The Politics of the Internet
Spring 2011 Syllabus [updated 2/13*]
Hours/location: Mondays/Wednesdays; 2:40 to 4:00 pm in RG-20
Course website: PoliticsoftheInternet.com
Micah L. Sifry, Visiting Murrow Lecturer of the Practice of Press and Public Policy
Office address: Taubman 262
Office hours: By appointment Monday and Wednesday, 4-6pm
Faculty assistant: Heather McKinnon
*Updates marked below in red
Course description: As access to the Internet and connection technologies spreads, politics, government and civil society are being transformed by a massive wave of individual and networked participation. Information is flowing more freely into the public arena, powered by seemingly unstoppable networks of people around the world cooperating to share vital data and prevent its suppression. The walls between powerful actors and the people they serve and represent are becoming more porous. And as more people see, share and seek to shape what is going on around them, the result is a seismic shift, a huge increase is civic activity that is being channeled in all kinds of directions.
This wave of net-powered mass participation is bringing with it a fundamental change in the cultural norms surrounding politics, government and civil society. Not only does the internet itself favor openness and generativity over opacity and proprietary control, the emerging behaviors and practices it is enabling favor subjectivity and interactivity over objectivity and authority.
Old political practices built around assumptions of central control and scarce resources are being challenged and transformed by decentralized participation and abundant media. In this new context, a political campaign that refuses to engage supporters in an interactive manner is now seen as overly top-down. A legislature that makes public documents available solely by printing them in binders and making people come to a basement office, rather than posting them online in searchable, downloadable form, is seen as being ridiculously secretive. And a government body that monopolizes control of public data not only risks undermining public trust in its actions. It also stands to lose out in the burgeoning new world of participatory democracy known as “we-government,” where citizens are using connective technologies and public data to create whole new ways of identifying and solving civic problems. Mass use of the Internet is creating new norms for politics.
This course will begin by examining the following major themes: a) the values embedded in the structure of the early Internet by the people who created it; b) the economics of abundance and the power of platforms; c) the collision between broadcast politics and the networked public sphere; d) the workings of decentralized, open and networked organizations. Then we will look closely at how electoral politics in America is being changed (focusing on recent presidential campaigns and covering the rise of the netroots, the rightroots, the Tea Party, and Occupy Wall Street) and how the open data and we-government movements offer a new paradigm for the relationship between public institutions and citizens. Finally, we will dig into the current debate over the concept of “internet freedom” and explore the tension between the newly empowered networked public sphere and private platform providers, and the issues that arise around user rights and privacy. At each stage in the course we will also study critics of Internet utopianism and the need for a balanced and realistic understanding of how net-enabled mass participation can change politics and government for the better.
Goals: The course will give you an up-to-date grounding in how government actors, elected representatives, political advocates and civic activists are adapting to the changing context of public life in the networked age. Upon completion, you should have a strong understanding of how the Internet is disrupting old political behaviors and enabling innovative new approaches to governance and advocacy.
Requirements and grading: Grades will be based one-third on classroom participation, one-third on blog posts demonstrating engagement with the readings, and one-third on a final research paper. It is assumed that students taking this course will already have the basic technical literacy required to start a blog and maintain a Twitter account, though assistance will be provided if necessary.
Classroom participation: You will be expected to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings. Where noted in the syllabus, there will be classroom discussion topics listed in advance, to enable you to prepare appropriately. We will use a Twitter “backchannel” during classes, to also enable lateral conversation and sharing of observations during class, which will also be counted as participation.
Blog posts: You will be expected to write regular posts of at least 500 words engaging with the assigned readings. The assignment schedule for these posts will be given out in class and noted on the class website. These posts should:
a) summarize at least one of the key arguments made in that week’s readings;
b) analyze and evaluate that argument, explaining why you agree or disagree with it, using relevant material from prior readings in the class, or your own work, experiences and/or research;
c) make connections between that week’s readings and prior weeks’ material.
Creativity, use of relevant outside sources, and compelling arguments will all improve how these posts are graded.
Final research paper: Find, research, describe and analyze an example (or set of examples) of a politician, political campaign, advocacy group, activist effort or spontaneous networked action that took advantage of or was disrupted by the Internet and related connection technologies. A list of sample topics will be distributed by the middle of the term, and a short outline of your intended topic will be due by April 23. We will use the final two classes of the semester to discuss and critique these outlines, prior to your writing the final version of your paper.
