Category Archives: research

Draft thoughts about regional and national IGFs (Attn #IGF2013)

Following my dissertation work on the global Internet Governance Forum, I got really fascinated by the growing phenomenon of regional and national IGF initiatives. Particularly, thinking about the possible impacts of the IGF project, this phenomenon to me is the most tangible outcome. I’ve been talking about conducting a review of the regional and national IGFs with a number of people active in the Internet governance space and actually started interviewing some of the organizers of the regional and national IGFs. Recently I learned that Brandie Martin Nonnecke wrote an excellent dissertation looking at some of the African initiatives, which suggests that there is “meat” to this subject.

Thanks to a grant from the Freedom House, I was able to put together a brief draft thought document with initial observations about the regional and national IGFs as a phenomenon. I think it is timely to offer it now, as the global IGF meets in Bali.

This is indeed a draft, so feedback is most welcome.

Can we account for politicization of data?

I am currently at TPRC, where I presented a paper Merrill Roth, Eric Baumer, and I are still working on. This post is not about that (though I think we did well and overall it was a good session).

The best exchanges at conferences, as we know, happen in the corridors. And I just had one of those with Jeff Gulati and Brandie Martin. Jeff is known for his work on cross-national comparisons and Brandie did some work around indexes of telecom adoption and development. We got into talking about how politicized the self-reported data that is used in various global indexes can be. After all, a corrupt bureaucrat has no motivation criticizing his or her own performance or that of an office he or she is running. So, we wondered if it is possible to correct for corruption. Perhaps by using, surprise, surprise, an index of corruption (such as Corruption Perception Index). I wonder whether anyone has done that and whether such correction would change anything in how these indexes correlate with other factors. Only today, I heard at least a couple of talks that rely on global indexes. Someone must have looked into that.

 

Call for papers for the annual GigaNet symposium

It is that time of the year again when GigaNet is soliciting proposals for presentations at its 8th annual symposium. This time it will take place in Bali, Indonesia and the main focus of the event will be on cyber-security and state control of the Internet. But don’t get discourage if you are not working in one of these areas, the program committee welcomes submissions on other topics as well.

More details here: http://giga-net.org/page/2013-annual-symposium

Important dates:

  • Abstract submission – July 1
  • Initial decisions – July 29
  • Full papers due – September 30
  • Symposium – October 21

CFP: 7th Annual GigaNet Global Internet Governance Symposium

This year I am going to be again on the program committee of the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet). This is a great community for those interested in the international aspects of information policy and the political economy of Internet governance.

GigaNet is interested in receiving abstracts related to Internet Governance themes, especially those containing innovative approaches and/or emerging research areas. We encourage submissions on the following topics:Internet policies on freedom of expression (censorship, kill-switches, filtering, policies that promote free expression, corporate social responsibility)

  • Internet freedom and governance in regions in transition (Arab region, Caucasus etc.)
  • From PIPA to ACTA: National and international agreements on online copyright enforcement
  • Cyber-security, the state and international relations
  • Dataveillance and privacy – the economic perspective
  • Global Internet infrastructure policy (net neutrality, peering and interconnection, ASN assignment, routing infrastructure security, etc.)
  • Innovative methods for Internet Governance research
  • The role of the UN and intergovernmental institutions in global Internet Governance
  • Policy issues surrounding ICANN’s new gTLD program
  • IP addressing: economic and technical challenges of scarcity and governance
  • Internet governance and development

Other proposals on questions of global Internet governance will also be considered.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is May 20th (if accepted, you’ll have to submit the full paper by September 30th).

You can find the full CFP here.

Digital divide and civic engagement

With the dissertation defended I plan on bringing this blog back to life.

I started a post-doc position with the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative (CeRI), based in Cornell Law School. The project runs a very interesting operation called Regulation Room. It offers a platform and, even more importantly, a process for online public participation in the federal government rule-making process (if you don’t know what rule-making is, you are with the majority of people out there and should definitely go to the Regulation Room, because it has all the explanations). I will be working on collaborative drafting of policy input and consensus building around policy issues; aspects that currently are absent from the platform and frankly not sure will be necessarily a standard part of it. I hope to write about this work as I move along.

