To: The 1998 Harvard Internet & Society Conference [ http://www.cybercon98.org/
From: Charles Nesson [ http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/nesson.html ]
Subject: Chairman's Message
I do not speak for Harvard, just for myself, with whatever authority I have as the Wm. F. Weld Professor of Law, Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and Chairman of the Second International Harvard Conference on Internet & Society.
The Net needs balance between public and commercial space, just as in real space we need public schools and parks, libraries and art museums, as well as corporations. Is Cyberspace to be a Commons or just a Mall?
Now is the time to build Global Parks in Cyberspace -- to open, nurture and maintain vibrant non-commercial spaces where people can freely create, learn, and play.
Here's my plan, Release 1.0
A Commons in Cyberspace will consist of Content and Code, medium and message, just as McLuhan said.
As to Content: Many of the problems we face in cyberspace stem not from what is there, but rather from what is NOT. Cyberspace lacks a vibrantly developing public interest space built with open content on open code. The .edu domain is weak. The promise of the Net to transform Education is unfulfilled.
Consider the plight of the grade-school teacher whose classroom has just been wired, facing parents who are asking, full of expectation, "What are you going to DO with the Internet?"
We need to improve and strengthen the substance of educational/non-profit presence on and through the Net. Students who flock to the Net, and the teachers who support them, should find mind-expanding, entertaining, non-commercial content in the .edu domain. This I hope to be the central mission of h2o.edu, an entrepreneurial non-profit entity now in formation.
As to Code: Bill Gates deserves a Standing O for the suite of tech tools he and Microsoft have built. Yet the power of Microsoft and Bill Gates needs balance with competition, just as on a broader plane, Commercialism requires balance with Public Interest, Private Property with the Public Domain. We cannot create a viable public interest domain if the Net is captured by a single company taking monopoly control of Our Window to it. The First Screen should be OUR PUBLIC TRUST, property all (our) own.
To Bill Gates, To Janet Reno, To Joel Klein, To President Rudenstine and Provost Harvey Fineberg, To all Titans who have tapped the riches of Technology, To all Lords of Culture, Law and Education, To all Patrons of Art and Science, To all of Harvard and Beyond, To YOU [ http://www.cybercon98.org/topics/index_forum.html ]:
WE must organize the distributed resources of the Net in order to create true competition for Microsoft, put the .edu domain back in balance with .com, and move toward opening up IT's Access to everyone--regardless of nationality or social status.
Integrated open code and content, organized by an openly architectured, well-financed entrepreneurial non-profit, promises competitive advantage. ITs search engine will not blare ads at you, and sell preference listings to highest bidders. ITs mission will be true, not secondary to earnings. Our children, our parents, and all of US can be students as well as customers. Cyberspace can be Commons as well as Mall.
Help America say WE are Open Country. Our physical borders are finite, but A New Frontier is Open. Access is your Passport. Help Build a Global Commons in Cyberspace, code and content, food and water, with education in ITs heart. Help build the .edu domain on integrated open code. Help h2o.edu unite the Titans of Technology, Education, Culture and Government in gathering programming and tools to fill and support this public space.
Please, Join Our Story. Contribute ideas, talent, resources [ http://www.cybercon98.org/topics/index_forum.html ]. Help make IT work for Global Public Interest.
d of c [ http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/eon/ ]
/aka/ Billion Dollar Charlie
Charles Nesson [ http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/nesson.html ]