This paper should be based on articles and books previously written about the topic, along with your own original research. The paper should evaluate how well its subject navigated the challenges and opportunities provided by the Internet, and make an argument about what larger lessons may be learned from this case. The final paper should be 12 to 15 pages long, double-spaced. It should be of publication quality and cited using APA format. Grading will be based on the originality of the case, depth of your research, clarity of your argument and writing, and use of APA format.
Readings: Most of the class readings consist of articles and blog posts that are available for free online, as indicated by their urls. A few book authors have also made their books available online for free reading or downloading, and those are indicated below. There will be a class course packet of the remaining material. We will not be using the official HKS course page.
UPDATE: Required for purchase:
–Rebecca MacKinnon, Consent of the Networked
Recommended (but not required) for purchase:
–Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, The Networked Nonprofit
–Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody
–Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider
–Mark Pesce, Hyperpolitics
–Teachout and Streeter, eds, Mouses, Shoeleather and Hope–Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Politics
–Eric Boehlert, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press
–Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble
–Matthew Hindman, The Myth of Digital Democracy
–Lathrop and Ruma, eds, Open Government
–Evgeny Morozov, The Net Delusion
Jan 23: Class Introduction (no assigned readings)
Jan 25: The Early Internet and the Values of the People Who Created It
–Jonathan Zittrain, Chapter 1, “Battle of the Boxes” and Chapter 2, “Battle of the Networks,” The Future of the Internet — And How to Stop It (available online for free http://futureoftheinternet.org/download)
–Doc Searls and David Weinberger, “A World of Ends: What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else,” http://www.worldofends.com
–David Isenberg, “The Rise of the Stupid Network,” May 1997, http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/stupidnet.html
–Stephen Crocker, “How the Internet Got Its Rules,” The New York Times, April 6, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/opinion/07crocker.html
Jan 30: The Early Internet and the Values of the People Who Created It (cont’d)
–“Why the Internet is Good,” http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/archived_content/people/reagle/regulation-19990326.html
–John Perry Barlow, Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, February 9, 1996, https://w2.eff.org/Censorship/Internet_censorship_bills/barlow_0296.declaration and https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html
–Steven Levy, “The Hacker Ethic,” Chapter 2, pp. 39-49, Hackers http://proquest.safaribooksonline.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/book/networking/security/9781449390259/true-hackers-cambridge-the-fifties-and-sixties/hacker_ethic
–Bill Gates, “An Open Letter to Hobbyists,” Feb 3, 1976, http://www.microsoft.com/about/companyinformation/timeline/timeline/docs/di_Hobbyists.doc
Feb 1: Abundance versus Scarcity
FIRST BLOG POST DUE (on previous readings)
–Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired, October 2004, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html
– Chris Anderson, PopTech 2006 talk, “What Happens When Things Become Free,” Watch the talk here: http://poptech.org/popcasts/chris_anderson__poptech_2006 (his slides are here http://www.scribd.com/doc/15019/The-Economics-of-Abundance-Wired-Chris-Anderson)
– Chris Anderson, “Tech Is Too Cheap to Meter: It’s Time to Manage for Abundance, Not Scarcity,” Wired, 6/22/09 http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-07/mf_freer?currentPage=all
Feb 6: Platforms and Collective Intelligence
–Tim O’Reilly, “What is Web 2.0,” September 30, 2005, http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html
Feb 8: Politics in America, pre-Internet
–Theda Skocpol, Chapters 4-6, pp. 127-253, Diminished Democracy
–Dana Fisher, Chapters 2, 6, pp. 20-44, 107-114, Activism, Inc.
