Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
Chris Stone:So good evening. My name is Chris Stone. I'm the President of the Open Society Foundations and it is a great pleasure to be with all of you and with Ethan Zuckerman here this evening. Our plan is that Ethan and I are going to have a conversation for a few minutes as we start. Try to get some thoughts, some ideas, maybe a debate or two going here, and then we will, as turn this open, invite your own comments, questions, and contributions. We have a few from the net already and there may be additional ones coming in and we will wrap up pretty promptly at about 7:30 here in New York, about 90 minutes from now. I first met Ethan when I was on the faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School and runningI just started as faculty director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations. Ethan, I think then was formally with the Berkman Center, and we were having a discussion about the fate of news media in the world and the relationship between what was happening with the Internet and the quality of global journalism, and I learned a lot of things in that meeting. It was my first serious discussion at the Berkman Center. It was my first serious discussion with really good web jockeys, a term I learned during that meeting and I think we need to introduce here at the Open Society Foundations. But I also learned something about the extraordinary way that Ethan Zuckerman thinks and talks, and now I've learned also rights about these questions. He touches in the book on some of the issues of that conversation about what's happened to international news. But here in this book on like, that conversation, which was really about the news industry, here its really about its impact on all of us and how, in some ways, within a world where we have more access to more information that weve ever had before, we know less than weve ever known before or at least its harder to figure out how to learn about particularly international events or more precisely events further away from us from what we think we want to know. The book, Ethan is now the director of the MIT Center of Civic Media as part of the media lab at MIT. He is also a member of our Global Board of the Open Society Foundations and is just finishing a stint in the next year I think on the information programs board. He's been a tremendous guide for all of us I think here at the foundations and its wonderful to see this book now in print and getting the attention it is. The book is, if you havent had the chance to read it, its a great read. I puzzled over exactly who you thought you were writing for as I read the book. Ethan Zuckerman:Me too Chris Stone:Its full of engaging stories, everything from how Pablo Picasso came to appreciate African art, to the SARS epidemic, to some real insight into how Ethans own project, Global Voices is trying to enact some of the solutions to the problems that he diagnoses in the book. But it is above all a series of stories tied together by a concern for who we are as human beings, how we connect with each other, understand each other and seems, although it never quite makes the claim, seems to be a manifesto for a deep humanitarian connection, a deep appreciation, a difference of diversity, of strangeness, of newness and of a creative imagination fired by all of that. It isand I amEthan was telling me before we started today that his first job in tech was helping people in the neighborhood setup their apple twos, he was about 9 at the time, and he's one of thewe all know that person, was somehow in our circle of friends or our neighborhood or our workplace actually knew how to make these new machines work and whether it was helping neighbors set them up or 10 years later helping his professors figure out how to do desktop layout of the books. They werent quite yet famous enough to get Norton to do the layout orEthan was someone who could make the Internet work and make computers before the Internet work for all of us and I just wantedI thoughtId start by just asking you, how come, you know, how do you get from this kind of techy-start to the philosophical stands. So the realthis manifesto about humanity deep in scholarship, you treat obvious work on cosmopolitanism with the seriousness and respect and engagement of a real peer that is I think a long way from where you started in this tech world. So I'm curious how you, about your journey as well as the work youve done. Ethan Zuckerman:Well Chris, thank you so much and its really wonderful to be here. One of the, perhaps not clearly enough acknowledged parts of this book is that a lot of the exploration I've been privileged to do over the last decade instead of understanding where people around the world are using technology to share their stories, this work that I've done in the context of Open Society Foundations, so it seems very appropriate to have the chance to come and do this here. There is a sense in which this book is a love letter and its a love letter to the world of technology and its the love letter of a frustrated lover whos sort of worked through the initial disappointment and is now sort of going on to the resolution that were going to stay married and were going to work it out over time. So thewhere the analogy comes in is that like most people who got fascinated by technology at a young age, I took a lot of the sort of cyber utopian promises very much at fixed value, and was an early Wired Magazine reader, you know, and sort of following the Internet explosion was pretty much part of that whole movement. And bought to one extent or another this really fierce hope that John Perry Barlow and Kevin Kelly and a lot of early net proponents had that the Internet would be a great leveler or one fact to another would really bring us in to a cosmopolitan future where it was far easier to get information from different parts of the world. And I took this idea seriously enough that I decided to actually sort of go out and give it a try. So after I got done typesetting professors books, my first serious tech entrepreneurial job was one of the sort of classic Internet 1.0 jobs, top floor of an old cable mill, start-up run by people in shorts with long hair all in their 20s, and it was actually a very successful company and I came out with that with enough ability to sort of buy my own time and decided to found the nonprofit. Founded a nonprofit called Geek Core, designed with the humble aim of bringing the peace core up to date. I felt that it was very silly that American should be out teaching poor people how to farm because most of us in America dont know a ton about farming and maybe we should teach some of the stuff that we actually know about. And so I was working in Ghana, West Africa, country that I had studied in previously, trying to help small companiessmall IT companies get off the ground and really market to sort of a global audience and this isnt quite as crazy as it sounds. This was the year 2000actually, there was a Ghanaian company at that point that was entering the data for New York City parking tickets. So if you get a ticket in New York City, it would be scrolled by a patrol person and it would be taken and it would be photographed. The photo would be shipped to Ghana and some Ghanaians, sitting in a desk in an air-conditioned office, would have to figure out the handwriting and enter it in so you would actually have a database of parking records. And this looked like such a great idea, like how can we start taking jobs that people didn't really want to do in the US? Could we do them in a place like Ghana? And so I started working with those firms and I had volunteers on the ground working with half a dozen Ghanaian tech firms to sort of try to get them off the ground and I was really gung-ho on the potential of Ghana and South Africa as a whole to turn the corner and sort of join the global economy. And we had an election in 2000and the election in the US, you may remember, not a particularly good one, not one of our shining moments. Ghana had a really great election in 2000, like, as good as it gets. Opposition leader comes, takes power, peaceful election, smooth transition of government, Ghanas ambassador to the US, a good friend of mine at this point, shows me the letter that he sent to Bill Clinton offering Ghanaian election observers to come and oversee the Florida recount. I mean, that kind of election, and for me just the heart of the sort of Africa rising narrative. And so I'm at home, I'm at home for the holidays, I'm waiting on December 30th, 2000 to see how a peaceful transfer of power in Africa has portray in the New York Times, and its not on the front page and its not on the inside page, and several pages then, I find 237 words acknowledging that Ghana had an election and it wasnt a massacre. And at that point I sort of realized that my hopes for technology as the great leveler were probably in the wrong place and that I might know an awful lot about the worldwide web, and I did in 2000. But to go after the issues that I really cared about, that I really cared about this question of what we would know was going in other parts of the world, that that wasnt a technical question, that was a question about media, it was a question about attention, and thats what really got me to work on this book. This book in a nutshell looks at that question of how the Internet is changing what we pay attention to, and it basically makes the case that the Internet is a homophony machine. Its a machine that makes it very, very easy to pay attention to the people that were similar to. So we already know we have a tendency of bird with the same feather flock together. The Internet makes it even easier to do that and to structure your information flows around it, but my hope is I dont stop with the jolted lever and just sort of stopped there. I then try to go ahead and say, it doesnt have to be that way, which is ultimately why I called the book Rewire around the hopes that we would find a way to take this challenge head on and really use this technology for the potential it has to give us that very wide global view of the world. Chris Stone:Perfect