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A Harvard course available on Democracy?!

September 23rd, 2006 by Dean Jansen

In addition to my work for PCF, I also am part of a very interesting new course at the Harvard Law School. The course, titled CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion, is an experiment in open access — all course materials, lecture videos, reading lists, and wikis are freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

CyberOne is a somewhat outlandish course, which happens to be setting a few Harvard milestones. First off, no course in Harvard history has been made freely available to all internet users. Equally extraordinary, the class is being offered to Harvard Extension students in a persistent 3d world, called Second Life.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, the course is taught to law students, on the Harvard campus. The lecture videos are then made available to both Harvard Extension students and to all internet users “at-large,” usually within 24 hours of the class period.

The course itself is both message and medium. To begin, the students are being exposed to examples of participatory and collaborative advocacy, posed in various forms of networked media, including: blogs, podcasts, wikis, online video, and more.

Once the theoretical foundations have been laid, the course will shift gears from conceptual to practical. Self-selected groups of students will be required to identify an issue, of their choosing, and subsequently launch a project centered around advocating their chosen topic (non-students are encouraged to create projects of their own, and/or join student groups). Participants will then extend the projects onto the internet, employing the various techniques and media studied in class.

I want to personally welcome all interested parties to join in the fun — this is a fully fledged Harvard course that begs for your active participation!

The simplest way to begin is by watching the lecture videos — get them delivered with this one-click Democracy link. To remain informed of opportunities for participation, join the course mailing list. If you’re interested in further involvement, add your personal profile to the CyberOne course wiki (our wiki can be edited by anyone). Finally, get involved in a project, or, if you’re feeling extra-motivated, start your own.

The course is being led by Harvard Law Professor Charles Nesson and his daughter, Rebecca Nesson, who teaches comp-sci at Harvard. In addition to the Nessons, there are a number of talented folks working behind the scenes, or in the guise of 3d avatars, who keep things operating smoothly. Suffice to say that I feel incredibly lucky to be working alongside them.

Oh, and Democracy Player gets some props in video 3.2, from September 18th (roughly 5 minutes in).

3 Responses to “A Harvard course available on Democracy?!”

  1. Gunhild Andersen says:

    As a passive member of the “at large” audience watching the lecture videos, I must say that this is a tremendously fascinating course. These lectures greatly exceeded even my highest expectations when I turned to Democracy for stimulating “entertainment”. I really love the political aspect of the course; how students (and non-students as well) are encouraged to actively try to change things they think ought to be changed, by learning how to use the internet to invoke participation from anyone out here who might happen to agree with them and posess the skills needed. Also, it is so incredible to see such important issues as copyright law, free software, Democracy, Wikipedia and participatory internet culture in general have the dots between them connected, so to speak, in a freely available course at The Harvard School of Law that I’m in a sense still rubbing my eyes while watching.

    Of course, I’m frantically telling everyone I know about it and urging them to check it out for themselves, and so I just had to jump at this chanse to thank you for being one of those wonderful people making this historical experiment possible.

    Oh, and by the way, you did a great job at explaining what Democracy actually is at that lecture; it made me a whole lot wiser in that regard.

    So thanks, and keep up the good work!

  2. Dean Jansen says:

    Gunhild,

    It is exciting (not to mention flattering) to hear this sort of praise from any participant; when the compliment comes from one who joins the course out of sheer interest in the topic, it has an air of unquestionable authenticity.

    The one thing I couldn’t help but notice is that you refer to yourself as a passive member of the “at large” audience. I do realize that not everyone has spare time to take an active hand in the course related projects. With that said, I am curious to know if you feel there is an apparent and/or obvious path for to active participation in the class, as a member of the “at large” audience.

    In whatever capacity you do engage the class, it sounds like you’re already getting a lot out of it. I’m very encouraged by your feedback, and I want to thank you for the enormous compliment you have paid all of us. The course, as a study in open access and collaboration, seems to be surpassing all of our expectations.

    Thanks, Gunhild!

  3. liberi says:

    Du musst ein Fachmann sein – wirklich guter Aufstellungsort, den du hast!

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