Day One

I just sat in on my first session of Cyber One: Law in the Court of Public Opinion. Many of the projects and assignments of the course will use internet technology, such as blogs, wikis, Second Life, and possible webcasts. Were are encouraged to participate in the Class Wiki and indeed are assigned to create a blog? wiki? for one week of the course in collaboration with other students.

I thought this would be an ideal medium to keep track of the course in my own personal way, to keep an account of my thoughts and to use as a sandbox for possible contributions to the materials. Of course, there will be much that I will want to post here that will be of little use to the class as a whole, so I saw a need, apart from perhaps a userpage on the wiki, to have my own little space.

Possible topics include reflections on the course materials, collections of links to them and other useful sources, and my own thoughts on the matter.

Today we covered very broad, philosophical topics. The emergence of self is directly keyed to the recognition of and interaction with others; it is through our thoughts on their own views of us that we are able to develop a sense of self. The riddle explains it, and it will be tied into the course through a similar version of that interaction on the internet.

The reading was quite thought-provoking. The internet is unique in that it encourages collaboration without formal or structured relationships and develops the good of information without incentives. So we have a non-market production, previously rare or unheard of. I saw a lot of myself in it, thinking of the countless wikipedia articles I had helped edit, only a handful now contain links to my website (and those only when on-topic). Indeed my website and my news blog are information goods I created without incentive. Well, perhaps the small incentive of links to my CafePress store. Still, that is a lot of work for a mere $70 in t-shirt commissions.

The course reflects back on itself, and on this theme in two ways. The book used for the site was not assigned and stocked in the bookstore, but links to the pertinent sections are available from several sources online for free. By providing his book without royalty, the author has at once demonstrated his theory, established and information good (although this one of less questionable value) without a market incentive. Additionally, Prof. Nesson is planning to lobby to offer the course pass-fail, so our contributions will likewise be less incentive-based.

That being said, embarassment and pride are the most traditional forms of incentive used here; grades are determined in many courses by a single exam and class participation is elicited by random cold-calling in the infamous Socratic Method. Students who showed up to a single session of one class (and to zero of the other courses) are still strutting around campus, implying they at least accomplished passing grades without participation. The incentive of grades is therefore not sufficient to explain participation, (from the vast majority who do show up) especially when mediocre grades are no bar to sucess afterwards.

Yet this is a community, and although many classes contain 80+ students, there is still a sense of accountability, of identity that is not found in the internet. Therefore, the motive behind less obviously incentivised behavior there is not so easily explained.

9 Responses to “Day One”

  1. Rebecca Nesson Says:

    What a wonderful way to take us up on participating in building the course out onto the web. It is a substantial challenge to us (and to you) to engage the students without FEAR (grades/embarassment) as a motivator. The journey begins…

  2. CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion » Day One Comes to a Close Says:

    […] This afternoon we gave a lecture in our class. This evening the whole world can see the lecture video for free and is also free (and encouraged) to download it, edit it, remix it, make it better make it into anything. This evening we have class notes from the lecture taken by a student volunteer and available to the whole world. This evening a student in our class answered our challenge to participate by starting a blog about his/her experience in the class. This evening the Harvard Extension School is offering our lecture video to the world synchronized with John Lobato’s class notes and dad’s quirky point-of-view PowerPoint. A few months ago it was only an idea, and today we’ve taken the first real steps towards openness. Maybe that’s what is making me feel so confessional this evening. […]

  3. Yvette Says:

    I must learn an effective, efficient way of “reading” hyperlinks in blog entries. Links are so useful, but are terribly distracting, and after clickety-clicking away, I find myself on an entirely different subject, and have to weave my way back to the original site.

  4. Climb to the Stars (Stephanie Booth) » Response to Yvette: Loving Links in Posts Through Tabbed Browsing. Says:

    […] The best way to deal with reading links in a blog entry, IMHO, is to open them in tabs in the background. Then you can either go to the link page straight away to look at it, come back to the blog post, and read the linked page more in detail later. […]

  5. Stephanie Booth Says:

    Yvette, I answered your comment about reading hypertext, and as it became a bit long I posted it to my blog, so you can read it there.

  6. Joshua Goldstein Says:

    Hello from Kampala, Uganda!

    I stumbled upon this site and looks fascinating. Campus Compact, a consortium of university leaders who want universities to be the training group for democratic citizenship, asked me to write an paper for their October conference on what new technologies means for the way young people in engage in their communities.

    I’d love your comments:

  7. Rachel Nolan Says:

    Hello lawgeek (for lack of a better name)!

    My name is Rachel Nolan and I am a Harvard undergraduate looking to write a story about this class for the Harvard Crimson. If you could email me your number, I would love to interview you tomorrow.


  8. Harvard Extended Says:


    This is a very exciting initiatve you are participating in, and it seems that you are an old hand with a lot of these technologies.

    Going forward with your class, I’d be interested in hearing about the user experiences with the tools — Wiki, Second Life, Scratch, etc. Are these the types of things that most Internet users can effectively use, or are they really only suitable for people with lots of experience modding or creating Web content?

    Ian Lamont
    Harvard Extension School

  9. Sharon Wang Says:

    Hi! My name is Sharon, and I’m an undergraduate reporter writing an article for the Harvard Crimson’s weekend magazine, Fifteen Minutes. I was wondering if I could get in contact with you for a short five to ten minute phone interview on CyberOne about your reactions to the class. If you could email me your number at, it’d be great! My article is due Sunday at noon. Thanks!!