, Professor in the Institute of Communication Research and Media Studies Program and Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. She is the author of Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet (Routledge, 2002) and co-editor of Race in Cyberspace (Routledge, 2000). She is editing a collection with Peter Chow-White entitled Digital Race: An Anthology (Routledge, forthcoming) and is writing a new monograph on social inequality in virtual worlds, tentatively entitled ‘Workers Without Bodies: Towards a Theory of Race and Digital Labor in Virtual Worlds, or, Why World of Warcraft needs a Civil Rights Movement’.

Barry Wellman is the S.D. Clark Professor at the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto, where he directs NetLab. He is also a cross-appointed member of the university’s Knowledge Media Design Institute, and Faculty of Information. With Lee Rainie, he’s just finished Networked: The New Social Operating System, to be published by MIT Press, January 2012.

Call for Papers and Panel Proposals

Authors are invited to submit abstracts of unpublished, original work for initial review as symposium papers. Abstracts for papers should be limited to approximately 500 words; abstracts for proposed panels or workshops to 1000 words, including information about participants.

Abstracts for papers or panels should be submitted by 8 December 2010 to and have ‘iCS Symposium’ in the subject. Authors for whom abstracts are accepted will be asked to provide a completed paper by 12 September 2011.

Abstracts and papers may address any topic concerning social research on the Internet and related technologies. Proposals can be made for individual papers or for a panel. They will be evaluated on the basis of their originality and promise for shaping theoretical, methodological or empirical advances in the study of the Internet. Work that has a promise to shape research, policy or practice in this emerging field would be especially welcomed.

Themes of parallel and plenary sessions are likely to focus on change over time, including, but not limited, to such themes as:

  • The diffusion of the Internet: shifts and plateaus in digital inclusion and divides across geography, generations, and society;
  • Sizing the Internet economy and its growth over time and space;
  • Changing patterns and requirements for digital literacy and skills;
  • Trust over time and across areas of Internet use, from commerce to public services and news and information;
  • Emerging roles of networking in the public domain, government, and democratic institutions and processes, such as in election campaigns, democratic accountability and the rise of a Fifth Estate;
  • The role of the Internet in major societal crises and natural disasters;
  • Evolution of digital academe, including digital collections, formal and informal learning, e-research and academic publishing;
  • The quality and changing sources of information – from news to research – and their consequences;
  • Collaboration – myths and realities of new forms of collaborative network organizations and technologies;
  • The developing role of the Internet in social networking, whether in the workplace, everyday life, or in shaping major life chances;
  • The dark side of the Internet: growth of cyber-crime, cyber-terrorism, malicious computing, and approaches to addressing these problems;
  • Collective action – the evolving role of the Internet in social and political movements;
  • Privacy and surveillance trends and research;
  • Localism – the new Internet frontier;
  • Closing of the Internet through appliances, aps, and regulations;
  • The rise of Internet governance and regulation in areas ranging across policy arenas, from standards to freedom of expression?
  • The development of Internet research and digital research methods.

Key Dates:

Submission of Abstracts for Papers or Panels: 8 December 2010

Notification of Acceptance of Papers and Panels: 21 December 2010

Papers due: 12 September 2011


Programme Chairs

Bill Dutton, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Brian Loader, Science and Technology Studies Unit, University of York

Victoria Nash, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Barry Wellman, Netlab, University of Toronto

Programme Committee

Members of the iCS Editorial Board

Faculty of the OII


Information about registration procedures and fees are to follow. Questions may be addressed to

World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities – Book Launch

World Wide Research
Book Cover of World Wide Research

Launch of World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities

Wednesday 22 September 2010 16:00 – 18:00

Location: Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, 1 St Giles Oxford

Registration: Email your name and affiliation to or telephone +44 (0)1865 287209

This event is an occasion to mark the publication by MIT Press of World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities, edited by Dutton and Jeffreys. This new book explores how advances in ICTs are transforming the way scholarly research is conducted across all disciplines, offering a comprehensive and accessible view of the use of these new approaches to research and their ethical, legal and institutional implications. Where has work in this area made the greatest strides, and what areas are in the greatest need of further research?

16:00                        Opening and Introduction

The Editors: Bill Dutton and Paul Jeffreys

16:10-50            Keynote

David De Roure, Professor of eResearch, Oxford e-Research Centre; National Strategic Director for Digital Social Research

16:50-17:30            Panel Discussion on Directions for the Field

  • Graham Crow, Professor of Sociology, University of Southampton; Deputy Director of the UK’s National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM)
  • Jim Davies, Professor of Software Engineering, Director, Software Engineering Programme, and Fellow, Kellogg College
  • Eric T. Meyer, Research Fellow, OII
  • Ralph Schroeder, Senior Research Fellow and Director of Research at the OII

    Photo of James Martin by Steve Russell, Russell Studio

17:30-17:55            Open Discussion on World Wide Research

17:55-18:00            Closing Remarks by Dr James Martin, Founding Benefactor of the Oxford Martin School

Selected Webcasts of the launch will be available at the OII Webcast site.

