The Web and the West: Comparing Two Frontiers

Tags: Content/IP / Technology Policy

The World Wide Web is often referred to as a new frontier. The once familiar claim that no real world analogies could explain this still emerging technological frontier has given way to the reality that courts and policymakers are invariably adopting frameworks from old and familiar contexts to make sense of the new technological realities. One promising and often suggested analog is the comparison between the development of Web and the American West. The original frontier marked similar claims made about the Web–that those without access to basic infrastructure would be left behind (in ghost towns); that it did not need rules of property (with squatters’ rights being championed); or that the rule of law or centralized government was unnecessary (the Wild West mentality). Each of those claims were tested by history in the American West and, as to the World Wide Web, those very claims are being tested once again.

The aim of this conference is to evaluate the claims being made about the Web with reference to how they played out in the original Western frontier. To do so, Silicon Flatirons will work in partnership to bring a series of experts to address the three basic topics noted above–the role of infrastructure to economic and social development, the definition of property rights, and the role of the rule of law and the impulse for grassroots democracy. In all cases, we will rely for insights on Patty Limerick, nationally renowned author and historian of the American West, former president of the Western History Association and winner of the MacArthur genius fellowship.


Sessions

Introduction & Overview
  • Elaine Keith
    Executive Director, Center for the American West
Infrastructure and the Impact of Leaving Populations Underserved
  • Patty Limerick — Commenter
    Faculty Director and Chair of the Board, Center of the American West, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Greg Smoak
    Assistant Professor, Colorado State University
  • John Ryan
    Former Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer, Level 3 Communications, LLC
  • Phil Verveer
    Senior Counsel to the Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
  • Mark Williams
    Partner, Sherman & Howard, LLC
Defining Property Rights in A New Frontier
  • Patty Limerick — Commenter
    Faculty Director and Chair of the Board, Center of the American West, University of Colorado Boulder
  • Mark Fiege
    Associate Professor, Colorado State University
  • Natalie Hanlon Leh
    Co-Partner-in-Charge, Denver Office, WilmerHale
  • Herbert Fenster
    Partner, McKenna Long & Aldridge
  • Harry Lewis
    Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science, University of Harvard
Break

The Democratic Impulse and the Rule of Law
  • Patty Limerick — Commenter
    Faculty Director and Chair of the Board, Center of the American West, University of Colorado Boulder
  • John Gastil
    Professor of Communication, University of Washington
  • Michael Huttner
    Executive Director, Progress Now
  • Paul Ohm
    Associate Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
  • Jared Orsi
    Assistant Professor of History, Colorado State University
Reception

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