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Common Knowledge in the Info Age

02/13/2013

Open access advocate Hal Abelson kicks off RISD’s 2013 Shared Voices series on February 20.

Hal Abelson, a leader in the global movement to democratize intellectual resources, will visit RISD on Wednesday, February 20, launching the second season of Shared Voices: The RISD Presidential Speaker Series. In an evening talk called Common Knowledge, the MIT professor and father of computer science pedagogy will make a case for why colleges and universities need to be at the forefront of preserving and strengthening our information commons – the shared wellspring of ideas and innovation from which everyone may draw.

Abelson is also actively engaged in promoting open access to information through his roles as a founding director of Public Knowledge, the Free Software Foundation and Creative Commons, a copyright licensing operation designed to maximize digital creativity and sharing. Among his many books, he co-authored Blown to Bits (2008), an analysis of the cultural and political disruptions triggered by today’s information explosion.

Abelson earned a PhD in mathematics from MIT and now teaches at his alma mater as the Class of 1922 Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. His interest in information technology and policy has led to such courses as Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier, among others. He also collaborates in directing the Decentralized Information Group at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where he is investigating web privacy issues and developing a new approach to privacy based on information transparency and accountability rather than control of access. Just last month the president of MIT appointed Abelson to conduct a full fact-finding review of the college’s involvement in the events preceding the suicide of well-known internet activist Aaron Swartz.

The Shared Voices series offers a forum for welcoming some of the most expansive thinkers of our time to RISD. Each is a master of his or her domain but is also ready to transcend it, sharing our community’s belief in the fruitful exchange of ideas between thinkers from a wide range of creative disciplines beyond art and design.

Faculty co-hosts welcome each speaker to campus and facilitate interaction with students prior to the main event – the public conversation in the evening. Assistant Professor of Digital + Media Shona Kitchen and Assistant Professor of Painting Kevin Zucker 00 PT – both of whom explore the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds in their work – are co-hosting Abelson’s visit to RISD. In the late afternoon, they are also joining with Dean of Architecture + Design Pradeep Sharma and others in the academic community to host a salon-style discussion centered on the topic of open resources and what that really means in the 21st century.

As part of the first Shared Voices series last winter, RISD welcomed bioethicist Juan Enriquez, particle physicist Lisa Randall and co-founder of Wired magazine Kevin Kelly for three inspiring evenings of open conversations. Their talks are archived online at sharedvoices.risd.edu.

Abelson’s talk is open to the public free of charge, but advance registration is required and available on a first-come, first-served basis at sharedvoices.risd.edu. A live stream of the talk will be available via the Shared Voices site, where it will also be archived after the event. 

The next speaker in the 2013 series is author, psychologist and behavioral economist Dan Ariely, who will visit RISD on Saturday, April 20.

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tags: digital, research, STEAM

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The men in this 1903 portrait class were serious about the business at hand.