ASEAN may go ahead with once-scrapped plans to create an Asian Monetary Fund as an alternative to the IMF.

Seems to me like a redundant effort that only makes sense given the extent to which the IMF does not respond effectively to the needs of the majority of its member states.

Multilateralism falls apart if you don’t cultivate it in good faith.

WaPo has the story:

Sources close to transition officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Genachowski had been recently meeting with key Democratic lawmakers to see if the role of CTO would have policy-making authority and decided against taking the job when he realized the definition of CTO would not include a strong regulatory role. Instead, Genachowski expressed interest in the FCC post.

Why do I find it hard to believe that Genachowski didn’t realize that the CTO post would not have regulatory authority?


Time for the shameless promotion of a cool project run by some of my friends in São Paulo:

PontoLivre is a very exciting new site that combines critical social theory, political engagement, information technology, and digital culture.

If you, like me, find such things totally exciting, get out your portuguese dictionary (or fire up Google Translator) and head on over.

As it happens, this is also a shameless self-promotion since, the top story on the site right now is a transcribed version of a short presentation I did at the PUC-SP back in September. I haven’t had time to translate it into English yet, but I am nonetheless somewhat proud of my gringo-tacular attempt at bringing together the work of the great Karls (Polanyi and Marx) to think about the future of free (as in freedom) and open knowledge.

Kudos to the two brains behind the pontolivre operation, Tiago Soares and Rafael Evangelista,  for pulling it all off!

I’m working on a short article about this topic and was crunching some World Bank Development Index numbers today.

The payoff for you, dear reader, is the following factoid of the day:

From 2000-2008, approximately $97 out of every $100 earned internationally from licenses or royalties was paid to a high income OECD country. In contrast, Latin American and Caribbean countries combined to earn $0.005 (yes, one half of one cent) out of that same $100.

Got that? $97 vs. $0.0o5!

The moral of the story: cheap laptops and broadband are only the tip of the iceberg.

Eat your heart out ICT4D community.

Chris Soghoian describes how he bumped up against Google’s questionable ad-sense trademark enforcement policies.

Soghoian’s story is troubling and it exposes yet another way in which the structure of web traffic has positioned Google as a de-facto arbiter of all kinds of legal speech, political salience, and good taste. More broadly, it demonstrates how key actors and institutions exercise influence in the networked public sphere.

For more on that idea, check out Matthew Hindman’s research. In his new book, The Myth of Digital Democracy, Hindman makes a related argument in a number of different ways, not the least of which is his compelling notion of “Googlearchy.” I disagree with Matt on a number of substantive points, but the significance of his analysis is undeniable. His work complements more established models for thinking about how social structure circumscribes certain kinds of thought and action.

One of the fascinating aspects of the Internet is that powerful forms of social order & status originate in seemingly innocuous expressions of aggregated opinions (e.g. the PageRank algorithm). Hindman’s work takes on the notion that such aggregated opinions are somehow equivalent to a utopian radical democracy or a free market of ideas.

In this sense, his argument parallels the work of economic sociologists, many of whom have analyzed the importance of the “embeddedness” of economic markets. Simply put, the thesis behind the concept of embeddedness is that the sorts of decentralized, disaggregated behaviors that occur in market-like settings are always an extension of the social and cultural contexts in which they occur. It’s a relatively simple idea, but it violates one of the core assumptions of neo-classical economic theory: that markets are a free and accurate expression of individual actors expressing rational preferences for the enhancement of their own wealth and welfare.

Sociologists such as Viviana Zelizer have shown how the economists’ assumptions break down in markets for deeply valued cultural goods such as intimacy and adoption. More recently, a number of scholars (including Marion Fourcade – a professor of mine at Berkeley) have taken up the idea that financial markets are also expressions of (economists’) cultural preferences and not merely an aggregated form of pure rationality.

Considering Hindman’s work and the continuing emergence of experiences like Soghoian’s, I think there’s a case to be made that research on the embeddedness of search technology might be a promising topic. Granted, I don’t know if there are many “neo-classical” information theorists out there that would be willing to defend the straw-man position that search technology serves up knowledge in a pure and rational form.

President-Elect Obama’s team at has posted their first batch of replies to a few of the most popular inquiries submitted via the bally-hooed question tool since it went live last week.obamalogo

If you really want to read the responses, go ahead, knock yourself out. They’re just like the comment threads at DailyKos/LGF/Wonkette/BoingBoing/Lifehacker except they’re completely dry, soul-less, and snark-free.

