Dispatch from Seattle on the Association of College and Research Libraries conference and the coming Borg Collective

Our Serials and E-Resources librarian Brian Provenzale just returned from Seattle where he attended the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) conference, and files this very interesting report:

This was an unusual conference for me in that it didn’t involve either cataloging or law librarianship. ACRL itself is also unusual for library conferences in that it consists mostly of presentations based on contributed, peer-reviewed papers. The sessions I attended were all about Web-based services. The Twitter session was provocative because the speaker declared that blogs were “old-fashioned” and that he had no interest in reading them because they are too long. The jury is still out on the usefulness of Twitter, but there’s no denying it is a sweeping phenomenon that could end up changing library services and the way we deliver information.

My favorite session was on “post-literacy.” Although wildly speculative, the presentation made a good case that literacy would eventually be replaced just as literacy replaced oral tradition. But what would it evolve into? Some examples: Is life too short to learn everything you want? Live on by downloading your consciousness to a silicon-based body. Too much information to talk/write/read about? Get a chip implanted to interface directly with computers. Need to learn French immediately? Take a pill. There was also talk about electronic enhancements that would allow our brains to communicate “telepathically” and enable us to work as a hive mind. Think: the Borg on Star Trek.  Some creepy implications here, but at least most of it isn’t likely to happen in our lifetimes. The overarching implication, though, is that the information age isn’t  going to end for a long time. If anything, it’s only beginning.

Harvard Law Library director again in the news

News from the Berkman Center at HLS:


Internet Safety Technical Task Force Releases Final Report on Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies

Findings To Be Presented Today at State of the Net Conference in Washington, D.C.

January 14, 2009, Cambridge, Mass., and Washington, D.C. - The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today released the final report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, a group of 29 leading Internet businesses, non-profit organizations, academics, and technology companies that joined together for a year-long investigation of tools and technologies to create a safer environment on the Internet for youth.

The Task Force was created in February 2008 in accordance with the Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety announced in January 2008 by the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace.  The report was delivered to the 52 Attorneys General in December, 2008.

To read the final report, including the executive summary, as well as reaction statements from members of the Task Force, visit:



John Palfrey, chair of the Task Force and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center, will discuss the findings of the final report today at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time at the Congressional Internet Caucus Fifth Annual State of the Net Conference in Washington, D.C. (http://www.netcaucus.org/conference/2009) along with members of the Task Force.




Seth Young
Berkman Center for Internet & Society
Harvard University

Harvard Law Library’s John Palfrey Noted and Quoted

In these two stories:

Underage kids flock to social networks
‘They keep signing up and we keep chasing them,’ says Nexopia’s Chris Webster

September 15, 2008 at 11:27 PM EDT

According to a recent study, more than 750,000 kids between the ages of 8 and 12 have set up a profile on the big social-networking sites. Most simply enter a false birth date when they register; others get a friend or sibling to help them circumvent the age-restriction policies.

. . . Attorney-General Michael Mukasey has commissioned an Internet safety task force to find better ways to verify the age of users.

The task force is looking at implementing age-verification technology from Microsoft and IBM on several sites and even opening the process of enshrining age restrictions in law, said John Palfrey, . . .  who chairs the task force. But determining the age of users is a complex problem without clear answers, Mr. Palfrey said. “There’s no way to stop people from getting on to the site at the front end, when they sign up,” he said. “But I think there are ways we can improve the systems that work behind the scenes to find the underage kids and deter them from using sites where they shouldn’t be.”



Harvard professor sees answers to nagging Web-youth issues

John Palfrey, one of Harvard’s leading thinkers on the Internet, has recently finished a study on kids raised in the digital age. He now has a few tips to share about Web porn, online piracy, and Sen. John McCain’s lack of tech know-how–Palfrey, who wrote a book about the study called Born Digital, was fairly upbeat about the Web’s affects on young people. That’s not going to surprise too many people as Palfrey is a recognized Internet booster. But after completing 100 “in-depth interviews” with young people, ages 13 to 22, Palfrey sees some possible solutions to problems confronting Web-connected youth.


Source: Source:  Harvard Law School’s News@Law – September 17, 2008

New book by Harvard Law Library’s director – Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, by Harvard’s John Palfrey and Urs Gasser.  It just arrived yesterday and it is fascinating and wonderfully readable, right from page 1.  I highly, highly recommend it (even though I’m only through the second chapter!). 

The second chapter, “Dossiers,” offers much food for thought.  And here’s a little taste:

The amount of information that goes into the digital files kept about a baby born today is extraordinary.  To see just how extraordinary, let’s look at the digital dossier of a hypothetical baby:  We’ll call him Andy.

