Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Is the Internet of Things Your New Constitution? (Philip N. Howard)

Thursday, September 17, 2015 - 4:30pm

Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility
Discussant: Sandra González-Bailón (Annenberg School)
This event co-sponsored by the Annenberg School for Communication.

All attendees are encouraged to read Professor Howard's paper, available here. 

THE INTERNET OF THINGS, MADE UP OF BILLIONS of devices with small sensors, will contain our political lives, communicate our political values, and constitute our political identities. It will generate perfect behavioral data without allowing citizens to opt-out of data collection. Already visible in consumer technologies, the internet of things is unlikely to be stopped, and it is unlikely that national services, technology firms, and political lobbyists can be cut out of the rich data flows it will generate. However, there are several ways of preserving a role for citizens and civil society groups in a political system defined by its information infrastructure.    

Excerpt: "Constitutions are collections of codified and uncodified traditions and conventions that provide structure for political life. They explain a polity’s system of governance and define the relationships between and among citizens and political actors. In the years ahead the internet of things, made up of billions of devices with small sensors, will encapsulate our political lives, communicate our political values, and constitute our political identities. It will generate perfect behavioral data without giving citizens the right to opt‐out of data collection. The algorithms, terms of service and interoperability protocols are should not just be of interest to the engineers trying to build more consumer electronics. The scripts that make the Internet of Things operate will have immense implications for governments and governance."

PHILIP N. HOWARD is a professor and writer. He holds faculty appointments at Central European University in Budapest, the University of Washington in Seattle, and is a fellow at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Currently, he works as the Director of the Center for Media, Data and Society and the founding Professor at the new School of Public Policy at Central European University. He investigates the impact of digital media on political life around the world, and he is a frequent commentator on global media and political affairs.  His most recent book is Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up (2015); his other books include Democracy’s Fourth Wave? Digital Media and the Arab Spring (2012), The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (2010), and, as editor with Muzammil Hussain, State Power 2.0: Authoritarian Entrenchment and Political Engagement Worldwide (2013).