jonathan zittrain

jonathan zittrain


Getting to Know the Berkman Center with Jonathan Zittrain

what if no one owns the code

three main areas: platforms, privacy, public discourse


open source – creative commons, global voices, stop badware, digital public library of america

distributed programs are often overlooked ?

swing for the fences, a or c but not b+

we tend to be really excited when we are proven wrong – finding the new us

we want to see a better world come about

intro by Jonathan Zittrain (head) 2014

Urs, Lawrence, SusanSteve Schultze

[like how the guy was googling what Jonathan would talk about – seems to happen in all/a lot of his talks..]


sept 2015

Jonathan Zittrain Kicks Off the Berkman Center’s 2015-2016 Academic Year

15 min – copy right commons..

19 min – a research center.. one with dot org mindset rather than dot com


Originally, the three letter extensions after the dot (or Top Level Domain/TLD) were meant to denote whether the domain name was being used for business (.com) charity/non-profit (.org) or for a Technology based company (.net).

36 min – a great time to be on the cusp of academia and industries that are platforms we are engaging with

37 min – the modalities through which.. place like bc.. goes about work that it does.. because we (berkman center) are not defined by a methodological orthodoxy

some things that do tend to draw line thru (approaches), ie: benkler… distributed and cooperative approaches…kinds of approaches.. often overlooked… the other… is we swing for the benches. we go for the a+ or c rather than b… we’ll go for the bi modal distribution rather than (middle of road), ie: keep berkman weird… we look at our reputation as a chance to go off-roading.. rather than doing the expected

40 min – characters welcome.. but not in a contrived way

41 min – our goal as a center is to satisfy maslow’s lower needs so you can do the great stuff

aye.. let’s do this first.. for 7 bill no? imagine that energy.

49 min – 99% of people on 1% of similar sites

on disliking linkedin… ie: want to remove a connection – to what extent is it new boss meet old boss

54 min – david talbot

57 min – on – how are we going to control them… somehow we have very little control.. and it marches on

control.. & why not yet ness

58 min – reading john perry barlow‘s declaration of interdependence…


ted 2009 – the web as random acts of kindness

on inventors internet:

limitation: no money

freedom: they didn’t have to make money

folks getting together to do something for fun rather than something they were supposed to do…

4 min – ie 1 – a mosh pit – on no strings ness – a system that relies on kindness and trust

7 min – youtube blocked everywhere in the world… nothing youtube/google were particularly privileged to do something about.. so how did it get fixed.

8 min – house on fire.. no fire brigade.. but random people come help and then leave w/o expecting payment or praise… this model is everywhere once you start looking for it

ie 2 – wikipedia – the back room grew to encompass the entire project…

11 min – more people wanting to solve problems than problems there are to solve – (on wikipedia) – not because it’s a job/career – but because it’s a calling..

12 min – this phenomena discovered by hans – sometimes if remove signs… rules.. you can come up w safer environment, one in which they are more human with each other.. wikipedia has embraced this

naked streets ness

14 min – on people believing something bigger than their own opinion

15 min – i believe we can build architectures online to make such human requests easier to do.. represent human emotion/endeavor/impact…

17 min – ie 3 – hitchhiking, ie: coach surfing..

ha.. a brilliant idea..

19 min – my urging..internet isn’t just a pile of info.. not a noun, it’s a verb, when you go on it.. if you listen/see carefully/closely enough  … it’s saying.. let’s march


2015 – on big think:

why wikipedia works really well

wikipedia works really well in practice but not in theory…

idea of having a scheme where the day to day governance/edits… to have the people doing that be members of the public at large… extraordinarily devolution of responsibility out to people who are … taking an oath to subscribe to the principles behind wikipedia: neutrality/fairness… can that survive.. i don’t know

how to shore it up… we should solve a problem with a problem  – we haven’t really figured out in 21st cent what to do w/kids in school.. i think it’d be wonderful to make.. part of curriculum: part of your task.. you’d be graded on… edits to (on a service like) wikipedia…

whoa. onto something.. and then… graded on.. keeping school as school…? but i love the idea of the world editing/creating on wikipedia…


oct/dec 2015 – freedom to innovate:

the future of the internet and how to stop it (not available for recommend on overdrive)

let’s hit the hackers where it helps..

moving beyond the trenches

create new things, adapt existing things, join community (learn in apprenticeship model), liberate, audit

as a substanitive matter.. music shouldn’t be locked up this way..

