Symposium at HLS marks launch of global network of interdisciplinary centers focused on the Internet and society

On Dec. 6-8, 2012, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, together with seven international co-organizers, hosted a symposium at Harvard Law School titled Internet-Driven Developments: Structural Changes and Tipping Points, convening representatives from Internet and society research centers spanning 5 continents and 22 countries.

At the event, led by the Berkman Center’s Executive Director Urs Gasser LL.M. ’03 and with contributions from Professors Charles Nesson ’63, Terry Fisher ’82, and Jonathan Zittrain ’95, participants explored various methodologies and interdisciplinary lenses for investigating how the Internet is promoting shifts in the information ecosystem, and they also launched a nascent global network of interdisciplinary centers with a focus on Internet and society.

Building upon years of informal collaboration and research partnerships among many attendees, participants discussed opportunities to sustain and strengthen existing connections, and they considered how best to support initial efforts of the global network of Internet and society centers. The opening session invited participants to share their ideas—and those of their home institutions—regarding the most exciting, pressing, and complex questions, problems, technological endeavors, and interventions in the field. Subsequent sessions considered how a networked approach might facilitate progress on those issues, via shared activities, comparative research endeavors, exchange programs, global teaching initiatives, and more.

“Beyond the rich substantive sessions and concrete opportunities for project collaborations, we discussed ways in which this type of network can play a valuable role in encouraging cross-national, cross-disciplinary collaboration on some of the most pressing questions that characterize the field of Internet & society, broadly defined,” said Gasser. “By the close of the symposium, we envisioned a number of arenas—ranging from international research initiatives to a global teaching program—where an academically minded collective could make meaningful impact at a local, national, regional, and global level.”

The final report (PDF) from the symposium collects ideas surfaced throughout the gathering and provides more detail regarding the potential future direction and objectives of the network.