Yet, even before I started working on my own piece of CeRI research, just learning about the Regulation Room prompted interesting conversations that easily linked to my interest in the digital divide. The result is a paper I co-authored with one of my new colleagues, Rebecca Vernon, which will be presented later this week at the ”New ICTs + New Media = New Democracy? Communications policy and public life in the age of broadband” (CFP) – a workshop organized by the Institute for Information Policy at Penn State University and the New America Foundation.

I am not sure what the policy of the workshop is about publishing the papers, so in the meantime I’ll post the extended abstract. Hope you’ll find the premise interesting. If you are interested in the rest, please email me or just leave a comment.

Between Twitter revolutions and Facebook elections, there is a growing belief that information and communication technologies are changing the way democracy is practiced. But how universal are those effects? In this paper we look into what van Dijk labels “motivational access” in digital divide as an impediment for citizens to actively utilize information and communication technologies for civic engagement. We focus on the Cornell University eRulemaking Initiative as our case and conduct an in-depth investigation into its recent efforts to get the public involved in the Department of Transportation rulemaking process using online tools. Recommendations based on this analysis address both national policy frameworks and agency specific regulations.

The digital divide is viewed as major impediment to information-technology-enhanced democratic processes. But if you build it, will they come? Will making broadband more readily available necessarily increase participation in democratic processes? Will making government information available online motivate citizens to engage with government institutions? Will opening up communication channels necessarily yield productive feedback from people? Are the barriers for meaningful civic participation online primarily technological?

Regulation Room (http://regulationroom.org) is a project of Cornell University eRulemaking Initiative (CeRI). It is an online platform developed to engage the public in the federal agency rulemaking processes. In addition to its technological platform, Regulation Room has developed a set of moderation and outreach techniques to make both the procedures of rulemaking and the content of the rules more accessible to the general public. CeRI works with the Department of Transportation on actual rules the agency is seeking public comment on. As such, it serves as a real-life laboratory to explore uses of technology in democratic processes.

Over the past 15 months, Regulation Room worked on 3 rules that resulted in formal comments submitted to the Department of Transportation. In this paper we unpack what it takes to engage citizens in democratic processes and help them make their participation count. Our analysis suggests that while digital divide defined in terms of physical access and technological literacy may play a role in impeding civic engagement, they may not be the only important factors. In effect, while ensuring that all citizens have broadband access and well-developed technical skills go a long way toward ensuring public participation in democratic governance, it will not result in the desired breadth and depth of participation without further policy changes and investments in new technologies. Practices that evolved around the use of technology on the one hand and the engagement with government processes on the other, play an important role affecting civic online participation.

The paper presents an assortment of lessons and observations from “Regulation Room” and offers policy recommendations that suggest viewing civic online engagement through the lens of socio-technical practice, wherein the technology requirements for citizens to engage effectively in democratic processes are examined in conjunction with the normative assumptions of individuals as they interact with their government through online media.

60 days

In case you wondered why there were no updates on this blog recently, the answer is simple – I am dissertating. I need to have a finished manuscript by mid June, which leaves me with around 60 days to finish the task. Wish me luck! :)

In other news, which you may have already seen on Facebook, an article I co-authored with Erik Nisbet and Tarleton Gillespie got published in The Information Society and we got some press coverage in Cornell Chronicle. Here is the abstract of the paper:

Addressing the reasons for—and the solutions to—the “digital divide” has been on the public agenda since the emergence of the Internet. However, the term has meant quite different things, depending on the audience and the context, and these competing interpretations may in fact orient toward different policy outcomes. The goals of this article are twofold. First, the authors unpack the term “digital divide” and examine how it has been deployed and interpreted across a range of academic and policy discourses. Second, through a framing experiment embedded within a nationally representative survey, the authors demonstrate how presenting respondents with two different conceptual frames of the digital divide may lead to different perceptions of who is most accountable for addressing the issue. From this, they discuss the dynamic relationship between the construction and communication of policy discourse and the public understanding of the digital divide, as well as implications for effective communication about the digital divide and information and communication technology policy to the general public.

Feel free to contact me if you want to read the entire piece and don’t have access.

Footage from the workshop on core Internet values

With a slight delay, I would like to share video footage of the workshop I organized at the last IGF in Vilnius.  This is the same workshop for which I was seeking your input about a month and a half ago.

The full title of the workshop is “Core Internet values and the principles of Internet Governance across generations” and the idea is exactly that – to have a dialogue between Internet pioneers and young Internet activists on the core of what the Internet stands for.

