Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Dancers in Niigata Got back yesterday from the Enjin01 event in Niigata. The theme of this year’s event was laughter. (Flickr set here.)

Enjin01 is a Japanese non-profit that I helped start. It is a funny mishmash of people including artists, business people, politicians, academics, journalists, novelists… just about every kind of background you can imagine. It is a membership organization with about 180 people. It is a totally volunteer organization and no one gets paid for talks we give or activities we participate in and it is funded by membership fees from the members and corporate donations. Some members give a percentage of their normal lecture fees to the organization as well. I was involved in the selection of members and setting up the organization a lot at the beginning, but am mostly just a member now.

One of the activities that we do is go teach at Jr. High Schools that want us to go. Any Jr. High School can sign up for us to dispatch teachers on our websie. I blogged about this earlier. We also have a group that focuses on trying to change government policy, especially in the area of taxation of donations to non-profits.

The main activity of Enjin01 is to organize an annual meeting in a different region of Japan each year. Most of the members attend this annual meeting. The meeting is organized into a few plenary talks, a bunch of workshops and panels, and a “yagaku” where we go to dinner with people from the local community. We also usually have a closed meeting where the members meet an invited guest.

The program committee assigns the participant members to various panels and different “yagaku”. This year, I was assigned to a panel about IT, which is par for the course.

I was also assigned to be on a panel at a workshop lead by Koichi Inakoshi to learn about and actually participate in photographing a nude model. I had never photographed a nude model before so I was quite nervous at the beginning. Mr. Inakoshi started by explaining that we should think about the beauty of the model and imagine looking at our own bodies while we are bathing. He told us to try to imagine and see the beauty of the human body. After showing us some of his nude images, he told us to try taking photographs ourselves.

The audience was also invite to participate. The audience probably consisted of 50% women and maybe 50% of them over 40 years old. The panel, which I was on, chose a number of winning photos. One of the women who won a prizes was wearing a kimono. I wish I had a photo of the woman in a kimono photographing a nude model. ;-)

One side-effect of this session was that I ended up with some nude photographs. I posted them in Flickr flagged as “Moderate” and “Hide this photo from public searches”. I still got a few people telling me that they were surprised and a thread started on one of my photos about nudes and sensitivity about nude images. After reading a bunch of posts about nude vs naked, I realized this is an old and deep discussion online. The collapsed context of the Internet forces us to deal with these cultural differences in a very real way. With nudes, I find that even in the same society, there is a very wide range of sensitivity levels. One curious thing is why people turn “safe mode” off when they don’t want to see nudes…

Charles Robert Jenkins The special guest for the closed member meeting this year was Charles Robert Jenkins, the former US Army soldier who lived in North Korea for 39 years. He gave us a very candid and real account of his time in North Korea and while some of the facts and assertions were interesting and shocking, his personal account of his day-to-day life in North Korea left the strongest impression. He now lives in Niigata, Japan.

The “yagaku” can be hit or miss, but this year it was a lot of fun. The deal with the “yagaku” is that we choose a dozen or so local restaurants and several members are assigned to each venue. Then all of the local people are invited to join us to dinner where we are the hosts. We learn a lot about the local culture and they get to spend “quality time” with us. This year, I sat with a number of women who had worked in Tokyo at companies like Fujitsu and Intel but returned to Niigata after getting married. We talked about how to use the net to “stay in the loop”.

Ken Mogi One of the highlights of the event was getting to hear Ken Mogi speak and having time to chat with him a bit. In addition to being one of the most brilliant people I know, it turns out that he has a very funny and rich personality.

Next year, we will be holding the event in Nagoya. Anyone is welcome to join us.

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Darth Vader, Stormtroopers come to ICANN meeting
What used to think ICANN was like...

Apologies for the delay in writing the post. I've been trying to think about what to say and have just decided that I better write it before my thoughts get old...

I joined the ICANN board during the December 2004 ICANN meeting in Cape Town. I served for a three year term and stepped down at this last meeting in Los Angeles and didn't run for another term. My apologies to all of the ICANN community and the people who helped me learn about and participate in the complex but important process that is ICANN.

Before joining ICANN, I thought that ICANN was the only part of the Internet that wasn't really working. I knew that there must be a better way to do what ICANN does, but I couldn't be bothered to figure it out. I'd agree with people who said things like, "it should just be distributed" or "it should just be first come first serve" or "we should just get rid of it." People from ICANN would say, "it's more complicated than that" or "at this point that would be impossible."

After being part of the process for three years, I find myself saying those same things and feeling a sense of exasperation at the people who take pot shots at ICANN from the peanut gallery without really trying to help or change things. I also have gained a huge respect for most of the people who participate in ICANN, many as volunteers, trying to improve the process and keep the Internet running.

With all of it's tumultuous history and bumps and warts, ICANN, in my opinion, is the best way that we can manage names and numbers on the Internet and any new thing to try to do what it does would be less fair and probably wouldn't work.

There are some technical architectures and ideas that might make ICANN less relevant, which would be a good thing. However, even relatively obvious things like IPv6, IDNs and DNSEC are having a hard time getting traction. I think that it would be nearly impossible to "redesign the DNS" and get people to use it. It would be like trying to redesign a flying airplane. On the other hand, their might be some evolutionary changes that make domain names less relevant.