A New Model for Online Publishing — The Keiretsu-Cooperative: An OII Issue Brief

Cheryll Barron has written a new OII Internet Issue Brief (No. 4), entitled ‘The Keiretsu-Cooperative: a Model for post-Gutenberg Publishing’, which is available online at SSRN: It is an imaginative proposal for a new business model to support publishing in the digital age. Cheryll has written about computers, culture and society for the Economist, Salon, and the New York Times, putting her in the thick of journalism and the online world. Her issue brief is followed by responses from four major authorities, namely:

Bill Emmott, under whose leadership The Economist doubled its circulation between 1993 and 2006, is also the author of eight books, including Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade (2008).

David Goodhart started the current affairs magazine Prospect in 1995, after working as a senior correspondent for The Financial Times, and continues to serve as its editor.

Godfrey Hodgson, who often blogs for the e-zine, was director of the Reuters’ Foundation Programme at Oxford University. He has also been the Observer’s correspondent in the United States and foreign editor of the Independent. He is the co-author (with Lewis Chester and Bruce Page) of the best-selling account of the 1968 presidential campaign, An American Melodrama (1969). His other books include More Equal Than Others: America from Nixon to the new century (2006).

Dr Frances Pinter is the publisher of Bloomsbury Academic, and is the former publishing director of the Soros Foundation, where she ‘directed major projects aimed at reforming publishing in Central & Eastern Europe.’ She has been a pioneer in offering libraries inexpensive digital access to thousands of learned journals. At twenty-three, she founded Pinter Publishing. (An OII Webcast of Frances Pinter’s talk on the transformation of publishing in the Internet age is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to learn more about this area.)

Through this blog, or your own outlets, I hope you will add your comments on this issue brief and the responses. My hope is that this brief will stimulate and inform more discussion of innovative business models for online publishing.

My thanks to Cheryll Barron, Bill Emmott, David Goodhart, Godfrey Hodgson, and Frances Pinter for their views on one of the most critical issues facing online publishing – the need for new business models.



World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities — now in print

World Wide Research

Edited by William H. Dutton and Paul W. Jeffreys
Foreword by Ian Goldin

Available from MIT Press

CONTRIBUTORS: Hal Abelson, Robert Ackland, Roger Barga, Tim Berners-Lee, Christine L. Borgman, Geoffrey C. Bowker, Alan Bowman, João Caraça, Gustavo Cardoso, Annamaria Carusi, Paul A. David, Grace de la Flor, Matthijs den Besten, David De Roure, Matthew Dovey, Ricardo B. Duque, William H. Dutton, Paul N. Edwards, Rita Espanha, Michael A. Fraser, Jenny Fry, Ian Goldin, Wendy Hall, Tony Hey, Steven J. Jackson, Paul Jeffreys, Marina Jirotka, Jane Kaye, Cory Knobel, Julia Lane, Xiaoming Li, Sharon Lloyd, Christine Madsen, Andrew Martin, Sandro Mendonça, Eric T. Meyer, Kieron O’Hara, Savas Parastatidis, Michael Parker, Justine Pila, Tina Piper, Rob Procter, Ralph Schroeder, Nigel Shadbolt, David Shotton, Wesley Shrum, Michael Spence, John Taylor, Mike Thelwall, David Vaver, Andrew Warr, John Wilbanks, Yorick Wilks, Paul Wouters, Marcus Antonius Ynalvez, and Jonathan J. H. Zhu

World Wide Research (MIT 2010)


Experts examine ways in which the use of increasingly powerful and versatile digital information and communication technologies are transforming research activities across all disciplines.

Advances in information and communication technology are transform- ing the way scholarly research is conducted across all disciplines. The use of increasingly powerful and versatile computer-based and networked systems promises to change research activity as profoundly as the mobile phone, the Internet, and email have changed everyday life. This book offers a comprehensive and accessible view of the use of these new approaches—called “e-Research”—and their ethical, legal, and institutional implications. The contributors, leading scholars from a range of disciplines, focus on how e-Research is reshaping not only how research is done but also, and more important, its outcomes. By anchoring their discussion in specific examples and case studies, they identify and analyze a promising set of practical developments and results associated with e-Research innovations.

The contributors, who include Geoffrey Bowker, Christine Borgman, Paul Edwards, Tim Berners-Lee, and Hal Abelson, explain why and how e-Research activity can reconfigure access to networks of information, expertise, and experience, changing what researchers observe, with whom they collaborate, how they share information, what methods they use to report their findings, and what knowledge is required to do this. They discuss both the means of e-Research (new research-centered computational networks) and its purpose (to improve the quality of world-wide research).

