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The future of the Internet – and how to stop it

Category : Internet governance · by Apr 26th, 2006

The future of the Internet – and how to stop it.

That was the title of Jonathan Zittrain's inaugural Oxford University lecture last night at 5pm at the Oxford Examination Schools. It was open to all, so I popped along.

And if you are interested in the Internet, I highly recommend it. It's an hour long and is available for viewing at the Oxford Internet Institute's website. Here is the OII's webpage for it, and here's is a direct link to the lecture [Real Player]. Usually the OII sticks up a downloadable MP4 of its lectures after a few days.

Why should you give up an hour of your time? Because it was a surprisingly good, interesting and thought-provoking lecture. It was broad and deep but with a coherent thread running through it.

There were lots of points made, but two which made particular impact on me were Zittrain's dismissal of ICANN, the ITU, WSIS, WGIG and so on as pretty irrelevant in the wider scheme of things, merely bodies that kept busy-bodies usefully busy. Although I have still to find out what he thinks about the IGF – which to me sounds pretty much like the Manhattan Project he said the Net needed in an article earlier this year.

And the second point: a brave and cheeky but earnest criticism of how little Oxford University was doing with its network, with the technological interactions that the Internet made possible.

Who is Jon Zittrain? He co-founded the Berkman Center at Harvard which keeps track and reviews and analyses how the law is interacting with the Internet. He is the OII's Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation and Harvard's Visiting Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Oxford, whatever the hell that means.

He is also a nice, smart bloke. Don't take my word for it. Check out the lecture. (You can see me at the start of the webcast incidentally in what looks like a black top, furthest back on the left hand-side, nearest the aisle).

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[…] We had a very interesting discussion on ‘walled gardens’, with Zittrain trailing some of the ideas from his forthcoming “The Future Of The Internet – And How To Stop It” book (which I can’t wait for!) […]

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