June 18, 2009
Liveblogging #CALICON09 - John Palfrey Keynote
John Palfrey, Harvard Law School Professor and Vice Dean for Information, is delivering the keynote for this year's Conference for Law School Computing. (Search Twitter for #calicon09 for live tweets).
How do Digital Natives, the Iranian blogosphere, and law school education tie together? Let's start with the fact that young people are incredibly networked -- and Iran is an incredibly young society. Thanks to the openness that was brewing in Iran (no one thought to block Facebook and Twitter when it was a bizarre, English thing).
JP acknowledges that the following analogy is dangerous: law school deans are in a similar position to the Iranian clerics. The revolution happening in Iran is not about the technology; it's a way to achieve collective action among young people. How do we (law school leaders) lean into the technology, and to use it where it makes sense? What are the ways that young people use these technologies to enhance democracy, or education, or democratic education? Those of us who have been experimenting at the edges have not embraced collective action -- how to use these tools to revolutionize legal education together.
(It's not just youth, of course: perhaps the most famous pair of hands in the world - President Obama's - is often seen cradling a Blackberry.)
In a time of resource scarcity, why commit to upgrading the technology infrastructure when so much is already committed to physical infrastructure? We should have a vision of where we want to go, and it should be a glass-half-full approach. We need to switch the polarity of the conversation with our deans.
So one attempt at a vision: Divide the challenges into Creation, Access (esp teaching), and Preservation.
Let's start with one area of information -- primary law (statutes). This information is born digital, probably created by one of our graduates. The actual information itself ought to be more immediately available and open, even if we continue to pay for services to search them. The same should be true for caselaw, PACER, scholarship. In scholarship, the publishers are US. We are paying 3x for the stuff that we are creating ourselves: once to create it, once for the journal, once more for access. There's amazing potential for teaching materials to be open and accessible.
And all of this ecosystem should be both interdisciplinary and global.
But we need a plan on all three fronts -- creation, access, preservation. We need really big dreams, dreams that we commit to and dreams that we update. We must design with great care the legal information commons, with the same care that we designed our buildings and libraries.
Why Do This?
This vision is in the charter of the American Association of Law Libraries!
It's better for the environment.
Transparency is better for democracy.
Come back with some good news for deans in this economic climate
What's (potentially) bad?
Will we lose the marginalia? Will JP lose the historic legacy of Dean Kagan because it's preserved in email and not paper?
What's lost in physical browsing and serendipity? What happens in narrowcasting? It's not that people aren't coming into our libraries -- Langdell is always full -- but they are not going into the stacks.
What is Harvard doing?
We're studying what our students are doing - focus groups, brownbag lunches, etc. Keep listening! There is a dramatic change in how young people are learning, and we must let the data lead.
Digitizing what we have and putting it into the Commons. For example, the Nuremberg trials at Harvard. But it's wildly expensive, especially with putting metadata around it.
Open Access mandate (DASH) -- which has been tricky to get professor followthrough.
Collaborate with other leaders.
Signed on to the Durham Statement to bring scholarship, journals into the Open Access world. The definitive version ought not be the paper version.
Flag what's credible. See Harvard's InfoAdvantage pages to help students find quality information. And this should be done collaboratively across schools.
The Google Books project and settlement: How do we come together to deal with this challenge?
Contemplative space: we need places where students can think in longer than 140-character stretches.
What we can do together
We need to stop thinking in terms of collections and competing in size of collections. We should compete elsewhere, maybe in the quality of our services.
We should post our collection policies online. None of us can afford to buy everything -- why not collaborate? What do each of us have uniquely? How do we segment our collections across from ephemeral access to permanent (e.g. rare books): public domain > License Only > Radical Collaboration > Acquire no matter what > Unique materials. We need to focus on that Radical Collaboration sphere.
What would our colleagues do? We need to be more open about what we do.
Work together on open access -- how do our repositories come together? The reality is that Google has become the interface. (see JP's research into students often ill-advised Google habits). What other engines and interfaces are possible?
How to start radical collaboration? Just start doing it. We might all end up dancing together to the Sound of Music in Grand Central Station :)
Make learning spaces cool again. Dispel the myth that kids don't use libraries.
The best way to predict the future is to invent it. - Alan Key