William H. Dutton is Director of the Oxford Internet Institute, Professor of Internet Studies, and Professorial Fellow of Balliol College at the University of Oxford. Paul W. Jeffreys, formerly Director of the Oxford e-Research Centre, is Director of IT at the University of Oxford, Professor of Computing, and Professorial Fellow of Keble College at the University of Oxford.

June 2010
7 x 9, 424 pp., 8 illus., $33.00/£24.95 paper ␣ 978-0-262-51373-9

Behind the Scenes

We had a great deal of help putting together World Wide Research. Our colleagues within e-Horizons and OeSS discussed this book project at each stage in its development. They included Annamaria Carusi, Paul David, Matthijs den Besten, Marina Jirotka, Eric Meyer, Michael Parker, Justine Pila, Tina Piper, Lucy Power, Ralph Schroeder, Michael Spence, Anne Trefethen, David Vaver, and Steve Woolgar. While most of these focused their contributions on particular chapters and essays, they were all major contributors to the very conception and production of the volume.

Miranda Llewellyn within the Office of the Director of Information Technology at the University of Oxford made a valuable contribution to the management of multiple online and offline versions of dozens of manuscripts over years of their preparation.

Malcolm Peltu, a London-based editorial consultant, helped us to review and edit manuscripts into a uniform style and format, enabling us to provide a far more integrated and coherent volume than would have been possible without his editorial contributions. His work was taken forward by David Sutcliffe, an editor at the OII, who put the many manuscripts into shape for MIT Press.

David has assembled a Web page that gives an unusual look behind the scenes of its production. Do take a look at some of the stages involved on the OII site, from the perspective of OII’s invaluable editor, David Sutcliffe.

Student to Internet Pioneer: Josh Harris

Joshua Harris was a graduate student of mine in the early 1980s. My most memorable experience with him was in connection with a major paper that was assigned. Josh wanted to focus on the future of the personal computer. This was of course very early in the life of the personal computer, only invented at the end of the 70s. Josh said he envisioned what we would years later call a multimedia computer. He had clear ideas about how the technology would develop that were well ahead of his contemporaries.

The problem was that Josh did not want to do a traditional paper. Instead he wanted to build a model of his multimedia computer. I could not convince my colleagues to accept this proposal. It was shortly after this that he became disillusioned with the value of graduate school, and left to seek his fortune, which he soon did. In 1986, he founded Jupiter Communications, one of the world’s first Internet market research companies. He made millions went it went public. Later, in 1994, in line with his vision from a decade before, he founded the world’s first Internet-based interactive television network (

Called the ‘Warhol of the Web’, Josh was too constrained by academic institutions and processes. More importantly perhaps was his commitment to doing things – building models so that people could see what he envisioned rather than simply to read about it. This might be common in design and technology, but Josh personified this commitment.

Therefore, I can only celebrate his next creation – a world in which there would be no privacy. Surveillance was everywhere. Today, in 2010, most computer and social scientists who think about it are alarmed by the ways in which new technologies promise to erode privacy in society. One need not be a technological determinist to see how the technological capabilities are being developed in surveillance technologies, from satellite imaging to miniature cameras and sensors, to see everything. But also, and importantly, people want the technologies, whether security cameras or Webcams to check on the children at preschool. Josh saw this and built an environment in which he and 1000 other inhabitants lived for one month – a place with no privacy, branded ‘We Live in Public’ — created well before reality TV.

Josh is the best person to describe this vision and related projects. Take a look at this 2009 Sky Television interview with Josh or look at a trailer for the ‘We Live in Pubic’ documentary, which won acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.

Josh has kept in touch with me through the years as one of the professors who supported his proposal. Schools are hard to build for a Joshua Harris. We should have let Josh build the model, but we did not dampen the creativity of a budding Internet pioneer with a vision of the future that everyone should seriously ponder.

Visiting Research Fellowships at Balliol College, Oxford: Science, Social Sciences and Humanities

Balliol College is inviting applications for scholars of outstanding distinction or promise to be Oliver Smithies Lecturers at Balliol College, Oxford, for the academic year 2010-11. The closing date is 16 April but full details can be accessed on the Balliol College Web site.

balliol_collegeThere are no subject matter restrictions, but Balliol appears to be particularly interested this year in ‘distinguished visitors from scientific disciplines’. Professor Oliver Smithies was a joint winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

The Wire as Social Science Fiction: Conference in Leeds

I would like to call attention to a conference being held at the Leeds Town Hall form 26-27 November 2009 that will examine the HBO TV series The Wire as a focus for social science. The organizers are seeking papers that ‘utilize The Wire either as a topic or as a resource for the social sciences and the humanities.’ Of course, surveillance is a major theme of the series, so I am hopeful that some papers look critically at the social dynamics of surveillance in what some have called an ‘American nightmare’. If you have any interest, do look at their call for papers.