We had a great group of people.  On the one hand, there were young people from different parts of the world.  On the other hand, there were more senior Internet thinkers and practitioners.  Here is the full list of participants (in alphabetical order):

  • Bill Graham, Global Strategic Engagement, the Internet Society (ISOC)
  • ‘Gbenga Sesan, Paradigm New Nigeria
  • Drew Smith, Student at Elon Univeristy and participant in Imagining the Internet project
  • Grace Bomu, Young Kenyan lawyer, secretary of the ICT Consumers Association of Kenya, and cultural activist
  • Laura DeNardis, Yale Information Society Project
  • Marie Casey, Elected female representative at the ITU Youth Forum of future leaders, Geneva, 2009
  • Nii Narku Quaynor, Ghana.com
  • Rafik Dammak, Tokyo University
  • Vinton G. Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google
  • Vladimir Radunovic, Diplo Foundation

Ian Peter, who chaired the last year workshop on Internet Governance, was also supposed to take part in the workshop, but unfortunately he was not able to make it to Vilnius.

I hoped to be able to share a report from the workshop here, but other tasks take priority at the moment and I will be posting the report later.  I do think we had a very interesting and lively discussion, so I thought at this point I will just share the video footage of the event.  If you have a couple of hours to spare, I think you will find this engaging.

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As always, your thoughts and comments are most welcome!

How do young adults access websites?

I am currently at the fifth IGF in Vilnius and yesterday I presented some data from our study on the online routines of the digital natives at the GigaNet.  Here, i would like to share one observation that I find particularly interesting.  In the graph below you can see a summary of our coding of how our participants reached website during our observation sessions. It reflects coding of over 650 instance of accessing website in each China and the USArrivingAtAWebsite-Summary.

As we can see, in most cases, our participants searched; this is consistent across both groups and I think was not particularly surprising.  Similarly, the use of bookmarks was equally consistent across both groups, which in my view was more surprising (perhaps since I am not a big bookmark user).

The differences, as you can see, were in the use of autocomplete and reliance on links.  Interestingly, in the Chinese sample, there were significantly more instances of using reliance on links compared to the use of autocomplete.  In the US sample what we see is practically a mirror image of this trend – significantly larger proportion of instances involved the use of autocomplete.

What makes it even more interesting is a glimpse at where do the Chinese participants follow the links from.  We are still organizing that data, but my initial observation is that many of those are coming from websites that basically large repositories of links (for example take a look at www.2345.com or www.114la.com).

All this brings up some thoughts about the role of English in the online experience.  In my view, one plausable explanation of this data can be the knowledge of English language.  I can see how use of the autocomplete function comes more “naturally” to the native speakers, compared to those for whom English is a second language.  The large collections of links that were utilized by our Chinese participants, further support this idea – why would you make an effort of typing in an inconvenient language, when you can go to just one website, where all the links you use are?

There are currently more questions than statements suggested by the snippet above – there is still a lot of work to be done on these data.  Having said that, I’d love to hear your thought about this little observation.  Please share…

You can find the slides from the presentation here.

Seeking your opinions on internet values and core principles

The next Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is just around the corner and for the first time I am organizing a workshop there.  I think the title of the workshop speaks for itself.  It is: “Core Internet Values and the Principles of Internet Governance Across Generations.”

The idea is very simple.  We are going to have a group of very smart people.  Some of them are internet pioneers from different countries, some of them are established researchers, and some are well known practitioners.  We will also have a group of young, less known (yet) people, whose activism and professional lives are related to the internet in one way or another.  The panel itself is quite large and we are also counting on having a very diverse and engaging audience from the IGF community.

So, the plan is to have a discussion among the panelists and then involve the floor, about core internet values and principles.  The question is not only what those values and principles might be, but whether the perception of these values and principles varies across generations and what that may mean for the future of internet-related policies.

This is where I would really appreciate an input from anyone reading these lines.  What do you think are the core values and principles of the internet where we can find the widest gaps across generations?

One example may be the notion of privacy.  I think since online social networks became popular there is an ongoing debate about how the younger generations’ perceptions of privacy online differ from that of their parents.  We all heard Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that the age of privacy is over.  But is it so for everyone?

What are the core values and principles of the internet that you still hold dear?  Which ones do you think were important in the past, but are no longer important?

Please share your thoughts!