Monthly Archives: August 2009

Apply for ICANN fellowship!

If you are interested in the Internet Governance issues (or even more generally in the politics of the Internet) and you live in a low income to upper-middle income economy, you should definitely apply for ICANN fellowship to attend one of their meetings.

I have recently discovered ICANN dashboard, which allows you a glimpse over their various statistics.  As you can see in the chart below, as long as you meet their qualifications, your chances of being accepted are rather high.  For example, in the last round of fellowships there were 33 qualified entries and all of them got funded.  Meeting the qualifications criteria is the greatest barrier to entry for this fellowship and it is not completely clear to me how so many unqualified people apply.  From reading the fellowship conditions, the two basic criteria are your citizenship and having at least some relevant experience.

ICANNfellowship

Unfortunately, I don’t have more details about this opportunity other than what is available on their website.  Nevertheless, and regardless of what you may think about ICANN and its role in the regulation of Internet, it seems like an interesting chance to observe the process of Internet policy deliberation in real time.  The next ICANN meeting will take place in Seoul, Korea, 25-30 October 2009, however at this point you can only apply for the following meeting to be held in Nairobi, Kenya on 7-12 March 2010.  The fellowship applications window for that meeting is September 28 to November 6, 2009.  Good luck!

P.S. The underlying logic of limiting fellowship eligibility to people from developing countries is completely understandable, but it would be great if ICANN could at least link to other resources, which are open to people from the rest of the world.

Governance, gardening, and structuration

I truly hope that I am not becoming like in that saying “when all you have is hammer, everything looks like a nail,” but I do feel that I observe more and more implicit references to the Theory of Structuration.  Earlier this week, I started a semester long fellowship at the Information + Innovation Policy Research Center in the School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore and as part of getting familiar with the center’s activities I finished reading a report from a conference organized by the head of the Center, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger.

The conference, named after a place in Switzerland, called the Rueschlikon Conference on Information Policy in the New Economy.  It is a gathering of a small group of policymakers, industry leaders, and academics, who come together to discuss issues related to information governance.  The meeting in 2007 was dedicated to issues of information governance and the report, compiled by Ken Cukier, is titled “Governance as Gardening“.  Behind this metaphor stands a number of observations, particularly:

“In the past states regulated domestically, and international accords were sought.  But because technology advances quickly, states cannot keep up. So new, non-governmental mechanisms and institutions to govern information globally are taking shape. As online communities evolve, they establish their own norms and practices: the rules are emergent. Ironically, the rules are shaped by the community, but the properties of those communities are shaped by the rules” (emphasis added)

and consequently:

“Rather than something something that can be known at the outset, implemented and followed with minor adjustments, regulation must constantly evolve, adapting to new environment. In this respect, we need to think of information governance as ‘gardening’ rather than ‘engineering.’  This is not new in nature, but novel in scope and pace, for which today’s agents, mechanisms and institutions are unprepared.”

What I see in this observation is the realization of the duality of policymaking processes. Quoting from my dissertation proposal:

“…the policymakers react to unintended consequences created by diffusion and adoption of new technology and at the same time they set the agenda and provide guidance for future technological developments that impact social structures and institutions.”

As it is mentioned in the last sentence, these dynamics are not new, but they were made more vivid due to the growing dominance of information technology, or in other words, attempts to systematize processes of communication.  Not surprisingly, this duality is the most visible in the area of information governance, where the matter of regulation is an inherent component of the processes of policymaking itself.  As Cukier writes at some point:

“… there is a paradox behind the governance of information: rather than learn the rules and play the game, we need to play the game to learn the rules”

Even though I think the report sometimes delves into semi-deterministic arguments (see the first quote  above), and as such neglects the duality of technology itself, it is really exciting to see that a conversation between practitioners and researchers yields observations similar to what is going to be at the basis of my dissertation.  Moreover, they used Internet Governance as one of the prominent examples where such duality of policymaking is taking place.