13 min – history of law.. and copy but not copy of copy .. not really being/done/law yet

14 min – on the dividing up the pie when no one tinkering at the edges… getting sleepy – that’s the point

18 min – *audit – ability to peer in and say… something’s not right

21 min – can’t hack..except librarians.. 1201 –

23 min – the craziness.. placative language..

24 min – why should this zone have to be something of cat and mouse..

31 min – people paranoid about what a circuit board might mean…

33 min – when it gets to the iot.. are we going to get back to the original internet.. where anything can talk to anything.. unless we decide we don’t want to listen..

35 min – completely unanswered in 2015 – even in theory

36 min – emerging attempt.. via amazon

37 min – challenge to us.. how will things talk to each other digitally in ways that do assure some form of security that don’t assure some form of centralization… 

38 min – time sharing at mit – a room of computers available to any one… the mac project

i still wonder in 2015 – we still have the uni playing that role

uni has a huge role to play in the freedom to tinker/innovate…

41 min – the whole point of tinkering w/o credential people to study/build/deploy, means weren’t not saying there’s one oracle we should be listening to … we’re better in a distributed environment where nearly anything could happen..

42 min – ipb 4- running out of numbers to assign to everything.. so ipb 6 – relieved the number crunch.. but skeptical of identification of stuff.. so security


find/follow Jonathan:

link twitter

wikipedia small

Jonathan L. Zittrain (born 24 December 1969) is an American professor of Internet law and the George Bemis Professor of International Law at Harvard Law School. He is also a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, a professor of computer science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and co-founder and director of Harvard’sBerkman Center for Internet & Society. Previously, Zittrain was Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute of the University of Oxford and visiting professor at theNew York University School of Law and Stanford Law School. He is the author of The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It as well as co-editor of the books, Access Denied (MIT Press, 2008), Access Controlled (MIT Press, 2010), and Access Contested (MIT Press, 2011).

Zittrain works in several intersections of the Internet with law and policy including intellectual property, censorshipand filtering for content control, and computer security. He founded a project at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society that develops classroom tools. He is a co-founder of Chilling Effects, a collaborative archive created to protect lawful online activity from legal threats that was created by Wendy Seltzer.

berkman center page:

future of internet page:


exp not yet tried: a nother way


dec 2015 via Vinay:

OOh, and here’s an hour of @FrankPasquale explaining The Black Box Society :)

Original Tweet:

just leaving it all here for now (because at41 min is huge):

problem driven rather than method driven

5 min – algorithm: a recipe, set procedure.. promise it would be more objective than people deciding.. but found peoples subjectivity baked into algorithms..
so far all convo based on credit scores.. do we assume that algo processes must continue to be done in an automated fashion… the line where we can trust things to be automated and when we need a human to come in
9 min – fair credit reporting act… hasn’t been well implemented.. but it’s at least some sort of template response.. inspect, correct, annotate..
11 min – do you impose this as regulatory on small orgs
13 min – we don’t even have a handle on – how many are classified as ill.. and how that is effecting them…
ch 5 – model for run away data….
14 min – 1996 – hipa – health privacy.. govt trying to condition
16 min – i create in clearinghouse.. i want to know if any entity thinks i’m a criminal…  then i get hipa regime to inspect.. reputation service helps you write..
20 min – fines of violation of laws same as anti trust laws… we have to get numerant about what level of fine leads to deference…
22 min – you can endlessly give people new rights to protest.. but if system deeply stacked against them.. not going to work..
how to re enforce and extend existing… ie: office for financial research…
we’re going to continue to have arbitrage until a nother paradigm
24 min – don’t just tweak around edges
25 min – we should be experimenting with new forms...
ie: self-talk as data…
26 min – let’s be honest about how deeply has influenced economy… and let’s keep it in check…
27 min – federal search commission
28 min – 2\ internet intermediaries are organizing world in ways we don’t understand… 2\ doing things we don’t have means to address
30 min – a range of problems… sponsorship is one of them… if you look at literature.. worries are showing up…
31 min – authority of the commission – time for us to realize that the people we have empowered to do a lot of regulation on trust, privacy, …. need more help…

