2.7 Activity 1

The aim of this activity is for you to:

  • consolidate some of the ideas you have been reading about so far

  • test your powers of observation and compare your perception of an interview or a lecture with that of someone else.

Activity 1

Watch the ‘Architecting Innovation’ lecture at http://realmedia.oit.duke.edu/ramgen/law/frey/lessig.rm; it provides a good summary of the arguments in The Future of Ideas. This lecture was delivered by Lessig as the Inaugural Meredith and Kip Frey Lecture in Intellectual Property at Duke University on 23 March 2001, and is just under an hour long.

Please note that you will need to use RealPlayer to watch this video. If you do not already have it, you can download and install the free RealPlayer software from real.com.

You might prefer to read the transcript of the ‘Architecting innovation’ lecture. You can also use this transcript to revisit the activity without having to watch the whole lecture again.

As you watch or read, make a list of the arguments that Lessig is making in the lecture. Rank these points in order of the importance you think Lessig gives them.


My list of key points is:

  • Free vs controlled resources

  • Time marked by ‘taken for granted ideas’ like ‘property is good’

  • Neglect to ask – should some resources be controlled at all

  • Benkler's communications system layers – physical, code/logical, content – each can be free and/or controlled

  • The internet was a commons – free speech not free beer

  • Physical controlled, logical end-to-end free, content mix of free and controlled

  • Network stupid, applications smart, network owners can't discriminate against innovators

  • Law and technology changing the Net as a commons because of ideology about property

  • Broadband cable networks not end to end – allow control through architecture

  • Content layer control through changes in copyright law cf acorn and oak tree

  • Groucho and Warner Bros cf code protected by DMCA

  • Lessig bets on a future of control

One way to rank and integrate these points is:

  1. Ideology about property rights can lead us to misunderstand why the internet was a successful medium for innovation and fail to ask fundamental questions about whether a resource should be free or controlled.

  2. A commons is a resource that is free (free speech not free beer), and if it does have an access cost it is neutrally or equally applied, e.g. Central Park, Fermat's last theorem, open-source software. Resources protected by a liability rule not a property rule.

  3. Benker models communications systems using three layers: physical, code/logical and content.

  4. The Net was an ‘innovation commons’ because of the end-to-end architecture at the code layer.

  5. The network is stupid and the applications smart, hence the network owners can't discriminate against innovators.

  6. The physical layer was controlled, the code layer free (as in free speech), and the content layer a mix of free and controlled.

  7. In broadband cable networks the code layer is controlled so network owners can discriminate.

  8. As technology changes the balance of control at the code layer, copyright law changes expand control at the content layer (acorn to oak tree); and e.g. the DMCA protects the digital fences surrounding the content.

  9. These changes are also a function of an ideology about property.

  10. Lessig – the future will be control.

Did your list contain the same points?

Do you agree with the the ranking given in my sample answer?

If you came up with a different answer it doesn't mean you got it wrong. Nor does it mean that I got it wrong. But the differences can tell us something about the process of observation. They arise because we have different perspectives on the interview or the lecture.

Can one person's account of a complex situation ever provide a truly accurate record?

Consider a child who doesn't do very well in an exam. The teacher might see the ‘problem’ as the child being too lazy to study or not capable enough or having a bad attitude and not caring. The child, on the other hand, might argue that she had severe hay fever that day or that the exam was unfair or that the teacher dislikes her personally.

Different people interpret what they see or hear differently. It is important to remember this, since observation and perception are the basis of understanding. If we do not observe clearly, then it doesn't really matter how strong our reasoning might be; our thinking about the subject under consideration will be flawed.

"Chance favours the prepared mind."

(Louis Pasteur)

2.6.3 The end-to-end principle

2.8 Summary and SAQs