JP/JZ Mash-up: Live from OII SDP


John Palfrey runs a session today at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Summer Doctoral Program on Internet Generativity, presenting and discussing Jonathan Zittrain’s paper on Internet Generativity (a.k.a. Z-Theory). John starts mapping the evolution of cyberlaw and policy discourses, leading up to the Z-theory.

  • ’82 e-2-e arguments in system Design (Saltzer, Reed, Clark paper) – technical argument
  • Fast forward to ’96: Internet no longer a medium of academics, geeks, etc.
  • 1996 two strong political arguments emerged. 1) John P. Barlow at WEF, Davos: Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace: Governments have no place in cyberspace; out of reach 2) David Johnson/David Post: Law & Borders: similar argument, framed differently – libertarian view of government; claim more descriptive than Barlow’s. (Internet is different)
  • Lessig’s “Code”: Johnson & Post are wrong, Barlow too. Internet is not unregulable. It’s regulated all the time. Four means of regulation, incl. law (“east coast code”), code (“west coast code”), social norms, and markets. (originally three, added markets.) Interplay among the forces (indirect regulation). Framework of four modes of regulation a.k.a. New Chicago School.
  • 2002/03: Rise of the wisdom of the crowd. Yochai Benkler. 1) “Hourglass architecture” arguments: different layers of the Internet. It’s not only about the regulation of dots (cf. Lessig’s illustration of the four modes of regulation), it’s also about the question how it is regulated at the different layer (physical, logical, content) = refining Lessig & e-2-e principle; 2) Coase’s Penguin. Nature of firm has changed (OSS); emergence of third mode of production (commons-based peer production); non-compensated works.
    • Emergence of these forms of interaction is a reason not to regulate.
    • Means of regulation: the crowd itself could become a regulatory force, beyond the individual/social norms mode.
  • Here, Zittrain comes into play. Z-theory: Four key claims. 2 descriptive, 2 normative arguments:
    • Extraordinary security threats exist (so far, focus of regulators has been on different things, e.g. porn): threat of a “digital 9/11”; e-2-e network design is one that leaves network open and makes it vulnerable. Viruses (worms, etc.) could wipe up everything.
    • Response to that real security threat: “code” in form of lock down of the PC.
      • TiVo-izatin of PC/Internet (other example: mobile phones, come out of the box, are not programmable)
    • What to do about it? So far: leave the net alone (e-2-e argument). However, we need a better argument for what the response should be. Argument of generativity. What we care about is not the e-2-e principle, but about systems that are generative (e.g. MS operating system, on which you can run a .exe file). Positive principle: if it’s generative, it’s good.
    • Way to get there: Think of new solutions that build upon Benkler’s second argument: wisdom of the crowd (“5th mode of regulation”). Peer production of governance.
      • E.g.
      • Challenges (e.g.): what does it mean for institutional design and institution building? Implications of the approach: privacy concerns (see JZ’s paper)

Now discussion. Job well done, JP, as always.


  1. driscoll

    July 22, 2006 @ 12:51 pm


    Fantastic summary. Clearly there is work to be done collecting and filtering currents of thought from the last quarter-decade. Thanks for such a lucid review!

  2. OII Summer Doctoral Programme (2003-2009): Recap, attempted

    November 18, 2009 @ 9:35 am


    […] things: a post by Urs Gasser on a seminar by John Palfrey discussing a paper by Jonathan Zittrain: JP/JZ Mash-up: Live from OII SDP. And student Nick Anstead kept an SDP […]

  3. OII Summer Doctoral Programme (2003-2009): Recap, attempted | OII Summer Doctoral Programme

    November 8, 2012 @ 6:08 am


    […] things: a post by Urs Gasser on a seminar by John Palfrey discussing a paper by Jonathan Zittrain: JP/JZ Mash-up: Live from OII SDP. And student Nick Anstead kept an SDP […]

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