41 min – jonathan – i think it’s time to revisit a lot of this stuff… i’m not even sure what human would have qualifications to make that decision…

spot on.. automation is ni’d.. at local ie: via self-talk of chip, and at global.. via matching/trailing of chip..

admin level is already automated.. how could a person decide at that level. it’s just that it’s automated very poorly.. via b ness.

it’s ie: b has failed at *utopia (from Frank’s panel below)..

decisions have to be made… everyday.. via.. (per Frank) 7 billion lawyers..

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

for (blank)’s sake


44 min – alg auditing
44 min – use of this kind of systems in war – future of violence
45 min – dan gillman – …. benefit to american consumers..
48 min – the book is a conglomeration of a lot of articles about sponsorship disclosure.. anti trust..  ie: worry that google was privileging own properties…
whoa.. still all based on what ads are allowed..?
how can we keep that convo going and bring up equity..?
52 min – we need to move from thinking about these as contracts and as administrative law…
56 min – on reg’s only coming in at a certain level
58 min – excellent questions (after yet another focused on consumerism..)
Frank in summer 2015 – debate on internet failing at *utopia

at 16 min
18 min – only way to level playing field is to resist ideas that govt et al will take care of itself
20 min – promises of getting beyond big business… solidarity… all have basically failed..
32 min – zuck’s internet dot org as new form of colonization
33 min – on doing good.. or just doing business…
38 min – pothole app – pump – mostly used by people well off
47 min – it’s not the internet.. a few people… it’s all the people
49 min – andrew – whether tech makes us better… marx thought that.. the experience of communism proved he was wrong…  the internet is a mixture of failure and success.. the net (as frank said) is to be reformed…
jan 2017 convo with Joi:
12 min – process due if manage to get on american soil… people should know what the process is… there’s a ton of process to which you are entitled
13 min – confusion because of abruptness.. we should have caution with.. this is a constitutional crisis… protests turning up the heat…
14 min – joi: common law..
16 min – congress would be free to enact a statute.. they’re allowed to be.. if we didn’t have that.. you would then have stateless people.. what do you do with them..
17 min – talking about protests.. and how we change laws…
18 min – whiplash not cc
whiplash to… congress has 1\ override authority  2\ impeachment power  3\ advice/consent of senate to exec branch appointment (slow down appointments)… maybe something like that coming up..
21 min – joi: role of social media.. now ability to have these flash protests.. but not needing to build up institutional power.. so after.. not a lot of inertia
23 min – arab spring.. countries that don’t have mature civic institutions and have not embraced the law.. greater gap as to what comes next.. most of these techs start off even in a corner.. ie: fb didn’t start for an arab spring.. the cute cat theory of tech (ethan zuck).. and then when needed.. picked up and used for another purpose.. as soon as the powers that be realize that use.. comes to attention used so powerfully/unexpectedly.. they ask.. how can we use that.. get a check for that..

25 min – what we are using as rank of public sentiment.. who knows if it means anything..

when comes back to physical public protest.. that’s a neat blend.. a bit step… and affirming one.. ie: wow i dropped everything on a tues and so did everyone else..

26 min – in arab spring.. there was only a state and the state was only a gang

29 min – if you end up with trust no one.. that leads to epistemic paralysis.. hard to get a sense of what’s going on…. poisonous to free society..  value to a certain leader.. (hannah arendt ness)

30 min – zuck – fb is not a publisher.. just a tech/platform..