the book makes the claim after demonstrating story after story after story why the Internet doesnt actually solve our problems by just connecting people. You do say we have to rewire and by that, at least as I read it, you mean that the Internet makes a lot possible, that weve built the series of tools and we use them in ways and out ambition in some ways are stunted with those tools that we aren't...not only are we not taking advantage of the Internet, were not going to take advantage of the Internet unless we change something fundamental, not just about our intentions, but about the tools we use and how we engage with the Internet. And the cases are a lovely halfway point between, I think would you describe as the cyber skeptics and the cyber utopians and I'm delighted that youve rescued utopianism. There'sfrom the notion of its completely of just false gods but actually ambition sometimes worthy of pursuit but requiring a kind of discipline and hard headedness and not just a hope it will happen automatically. Soand there are, along the way for those whopart of what's fun about the book is actually not the stories you tell but some of the sides I think. By the way, there's a wonderfulEthans description in one moment about what he calls a thoughtful cynicism. I now have a name for what I think Id like to think of myself as, as a really thoughtful cynical person and theits a way of fixing utopianism and I also particularly like your notion of looking for the conspiracy free explanations of things because in a world so interested in conspiracy theories. But I think both of those actually point to your commitment here to try and understand the flaws and the tools, not how someone is using them to distort us, whether its a government or a company. Its really not about blaming others. Its really about trying to understand what we ourselves are not taking advantage of and how were doing it. But before we go further, why dont you say something about what you think the solutions are. You have some examples of some of those but what do you want us, what do we do if we agree with you in the first half of the book or first third, what do we do about it? Ethan Zuckerman:Wellso lets start by taking a look at one of those tools and one of the tools that I really beat up on and I beat up on it in part because its important that on part because I love it as well as hate it. But the tool is Facebook, and Facebook really became sort of the dominant social network as I was writing this book. And it strikes me there's an enormous contradiction between what Facebook is and what Facebook likes to portray itself as being. So in 2010, there was a summer intern at Facebook, a kid name Paul Butler, who got access to the core data of Facebook, which is the social graph, who is friends with who, and this is the very essence ofthis is Facebooks most valuable property, and he got access to another that he was able make a map, and the map is pretty extraordinary. Its a lovely piece of graphic design. Its a map of the world made out of a glowing blue light, and all the blue lines are all the international connections of everybody on Facebook. And this image has become so important to Facebook that you'll see Zuckerberg use it in almost all of his press appearances. So recently Zuckerberg has been doing a lot of things about his plans for Internet in the developing world and you'll see him standing in front of a giant monitor with this glowing map of Facebook connecting the world and its very clear that thats how he thinks of the site. And the map is garbage. Its a complete misrepresentation of what the network actually is. The average Facebook user has 130 friends. The vast majority are people that you know in the offline world. 92% are people that you know offline, and in fact Facebook is very suspicious of you making friends purely online. It assumes that if you're making friends purely online, you're probably marketing or spamming. So it actually asks you, Do you know this person in real life? because its one of their anti-fraud algorithms. And when you join Facebook, what do they try to do is replicate your offline network. They ask for who you went to highschool with, who you went to college with, who youve worked with, they try to reconstruct all of this. Now, there's the paranoid version of this and I appreciate you bringing out this question of paranoia versus the sort of Occam's razor explanation. The paranoid version is that Facebook really wants to give the NSA a run for its money. It wants to have as thorough and understanding of your social network so that it could market you, etc. The real answer behind this is that Facebook is designed to be a warm bath. Its designed to be this wonderful, comfortable, supportive space where you come in and your old friends tell you what's going on and they give you emotional support and you stay there again and again and again because you keep clicking and you keep seeing ads. And one of the first questions is to say, could you imagine a Facebook that worked differently? So one way to imagine a Facebook that worked differently is one that isnt necessarily about connecting in to the old friends, it might be about introducing in to new friends. And that would be Facebook that starts by saying, What are you interested in? What do you want to know about? And thats a Facebook that will then take the topic or it would take the informational piece of it and then say, Can I introduce you to some people that you know and also to some people who you dont know who might be deeply interesting to you? Now, would it work as well as an ad vehicle? No, definitely not. It would be far more challenging. It would be far more likely to make you uncomfortable in one fact to another. It would have a much higher degree or risk and ultimately the heart of it is, my fear is that the Internet, which was a very risky place in the 1990s. You really didn't know what you were going to get, has had the risk sort of systematically rung out of it mostly by the advertising industry, that advertising needs you not to be discomforted, needs you not to click to the other page. And in the process weve lost a lot of what weve hope the Internet would do, which is deliver us cognitive diversity, give us that ability to see other perspectives, other ways of solving problems, other ways to framing issues. So for me, where I would go after solving this, the first thing I would do is when I look at a tool like Facebook, I would try to understand what are those assumptions. What was that built around and then how does it change if you start shifting those assumptions somewhat. And the actions may change into something that isnt worth many billions of dollars. It simply is an interesting cognitive experiment. But there are ways that you can push instead of saying, Can you make that an option? The other things that I think you absolutely have to look at are these questions about, what are the remaining barriers between human connections? So there's a chapter in the book that talks about translation, which doesnt get talked about enough but remains a giant unsolved problem in an Internet age. You go to Google and you look for a piece of information. The piece of information you may need may be in French. Google is not going to give you that information. They're simply going to assume that its linguistically locked to you. So trying to get through translation, trying to get through cultural bridging, which is the main theme of the book, trying to get through new ways of discovery. How do you discover information that may not have been initially what you were looking for but gives you that new perspective, that experience of serendipity, that experience of an alternative perspective on something, much of the book looks at what seemed like sort of absurd ideas but could you actually go ahead and engineer serendipity? And I think the answer is, I actually think you can make some steps towards it but you have to start from this assumption that these tools that we have were not somehow descended from heaven. They were written by overweight, long-haired guys like me who were trying to make a buck and to venture capital market. And as a result, they were made with certain assumptions and not with other assumptions. Chris Stone:I'm attempted to go down the road of whether we get serendipity because we want it or because its available and a lot of the book moves into that. But I want toI'm going to open up for questions. But I'm want to ask one more before we go, and it may be a little unfair because it doesntit doesnt reallyit doesnt just ask you to tell a story from the book, but think about your current environment and where you and I first met at a university. Because in some ways, the problem you're dealing with, the problem of people who dont yet either have the confidence to embrace a cosmopolitan impulse or havent yet learned the pleasures of cosmopolitanism. A lot of the role of the university is about instilling and reproducing and deepening those impulses. And these days, universities are obsessed with trying to figure out how to use the Internet to do their core work, to teach, to link students across campuses, to attract more students to pay tuition at their campus or in theirat least to their accounts even if they never touched their campus. The fascination with the Internet as a way of moving to the next version of the universityI dont know, university 6.0 or something, is reallyits interesting both because its the place youd think that ambition will be strong and the conversation seemed some of the weakest conversation about how to use the Internet. The tools are some of the crudest, the ideas, some of the least imaginative. And as a result, the use of the Internet by universities is rather shallow. Might we rewire? What would it mean to rewire the way universities are thinking about using the net to achieve exactly the kind of ambition you want here? Ethan Zuckerman:Well, so one of the ideas that I do explore in the book is the question of universities as a space for social engineering, which they most certainly are. And there's a wonderful study done on Facebook usage at a large prominent American