Advanced ‘net philosophy-Publius Project

May 15, 2008

[FACT comments: Governments only think they can govern the Internet. Smart people like these who have shaped the ‘net as we know it will always be light-years ahead. You, yes, you, are invited to the conversations at Publius Project and to start your own. This is the real potential of the ‘net: participatory democracy and one of the most exciting, intelligent public think tanks we’ve seen.]

Advanced Internet philosophy-Publius Project

The Publius Project is composed of essays and conversations about constitutional moments on the Net collected by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Publius Project is based on the U.S. Federalist Papers, thinking resulting in the U.S. Constitution.

Publius Project brings together a distinguished collection of Internet observers, scholars, innovators, entrepreneurs, activists, technologists and still other experts, to write short essays, to foster an on-going public dialogue, and to create a durable record of how the rules of cyberspace are being formed, potentially impacting their future incarnation. We take our inspiration from the Publius authors, but our goal is to highlight a variety of perspectives on this evolutionary process, rather than to sway popular opinion towards a particular policy end. The early American context and perspective is supplanted by our modern, global and diverse experience. The notion of a singular constitutional moment is replaced with a vision of multiple forces shaping the structures that both open and constrict the online space, requiring our active attention and engagement. Participants will be asked to reflect on the various elements of this loosely-joined architecture.

This collection will highlight asynchronous moments occurring in high profile settings and at the edges of cyberspace that link to formulate the norms and realities of decision-making on the web. Through this series of essays, we hope to generate a discussion among global stakeholders and netizens regarding rule-making and governance on the net, and in the process, to envision the net of the future. We will cast fundamental questions that will intrigue both experts and laypeople, by asking who should (or shouldn’t) control cyberspace? Can it be governed? Who decides?

We are structuring the Publius forum around about a dozen topics and asking authors to contribute short (500-1000 words) op-ed style pieces. One essay will touch off a discussion of the various forces, actors, and activities that link to form the “rule-making” architecture of the net. Additional authors will then be asked to contribute companion pieces that may respond to, refute, or develop the central themes or questions raised by the first author. The papers are being released gradually, in multiple settings—online, in print, and licensed with minimal restrictions to maximize dissemination.*

We realize that we are asking authors to reflect on large subject areas in a very limited space. This necessitates a high-level focus and tight scope, with the understanding that no one essay alone can reflect this complex landscape— a collection of dynamic conversations and an iterative process, we hope, will. We invite readers, contributors, and users to get involved in the conversations by contributing to our comments section.

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