The ICANN process as it is currently working involves a number of supporting organizations that feed into a consensus and policy development process. The board is 15 people, 8 who are "neutral" and nominated from the public through the nomcom process and 7 who are elected from the supporting organizations. It is geographically and otherwise fairly well distributed and balanced. It is nearly impossible to "capture" the process. If any stakeholder wants to participate, they just have to show up.

The problem that ICANN has is not one of being unfair, the problem that ICANN has is the difficulty and time required in trying to reach consensus on difficult issues. The other problem is that most of the people who are affected by the decisions, the average users, don't know or care about ICANN. Trying to figure out an better way to get their input has always been an issue, but is one that is not unique for ICANN. All of politics and collective action share the difficulty in getting the public to care about issues that affect them.

When I was urged by a number of people to join the board, I thought of my term on the board as a kind of "jury duty". I had been benefiting from the Internet running properly for the last decade, building businesses and my social network on the Internet. I felt that three years would be a kind of "community service" to give back some of what I had received. The board work included nearly monthly conference calls, probably several thousand pages of reading, two face-to-face board retreats and three meetings per year. The meetings are a week long. This adds up to nearly two months or more of work a year.

As the new chairman of Creative Commons and my portfolio of companies requiring more and more of my time, I just couldn't justify serving another term. I calculated that I spent more time reading about and discussion whether we should allow .xxx than I spent on any one portfolio company this year... and at the end of it, I voted in the minority and .xxx was shot down and I ended up as just a voting statistic.

Having said that, I have no regrets. I met amazing people, learned a lot about how the Internet works and have gained a great respect for the people and the organizations that make up and contribute to ICANN. Many thanks to the ICANN staff, board and various constituents who have made my term a fruitful and exciting one.

Jump-1 JUMP系列 Photographer:老0

I landed in Beijing yesterday at 5AM from Los Angeles and am leaving today at 1PM for New York. From a logistical and environmental perspective, I think this was one of my stupider trips. However, from a content perspective, this was one of my best trips ever. I really met more interesting people, saw more interesting things and had more interesting conversations in a single day than I’ve had in a long time.

I started out the morning yesterday by giving at talk at cnbloggercon organized by Isaac Mao. I gave a talk about the sharing economy and got some interesting questions and hallway conversation about sharing in the context of China. I also got to meet a lot of the Chinese bloggers I only knew by name. Many thank for Isaac and his crew for organizing this excellent annual conference and sorry I haven’t made it over before.

Then I went to the Creative Commons China Photo Content ceremony at the National Library in Beijing. There were 10,000 submissions of professional and amateur works licensed under various CC licenses. There were three categories: Society, Nature and Portraits. Winners were chosen by a panel of judges including famous photographers, professors and other notable people. The photographs were amazing. There is a web page of the winning photographs. Don’t forget to click the link underneath the winning photos for the second place winner gallery.

While we have silly people in the West saying that for every free photo on Flickr a professional photographer loses their job, we have professional photographers in China licensing their best works under CC licenses. As far as I could tell, the amateur and professional photographers seemed integrated and supportive of each other.

After the awards ceremony, we have a workshop with presentations from an illustrious and interesting group of speakers. Overall a groundbreaking and well executed event. Congratulations Chunyan and the CC China team!

I’m uploading photos from my trip in a Flickr set. I found out yesterday that there is a Firefox Plugin to bypass the Chinese block on Flickr. Yay!

Changes at ICANN

Today Vint stepped down as chairman of ICANN as his term came to and end. The new board elected Peter Dengate Thrush as the new chairman.

My term also came to and end. I'll blog about this more, but thought I should post this first...

24/7 DIY Video Summit is a conference which involves more of my friends than just about any conference recently. It should be a blast. Be there or be square.


February 8-10, 2008 School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California

[Howard says] I’m thrilled to moderate a session on Feb 9 that will include Yochai Benkler, John Seely Brown, Joi Ito, Henry Jenkins, and Lawrence Lessig. I don’t think this particular group has ever been on stage together.

Conference web site: Blog:

Spaces are limited for attendance at the academic panels and the workshops. The video screenings are free and open to the public.

24/7: A DIY Video Summit will bring together the many communities that have evolved around do-it-yourself (DIY) video:artists, audiences, technology providers, academics, policy makers and industry executives. The aim is to discover common ground, and to chart the path to a future in which grassroots and mainstream, amateur and professional, artist and audience can all benefit as the medium continues to evolve.

This three-day summit features:


On February 8 and 9, there will be screenings of DIY video that are open to the public. These will feature curated programs on design video, activist documentary, youth media, machinima, music video, political remix and video blogging. The video program will culminate in an evening program and reception on February 9 that will draw from all of these video genres.

Registered attendees will have access to the academic program on February 8 and 9 that features panels on The State of Research, The State of the Art, DIY Media: The Intellectual Property Dilemma andDIY Tools and Platforms. Featured speakers include Yochai Benkler, John Seely Brown, Joi Ito, Henry Jenkins, Lawrence Lessig, and Howard Rheingold.


On February 10, the day will be devoted to practical and hands-onworkshops for registered attendees on topics such as intellectual property, media creation, distribution and new-media design tools. Attendees will also have the option of organizing their own birds-of-a-feather meetings to connect with other attendees.