The University of Amsterdam is proud to confer an honorary doctorate on British-French cognitive psychologist Annette Karmiloff-Smith and American legal scholar Lawrence Lessig.
Prof. The work of Lawrence Lessig (1961) contributes to freedom of communication on the Internet. His books, articles and weblog garnered tremendous influence on academic and political discourse, in the disciplines of both information law and communications. In his first book, Code and other laws of cyberspace (1999), Lessig issued warning on the dangers of freedom of information arising from the technical design of the communication infrastructure. According to him, this design is not neutral but produces a normative effect and can lead to legal standards that limit the freedom of communication. The central theme examined by Lessig's next books entails intellectual property rights and, more specifically, copyright. Lessig advocates a significant limitation of copyright, expansion of statutory limitations of copyright and the reintroduction of formality requirements. His most recent book Remix (2008), explores a future in which cultural expression is more and more the product of expanding on and ‘remixing' the expressions of others. A distinguishing characteristic of Lessig's is his consistently pursued activism. He relentlessly strives to bring his academic standpoints into practice within a social context. His books on copyright provided a significant impulse to the Creative Commons Project. The objective of this large-scale open content initiative is to establish a commons - a public domain - in the area of culture (music, photography, video, literature etc.) which can be drawn from freely.
Prof. Bernt Hugenholtz, Professor of Information Law and Director of the Institute for Information Law (Instituut voor Informatierecht, IViR) has been designated honorary doctoral thesis supervisor.
The theme of ‘nature-nurture' runs through the work of Prof. Annette D. Karmiloff-Smith (1938) like a recurring thread. In her earlier research on the acquisition of language skills at the Center for Genetic Epistemology (Geneva) Karmiloff-Smith formulated a third path between the epigenetic constructivism of her mentor Jean Piaget and the nativist standpoint of influential psychologist Noam Chomsky. Her vision, further expounded on in her book A functional approach to child language (1979), can be described as a dynamic nativism, in which development is construed as a progressing modularisation of the cognitive system in which implicit knowledge is made increasingly explicit. Karmiloff-Smith conducted her research in the field of cognitive development at the MRC Cognitive Development Unit (London). Her book, entitled Beyond Modularity - a developmental perspective on cognitive science (1992), produced a significant impact on the field of cognitive science. In collaboration with others she published the influential Rethinking Innateness: a connectionist perspective on development (1996). In this book she derives perspectives from the field of neurobiology and employs neural network modelling in response to the question of what it means when we say that certain behaviour is congenital. In 1998 Karmiloff-Smith joined the UCL Institute of Child Health where she established the Neurocognitive Development Unit to conduct research on atypical development and, more specifically, on the development of mentally retarded children. This research primarily involves the cognitive deficiencies of these children from the early stages of infancy to early childhood. She has continued this work since 2006 at University College London.
Prof. Maurits van der Molen, Professor of Development Psychology and specialist in the psychobiological and differential psychological aspects associated with this field, has been designated honorary supervisor.