A few days ago, I returned from Cambridge, MA, where I had been spending two inspiring and inspired weeks. Here are only three of the many (professional) highlights:
I was very fortunate, once more, to be on the faculty of the OII summer doctoral program (SDP) that – for the first time – took place at Harvard Law School (and, no, there hasn’t been an attempt to bring it to St. Gallen, rumors to the contrary…). My friends at the Berkman Center did a fantastic job in pulling together a very interesting summer program with a terrific line-up of contributors. Most importantly, however, the Berkman team led by John Palfrey and Colin Maclay selected a fantastic group of 30 PhD students from various disciplines and from across the world. I have been attending all except one of the doctoral programs since 2003, but this group impressed me in particular. We had a series of excellent discussions on a number of fascinating topics, covering meta-, methodological, and substantive issues. Among my favorite debates were the discussions about ICT4D, digital natives, identity, privacy, and peer production, and I very much enjoyed JZ’s talk about academic charisma and communication. In addition, I had the pleasure to moderate four student sessions in which the PhD candidates presented their research, and was naturally especially fascinated by Joris van Hoboken’s dissertation on search engine regulation. He, among several others (check out the aggregator), provided also excellent blog coverage of the SDP 2007 (here, his final post).
A second highlight, doubtlessly, were great conversations about our ongoing digital natives project. I had several thought-provoking discussions with my colleague John Palfrey (whom I admire so much not only for being a gifted teacher, brilliant mind, and thoughtful leader, but equally for being a truly amazing collaborator and friend), about the scope of our early-stage research project, about methodologies, the goals of our project, and the message(s) we want to send in the book that we’re currently co-authoring. Also the various contacts with the members of our Berkman/St. Gallen digital native research team, including Erin Mishkin (team leader), Chen Fang, Nadine Blaettler (from our St. Gallen team, currently in Boston), Tony Pino, and Miriam Simun (who has spent the past few weeks here in St. Gallen), among others, made this trip a particularly exciting one. Similarly enjoyable were excellent interventions (including some push-back) from my colleagues Ethan Zuckerman and danah boyd.
Another interesting experience was a symposium hosted by the Harvard Business School on the Internet as a Public Good. A number of great scholars and activists were invited to think about the question as to what extent the Internet can be seen as a public good. I was invited to give a brief talk from the legal/policy perspective, but did unfortunately not a great job in framing the discussion – despite my well-known love for coherent frameworks. In any event, it was an intellectually challenging workshop that also made it clear how even the brightest people in one room may sometimes face difficulties to really enhance a discussion in a structured way. The co-organizers Colin Maclay, Karim Lakhani, David Weinberger, Amar Ashar, Frank Hecker and Zak Greant deserve a great thank you for running this experiment with an immensely complex and equally fascinating workshop topic.
In sum, a wonderful time in Cambridge and yet another illustration why I really do think that MA 02318 is the best place in the world. Thanks to Catherine Bracy, Seth Young, Amar Ashar, Becca Tabasky, and all other Berkman staff members who helped me planning this trip and took care of the logistics.
Now back in St. Gallen, I will spend most of August on the book I mentioned above, on a text with Prof. Herbert Burkert on the information law approach vs. the business law approach as applied to technological innovation, an article about Google, a book chapter on corporate social responsibility/sphere of influence, a piece on IPR and neuro-science, and – last but not least – an overdue commentary on the new Swiss GmbH-Law. Besides, I’m working on our upcoming study trip to Shanghai and try to adjust to the Chinese mentality: “panta rei”. So, please forgive me if I’m a slow responder (and blogger, for that matter) over the weeks to come.