university that happened to be an extremely early adapter of Facebook and you can figure out from there which university it is. But what they figure out at this university if basically that this problem of Homophily problem of flocking together is so much worse than anyone had ever imagined, and they figured this out by analyzing Facebook and they basically say, Ignore friends, right, you know, Ill friend everybody in the room because thats what we do on Facebook. Look for photographic co-presents. If I'm in a photo with my arm around you, were probably friends, and we can build a tie on that. And when you look at that social network, you find out that its not just that Asian-American kids hangout with other Asian-American kids, Vietnamese kids hangout with Vietnamese kids, Filipino kids hangout with Filipino kids. Its small groups all the way down. Math majors from Michigan hangout with math majors from Michigan. The one thing piece of good news that comes out of this for people who are interested in this question of how we build bridges, which is really the heart of the book, is that people become friends with their roommates, and this university is really, really good about making sure that you dont room with someone particularly similar. And so you basically end up with people who have the social circles where they have one friend who is their bridge into a community of a different identity of fact to another, which gives them sort of a very complicated anchor as they sort of move through that space. And its very, very clear that this is how the university says of its housing system, wants to make sure that this is a key part of your education in that first year that you're there. Now when we get to the question of what do universities do online, they basically forget that a huge chunk of what universities do is try to educate the whole person and to try to give you that diverse, broad range, the university suddenly think of themselves as purveyors or a product. So I teach at MIT. MIT is one of the leaders in this space. We have a platform called AdEx and we appear to be convinced that all we really need to do to provide an MIT education is to take a statistics lecture, put it online and build a really, really good system for grading worksheets. And this is the sort of thing that pretty much gives faculty apoplexy because they sort of look at this, we recently had the president of the university come to a faculty meeting and offer provocation, not an announcement but a provocation, which waslook educating undergrads is really expensive. What if we made a year of MIT virtual? What if we just did freshman year only online? And once you cut through this sort of immediate emotional reactions of, Oh my God, you're destroying the university as I know it. There are these really deep questions. Would you suddenly have students coming another sophomore year, capable of dealing with the academic load but with none of that sort of interpersonal experience that students actually get out of that first year? And my sense is that you basically be kicking problems down the road. The students we have problem with freshman, it isnt that they cant handle the statistics homework, is that they're going through that growth experience to sort of coming to the university. How do you solve this? I think you look at education in a much deeper and more nuance way. Were doing a class right now at the media lab called Media Lab X, which is very much a rift on AdEx instead of saying, if AdEx is about taking a lecture class and putting it online, how do we do that we do in the media lab? We do no lecture classes. There are none. We only do project and pure base learning. So how do you do project and pure base learning online? Well, pretty quickly you run in to these questions about interaction, cultural translation, power, I have two groups of students working on a question that were calling symmetric learning, which is to say, is there a way that people that have a learning experience where my job isnt to teach you and you're job is to learn. But there's some genuine exchange going in both ways and can you do this in a context where there is a big cultural gap. And so were trying to do this between the iHub in Nairobi, which is probably the most interesting tech incubator in sub-Saharan Africa at the moment, which has about 5,000 sort of amazing Kenyan developers and entrepreneurs and the media lab, which is a pretty amazing place in its own right and were bumping into all of this stuff very, very early on. It turns out that the net makes it possible for us to sort of build these mash ups. We can create a Google hangout, put four Kenyan entrepreneurs, put four American grad students into it at the same time, but we have very, very little experience instead of figuring out how do we make that helpful, supportive, fair, usable? And where I'm going on this before anything else is to sort of say, Look, this is going to happen whether we like it or not you know, and it may only happen at the edges, it may only happen at the folks who are really daring to sort of go out and work across cultural borders. If were lucky, maybe it really happens on a broad scale because I think we need that level of interaction introduction. But we really need some help getting through it and the three or four ideas that I'm putting forward as first steps are first steps. We really, really need people who can help us go further in all of this. Chris Stone:So I'm going to translate that asif you do your freshman year online, you need an online roommate and it should be somebody on a different continent than you. Ethan Zuckerman:And you need at least one screaming fight with that person, at least one of you needs to move out and like, sleep on the clock in the middle of the night. Chris Stone:Very good. Ethan Zuckerman:I may be extrapolating from my own experience. Chris Stone:Lets see. Questions, comments, now we have a microphone challenge here. Why dont you stay there and I will wander around Audience:Malcolm Arnold. Thank you very much. I'm just curios to what extent have you been an influence or no other thinking of Adam Curtis and his documentaries, dealing with the Internet, etc. you know, some of the issues that you're dealing with. Ethan Zuckerman:I dont know them. I'm sorry. Do you want to tell me a little bit about them? Audience:He didhe's done several documentaries in England, BBC, he's done one, Watched over by machines of loving grace, which is a take on the poem, you know, early days on the Internet, and he talks about utopianism and Ayn Rand, you know, Rand Foundation, where technology was going to take it, and in that one documentary, he takes it through there and through his other documentaries, he talks about advertising and the connection with advertising. So I highly recommend checking them out. Ethan Zuckerman:I appreciate the recommendations since I dont know them, its a little hard for me to rift on. I will say that certainly my hope in this was to look back at some of the rhetoric of the 1990s Internet, which very much came out of a sense in which Internet institutions would replace real world institutions where we would have the ability to sort of create things from scratch and I think weve all sort of figured out the problems with that, that essentiallythe Internet hasnt magically solved some of the toughest problems with institution building particularly how groups of people get together and make decisions, get along with one another. And so there's been a lot of big promises that have been very disappointing, it doesnt mean that those core ideas aren't interesting and aren't worth exploring. So part of what I was sort of trying to do with this book was to sort of head off a real intellectual tendency a the moment, which is an anti-Internet backlash, which basically says, you know, you guys are obsessed with this, its the only solution, the only place where interesting things are going on. And a ton of that critique is right. Where that critique is wrong is to sort of leave off at that moment and essentially say, people who are looking to the Internet to sort of naturally solve problems, are almost certainly making a terrible mistake. People who then say the Internet is no help to us in solving big deep problems are also almost certainly making a mistake. Its incredibly helpful to be able to coordinate large groups of people at very, very low cost. Its incredibly helpful to let people create and disseminate media and be able to share it over great distances at almost no cost. What we dont really know yet is how to harness that into the really big social issues were playing about. And so for me, the question becomes, how do you put those social issues on to the table and particularly how do you put them on to the table for the people who are actually sort of building these tools. One of the critiques that I've gotten a lot and having this book out there is that people are arguing that I'm far too optimistic. Someone described me as believing that Google was in fact the archangel Gabriel. In my own defense, I actually am somewhat more cynical that I may come out in all of this, but I need those guys to take these ideas seriously. I've watched for 20 years people try to build alternative political structures, alternative social structures just blessed by the Internet, and have sort of come to the conclusion that there's really big powerful companies that have an enormous amount of influence on what we see and what we dont see, and I would rather get them sort of thinking about these questions that have an influence in their work than simply point my finger and sort of say, youve guys have blown it so far. So thats really been my way of trying to go after the utopian stance. I'm sorry that I dont know the works that you're talking about. Audience:Hi, I'm Avory Hudson, and I hope I understood you correctly when you defined Internet, as we have it now, as a homophony machine? Ethan Zuckerman:Homophily. Audience:Homophily, okay. Ethan Zuckerman:Homophily is the tendency of birds of a feather to flock together. Its one of those great, $1 sociology words, but its actually really helpful. Audience:Okay, close