–Yochai Benkler, Chapter 6, “Political Freedom Part 1: The Trouble with Mass Media,” The Wealth of Networks (available free here http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/wealth_of_networks/Download_PDFs_of_the_book)
Feb 13: From Mass Media to a Networked Public Sphere
–Doc Searls and David Weinberger, “Markets Are Conversations,” Chapter 4, The Cluetrain Manifesto (available free here http://www.cluetrain.com/book/)
–Yochai Benkler, chapter 7, “Political Freedom Part 2: Emergence of the Networked Public Sphere,” The Wealth of Networks (available free here http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/wealth_of_networks/Download_PDFs_of_the_book)
–Aaron Smith, “The Internet’s Role in Campaign 2008,” Pew Internet Center, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/6–The-Internets-Role-in-Campaign-2008.aspx
–Aaron Smith, “The Internet and Campaign 2010,” Pew Internet Center, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/The-Internet-and-Campaign-2010.aspx
SECOND BLOG POST DUE (Based on readings from Feb 1-13)
Feb 15: From Information Control to a Culture of Sharing and Transparency (or, From Read-only to Read/Write)
–Michael Wesch, “The Machine is Us/ing Us,” January 31 2007 video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE
–Michael Wesch, “The Machine is Changing Us,” PdF 2009 talk, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6eMdMZezAQ
– David Weinberger, “Transparency is the New Objectivity,” PDF 2009 talk, watch the talk here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3qSDLF6lU4 and read his blog post about it here: http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/2009/07/19/transparency-is-the-new-objectivity/
Feb 22: Organizations Move from Fortresses to Sponges
–David Weinberger, “The Hyperlinked Organization,” Chapter 5, The Cluetrain Manifesto (available free here http://www.cluetrain.com/book/)
–Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, Chapters 1-2, pp. 1-22, The Networked NonProfit
–Ivan Boothe, “Using Social Networking to Stop Genocide,” http://www.idealware.org/articles/using-social-networking-stop-genocide, Feb 2007
Feb 27: The Potential of Decentralized and Open Organizations
–Zephyr Teachout, “Come Together Now: The Internet’s Unlit Fuse,” Personal Democracy Forum, November 17, 2004, http://www.personaldemocracy.com/node/152
–Clay Shirky, Chapters 6-7, pp. 143-187, Here Comes Everybody
–Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, Chapters 1-2, pp. 9-56, The Starfish and the Spider
–Mark Pesce, “Hyperpolitics (American Style),” http://blog.futurestreetconsulting.com/2008/06/25/hyperpolitics-american-style/ and “Sharing Power,” http://blog.futurestreetconsulting.com/2009/07/02/sharing-power-global-edition/
THIRD BLOG POST DUE (Based on readings from Feb 15-27)
Feb 29: How Electoral Politics is Being Changed
–Mathew Gross, “Blogging for America,” Chapter 8, pp. 100-109, Mouses, Shoeleather and Hope–Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Politics
–Michael Silberman, “The Meetup Story,” Chapter 9, pp. 110-129, Mouses, Shoeleather and Hope–Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Politics
–Zephyr Teachout and Thomas Streeter, “The Legacies of Dean’s Internet Campaign,” Chapter 19, pp. 233-243, Mouses, Shoeleather and Hope–Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Politics
–Eric Boehlert, Chapters 2, 14, pp. 19-44, pp. 245-266, Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press
–Micah L. Sifry, “The Battle to Control Obama’s MySpace,” techPresident.com, May 1, 2007, http://techpresident.com/blog-entry/battle-control-obamas-myspace
–Phil de Vellis, “I Made the Vote Different Ad,” Huffington Post, March 21, 2007, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/phil-de-vellis-aka-parkridge/i-made-the-vote-different_b_43989.html
– Sarah Lai Stirland, “Ron Paul Supporters Make History with $6 Million Money-Bomb,” Wired.com, December 17, 2007, http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2007/12/ron-paul-suppor/
Mar 5: The 2008 Obama Campaign
–Colin Delany, “Learning from Obama: Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 and Beyond,” http://www.epolitics.com/learning-from-obama/
–Victoria Carty, “The 2008 Presidential Election and Youth Activism: Digital Technologies as Grassroots Empowerment or Elite Control?” Chapter 5, pp. 74-89, Wired and Mobilizing
–Micah L. Sifry, “The Obama Disconnect: What Happens When Myth Meets Reality,” techPresident.com, December 31, 2009, http://techpresident.com/blog-entry/the-obama-disconnect
FOURTH BLOG POST DUE (Based on readings from Feb 29-March 5)
Mar 7: Guest speaker, Scott Heiferman, founder of Meetup
Mar 19: Open Source Political Movements—The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street
–Jonathan Rauch, “How the Tea Party Organizes Without Leaders,” National Journal, September 11, 2010, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2591379/posts
–David Graeber, “On Playing By the Rules: The Strange Success of Occupy Wall Street,” http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2011/10/david-graeber-on-playing-by-the-rules-%E2%80%93-the-strange-success-of-occupy-wall-street.html
–Sean Captain, “The Inside Story of Occupy Wall Street,” http://www.fastcompany.com/1785918/the-inside-story-of-occupy-wall-street
–Micah L. Sifry, “#OWS: A Leaderfull Movement in Leaderless Times,” http://techpresident.com/blog-entry/occupywallstreet-leaderfull-movement-leaderless-time
Mar 21: Critiques of the Internet’s Impact on Politics
–Eli Pariser, Chapters 5-6, The Filter Bubble
–Matthew Hindman, Chapters 3,4,6, and 7, The Myth of Digital Democracy
Mar 26: We-Government, or Government as a Platform
–Tim O’Reilly, “Government as a Platform,” Chap 2, Open Government, http://ofps.oreilly.com/titles/9780596804350/defining_government_2_0_lessons_learned_.html
–Beth Noveck, “The Single Point of Failure,” Chap 4, Open Government
–Jared Duval, “Dispatches from the Frontlines,” Chap 4, pp. 133-170, Next Generation Democracy
–Aaron Smith, “Government Online,” Pew Internet Center, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Government-Online.aspx
Mar 28: Open Government, Open Data
–Carl Malamud, “By the People,” Address to the 2009 Government 2.0 Summit, https://public.resource.org/people/
–”Eight Principles of Open Government Data,” https://public.resource.org/8_principles.html
–President Barack Obama, “Transparency and Open Government,” January 21, 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Transparency andOpenGovernment.
