Monday, December 27, 2004

Summery of the Harvard Internet and Society 2004 Conference

Because I was travelling in Asia, I was not able to attend the 2004 Harvard Conference earlier this month. I had a personal interest, given my work in China and other Asian 'democracies', to explore the landscape of individual blogging with regards to issues like freedom of speech, self- or state-censorship and potential for bottom-up reform.  But alas, I was hovering in physical space via the plane rather than chatting about cyberspace via the conference. 

However, I chanced up a few blog posts of personal experiences at the conference. In particular, Jon Garfunkel, a software developer, gave a summary of his personal experience of the Internet and Society 2004 conference. What I found delightfully interesting was the fact that he was not the typical Harvard conference attendee. In fact he claims that media exploration is a 'hobby' and said in his post, "What were people's first impressions of me? Well, I picked the right outfit: a blazer was the choice of academics and businessmen, and this conference was mostly men.  The ... baseball cap was left where it should have been... in New York"

Of his summary, I'm most glad to hear that
  • I "digital divide" is slowly fading like a rock band- "The term "digital divide" should be shown the door. No one's happy with it. The problem that I (and perhaps others) always had with "digital divide" is that it simply masked other, more substantial divides."  Ditto. 
  • How blogging has exploded, especially in developing countries with autocratic governments, and how, because it is still new, that there is still a lot of room for experimentation before we will see any patterns of impact. 
  • That there is a 'bottom-up' movement in almost everything: software, blogging/news reporting ethics, community building and networking, and peer-to-peer reputation management systems. (I'm a proponent for a balanced approach- we need both top-down and bottom-up, but after the many top-down, one-way eGovernance projects I've witnessed recently, as well as the overdose from WSIS last year, it is wonderful to hear about the resistance at the grassroots.)
  • That there are new and fresh projects like, and Oh My News, and I know, from previous conversations, that there are many new project ideas bubbling into reality.   
I hope, though, that with time, Harvard's conference series will see more women, as well as more men like Jon with their baseball hats. 
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