Should MIT increase its efforts to bring its considerable technical expertise and leadership to bear on the study of legal, policy, and societal impact of information and communications technology?

Should MIT increase its efforts to bring its considerable technical expertise and leadership to bear on the study of legal, policy, and societal impact of information and communications technology?


Ask Joi. Seriously, offer him

Ask Joi. Seriously, offer him a moderate budget and an Institute-wide mandate, like MITEI. He might be too busy to do it himself. He might even say it wouldn't be the most productive use of resources. Whatever he says, make it happen.

yes, definitely. There isn't

yes, definitely. There isn't a place to post this comment, but in general MIT needs to develop more integrated positions that will set industry and academic standards for "information ethics."
MIT policy is currently incoherent -- enforcing publication of all dissertations (to the detriment of young humanists who will not get book contracts because of this) and going passive when scholarship by faculty is hacked, rather than going public with a debate about whether anyone so hacked feels "wronged" by the "crime". Agree with preceding comment -- put some funding behind Joi and a Sloan and computer science leader (Abelson?) to develop coherent positions on how to balance the imperative for freedom of knowledge with scholars' control over their products.

Yes, although this can only

Yes, although this can only be considered a meaningful position if it is able to lead the institute in civil non-compliance with authorities. Otherwise, the "studies" and "efforts" are destined to tell us that we took the only "legal" action available, assuming the prosecutorial definition of legality. Much like the feel-good committee report that led to 8 such useless, blame-shifting questions as these...

Not that I hate being asked: I just don't understand who could possibly have arrived at 8 such stupid questions from the death of a young man. Where was "what can we do to stop the deaths of young people at the shrine of publishers?" Actually... where was any question at all about MIT's close relationship with journal publishing companies, aside from all the snide questions about open-access? The biggest question that should be asked is: "How can MIT better control its relationship with publishers, so that it doesn't act blindly on their behalf in the future?"

As an institute of technology

As an institute of technology, MIT has chosen to focus primarily on the technical and entrepreneurial aspects of science and engineering. I would encourage MIT to look both within itself [the Center for Civic Media at the Media Lab; the Science and Technology Studies program in Anthropology] and at centers at peer institutions [Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society] as they work on developing critical studies of technology, science and engineering. It is imperative that critical perspectives on the role of technology in society be baked in to MIT's intellectual practice.

Why not strengthen the STS program and increase the number of labs within the Media Lab whose work challenges the technology fueled economic status quo?

Introducing a culture of critical engagement likely will not prevent suicides, but it will ensure that the conversations that arise from the social and political challenges of advancing technology happen at MIT as these tensions arise rather than after some galvanizing event.

Yes because currently it is

Yes because currently it is all too easy to use technology against the long-term need of society to have members who can learn and grow. Paper books and journals were seldom as locked-down as current DRM and paywalling digital offerings -- although some research libraries were historical pretty inaccessible one could usually find some place that would in practice allow one to walk in, take a journal off the shelf, sit down, read it, and learn from it. Current copyright exists for way too long a period -- and congress continues to extend that duration. And current DRM practices continue to block access even after copyright expires. Current law lacks balance between an author's or publisher's right to profit and the public's right to read, enjoy and to learn. The law is bad, and the technology is bad, and MIT ought to be working to help solve the problem. And the current case shows that the law acts in disproportional response to the individual act -- when law and the legal system acts disproportionally then it increases harm, it does not protect against harm. Technology working without a broad understanding of the law, and law acting without a broad understanding of science -- well, both are broken.

Yes. MIT currently has many

Yes. MIT currently has many research groups, such as those at the Media Lab, Sloan, and STS, that have researched in this and surrounding areas for years. I think that a well focused goal and a bit of funding would go a very long way towards 1) Understanding the rationale of the rest of the world's policies 2) Understanding MIT's worldview 3) Harmonizing policy between the two.

Yes. A Center or a chaired

Yes. A Center or a chaired professorship would be appropriate. MIT has led in many other areas (e.g., increasing the # of women and minority students and faculty; open courseware), so it makes sense to lead here too.

Yes. Communications

Yes. Communications technology policies affect MIT's dissemination of information greatly, and these policies are rapidly changing. We need to make sure these policy changes are in line with MIT's goals of promoting scientific and technological advances.

Yes, of course MIT should

Yes, of course MIT should take a lead in understanding the implications of information and communication technologies. As ICT advances and remarkable opportunities as well as dangers emerge, being unresponsive to these changes would be a mistake. There are ethical and democratic challenges embedded within ICT that should be explored as well - hopefully this is an occasion for serious reflection.

As a current Civic (and

As a current Civic (and former Berkman) researcher I strongly believe that MIT should continue to strengthen its considerable expertise and leadership here. We have made greater strides in technology than we have in technology policy and politics (in the STS, rather than legislative, sense).

I don't know if it makes sense to make an MIT Berkman. I do think that creating something across the institution makes sense. There are already always more people than we can comfortably fit sitting around the Civic table for open meetings.