Andy’s digital life begins well before he is born — before he even has a name.  The first entry in his digital file is a sonogram that his proud parents-to-be affix to the refrigerator, anticipating the happy event of his birth.  That same image is recreated in the hospital database, the first formal record of Andy’s life.  . . . In this case, with good reason, the obstetrician’s team will copy Andy’s image into a file for the pediatrician who will care for him after he’s born.  Start counting: That’s one digital file, copied in at least four places.

. . .

Even the digital information that we perceive to be out of reach from third parties may in fact be more accessible than we realize, now or in the future.  We can only hope that the Social Security Administration’s computer system, which processes and stores the application for Andy’s new Social Security number, is a digital Fort Knox.  But the biggest search engines — like Google and Baidu, China’s largest search engine — are constantly improving the ability of their Web crawlers to unearth more and more data from the dark recesses of the Internet.  These crawlers copy information, without asking permission, and dump it into a massive, structured global index.  At the same time, social networks and other services hosting personally identifiable information are eager to get the traffic from these search engines, so they are exposing more and more about people to the likes of Google and Baidu.  This combination of factors — the incentive for search engines to index all the world’s information and the incentive of online service providers to draw people to information on their sites — means that information about Andy that was once in a silo is now in a more open, public space. . . .

. . .

The problem with the rapid growth of digital dossiers is that the decisions about what to do about personal information are made by those who hold the information.  The person who contributes the information to a digital dossier may have a modicum of control up front, but he or she rarely exercises it.  The person to whom the information relates — sometimes the person who contributed it, sometimes not — often has no control whatsoever about what happens to the data.  The existence of these dossiers may not itself be problematic.  But these many, daily, individual acts result in a rich, deep dataset associated with an individual that can be aggregated and searched.  The process, start to finish, is only lightly regulated.


On the book jacket our Professor Lawrence Lessig writes “Digital technologies are changing our kids in ways we don’t yet understand.  This beautifully written book will set the framework for a field that will change that.  It is required reading for parents, educators, and anyone who cares about the future.”

I agree that it is beautifully written and that it should be required reading. 

Here’s the catalog record:

Author: Palfrey, John.
Title: Born digital : understanding the first generation of digital natives / John Palfrey and Urs Gasser.
Imprint: New York : Basic Books, c2008.
Physical Description: vii, 375 p. ; 25 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents: Identities — Dossiers — Privacy — Safety — Pirates  — Creators — Quality — Overload — Aggressors — Innovators — Learners — Activists — Synthesis.
          Subject (LC): Information society–Social aspects.
          Subject (LC): Information technology–Social aspects.
          Subject (LC): Technological innovations–Social aspects.
          Subject (LC): Internet and children.
          Subject (LC): Internet and teenagers.
          Subject (LC): Internet–Social aspects.
          Subject (LC): Technology–Social aspects.
          Subject (LC): Digital media–Social aspects.
          Added author: Gasser, Urs.
                  ISBN: 9780465005154

LAW CALL NUMBER                                              
   1)HM851 .P34 2008

The 3D Internet Will Change How We Live

Yesterday I wrote about the Virtual Law Partners law firm.  Today’s Wall Street Journal has an op-ed by Benjamin Duranske, author of the book Virtual Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds (catalog record copied below).  In the WSJ piece, “The 3D Internet Will Change How We Live, ” Mr. Duranske writes about virtual worlds such as Second Life, There, HiPiHi and other “3D” webpages and how “real-life rules are starting to be applied to virtual worlds.”  His conclusion:

If current trends hold, the Internet will evolve into a 3D space, and virtual worlds will become an integral part of human communication.  Real life will never be the same.


Here’s the OPAC record for Mr. Duranske’s book:

Author: Duranske, Benjamin Tyson.
Title: Virtual law : navigating the legal landscape of virtual worlds 
Imprint: Chicago : American Bar Association, c2008.
Physical Description: xv, 461 p. ; 23 cm.
Notes: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Contents: Big picture questions in virtual law — Evidence and virtual worlds — Governance of virtual worlds — Property law and virtual worlds — Contract law and virtual worlds — Intellectual property law and virtual worlds — Civil procedure and virtual worlds — Tort law and virtual worlds — Criminal law and virtual worlds — Privacy law and virtual worlds — Securities law and virtual worlds — Tax law and virtual worlds — Establishing a professional virtual world presence.
Subject (LC): Computer networks–Law and legislation–United States–Cases.
Subject (LC): Internet–Law and legislation–United States–Cases.
ISBN: 9781604420098