enough, because I'm thinking, since were here at the Open Society Foundations, I'm thinking that this is a classic example of a closed society, and of course I then started thinking about this in context of Karl Poppers critique of the utopian project overall, and then I'm very interested in your focus on Facebook, which the business model is essentially monetizing friendships as, you know, in the notorious quote from Mark Zuckerberg is they trust me with their secrets, the dumb fox. So I would just like, ask you and perhaps its in your book, which I cant wait to read, what would the vision of the Internet look like that divorced from the utopian project? Ethan Zuckerman:Well, so first of all, your observation that were creating our own self-sorting group together in this room. I think its absolutely right on than in some ways, my favorite critique of the book so far was someone who started asking over twitter, why Id had the five people on the back of the book track and learned the book and this person knows me well enough to know that I know all five of those people well and that those five people are very, very well-known in one might call, the Internet Intellectuals Circle, but are probably wholly unknown outside of that circle. So the persons critique was, if the whole point of a book blurb is to get people who dont know you to read your book, you failed utterly. You basically just shown your credentials as being sort of part of this set and those credentials are totally opaque to anybody outside of this set. So, you know, what were you thinking? And since my editor at Norton, and I have a very twitter eccentric relationship I wrote to my editor and I sort of said, look I think he's got a point, you know, did we blow it, at which point my editor came back and said, thats the whole cost of these things like, you know, reviewing a book is a non-zero cost. I reviewed one on the plane flight over from Berlin on my way over here, and you know, it takes some serious time to sort of sit down and write that blurb. So obviously you're going to make that sort of demands on your webs of friends. So I dont think there's a vision of the Internet that is independent of friendships. I dont even know that there's a reasonable vision of the Internet right now that is independent of monetized friendships. I just think its too easy and too obvious instead of a way to go on it. Where I am, I think perhaps nostalgically looking back as well as instead of looking forward is the Internet that I sort of fell in love with in the late 1980s and early 1990s was basically an Internet of self-selected weirdoes with very diverse interests and diverse geographies. So on one access, it was a much more diverse set of interactions than you tend to have today. You would go in to a conversation about photography and the most knowledgeable person might well be in Finland or might well be in Japan and that sort of topic-organized Internet was quite diverse in terms of geography. Now my friend Judith Donath pointed out when I started using this example, that it probably wasnt very diverse in terms of peoples occupations. It was all graduate students. Thats what the Internet was in the late 1980s, and in that sense, you probably actually have more socioeconomic diversity by being in touch with your highschool friends on Facebook. Certainly when I looked to see how many republicans there are in my social orbit, thats where I'm sort of having that encounter and its probably very useful for my cognitive diversity. I think weve just spent 10 years building an Internet, very, very good at monetizing friendship. We use friendship for recommendation. We use friendship for endorsement. We use friendship to sort of make us comfortable with what were seeing online. I would love to see 10 years of work as hard around these questions instead of curiosity, interest in a topic, and sort of the diversity that comes out of that, and I really think that there's actually enormous economic potential around this. I think were starting to hit the limits of going in to Facebook and saying, find me a restaurant in New York City that my friends like, and its a solution to one small set of problems. But there's another set of problems where the solution is, find me something thats going to help me understand what's going on in the Congo, written by someone that I dont know but has enough in common with me that I'm going to be able to actually understand what its about. And thats a really different set of questions than the questions weve been asking now. You know, for me that start getting closer tow where we want to go. Now, whether it gets this away from utopianism, I dont know if I just shrugged off that entire part of the question but thats what I got for you. Chris Stone:Lets go back. I'm going to go back and going back here. Audience:Hi, my name is Allan Grisler. I've just retired from an inspected generals office, and I havent read your book. I'm familiar with a lot of issuesmost recently going to a lot of forums on big data and surveillance, and not by accidentand to be honest, I can only judge from this presentation that you have presented something where any aspect, anyone would bring up, which is not positive, will be labeled conspiratorial and other negative things. So let me bring those up. And there's an excellent film, I think its called Check the Box Below about one aspect of the Internet where everything you sign on to collects minuet information about for ever and sells it to anyone, any government, any spy agency for any use, and thingyes, okaynow we found out that in a verylets say, non-friendly way, the NSA is in the advantage of that to deal with unfortunate people like leaders of democratic countries and use them in a very negative fashion and what are you seeing as protections both begins corporate misuse of data and governmental misuse of data. Ethan Zuckerman:So I apologize if somehow my comments so far have given you the impression that I'mfirst of all, unabashed internet enthusiast or that I'm not interested in the dark sides. Let me then say, to answer your direct question, what are the limits on corporate use and government use at present. There are none, noneand its a horrific situation. Its an utterly terrifying situation. And what's been particularly interesting about the NSA revelations is that theyve made us, or some of us, not enough of us, very uncomfortable about the potential of metadata and weve been giving that stuff up for 15 years to corporate partners that have very explicitly said, were going to build our businesses around this. So its a really interesting moment. Its actually kind of an interesting reflection on what Americans are and are not worried about. Youd like me to solve all of Internet surveillance? Can I finish my comment first? That isnt what my books about. Chris Stone:Let me ask youlet me keep it going a little bit because I think several of the questions are about theare sort of pushing you on the deep flaws in the way the Internet is developed. The ability of various powerful forces to exploit those flaws, at least asI may wrong, I may be as mother utopian of the cynical side of me, but at least I think you're trying to make an argument. In some of the same ways that we teach or at least mywhen my kids went to school here in New York City, the public schools were in adebate them about learning syntax and vocabulary or learning what was called, Whole Language and the point about Whole Language was that it was trying to teach them at a very young age, five, six or seven, that when they saw a book, they got handed a textbook, that was a human product. Somebody had built that, somebody had written that, it was a human being, someone had published it, designed it, and they met, they didn't just read the book, they went down to thewhat was then the publishing district in New York and met Publishers and met authors and it was not about the book. It was about the book as a human product, and at least it seems to me part of your answer to the question of what do you do is the first is to see the Internet as a human product and the tools, the Facebooks and the other tools on it, that we built these and that means we could build other kinds of tools that might achieve other things. I mean, at least it seems to me that is part of the argument you're making. Ethan Zuckerman:Sure. Lookso its not a book about surveillance in part because it was written well before Snowden at all came out with the revelations and we understood the extent to which the government was looking at this information. It was very much written in an era where corporations were collecting and using this data, and I would hope that part of what's going on in the book is raising this question, essentially saying to the extent that we built an Internet right now designed to track individuals by corporations to better target to them that there are enormous problems with that and that we need to start taking apart the assumptions behind those tools we make to push them in different directions. My goal here was not to undo the corporate surveillance state or the government surveillance state, and there are other people doing really good work on that and I'm happy to sort of talk about it. Where there is sort of a parallel is this question of what are the assumptions that get built into it. The Internet, when it was built, was built as a network with very, very little security built within it. Its required an enormous amount of work to sort of bolt security on to it after the fact. And the reason for that was that it was really designed as a space where people are going to be reading publications. So when you build library security, you tend to build library security pretty sparsely. Yes, at the end of the day you really dont want peoples patron records being released but generally people dont design libraries the way that they design banks. So we took something that had been designed to be a library that was very, very easy to publish and very, very easy to borrow, and we bolted on enough security that you could put your credit cards on it. But what we did not do is put enough security to really make it hard so that you