When Your Users Give You Feedback: Conferences with Lawyers and Technologists
Got back into town yesterday after a couple days with friends skiing (yes, you can parallel and go straight down the black diamond runs after 6 years off the hill -- shocking -- I thought I would be lookin bad after all that time...). Anyway, had an email from David Opderbeck at Seton Hall Law about their latest conference on P2P on April 16, 2004 (check it out, if you can go).
Anyway, there were some others on the email, and I responded to the conference which appears to mainly be by lawyers directed at lawyers with this:
Interesting seminar and there is a chance I'll be in NY that day and might be able to attend.
Regarding the content, as a non-lawyer, technologist type, Iíd really like to hear about the legal aspects of broadcatching, or RSS + bitorrent. Iíve been using bitorrent for P2P filesharing for around 10 months, and really like it, and as an RSS user for the past two years, love the idea of getting updates or subscriptions to software, media and the like via this combination. Ernie Miller who understands both the legal and engineering aspects deeply has been writing on this topic, but I havenít seen anything else anywhere.
One comment I get all the time about bIPlog is that users and technologists who arenít lawyers really want to get a sense of the impact the law has on technology development and the barriers IP creates for them, but when they read most blogs, they know lawyers, not users are writing, and they canít figure it out. Your thing may just be for lawyers (and those of us who follow it more closely) but I really think there is a space somewhere there between lawyers talking, and then the confused technologists who donít know how to map the law onto their stuff. Many bIPlog readers tell me they heave a huge sigh of relief when they see something explained in common terms they can understand, about law and technology and the social impacts, because while they are highly educated, they arenít lawyers, and just want a more practical and social take. I realize the law isnít so simple, but it maybe that getting lawyers and technologists talking together about the legal effects on the practical use of P2P serves a community you hadnít thought of as needing help in this way. Not sure. And maybe this isnít the day to do it, but I do think you ought to think about it.
Also, I often attend conferences where one group talks and is the focus, often leaving out others. Your thing is the lawyerís take, but I wonder where are the users, the builders and protypers of tech, the people who see technology and the internet as air we breath for dear life. I know thatís a bit impassioned, but the gulf between people who are 40 and people who are 20 is so huge, it is nearly incomprehensible to those who donít see the network in everything they touch, everyone they see. For those who operate/socialize that way, the place where they breath and eat the networks, they cannot comprehend why the law reflects what it does, with P2P or any other tech, because those are just tools that better integrate the network they live within. Law is just a set of barriers, sometimes to their activities, and so they think the law and technology should reflect social norms, be mapped to technology and what we do with it. When it doesnít, they think itís stupid, like Friendster which is a system that cannot reflect the complicated and messy ways we socialize, any more than copyright law reflects the messy ways we consume and alter technology. (I do realize the age thing doesnít quite work, because there are 40 year olds breathing the internet and 20 year olds who donít use any technology, but you know what I mean more generally.)
Anyway, this may seem too frank, but if you really want to think about your topic, I think, it all comes down to how we socialize with the law and technology, because frankly, they are supposed to work for the people, not against them (though people could mean a minority Ė artists and creators Ė over a majority Ė users). And so if it were up to me, I would want to know what is now in the law, how technology differs, what is now in technology and how the law differs (I think these are asymmetrical), what do people do verses how the law is, what do creators do verses what the law is, and how do all four map (could be four transparencies), and then tell me whatís out of sync and letís think about why. Does it need to change (tech, creators, people or the law) or what? Where is the conflict? What are the mechanisms that are causing that conflict? Maybe itís not at all what we think now. It might be something no one has yet thought about.
This may not have been too helpful since you already have things planned out, but maybe itís something to think about in future. But I will blog your event nonetheless, and look forward to attending if I can do so.
Frank Field pointed out (he was on the email too) that Ed Felten has blogged on this same issue here (though I'm behind on site visits and my aggregator still):
Now I have nothing against lawyers. Some lawyers really understand technology. A few even understand it deeply. But if I were running a conference on law and technology, and I invited only technologists to speak, this would be seen, rightly, as a big problem. It wouldn't be much of an excuse for me to say that those technologists know a lot about the law. If I'm inviting ten speakers for a conference on technology and the law, surely I have one slot for somebody whose primary expertise is in the law.
Yet the same argument, running in the other direction, seems not to apply
sometimes. Why not?
Well, I guess Ed and I were on the same meme there without realizing it. Anyway, I hope David isn't offended by our questioning of the logic of his conference, and that these discussions lead to conferences which try to map multiple disciplines across the same space, translating the various languages we speak within our disciplines. These problems are so difficult to solve, there is no way we can do this within a single discipline or from a single point of view, because they cross so many areas and expertises.
Posted by Mary Hodder at March 25, 2004 03:49 PM
I'm the person responsible for organizing this conference. No offence at all, in fact I welcome the input. I also posted a comment to Ed's post, which I invite you to read. The short answer is that (a) I tried to invite some others to give presentations, but none were able to make it; (b) many of the presentations will address Mary's point about how we socialize with the technology -- much of the legal scholarship on P2P and other networks concerns how the law is affecting norms and vice versa; (c) nevertheless, there is a cultural dynamic to law school academic conferences that rewards the law school for presenting well known legal academics, which does unfortunately create a self-referential conference circuit sometimes; (d) we'd be thrilled if folks with other perspectives and with perhaps more technological knowledge than us would attend our conference and give us the benefits of their insights; and (e) I welcome ideas for a future conference that might be a bit broader and more inclusive, and would be happy to work on sponsoring such a conference at Seton Hall Law if there were people interested in presenting.
~ David Opderbeck, Seton Hall Law School