Larry Lessig interview

I was very fortunate this fall to be asked to interview Larry Lessig for the EDUCAUSE Now podcast series, produced by Gerry Bayne. Gerry produced a teaser for my piece as well as a full-length feature interview segment. He was also kind enough to supply me with the raw audio of the entire telephone interview I conducted with Professor Lessig. I’m podcasting that extended interview here because the last bit didn’t make it into the EDUCAUSE productions. I certainly understand why: for the last ten minutes or so, I took off in a different direction, probing Professor Lessig’s recent decision to put the Lessig Blog on indefinite hiatus. There were some puzzling statements in his valedictory blog post that I wanted to clarify if I could. I also wanted to register not only my disappointment but my dismay at his decision–and to suggest, as respectfully as possible, that his decision was a terribly ironic follow-on to his stirring defense in Remix of the importance of blogging, a defense that included a haunting passage on what blogging had meant to him because of, or despite, his own emotional vulnerabilities. As someone who’s lapsed into blogging silence far too often, I understand very well how draining it can be over the long haul, and I can only imagine the technical challenges–spam, chief among them–of an A-level blog like Larry Lessig’s. And a third child: yes, even with only two I can well imagine how number three would ramp up all the family responsibilities. The new job, ditto.  That said, I also feel very strongly that we’ve only begun to explore this medium, and that it’s vitally important to have voices like Prof. Lessig’s in the blogosphere to demonstrate that exploratory, essayistic, informal writing has academic worth–or should. Is it possible Prof. Lessig doesn’t realize how radical an act his own blogging was?

As you’ll hear, I wasn’t entirely successful in my quest for clarification, especially when it came to Prof. Lessig’s new job and the role it seems to have played in his decision. I hope I was successful, though, in conveying to him how important his work as a blogger continues to be to me and to many others. (The comments on his last post are quite moving in their gratitude.) And I hope his voice will emerge into the blogosphere yet once more, not within an omnibus site like the Huffington Post, but on a domain of his own. It’s the repeated, continued forays in those domains of our own that define us as bloggers, that tell our odysseys–and that offer a paradigm beyond branded pundit aggregation.

I’m grateful to Larry Lessig for taking the time to speak with me, and to EDUCAUSE for the opportunity to do the interview. It was a daunting and exhilarating experience. NB: the first ending is followed by a coda, so keep listening.


4 thoughts on “Larry Lessig interview

  1. Gardner,

    i really like what you did in this interview, you actually helped create a really useful guide for navigating the question of 3rd party services agreements vs. copyright, which is really useful for me. So this is a great resource in and of itself.

    On the other hand, the end of the conversation gets more to his foregoing his blogging, and I think anyone who has blogged for years knows the impulse, but what is odd to me is that it seems his discussions of copyright, freedoms, culture, etc. has never been more needed than these days with the coming ACTA treaty and what looks to be all sorts of draconian measures on the copyright fight. Seems like that move to fight corruption, rather than focus on one huge part of it like copyright might makes us all a bit poorer, unfortunately.

  2. @Jim Thanks for those kind words. Funny that one of those “terms of service” gotchas just erupted on YouTube (credit Alice for the reference here) when 4Chan started heaping praise on an 8-year-old’s channel and YouTube pulled the plug on the channel for violation of terms of service (COPPA in this case), resulting in 4Chan’s massive (and inexcusable, in my view) vandalism: I’m glad Lessig acknowledged a chilling effect for TOS as well as copyright. Those chilling effects work just as well as overt coercion–better in fact. And I agree wholeheartedly about Lessig’s own blogging and his change of focus, first because we need his voice so badly (I’d lost track of ACTA–what an enormous threat that poses! And of course the Wikipedia article and discussion are fascinating here), and second because I hope he’ll start to take a closer look at the way some substantial academic practices (I’m counting attitude as a practice here) have their own part to play in the network of corruption. He really does give education too much of a bye, in my view. That said, I think he will come to consider these close-to-home topics more deeply in the days ahead, and I hope he will speak out on them. The EDUCAUSE talk was a huge step in that direction.

  3. Gardner–

    What with the beginning of the semester and all, I’m finally getting around to listening to this one, but the player doesn’t seem to work. Is this interview still available?

  4. @Ted,

    Sorry about that. The audio should be working now. Thanks for the heads-up, and thanks for stopping by. Good luck with the semester (good luck to us all!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *