Internet Power: After Cyber-Optimism and Pessimism
A year ago one could have had an honest argument about whether the Internet was increasing the power of the oppressor or the oppressed. Events in Tunis, Cairo, Daraa, Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing have shown that it can benefit both and that the effect of digital technology on power will be complex and contradictory. What are we to make of freelance hacker orgs, transparency activists and covert cyber war? In the annals of citizen empowerment and institutional vulnerability, democracy and anarchy share an interesting paired history, we intend to ask how the global system may handle this latest disequilibrium.
Christopher Bronk, Ph.D., is the Baker Institute fellow in information technology policy. He previously served as a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State on assignments both overseas and in Washington, D.C. Since arriving at Rice, Bronk has divided his attentions among a number of areas, including information security, technology for immigration management, broadband policy, Web 2.0 governance and the militarization of cyberspace. He teaches on the intersection of computing and politics in Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering. Holding a Ph.D. from The Maxwell School of Syracuse University, Bronk also studied international relations at Oxford University and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
A digital activism polymath with a remarkably diverse background: published author, Harvard drop-out, researcher, vagabond, trainer, campaigner, and serial social entrepreneur. She has come to it honestly, and creatively: Mary dropped out of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2008 to be U.S. President Obama’s New Media Operations Manager, and has founded a series of digital organizations (first Demologue, then DigiActive.org, now The Meta-Activism Project) that, as she describes it, “eschew bricks-and-mortar structure, fundraising, and legal incorporation, choosing instead to use the network to study the network, using free online collaboration tools to organize volunteers internationally and posting findings online. Like pitching a tent, these flexible organizations are easy to assemble and disassemble,” allowing her to react to changes in the digital activism field and stay on the cutting edge. Mary has lived on four continents and in countries ranging from Ghana and India to Chile and Morocco. She now lives in New Orleans. (bio by Rob Hyndman)
Patrick Meier is the Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi and the co-founder of the International Network of Crisis Mappers. He is a recognized expert and thought leader on the intersection between new technologies, civil resistance, human rights and humanitarian response. Patrick has written extensively on these topics and has presented his work at numerous high-profile conferences worldwide. He is regularly interviewed by leading media groups including the New York Times, Washington Post and BBC. He has also appeared on CNN and Al Jazeera. Patrick was previously the co-director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s (HHI) Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning. He has consulted for many international organizations including the UN, OSCE and OECD on numerous crisis mapping and conflict early warning projects in Africa, Asia and Europe. He is completing his PhD at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and is currently a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Program on Liberation Technologies. Patrick has an MA in International Affairs from Columbia University and is an alum of the Sante Fe Institute’s (SFI) Complex Systems Program. He blogs at iRevolution.net.
Richard Boly is a career U.S. diplomat and currently the Director of the Office of eDiplomacy, an applied technology think tank for the U.S. Department of State. Previously, he was a National Security Affairs Fellow the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he launched the Global Entrepreneurship Program. He recently served in U.S. Embassy, Rome, where he developed and ran a program to promote entrepreneurship in Italy. Continuing with his close ties to Italy, Richard serves on the board of the Mind the Bride Foundation, which connects the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems in Italy and Silicon Valley. Other embassy assignments include the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Paraguay. Richard is the most junior diplomat to win the Cobb Award for commercial diplomacy.
In a prior life, he was the first Presidential Management Fellow with the Inter-American Foundation, was a consultant with the Inter-American Development Bank, and founded and ran a shrimp hatchery in coastal Ecuador. In a stint with the Silicon Valley iconic PR firm, Regis McKenna, he helped launch the first Apple Macintosh. Richard is a graduate of Stanford University and the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UCSD.