Future of the Internet Symposium: The Right Theory

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5 Responses

  1. Jason Treit says:

    “Dr. Generative Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPhone”: best law review article title evar? Dying to read!

  2. Maryland Law Review? Sorry – don’t think that publication has the necessary cache with the CO’s Authors to merit a link here.

  3. James Grimmelmann says:

    My apologies. Here is a link to the page on the MLR website where you could download our review, if it were available yet, which it isn’t. I hope you find the link useful.

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    Doesn’t the generativity of the Internet make it a distinctive threat, as well as distinctively valuable? Is it appropriate to regard “other values, like free speech and individual autonomy,” as external to generativity — as, it seems, stumbling blocks to the goal of the greater glory of generativity?

    I think an excessive enthusiasm for innovation is leading you to assume there is some division between “generativity as such” and those “other values,” just as neoclassical theory holds that the economy can be separated from the environment. In the economics case, that led economists to assume that environmental problems didn’t affect the purity and symmetry of their theory, and could be removed by appropriate pricing (in what physicists would analogize to a gauge transformation). The fallacy there, as Georgescu-Roegen and others have pointed out, is that all economic activity occurs in a physical environment, and has unavoidable physical consequences. The physical consequences are inherent to economic activity. I suspect there’s a similar entanglement between those “other values” and the generativity you’re so fond of.

  5. James Grimmelmann says:

    I don’t think I’m saying what you think I’m saying.

    Generativity is the “right theory” of the Internet because it encapsulates a whole set of proposed architectural virtues of openness succinctly. To the extent one cares about creativity and innovation on the Internet (at every scale) and their architectural determinants, generativity is the value to focus on. That’s the first part of my post, and of Paul and my review. That’s not a discussion of all possible values, just a point that “generativity” is a good encapsulation of a set of related themes that people have been talking about for a while.

    The point of the transition to bringing in other values is that one cannot do generativity analysis in a vacuum. In this, I think we’re in agreement. If your Playstation can be nuked from orbit, that’s partly a generativity problem, but it’s also an autonomy problem, and several other values besides. The Future of the Internet has a lot of interesting case studies, but “generativity” itself is often doing less work in them than one might think. Zittrain is bringing these other values in, but under the table. He’s not really theorizing their relationship to generativity in a way that supports the case-specific analysis, and that theorization is a rich and important vein for him and other scholars to mine.

    As for the Internet being distinctively threatening, too, yes, definitely. That’s a major theme of the book, and I’ve been writing about that duality for years. On balance, though, generativity on the Internet has unleashed a lot more good than bad, at least as I see it.