Harvard-MIT-Yale Cyberscholar Working Group

Wednesday, January 26, 6:00pm ET
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St. 2nd Floor
RSVP is required to ashar@cyber.law.harvard.edu

The “Harvard-MIT-Yale
Cyberscholar Working Group” is a forum for fellows and affiliates of the
Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT

Yale Law School Information
Society Project
, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society
at Harvard University to discuss their ongoing research.

This month’s presenters will include:

What Should an Educated Person Know about Computers?

Brian Kernighan, Department of Computer Science, Princeton University

All of us are affected by computing, in ways we may not even realize.
Some of the technology is highly visible, like laptops, cell phones and
the Internet; most is invisible, like the processors in everything from
gadgets to infrastructure, or the myriad systems that quietly collect
personal data about us.

For the past decade, I have been teaching “Computers in Our World,” a
course for students in the humanities and social sciences. The course
describes how computing works — hardware, software, networks, and
systems built upon them — for a very non-technical audience. The
intent, or perhaps just fond hope, is to help students understand
computing and communications technologies, how to reason about how
systems work, and how to be intelligently skeptical about technology
and technological claims. I’m writing a book on this during my
sabbatical at Harvard and the Berkman Center, and would love to get
advice and opinions from the Cyberscholars group.

Brian Kernighan received his PhD from Princeton in 1969, and was
in the Computing Science Research center at Bell Labs until 2000. He is
now in the Computer Science Department at Princeton. His research areas
include programming languages, tools and interfaces that make computers
easier to use, often for non-specialist users. He is also interested in
technology education for non-technical audiences.

= =

Visualizing Human Presence: Tools for the Social Study of Human, Remote, and Autonomous Operations
Yanni Loukissas, Postdoctoral Associate, Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The research team at the MIT Laboratory for Automation, Robotics, and
Society (LARS) is developing tools for information visualization that
will bring social science questions into view for human-centered
computing. The goal is to create open-source software that will enable
broad professional audiences to more easily trace social relationships
in short (~10 minute), real-time, technical activities. This project
will make timely use of data from ongoing LARS ethnographic studies in
order to develop these tools and demonstrate their usefulness in
understanding the changing meaning and importance of presence in human,
remote, and autonomous operations. Visualizing Human Presence follows
upon PI David Mindell’s most recent book, Digital Apollo: Human and
Machine in Spaceflight (2008), which narrates the history of the Apollo
guidance and control system and its relationship to debates about
pilots’ roles in aviation during the twentieth century. The qualities
of human participation in technical operations like Apollo have
implications for control, repeatability, and safety. But perhaps more
importantly, our enduring conceptions of human judgment, perception,
and skill are shaped in the face of such interactions with automation
and the importance they assign to human presence in different forms.
The LARS team has already experimented with visualizing data from the
Apollo 11 moon landing. The proposed tools for information
visualization will generalize the lessons of Digital Apollo to help
researchers, designers and operators of automated systems who wish to
account for the human context of their work.

Yanni Alexander Loukissas, PhD is an interdisciplinary designer
and researcher working across multiple fields, including visual art,
architecture, computer science, and anthropology. His work is driven by
a persistent interest in how new technologies shape our social, spatial
and intellectual landscapes. At present, he is developing visualization
tools for the study of human-machine relationships in complex
environments. He is also writing a book based on his doctoral
dissertation, “Conceptions of Design in a Culture of Simulation.” Dr.
Loukissas is currently a postdoctoral associate at MIT, where he works
with the Laboratory for Automation, Robotics, and Society (LARS). He
has taught at Cornell, MIT, and the Museum School. He also consults on
projects that bring together art and technology in innovative ways.
Most recently, he worked with Small Design Firm on an art information
system for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. He holds a
PhD and a SMArchS in Design and Computation from MIT and a BArch from
Cornell University. www.mit.edu/~yanni

= =

The Anonymous Internet

Bryan H. Choi, Kauffman Fellow,  Information Society Project at Yale Law School

In a set of recent publications, Jonathan Zittrain has posited that the
key benchmark in designing future internet regulations should be
“generativity,” a quality he defines as “a system’s capacity to produce
unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and
varied audiences.” In this paper, I explore how we might implement a
regulatory principle of least harm to generativity. In particular, I
propose that we look to regulating anonymity as an alternative to
regulating generativity. Not only would it be effective at mitigating
much of the impulse to lock down new technologies, but it would be less
intrusive because it is already consistent with the way we regulate
behavior offline.

Bryan H. Choi (J.D. Harvard) is a Kauffman Fellow with the Information
Society Project at Yale Law School. Previously, he was a law clerk on
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Federal Circuit. His research interests include
anonymity, digital identity, privacy, and reputation, particularly as
they relate to the internet.