Take this stirring exchange, for example:

Q: “What will you do to establish transparency and safeguards against waste with the rest of the Wall Street bailout money?” Diane, New Jersey

A: President-elect Barack Obama does not believe an economic crisis is an excuse for wasteful and unnecessary spending. As our economic teams works with congressional leadership to put together a plan, we will put in place reforms to ensure that your money in invested well. We will also bring Americans back into government by amending executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public. In addition all appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies will be required to conduct the significant business of the agency in public so that every citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.

Can you even remember the question after all that opacity? Turns out the White House press corps might not be out of a job after all.

Be honest, though, who’s actually surprised that the Obama team is sticking to their script and refusing to engage in precisely the sort of off-the-cuff banter that makes conversations on the Internet interesting? I was at an event with a few members of their new media team last week and these folks are at least as disciplined as a Bill Belichik offense.

For all the hoopla about the many wonderful ways in which might transform the relationship between the POTUS and the rest of us, it’s going to take more than a few Rick-rolls before somebody mistakes this site for 4chan. (Dear Mr. President Elect, I video taped myself asking you a very important question: please watch it here!)

That said, the first idiot who celebrates the fact that someone in the transition team took the time to answer the question about legalizing pot ought to have their head examined. It may be Democracy in motion, but only in the sense in which Jeffersonian “mob rule” sense. I’m not one to romanticize the high-flown days of the republic of media gatekeeping, but this is just campaigning by other means and a waste of everybody’s time.

It may not matter, though, because unless the team loosens up a bit (and opens the door to the risk of a mini scandal or two), I suspect people will quickly forget about this site after the inauguration.

WSJ + Net Neutrality = Mess

December 15, 2008

This just in, the Wall Street Journal’s story on Net Neutrality is a disaster. Google hates it, Lessig hates it, and it even appears to get a bunch of technical details wrong.

Steve Schultze (a colleague at the Berkman Center) has the details of the story on Managing Miracles (his blog) where he’ll be following it as it unfolds.

Annotated Links

December 15, 2008

Catching up on feeds…

Daniel Gross joins a bunch of Newsweek writers to provide a guided historical tour of the rise of state-subsidized auto manufacturing in the Southern U.S. In the process, they repeat all the usual flack about Detroit’s labor costs and inflexible production being the cause of their current woes.

Google is hedging its bets on Net Neutrality, report Vishesh Kumar and Christopher Rhoads in today’s WSJ. Intriguing to note that the story devotes a lot of space to the view that any prioritization of packets is anti-competitive and anti-thetical to the architecture of the Internet. That says a lot for the ability of the Net Neutrality advocates to get their views heard. Meanwhile, the story has apparently distorted Larry Lessig’s views, provoking him to the point of writing a long blog post in response. Word on the street is that it also misrepresents a number of key concepts surrounding network protocols and architecture. Good luck getting a quote from anybody next time, guys.

In last week’s IP Watch, Monika Ermert illustrated that a lot of people attending the IGF in Hyderabad don’t like ACTA. Too bad there is so little so many of them can do about it.

Also in IP Watch, Nick Wadhams reveals (surprise!) that the recent glut of Anti-counterfeiting laws and programs in African countries have been heavily sponsored/pushed/written by the IP extremists at Interpol and a German group called OASIS. In any event, the US Chamber of Commerce is happy.

At UN Dispatch, Peter Daou fleshes out a provocative comment he made at the Berkman Center’s Internet and Politics Conference (which was, coincidentally, one of the reasons I haven’t been posting for a couple of weeks). It’s impossible not to heed the urgency and passion behind Peter’s call to action. However, I have to wonder about the rhetorical purpose of Aisha’s story in this context: does networked activism have to take the form of privileged men and women in the Global North rallying around the image of a poor, exploited African woman?

Pew Research tells us how “experts” envision the future of the Internet.

Sarah Kerr reviews the English translation of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 in the NYRB. I started reading his novels and short stories sometime last winter and I can’t get enough. Put it on your christmas list.

Finally, I don’t care what you think, Canadian politics are fun!


December 14, 2008

Apologies if you’ve been coming here wondering where all the content went. A one-two combination of post-election exhaustion and writing deadlines has knocked me off my posting momentum lately. I’ll be looking to ramp back up slowly in the next week or two, using the holidays as a chance to refocus my efforts.

One benefit of taking some time away from blogging is that I have now had a chance to do some work which I hope to integrate into my posts here. In particular, I’m close to having completed a paper with Victoria Stodden and Yochai Benkler on the U.S. political blogosphere. Stay tuned for some posts on that as well as more in depth discussion of my ongoing research on online collaboration.