Notes from interview session led by Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, with Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Danny Weitzner (@djweitzner) formerly W3C Technology & Society policy director, now the associate administrator for policy at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration
LR: Best research in web science?
TBL: Best paper in science – analysis of how ? is used. Google changed the way it worked just before MA election by adding real-time search (went R, D state); it looks as though that was back-door — analysis of the sorts of behavior that got high rank and dominate discussion. Election manipulated by manipulating the web?
DW: We are looking for new crop of web science – we do policy analysis as well as quantitative research. NTIA is working with Census Bureau to analyze internet use. About 65% of US has “broadband” internet access – who are and where are the other 35%? Open, linked data has not been a priority until now, but it will take time.
LR: Net Neutrality question
DW: “This is a hard issue to talk about” because we’re in the middle of developing policy options. Quick audience survey – not even half of the audience is familiar with the term. DW now tries to put it into context. ISPs have either blocked or degraded certain kinds of traffic (VoIP, P2P). DW, FCC’s four principles; Comcast took FCC to court and said FCC did not have authority to regulate net neutrality (open, free, non-discriminatory). Court agreed that FCC did not have authority, less than 30 days ago. [From March: Why the FCC Broadband Plan Underwhelms]
DW gives the example of TBL creating HTTP which ran on top of existing internet as example of importance of open web. [Note: we keep talking about “open web” when we should be saying “open net” — it just doesn’t have the same sound to it, does it?]
LR: Data and education/school systems. When will web and classroom not be at odds with one another.
TBL: Data about school performance -> does not directly translate to improving “performance”. Noted that simply looking at tests is simple but may not be the right measure. Potholes is a different matter (can be measured). Reference -> child learning to play piano using remote meeting and Skype with American instructor. =:-0 MIT open courseware.
Huge, great sandbox, collaborative media.Teachers collaborating from different countries to develop courses. Students collaborating across countries.
LR: What has caught you by surprise?
TBL: That people were willing to write HTML by hand. The original web browser was a WYSIWYG editor — this culture where there was millions of people writing HTML by hand. That was a shock.
DW : Surprises from WH perch. The question is – can we leverage voluntary (multi-stake holder effort) to make progress on thorny policy problems.
Q from audience.
TBL: Perfect classroom environment ?- I’d ask you what is your assessment as a teacher. Her answer:
DW (my question on broadband speed & spectrum): NTIA grants went to midde-mile projects. Extensions of of backbone with open/neutral requirement in contract. References 4G (?).
TBL : It should work for anything and anybody — 65% of Americans have broadband access much higher than global of course. WWW Foundation is looking at health of web, not just by creating new standards and web science but looking at what things we can do that will make the most difference in getting people connected.
Digital inclusion — when everyone is connected, all govt services can switch to online and have huge savings — which could pay for safety net for those who will never use the Net.
Q: reminder that there are very poor areas in the U.S. — parts of NC that look like Africa
DW: A significantly number of people who aren’t online won’t get online until someone shows them why it’s to their advantage.
TBL : Importance of standards, especially for people who are using the technologies for the first time — pages made with XHTML and CSS /will/ still work with Windows3000!
DW : The space of social policy and social convention — as I look at and work on issues like privacy and online copyright protection. They get into the public policy arena when something goes wrong. Think about how to be good user and shape the environment.