couldnt be traced in the content that you were looking at. Now we could think about how you rebuild that from the ground up, and there's lots of different ways to go about building that. You can try to make it cryptographically secure so you cant make a path between someone looking at a resource and who that person is. Weve not done it for two reasons. One is that its an enormous and heavy lift. It would be a very, very different Internet than what we have built. The second, is that people aren't asking for it, and this is an enormous problem. Now sir, I already see you making faces at me but I wish there were more people going out in to the streets upset about the NSA in part because I'm trying to get people out in to the streets. How many people are on Facebook? How many people have gone off of Facebook because they're worried about corporate surveillance on it? How many people are using meaningful security like TOR or PGP to do this? I'm trying to make the argument that there are millions and millions of people making, what I agree with you, are bad decisions, and I'm trying to figure out how we would actually get to the point where we would have that conversation about moving forward. I actually think I'm on your side on this, believe it or not, youre making it very hard for me to make that case, but-- Chris Stone:Lets do some more. Audience:Thanks. Hi, Mika Sufiri from Personal Democracy Media. Ethan, great bookI want to ask you, you talk about Homophily as the problem that werethe Internet is a Homophily machine, its making it too easy to plot together narrowly. But I think the more serious concern for me is the destruction of attention that seems to be flowing in part from all these media and, you know, we may flock together, were not following anything with any attention. I have in front of me a chart that Gilad Lotan made at social flow that looks at trending topics on Twitter for a 4-month period in 2012 across a bunch of American cities, and on the average day, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 topics trend. There's one day in March of 2012 where the number of trending topics is below 50. Thats the day that Kony 2012 video came out, which youve written about as a very, very problematic example of the Internet actually focusing us on something. I wonder if you would talk a bit about, you know, what can we doI'm with you on Heterophilyits the Homophily. I looked it up. Its on Wikipedia Ethan Zuckerman:Did you make the page while sitting here Mika? Audience:No, its there, its actuallyI didn't have to do a thing, and besides, there are too many mail editors on Wikipedia already. But I dont know if the word is antiphily but what do we do about what I tend to call Internet assisted attention deficit disorder? Ethan Zuckerman:So what you're pointing to is this incredible explosion of content and voices that have sort of come around, now that its possible for everyone to publish as well as to access content. And this is a really old problem, right? You know, Herbert Simon, the amazingI dont even have a noun for Simon because he did so many things in political science and economics and so on and so forth. He started warning us about attention scarcity because of the advent of the Xerox machine. So his fear was that, with the ability to sort of copy things via Xerox, we were going to start drowning and easily created information. So he started positing this notion of an attention economy and this sort of demand for attention. And I find a lot of the language that he uses about attention economy to be incredibly helpful. What people have found is in a world where there's so many things demanding attention. We fall back on very basic things and the reason that Homophily sort of comes into play is that if you as my friend, say, Hey Ethan, I need you to pay attention to this, I'm actually likely to give you some of that attention. So a lot of what we talk about as far as the virility of media instead of the spread of things is really basing itself on those very human patterns of paying attention to your friends, paying attention to your family instead of growing from there. What its meant is that a lot of the ways in which people use to gate keep attention have sort of fallen down, so you can no longer look at what are the 10 things of the front page of the New York Times and say this is what were going to talk about today. In a lucky day, maybe one or two of them would turn out to be the things that we talk about that there might well be 50 or 500 other things that are out there. So my sense is that were turning to the social networks. Were turning to the friends as a way of trying to deal with this just welter or noise and were sort of going, I know that I need to know something, at least if I know what my friends know, I can talk with them. And where I think we need to start thinking about is how do we make sure that there's a diversity of voices that you're sort of paying attention to there. I havent been using the term heterophily because its an awful mouthful. I've been using cognitive diversity as a way of sort of thinking about how do you find a path through all this information that isnt just giving you the same perspectives again and again, is giving you some amount of variety in terms of who you're listening and sort of whos setting your priorities. And I think in many ways, were never going to fully get away from Dunbars number, you know, Robin Dunbar sort of speculates that there's about 150 people we can really sort of maintain strong relationships with. I think the Internet has stretched it somewhat, but I dont think its obviated it, and I think really where the challenge is, is now its so easy to fill that sort of Dunbars number jar with the old highschool friends instead of the folks who continue to insist on demanding your attention. We need to be very conscious about getting some diversity within that set. Chris Stone:We need Dunbars [???][0:53:16.4] can weI want to go to the net for one and then well come back to the room. How can youbecause I think this carries right where you were talking abouthow can news organizations help to connect the people globally even if social networks dont? Ethan Zuckerman:So news organizations are incredibly powerful attention brokers even now, and this is one of the stuff thatin the research were doing at Center for Civic Media, were trying to look at the ecosystem of new stories. So we just did a very big paper coming out shortly on Trayvon Martin and sort of trying to understand how the shooting of an unarmed black teen turned into a national conversation about race, because there was no guarantee that it was going to. And in fact, what happens with that story is its reported by two or three Orlando news outlets and then it sort of disappears from view. It comes back due to a PR campaign that manages to get a story on CBS News and also on to writers, and from there, we see what people sort of refer to as the networks. Then we see the petitions, then we see people demanding that we talk about the racial impact of it. But its very likely that that story would not have turned into a national debate without broadcast media sort of being in play. So I think anyone who has a really big audience, whether thats a celebrity, whether thats a professional news organization, has the power to bring voices into the debate that we dont normally hear from, whether its the voice of a tragically slain young man or whether its the voice of someone in eastern democratic republic of Congo going through the conflict in that country right now. I think the press has a particular responsibility because we can still say that the press with a straight face, you have a double bottom line here. You cant just sustain yourself physically. We need you to sustain yourself civically as well. And part of your job is to connect us with people in other parts of the world who can help us understand what's going on. Now, this is really hard and news organizations are still trying to figure out how to navigate their way through it. There's still sort of the assumption that were dumb enough that we need to process for us by someone in a new studio in the United States. But you can also see the hunger to have that voice from the ground. You can remember Salam Pax, the Iraqi blogger, and this was a very unusual Iraqi. This is an Iraqi whod studied in Germany, had a lot of the cultural signifiers in common with an audience in the United States and an Audience in Europe. But that hunger for that perspective from the ground built up by media who really help sort of amplify and introduce people to him. I think sort of shows where we might hope media ends up going on all of this. In global voices, in the journals and project weve been working on for about nine years built on top of global citizen media, weve made the argument multiple times that were trying to replace foreign correspondents with local correspondents. Were trying to get to the point where instead of having an American sort of parachuting for a week, two days and tell a story. Were actually trying to get to know the people who are on the ground there and amplify and translate and sort of bridge those voices. And for me, thats the big hope from broadcast media at this point, is that to one extent or another as we face sort of fiscal shortfalls, as we face the different challenges to the news industry, this can be a moment where those organizations say, maybe our job now is to find people in communities who can help us understand what's going on and who can do that bridging. Chris Stone:Lets go. Audience:Hi, my name is Laura Reed. I work at Freedom House. I'm a researcher there for their Freedom On the Net Publication, and I just want to go back a little bit to things were talking about earlier, and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about Twitter in comparison to Facebook or other social media tools, because I feel like a lot of the things that you were saying about Facebook are actually different in the way that Twitter is set up and the way that people use Twitter and I dont study Twitter as a platform, I just use it in my work and I know that, you know, most of the people