–President Barack Obama, “Freedom of Information Act,” January 21, 2009, www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/FreedomofInformationAct.
–Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg, “The Power of Information,” June 2007, http://www.commentonthis.com/powerofinformation/.
–Tom Watson, “Power of Information: New Taskforce,” March 31, 2008, http://www.tom-watson.co.uk/2008/03/power-of-information-new-taskforce-and-speech.
–James Crabtree and Tom Chatfield, “Mash the State,” Prospect magazine, February 2010, http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/2010/01/mash-the-state/
Apr 2: Open Government From Below
–Jay Rosen, “They’re Not in Your Club, But They Are in Your League: Firedoglake at the Libby Trial,” archive.pressthink.org/2007,03/09/libby_fdl.html
–Jim Harper, “Help Control Earmarks–And Win an Amazon Kindle,” WashingtonWatch.com, July 20, 2009, http://www.washingtonwatch.com/blog/2009/07/20/earmark-contest
–”Investigate your MP’s expenses,” The Guardian, http://mps-expenses.guardian.co.uk
– Micah L. Sifry, “A See-Through Society: How the Web is Opening Up Our Democracy,’ Columbia Journalism Review, January-February 2009, www.cjr.org/feature/a_seethrough_society.php
Apr 4: Critiques of Open Government
–Lawrence Lessig, “Against Transparency,” The New Republic, October 9,
–Archon Fung and David Weil, “Open Government and Open Society,” Chap 8, Open Government
Apr 9: The Internet Freedom Debate
–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “Remarks on Internet Freedom,” January 21, 2010, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/01/135519.htm
–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “Internet Rights and Wrongs: Choices & Challenges in a Networked World,” February 15, 2011, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/02/156619.htm
–Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen, “The Digital Disruption,” Foreign Affairs, November-December 2010
Apr 11: The Internet Freedom Debate (cont’d)
–Evgeny Morozov, Chapters 1-4, pp. 1-112, The Net Delusion
–Sami Ben Gharbia, “The Internet Freedom Fallacy and Arab Digital Activism,” http://samibengharbia.com/2010/09/17/the-internet-freedom-fallacy-and-the-arab-digital-activism/
–Cory Doctorow, “We Need a Serious Critique of Net Activism,” The Guardian, January 25, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jan/25/net-activism-delusion
Apr 16: The WikiLeaks Conundrum, The SOPA/PIPA Fight
–Jeff Jarvis, “WikiLeaks, Power shifts from secrecy to transparency,” Buzzmachine.com, December 4, 2010, http://www.buzzmachine.com/2010/ 12/04/wikileaks-power-shifts-from-secrecy-to-transparency.
–Yochai Benkler, “A Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks And The Battle Over The Soul Of The Networked Fourth Estate,” http://www.benkler.org/Benkler_Wikileaks_current.pdf
–Rebecca MacKinnon, “WikiLeaks, Amazon and the new threat to Internet speech,” December 2, 2010, http://articles.cnn.com/2010-12-02/opinion/ mackinnon.wikileaks.amazon_1_wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-lieberman-youtube.
–Cory Doctorow, “Lockdown: The Coming War on General Purpose Computing,” Address to the Chaos Computing Congress, December 2011, http://boingboing.net/2012/01/10/lockdown.html
–Michael Joseph Gross, “World War 3,” http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/05/internet-regulation-war-sopa-pipa-defcon-hacking
Apr 18: Magna Carta 2.0?
–Rebecca MacKinnon, Chapters 3, 5, 8, 9, Consent of the Networked
Apr 23: Class Final Paper Presentations and Discussion
Apr 25: Class Final Paper Presentations and Discussion