Remarks at Open Video Conference 2011, as delivered.
Good morning. My name is Beth Noveck. I am a professor of law here, the founder of your host the Institute for Information Law and Policy and I once had a job in Washington.
New York Law School is 8 blocks from Ground Zero. After 9/11 the school was closed for two weeks. There was no power, no telephone, and no Internet connection. Some of these things took months to restore. And the acrid smell burned one’s lungs weeks after the attacks.
People here, many of whom commuted through the PATH train station at the World Trade Center or others who were getting their coffee on the way to class or who were caught in the fleeing multitudes running northward or who participated in the volunteer clean-up efforts that followed, were eyewitnesses to the history we commemorate today. We remember the thousands who died and were injured on 9/11 and their families; in the two wars that followed it as a consequence and among the civilians of other nations who perished as casualties of the war on terror.
What makes this tragedy so uniquely moving, in my view, is that senseless death and destruction were complemented by heroic action.
As little as we can fathom the evil of which the attackers were capable, so too we are at a loss to find in ourselves the superhuman courage and generosity of spirit demonstrated by so many – whether First Responders, soldiers and veterans, passengers on flight 93 in Shanksville or thousands of civilian volunteers -- on that day and in the weeks and months that followed who saw the news on television and came here without hesitation.
We, too, are gathered here today in that spirit of collaboration and civic action.
Every single person here believes in the need to do something (besides shop) – perhaps many of us inspired directly by the experience of 9/11 -- and the power of the visual to change the world for the better. Video transforms (to crib from WITNESS, the organization that gives people cameras to document human rights abuses) “personal stories into powerful tools for justice.” Even New Yorkers who experienced the tragedy first hand did so with one eye out the window and the other on CNN. If you go to the web or YouTube or to the National 9/11 website, you will see examples of all the video that ordinary people shot and shared that now form our collective memory of 9/11.
The Open Video Conference Organizers can take no credit for the coincidence of dates but they should.
It is extraordinarily apropos that we share the 10th anniversary of 9/11 together here 8 blocks from ground zero. Whether it is bystanders photographing and filming the events of 9/11 ten years ago or protesters in Syria documenting human rights abuses on YouTube this week or activists posting videos of hearings and committee meetings to ensure democratic accountability to or people making their own music videos, cooking shows or comedy, we are here to safeguard a world where everyone has the tools, the know-how and the freedom to make and to distribute, to hear and to watch video. By bearing witness to the personal and the political, the tragic and the comic about the world in which we live, we stand to make it better. We are taking action here today to build a media future in which we are more empowered, enlightened, and connected than ever before.
This morning, you will hear (and see) from two institutions that are taking action to do just that.
Gigi Sohn, Founder of Public Knowledge, a public interest organization based in Washington, DC, working to protect the openness of our communication infrastructure and unbiased pluralism in our media ecology.
At some point this weekend, you will no doubt wander south to see the phoenix rising from the ashes of ground zero. But today we thank you for marking this occasion together, not only for grieving and reflection, but as an opportunity to rise from the ashes of history by taking action in support of Open Video, participatory culture and the values of free speech that so many died to defend.
Gigi Sohn is the president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit organization that works to defend citizens’ rights in emerging digital frontiers. She serves as the chief strategist, fundraiser, and public face of Public Knowledge, and has made numerous media appearances and published articles highlighting emerging issues in the public’s access to content.
Gigi has long been recognized as a pioneer in identifying key issues facing digital media. Prior to co-founding Public Knowledge, she served as Executive Director of the Media Access Project, and as a Project Specialist in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts and Culture unit, where she developed the Foundation’s first-ever media policy and technology portfolio. In October 1997, President Clinton appointed Gigi to serve as a member of his Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters. The Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Gigi one of its Internet “Pioneer Awards” in 2006. At this year’s OVC, Gigi will be speaking about timely questions of internet accessibility, including the threats that capped and metered internet access pose to the open web. We’re thrilled to have her expertise and insight as we examine these issues at the conference.