that follow me are my friends and people I know in real life but most of the people that I follow, I dont know and I use it for work. So I follow people in the field and I haveI feel like through Twitter, there's a much greater depth of information that I'm receiving versus breath that I might have of the diversity of viewpoints and things like that. But I dont necessarily think thats a bad thing and I guess I just want to kind of complicate this idea that you're presenting of Homophily as being necessarily negative, and also to ask you just from your work if you have, you know, a broader picture of how people use Twitter as suppose to just my personal experience and how I use it. Ethan Zuckerman:Yeah. So the structures of Facebook versus Twitter are just a great example to sort of talk about the idea that I'm trying to bring forward, which is that all these tools have certain assumptions begged in to them, right? So the assumptions behind Facebook are that relationships are symmetric. If I am following you, you are following me because we are friends and that represents a particular version of a friendship. On Twitter, I might decide that I'm interested in what you have to say. I can follow you. Its no cost to you. You dont have to pay any attention to me. You dont have to acknowledge me. It doesnt actually change my ability to reach you or talk to you unless you reciprocate that friendship. Its simply, I'm paying attention to you and nothing else happens. And so the networks have evolved in very, very different ways. Facebook puts a fairly strong limit on how many people you're following. As a result, most people end up following people that they know in the real world. Twitter has some of that. Certainly if you look at the geography of Twitter, it turns out to be closer to sort of 70% having geographic locality. So there's nice work done by Barry Wallman and his students at the University of Toronto, that looks at the sort of geographic path of Twitter, and it has a local bias but its nowhere near as strong as the locality bias on Facebook in part because people use it exactly the way that you're talking about. They use it as a way to look for other people in the network that they might end up paying attention to. So for me in my work, I actually do a lot of experimentation with Twitter because I think Twitters a really fun way to find the bridge figures. And for me, the bridge figures are people who I can understand I've got nothing in common with, that I can read their language, I understand some of their cultural context, but they are knowledgeable about a topic or a place or perspective that I know very little about. So one of my pieces of research in the long term is trying to figure out, can you use a network like Twitter to start identifying those sort of bridge figures, people who will help you sort of get another direction. Where weve done some research on this on actual Twitter usage, one of my students, Nathan Matthias has built the set of tools that are pretty good at sort of sousing out gender online. They look at someones name and they make a pretty good guess based on first name of someones gender and they're going to be wrong a lot on individual instances but in the aggregate, they're about 85% right. And what's interesting is you throw this on your own Twitter behavior. You can try this out. He's got a tool called Follow By Us, and I find that most people who look at who they follow on Twitter, they discover they're following many, many, many more men than women. And for people who are following more women than men, they tend to be separating their Twitter usage into a professional and into a personal account. But when I go out and give talks to this, I actually show my own data and it turns out that I'm about 53% men, which doesnt sound too bad until you discover that that actually means 26% women because there's 20 odd percent of sort of brands and bots within there. Its about two to one male to female. And so I think Twitter is absolutely moving us instead of more diverse directions than something like Facebook. I think its a huge upgrade. I think its a wonderful network that I'm building on top of. But when I look at my own behavior on it as well as other people on it, I have all sorts of biases that I'm really uncomfortable with. And so a lot of the work that I'm doing instead of trying to build mirrors and tools to let people sort of look at those biases. And so were thinking about things like how do you build a Twitter recommendation system that lets you nudge it in one direction or another, that sort of says I want more women in Twitter, so push me in that direction, or, one of my students is working on something right now called Terra Incognito, which sort of sits and looks where in the world she's paying attention to, and then starts nudging her to pay attention to parts of the world that she hasnt seen that week. So if she has a free week, might then start looking for someone on Twitter or looking for someone in media to sort of push in that direction. But the core question, which is, what are those assumptions that go into the tool and how do they shape the behavior? I think you're right on and I think looking at those two networks actually pushes in very, very different directions. But I think you have to look at the data, not just its sort of the anecdote and then you start finding some of the more uncomfortable patterns. Chris Stone:Can I justbefore I'm going to come back right here but I just want to follow up in the last two questions, put them together a little bit. One of our colleagues here at the Open Society Foundations or a group of them organized a meeting of journalists and the meeting was held in Hong Kong but it was Chinese, mainland Chinese journalists and African journalists and they were talking about the coverage of Africa in China. And if you were thinking of the question of bridge makers in your frame, this was not an Internet discussion. It was an old media, a traditional media conversation. But the point was made that when the BBC was trying to introduce Africa to its viewers, they, as you said a moment ago, flew in a British correspondent, landed in Africa and reported from an African location, and it was a long time before the BBC let the first African be the on-air presenter about Africa from Africa for their domestic audience. The Chinese jumped right over that and actually contracted with Kenyan and other domestic, essentially subcontractors to produce news and broadcast news including the on-air piece. Now, the argument would be, that actually the BBC was trying to bridge, they were trying to help their readers understand something foreign in a way that they could as you were just saying in your search for Twitter. You were looking a Twitter friend. You were looking for someone who is close enough that you can understand them but also far enough away that youd learn something new. That balance of course is new as the story in time but people can experiment with different things. You have to have a hypothesis somewhere about how close that bridge has to be. I think at that first meeting where we met, someone was telling a story about being a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan very early in the US NATO War there and talking about how they went there and they needed to write stories about this Kansas City entrepreneur who went to Afghanistan and open a hotdog stand because that would get their readers paying attention in a way Afghanistan didn't. Those are all bridge techniques. You have to have a theory about what it takes to bridge in addition to a technology that allows you to do it. I just wondered if you wanted to say something about that. Ethan Zuckerman: So the theory that Ido you want to build on that orsure, go ahead. Audience:Yeah, so its an elaboration on that question. I had a second question but Ill leave that. Thats not so important. So I mean, I was thinking about this issue, Bird of a feather and flocking together, so on one hand you have to bridge but on the other hand you have to have this different. So I was trying to sort of imagine. On the one hand you could say, well, we could have nothing in common. So I just find a randomI click on anything like a random site but thats going to be a very inefficient way to find anything else. So we have to have this bridge as you said. So I was thinking, okay well, what are meaningful bridges and what arewhat are the bridges that we like and what are the bridges that we dont like. So we dont like if we went to highschool with them. If we sort of follow on from this very limited talk of yours. You dont like them if they went to highschool with you but we do like them if they were from another country or were in my dorm room from another faculty or something like that. And the things youve sort of gravitated back to are geography, cultural and language and latitude can be really seen by the former. So I mean, I was trying to think of a space of people who I like and not like what are the ones we do and dont like. So is it about, you know, politics? Is it religion? Is it language? Is it culture? Which ones matter most? It was about having less in common that we have thats not in common, and I dont mean just sort of be too detailed about this but I think if were trying to build an infrastructure internet, then lets do this knowing that we want to link people across political spectrum or across geography or across religion or language, then you know, we can make really meaningful strides and that. So what is it acceptable to be in common and what is desirable to have not in common? Ethan Zuckerman:Okay. So my argument in the book tends to center on language and geography in part because there's a whole lot of really good scholarship done on politics in the United States. And so to the extent that I'm sort of following other scholars in this field, there's been an enormous amount done on sort of ideological isolation between the left and the right in the US. Katzenstein has a couple of remarkable books looking at the phenomenon of echo chambers. Eli Pariser has a very helpful book called, The Filter Bubble, sort of looking at this question of how