Yale Center for Internet Studies

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Fri, 5 Nov 1999 13:49:37 -0800

[This was waaaay to hard to ferret out an URL for... RK]


The Center's most important
contribution will be to combine
humanities, social-science, and hard
science approaches to produce
technically well-informed cultural
and legal studies, and culturally and
legally well-informed technical studies.

The Center For Internet Studies
at Yale University
David Gelernter and Robert Dunne
Yale Department of Computer Science
The Goals of the Center: An Overview

The Center for Internet Studies at Yale University (the Center) will=20
investigate the Internet's
effect on society, and vice versa, from many perspectives --=20
technological, legal, political,
economic, cultural, and educational. The Center's most important=20
contribution will be to combine
humanities, social-science, and hard science approaches to produce=20
technically well-informed
cultural and legal studies, and culturally and legally well-informed=20
technical studies. Today such
studies are rare; the technological naivet=E9 of the average=20
non-scientist is exceeded only by the
all-around naivet=E9 of the average technologist. The Center's=20
activities will be premised on the
idea that an understanding of technology is increasingly central to=20
the making of public policy;
to emphasize technology's prominent role, the Center will be housed=20
in the Department of
Computer Science.

At this turbulent, decisively-important moment in the evolution of=20
the Internet, the Center will
convene a core group of scholars and scientists and direct their=20
energies at the key issues. To
start, the Center will serve as a focal point for work already=20
underway at Yale, and will provide
resources to faculty and students from the Computer Science=20
Department and other College
academic divisions, the School of Management, and the Law School.=20
Once the program is
underway, the Center will seek collaborations with other universities=20
and private industry.

We are particularly eager initially to pursue collaborations=20
involving journalism, which offer
opportunities for both immediate impact and enhanced public awareness=20
of the Center.
Journalists strongly influence public attitudes and public policy=20
makers' ideas about technology,
and the news media devote increasingly enormous attention to=20
technology developments. But
journalists too often know little about technology and are too often=20
badly informed about this
crucial and complicated topic on which they address the public so=20
often and at such length. The
better journalists reporting on technology realize they know little,=20
and worry about it. We plan to
invite journalists to the Center for symposia and workshops, as well=20
as for extended visits of a
term or a year. We hope to establish the Center as a "source" for=20
journalists in search of both
quotes and expertise.

Yale's traditional strength in public policy and American culture=20
combined with its top law
school and strong computer science department make it a natural=20
center for Internet Studies,
which will certainly emerge over the next decade as a focus of=20
academic attention and research
of all sorts. In addition to traditional scientific, legal, and=20
policy studies, the Center will
encourage the use of economic analysis; the work of historians of=20
industry, science, and
technology; and the insights of sociologists, psychologists,=20
philosophers, businessmen, and
creative artists, along with the perspective of culturalists. As has=20
been widely observed in both
popular and scholarly circles, the world stands on the edge of a=20
paradigmatic shift in technology
and culture. The Center will position Yale University on the leading=20
edge of scholarly inquiry and
investigation regarding that unfolding revolution.

It is unclear what kind of field "Internet Studies" will turn out to=20
be; it could easily develop in an
unscholarly and scientifically illiterate direction. Yale's tradition=20
of seriousness, intellectual depth,
and academic integrity are desperately wanted right now. Yale has an=20
opportunity to help
determine the basic character of "Internet Studies" by showing the way.

The Center will sponsor an annual colloquium, regular policy and=20
technology roundtables, and
ad hoc conferences for considering specific issues as they arise.=20
These activities would be
supplemented by both a Research Fellow program to encourage the=20
research of students and
younger scholars, and a Visiting Scholar program, which would invite=20
a leading figure to spend
one semester in residence at the Center. Finally, the Center will=20
establish an electronic and print
publication center, beginning with distribution of conference and=20
colloquium proceedings in the
early years, maturing into a quarterly journal publication as the=20
Center becomes more
established, and will ultimately provide an imprint press for the=20
publication of relevant
monographs and book-length projects.