31 mi – when fb was just about cute cats.. felt like things mattered less… fb free to do what it wants..  but esp talk about ai.. all sorts of algo’s.. ie: bubble just now on fb live.. letting you know your name is being shared openly.. well what if you’re a public employee… i can think of all instances in recent history.. getting you in trouble w employer

35 min – joi: things are only as secure as people’s ability to not be coerced.. the network map of connections..

38 min – on immigrants being asked sm accounts… and on police asking for phone pw

39 min – so long as the law is calculable and consistent..

41 min – in a country that is mature in its embrace of the rule of the law.. generally everybody benefits when they know.. these are the rules of the road.. it’s where the rules are intentionally left unclear.. the kafka..

42 min – on… who are we going to trust more.. tech or law..

43 min – gets back to.. we let fb off hook too easily.. when you see 100s of 1000s of people using it for purposes that have a civic/political pieces to it.. it’s vital.. to.. take that in.. change

45 min – opens up .. it’s not like these tools have to be run in a corp model.. for everything you can think of that is run by corp.. it could be a collective hallucination.. free and open app.. wikipedia could have been.. edit your own encarta..

47 min – joi: sometimes.. first phase is for corps are ok..  then.. richard stallman enters picture and says.. no freedom is more important than efficiency of corps

48 min – joi: .. on lessig diagram: laws.. norms.. tech..   imagine a more tech advanced civics..  with tools getting better.. possible that some of these platforms become non commercial

49 min – absolutely possible..  zuck started as a thing to do.. google part of phd program..  both non commercial

50 min – joi: it starts the moment you take money

51 min – ways to say.. yeah going to take money.. but .. don’t be evil..

joi: kickstarter is a great ie.. so i think there is an appetite for for profits to .. be open..?

52 min – 1\ realizing question of id is not just .. i am the sum of my preferences and what i obtain.. i’m part of a unity of a polity.. some of each.. and i have role.. that form of civic engagement is vital in democracy.. and we’ve got a little complacent   2\ a democracy benefits with disagreement.. point of functioning polity is to channel disagreement.. disagreement in good faith.. that’s the basic undergirding of a functioning democratic system..

54 min – joi: democracy needs to be disobedient.. suppressing that dissent.. is unhealthy

and to encounter as a fellow person


This thread in response to @stevenbjohnson’s excellent description of why blockchain tech could be lasting is also very sensible.

The tech is sound and promising. Yet any given cryptocurrency’s value is volatile and tenuous.

Original Tweet:

so.. let’s use the tech for something other than measuring transactions.. validating people..

as it could be listen to & facil 7bn curiosities everyday

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way


Jonathan Zittrain (@zittrain) tweeted at 8:23 AM – 4 Feb 2018 :

Ehh, those kinds of stats can then each be gamed even more than now, and would be if they were more prominently featured.

If the goal is offering a judgment of authenticity and credibility, especially to ID bot propagandists, it may depend on data points not yet devised. (

ie: self-talk as data
Jonathan Zittrain (@zittrain) tweeted at 8:22 AM on Mon, Dec 17, 2018:
Crisp piece from @martintisne explaining why data ownership sounds good, but is really a red herring. Rights is a better framework, especially since many of the protections that matter are *after* we’ve traded or given away what we “own.”
augmenting interconnectedness. sans rights..better. . less compromising.. more humane
notes on article on data page
Joi Ito (@Joi) tweeted at 3:39 AM on Fri, Jul 26, 2019:
My colleague and friend @zittrain on AI and technical debt in The @NewYorker – The Hidden Costs of Automated Thinking
on intellectual debt
if we focus on right data (ie: self-talk).. makes much in his article irrelevant.. ie: college admissions.. to even meds

jonathan thread:

Jonathan Zittrain (@zittrain) tweeted at 6:12 AM – 10 Aug 2019 :
That creates the feedback loop where parents, presented with fragmentary glimpses of their kids’ lives away from home, inadvertently push the kids to be more present and look more happy. (

been happening for some time.. fromm’s smiles ness..  supposed to’s.. of school/work et al