algorithms contribute to ideological isolation. To the extent that I've tried to after that, I've been trying to make the argument that that Filter Bubble is three-dimensional. That its not just about that the left and the right in the US dont talk to one another, but there's all sorts of obstacles that make it difficult for people for people of different face, different languages, different languages, different nationalities to talk to one another, and because I end up using the language of cosmopolitanism, which tends to be specifically about cross nation that does give it that particular lens. So I apologize if I'm losing you on that, but that is where that focus comes in. I'm also not trying to beobviously I'm trying to be prescriptive but I'm also not trying to give you a formula of please meet this many people of another religion and this many from another political party. What I'm actually trying to make a larger case about is that there is enormous value and the book actually looks at some of the research on this in having a circle of people that you're interacting with who come from a different background because they're bringing different calculative tools to the table. And so really what the book is about is trying to figure out how you expand that toolkit that you're bringing the problems and you're bringing to issues by looking at a more diverse range of people. Where I'm going after that is through as Chris was asking this question of bridging and how do pay attention to people and issues and sort of other parts of the world, or in other ideologies or in your community who you're not reaching out to who are somehow absent from your media picture. Chris puts forward this really interesting dichotomy, right? Youve got Chinese news networks essentially saying, were going to straight to the Kenyans and you know, who cares whether daily nation in Kenya has ever met a Chinese person. Were going to produce Kenyan TV for Chinese and its all going to work out. And my guess is that its actually not going to work very well for a while. The British version of this essentially says the Brits wont pay attention to a Kenyan. Were going to put Brits in Kenya for three or four generations and then maybe well get to the point where a Kenyan will be able to talk to a British audience. Thats also problematic, right? So the hope is that there's a middle ground in here somewhere and the argument that I try to make is that bridge figures are people who metaphorically have feet in both worlds. They are almost always people who have travelled and been educated in another place or at least have worked in another place for a long period of time. They're people who have pledged allegiances. So it might be someone in Kenya whos also spend a decent amount of time in China. It might be someone from China whos gone and worked and studied and had some time in Kenya. But the notion is that you understand something about what are the cultural assumptions? What is the background you would need to understand a complex issue? And that you can then bring that into the process of the communication behind it, and this is very much what weve ended up doing in global voices. Weve got 1500 people who are sort of engaged in the day-to-day business of saying this is what's being talked in Pakistan right now and were going to assume that the audience is not just Pakistani because its a global audience that were sort of going for. So you start looking for people who have spent substantial amount of time both in Pakistan and one of other nations and then start looking for that question of what do I have to explain to unpack this for a different audience. Thats where the bridging piece of these events that are coming into play. And so I dont think the solution is the Chinese solution of just sort of saying lets get the local News here. I think thats where you want to get to in the long run, but I suspect that what they're actually going to have to do is much more what Jazeera is doing, which is doing this, I think quite a bit more responsibly, which is they're bringing a lot of reporters into Doha for rotations for ships, building on Al Jazeera English and such, then coming out and building local newsrooms through a combination of reporters who reported internationally and reporters who are reporting locally. I think this is a space, that question of cultural translation and bridging, that weve not explored particularly well. I think its something that when you talk to people who build transnational teams or who build transnational media will often tell you as utterly essential as a key part of what they do. But I dont think we have a ton of language around them. So in the book, I try to introduce language around bridges and language around xenophiles, which was sort of the parallel of people who are looking for cognitive diversity in their community, in the broader world, are looking for difference and are therefore people who bridge figures can reach out to the one fact or another. But I'm putting this out mostly because I'm hoping that we can have sort of a richer dialogue or debate about it, not because I necessarily think I have the answers to solving these questions of bridging. Audience:Thank you. My name is Mark Gavigan. To a great extent, we have the Internet that we have chosen. We vote with our eyeballs, we vote with our clicks, we vote with out time. So how do you change demand? How do you rewire the average person on the street so that they are really interested in what's going on so that they have an interest in cultural and cognitive diversity. Ethan Zuckerman:So this question of voting with our eyes and voting with our clicks was where I was trying to go responding to the gentleman who was asking about surveillance, which is weve had a very small number of people moving to highly secure email and moving to TOR instead of supporting those projects, which to me, unfortunately suggests that I wish they were voting more with their feet. And I think similarly I have the problem with global voices. I've been running a website for 10 years essentially saying, Hey, if you'll let us, we would love to tell you what's going on in Bolivia or Bangladesh and we have not had the audience that we have really hoped to have. So I think this question of how you would sort of change demand, I think it would have to start by sort of pointing out what some of the problems are when you do end up in these echo chambers of one fact to another. And the argument that some sense of making, is that it tends to make us more extreme. That when we look at things only from a left point-of-view or only from the US point-of-view or only from a Christian point-of-view or whatever chamber you want to think about, when we talk with people who self-select that same group, we tend to get more extreme in our views. And I worry that this is happening even at a moment where not only is through the potential to understand what someone else is saying or what someone else is thinking, but enormous need to do so. A lot of the problems that we would like to address at this moment in time demand some sort of a transnational approach to them. You're probably not going to take on climate change in a meaningful way one country at a time. You're probably not even going to take on, you know, global diseases like malaria even if youre the Gates Foundation unless you're actually working with communities on the ground and having real communication about where you go with this. So I think its critically important that we start wrestling with this question of whether we are or not sort of getting that more diverse few or whether were sort of following into Homophily traps of one fact to another. So my hope was to make the case that you would be a better, smarter, or more creative, eccentric person with more cognitive diversity in your life. Whether or not I'm going to succeed in making that case and further on from that, whether anyone is going to take the next steps and try to figure out how we start going after the tools to make that possible. I have only limited control over that. I have limited control over my own grad students, maybe half of whom seem to be working on tools, you know, coming out of the book and another half of them have sort of said, No, thank you, this is not actually what I'm particularly interested in. I think what's hard about this, almost every time I give a talk in this book, someone says, alright, I'm excited, I buy it, what do I do to change my behavior? And the answer is, as an individual, there are very few things you can do because actually a lot of this is about systems. Its about the system of the press, which is very good at paying attention to a small number of important countries at the expense of a large number of countries that are unimportant until they suddenly mysteriously become important. When Tunisia suddenly overthrows a dictator and everybody goes, Oh the Arab world doesnt work the way we thought it did. And that I think should be evidence that there are some systemic problems that need to be addressed with how the press works. And with a book, its really trying to go, its essentially saying, here are things youd want to try to fix in the press and here are things that youd want to try to fix on the net. In the press, you would want to try to find a way to be very conscious of where you're looking and where you're not looking, and think about how to provide life and inside in connection in those dark spots in the map probably through identifying those bridges. On the net side of this, you would want to think about these questions of what assumptions we baked in that you mostly want to hear from people who are similar to you and who viewed the world the same way and start thinking about essentially how do you put a risk knob? How do you essentially say, Today is the day where I'm comfortable with Facebook being a warm bath. But you know what, tomorrow I'm actually psyched to be sort of pulled out of my orbit here, and if you can find me someone whos interested in some of the things that I care about, but its very different for me on any number of different access, whether its that they're republican or that