Clippinger, John Henry 1943–

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Clippinger, John Henry 1943–


Born October 21, 1943. Education: Yale University, B.A.; University of Pennsylvania, Ph.D. Hobbies and other interests: Regular participant in Renaissance Weekend.


Office—Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School, 23 Everett St., 2nd Fl., Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail—[email protected]


Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, director of Open Identity metasystem. Visiting faculty member, Stanford University; research associate, Brandeis University; senior fellow, Boston University School of Management's Institute for Leading a Dynamic Economy. Member of Publication Board of the Association for Computing Machinery.


(Editor), The Biology of Business: Decoding the Natural Laws of Enterprise, Jossey-Bass Publishers (San Francisco, CA), 1999.

Operating at the Edge: Meeting Current and Future Security Challenges, CCRP Publications Series (Washington, DC), 2004.

A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2007.

Author of the blog John Henry Clippinger.


In A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity, which Library Journal contributor Michael Dashkin described as a "heady mix of theory and prescriptive advice," John Henry Clippinger examines how social networks affect human behavior and individual identity. He begins by exploring the root of many people's identity in creation narratives and religious belief, and goes on to analyze philosophical theories of human nature. Drawing on research in such fields as evolutionary biology and primate studies, economic theory, and cultural histories of successful "trust networks," Clippinger shows how basic social capacities, including trust, honor, reciprocity, empathy, and collaboration, developed. Using the history of the popular Internet auction site eBay as an example, Clippinger identifies several requisites for the successful functioning of any network. These include ways in which trust can be established, conflicts can be resolved, negotiations can be conducted, and risk can be managed.

A Crowd of One offers insights on matters of topical importance, such as terrorism, digital surveillance, and electronic commerce. Clippinger argues, for example, that neurological theories of identity can provide a more sophisticated understanding of how certain cultures might foster terrorism. He also argues that new knowledge about the dynamics of social networks can offer a basis upon which to create more successful methods of dealing with terrorism, by building trust. Clippinger suggests ways to combat identity theft without recourse to pervasive electronic surveillance, and writes that electronic commerce may pave the way for more efficient and ethical methods to distribute global resources.

Writing about social networks on his blog, Clippinger observes that developments such as Facebook show that "the Open Social web has a life of its own…. Information wants to be free. More so people. It is not a matter of privacy or even security for most. But trust, convenience and mobility. Not just the ability to move from site to site with ease … but to mashup your friends, interests, and creative works in ways that make sense to U. With this freedom comes the power of collective action, the spontaneous aggregation of people—call them smart mobs, swarms, emergent communities, or whatever, but these people mashups will change the power equation on the web."

Clippinger, who directs the Open Identity metasystem at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has also edited The Biology of Business: Decoding the Natural Laws of Enterprise, a collection of ten essays focusing on the use of complexity theory in business management. His book Operating at the Edge: Meeting Current and Future Security Challenges was published in 2004.



Clippinger, John Henry, A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2007.


California Bookwatch, June, 2007, review of A Crowd of One.

Library Journal, May 1, 2007, Michael Dashkin, review of A Crowd of One, p. 99.

New Scientist, May 5, 2007, "Who's Running Our Digital Future? It Sounds Great: An Increasingly Digital World Will Herald a More Egalitarian, Less Warlike, Individual-Friendly Form of Capitalism. Perhaps It Will, Says Paul Rogers, but Don't Hold Your Breath," p. 53.


Harvard Law School, Berkman Center for Internet and Society Web site, (April 12, 2008), faculty profile.