Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Digital Common Law

I was reading one of my favorite thought leaders on system-level IT (Irving Wladawsky-Berger blogs here) and I was compelled to read the paper he referred to and tell you all about it.  The paper is by ID3’s executive director John Clippinger and policy strategist David Bollier and it was presented at a recent D.C. workshop on the legal implications of digital media innovation. 

The premise of the discussion is one of my favorite topics to gripe about.  Government is too slow to have any chance of regulating a single fast moving technology domain effectively.  Imagine what would happen if they tried to govern the whole thing!!! 

So Clippinger and Bollier propose what they are calling Digital Common Law.  It is a bottom-up self-regulating approach that takes the need for big government out of the picture.  Let each digital community create its own rules and regulations, imbed it in the software, and make it transparent to users.  Give users enough control to manage their own privacy and security.  Make sure the technology infrastructure enables trusted relationships and permeable boundaries with other systems (I think this means low switching costs so if you are unhappy with the community you could easily take your business elsewhere). 

Some additional recommendations they make are to leverage the Big Data approach to get both business and social value out of the data that the system collects.  And to use bottom-up (even within each individual community) management so that users have control of the terms.  Disputes could be resolved internally or if necessary at the small government level. 

Irving WB notes at the end of his blog that he is “struggling to wrap my head around the implications . . .”  If he is, I don’t expect to be able to explain all of the details, benefits, or dangers of this approach.  But I agree wholeheartedly with him that it has the potential to be transformational.