they're Muslim or that they're from Botswana. I think thinking about that question of how we move from a sort of one size fits all, low risk Internet, to a significantly risk your Internet sort of based on this idea of connecting broadly. Thats where I sort of want to go in some place, I guess. Chris Stone:Lets go back. You know, sometimes the problems were dealing with on the net have been dealt with another media as well. Audience:Hi, I'm Paco, the news from Skylight Pictures, and you know, speaking of assumptions, one of the biggest assumptions obviously is to monetize the net and, you know, that these companies have to make a lot of money. They also control in many ways what we can communicate. We put out an occasional newsletter and recently the subject line of one of our newsletters was Naked Impunity in Guatemala. That ended up tagging us as spammers because the word Naked was in the subject line. So there's this sort of insidious control by private corporations over what is acceptable and what isnt. So I'm just wondering if at MIT Media Lab or in other, you know, Internetlets say, there's any thought about the equivalent of the public broadcasting system forFacebook equivalent or Google equivalent that is truly public. Ethan Zuckerman:Its a great question. The person whos doing the best work on this is my colleague and dear friend, Rebecca MacKinnon, who wrote a very thoughtful book called, Consent of the Network, which looks at this question of what happens when you discover that your private provider isnt letting you say what you want to say. And she is now working at Penn Annenberg, try to come up with an index of basically saying like, whos good about this and whos bad about this. So it turns out Twitter is really good about this, historically. You go to Twitter and sort of say, I dont like what this persons saying, take it down. Even by the way, sometimes when you have good reasons. I went to Twitter at one point and said, Here's someone in Nigeria urging Muslims to rise up and kill Christians. Do you think you might want to take this down? at which point Katie Stamen from Twitter came back and said, No, not going to pull that down. Were going to call more attention to it if we pull that down. And besides, as you know, our goal here is to provide that open platform for speech. You're going to have the Streisand effect. You're going to have too many people paying attention to it. So no way are we going to bend our policies on this despite the fact that we understand why you're trying to make this case. Good stuff, you know, for the most part. Facebook, traditionally, has been terrible about this, absolutely dreadful about this. Took down several important pages towards organizing the revolutions in Egypt based on the fact that people were working under pseudonyms to have those pages, and the fact the reason that were working under pseudonyms was so they didn't lose their jobs or get arrested by the government and Facebook, despite many, many, many, many inquiries hasnt moved away from a real name policy. So there's whole spectrum of this as far as corporate behavior, and one of the big things we can do is try to figure out, how do we reward good behavior? How do we punish bad behavior? How do we make that more transparent? Now the larger question of this, which is, how do build a public version of this, is really hard, and the reason its really hard is since the mid 1990s, its corporations all the way down. So even if you're getting good behavior from your Facebook or your Twitter, you might not have good behavior from the Internet Service Provider, from the hosting provider, from the DNS provider, from the people who run the cables and the way to understand this is to look at what's happened to WikiLeaks, and WikiLeaks ultimately has gotten punished at sort of every layer of the stack. Theyve had host pull service. Theyve had ISPs pull service. Theyve had domain name registrars pull service. Ultimately where theyve been most hurt is the payment processes of pulled service. Can you build an Internet completely independent of corporate structure? Possibly, maybe, even Moglen is trying something that he calls FreedomBox. But to me, it requires enormous suspension of disbelief because what it really comes down to is you are plugging into an electric network and plugging into an Internet network and then creating a mesh network on top of it. So its a cute trick that youve got sort of decentralized fire hosting, but at the end of it, you're still dealing with cable zone by corporations. I think there's actually probably more power here in building highly ethically rooted, very transparent businesses that compete based on the saying, Were going to do this right. Were going to disclose what we do and were willing to take the punishment if we screw it up. I think there's enormous market opportunity for someone to show up and say, We are not Gmail. We do not have a backdoor to the NSA. If were forced to make a backdoor to the NSA, we will shut the service rather than doing it, and that were going to put encryption from your machine to the server so that we cant do it anyway. And I'm hoping thats the case. I am skeptical because I havent seen people stepping up for that demand yet. But I'm very much hoping that thats the case, not just around privacy but also around this question of the network public sphere. Chris Stone:So were going to go one more question here and then were going to come to a close. Audience:Hi, I'm Mike and I have a follow up to the Twitter question. It seems like you were saying that there is more cognitive diversity in Twitter versus Facebook. So if thats the case, are you seeing some of the results you were hoping to see from having that diversity and do you have any specific examples of that? Ethan Zuckerman:So I'm going to rephrase slightly differently and say, I think that the way a lot of people are using Twitter makes it more likely that they're going to expose to cognitive diversity than how people are using Facebook. And I would say that the main way that I would sort of point to that in terms of anecdotal evidence is looking at how journalists are using the two networks. Journalists are not generally speaking spending a ton of time on Facebook looking for sources on stories. And the reason for that is that Facebook, while it claims that you're connected to everyone through four and a half people, its really hard to get through those four and a half people. Its very hard to sort of say, Hi, my friends in Western Massachusetts. Any of you happen to know someone in Sudan who I can interview for this piece and get there in four hops? Its a whole lot easier to do it on Twitter where you can search, where you can follow blindly, where you can start looking for people who are within those networks. And I would say that if you can look at the coverage through the Arab spring, Twitter has ended up being quite critical to people trying to figure out how they find those voices. Its also been quite critical for bridges and youve seen people like Andy Carven, working with Ahmed Al Omran, NPR, finding a way to sort of curate Twitter flows to give some perspective on what was going on at Libya. That was actually very difficult to get because it was so difficult for journalists to get there on to the ground. So for me, its pretty good evidence that its pushing in a slightly different direction. I'm actually really encouraged by the fact that Vivian Schiller is announcing that she's heading there as the head of news, and that someone who hadI thought quite a positive influence in NPR. I thought was doing some interesting things at NBC. I have high hopes that Twitter sees that as sort of part of their mission going forward. I dont know that they do and now that they're going to be subject to the public market pressure and advertising pressure, its possible they're going to move in a different way. But you can keep your fingers crossed. Chris Stone:Yeah. Theit seems to me that weve been having a couple of different conversations. There's one conversation that your last kind of served out, which is how do you do it? How do we use the tools weve got now with the limitations that we and others have built into them to do the other project, to see more, to see further, to connect and learn in less comfortable ways. In other conversation weve been having is how can we imagine motivating, encouraging people to want more, and thats where the bridges come. I think some of the documentary filmmakers in the room taught me once that you cant make a documentary about a really important topic unless you put a person with a story in the middle of it and thenot the only way, but one way to make it work. And in some ways, thats a story about your bridge, about a storya narrative can be a bridge, a person can be a bridge and thinking about how we use the tools we have to encourage others to want more from the Internet as the other part of the conversation. Ill end with just one question we got from the web, which is, you end yournear the end of the book, you talked about the difference between prediction and prophecy. Do you want to leave us with one? You can pick either one, a prediction or a prophecy. Ethan Zuckerman:Well, I use those words in a very specific way. I end up arguing that prophecy isnt telling the future. Prophecy is hoping for fundamental change and trying to bring that change into being. You know, so for me, the prophecy is that there are people who deeply want the Internet to be a space where people connect across all sorts of differences and its my prophecy, not necessarily my prediction, that these people are going to be the next generation of people building tools because weve gone really, really far down one path and its been a really interesting path but its not as interesting as it used to be. And to me the really interesting stuff now is the use of the Internet that pulls us towards the unfamiliar, that pulls us towards the different, that helps us not just sort of find out about the rest of the world but really change what we want to know about the rest of the world. So thats my prophecy. Chris Stone:Thanks, and thanks for writing the book and thanks for--