Tag Archives: research

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.

 

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.

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.

The 5th GigaNet Symposium

Over the past few months I had the pleasure of working with a great group of people on planning the next symposium of the Global Internet Governance Academic Network.  The final program is now available online and I am also posting it below.   I think it will be a very interesting day and if you are interested in internet governance, you should definitely try to participate (there should be options for remote participation announced soon).

I have more Internet Governance Forum related updates, which I will post soon.  In the meantime, here is the program of the symposium, which will take place on September 13th:

9:00-9:15 Opening

9:15-10:30 PANEL 1: Internet governance theory and issue

Moderador: William Drake, Centre for International Governance of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva

  • Peng Hwa Ang and Natalie Pang. Going Beyond Talk: Can International Internet Governance Work?
  • Everton Lucero. Global Governance of Critical Internet Resources: A Perspective from the South
  • Jean-marie Chenou. Multistakeholderism or elitism ? The creation of a transnational field of Internet governance

10:30-11:00 Poster session and coffee break

11:00-12:15 PANEL 2: State power and Internet governance

Moderator: Rolf Webber , European Law Institute and the Center for Information and Communication Law at the University of Zurich

  • Joanna Kulesza. State responsibility for acts of cyber-terrorism
  • Jeremy Shtern. Models of Global Internet Governance and the Projection of State Power: The Case of Facebook and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
  • Lorena Jaume-Palasi and Ben Wagner. Nosy preferences of Google and China: Modelling an internet governance conflict using Amartya Sen’s liberal paradox

12:15-12:30 Sponsorship slot

12:30-13:30 Lunch – Sponsored by MIT Press. Welcome speech given by William Drake, editor of the MIT Press series on “The information revolution and global politics” and Milton Mueller, author of the newly released book, “Networks and States: the Global Politics of Internet Governance.”

13:30-14:45         PANEL 3: Interaction of technology, operations and governance

Moderator: Meryem Marzouki, LIP6/PolyTIC – CNRS

  • Brenden Kuerbis. Securing Internet routing: Influence and control of critical Internet resources through social networks and delegation
  • Dmitry Epstein, Qiu-Hong Wang, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Milton Mueller. What’s in the name? A behavioral study of the use of the URLs in China and the US
  • Laura DeNardis. The Privatization Of Internet Governance

14:45-15:45         PANEL 4: IGF practice, multistakeholderism and emerging issues

  • Nanette Levinson. Evaluating and Analyzing Collaboration In Cross-cultural and Cross-sectoral Perspective: Indicators from The Internet Governance Forum
  • Ivar Alberto Hartmann. Universal Access policies and Internet Access as a Fundamental Right: The Constitutional Law Perspective informed by the Brazilian Case.

15:45-16:00         Closing

16:00-16:30         Poster session and coffee break

16:30                    GigaNet Business meeting

POSTER SESSION:

  • Charlotte Bogusz. Openness and Privacy v/ Security : The example of filtering measures.2
  • Charlotte Bogusz. The promotion of the general interest through ICTs : The French and Senegalese examples
  • Daniel Oppermann. Analysing cybercrime from a multistakeholder perspective
  • Luiz Costa. The Internet and the Constitutional restrictions on foreign participation in Brazilian Media
  • Luiz Costa. A case study on the Brazilian E-Commerce Forum
  • Mona Badran. Is internet changing the social life of Egyptian college students and affecting their privacy?
  • Rolf H. Weber. Policies for Governing Critical Internet Resources
  • Shawn Gunnarson. Securing ICANN’s Accountability
  • Sofiane Bouhdiba. Internet governance and Education: the Tunisian Virtual University in the context of the Tunis agenda

The words of WTPF 2009

If you happen to follow this blog, you have probably noticed the relative silence in the last month or so.  I was, and still am, extremely busy primarily with working on my A-exams and moving on with shaping my dissertation ideas.  One of the upcoming highlights is me going to the World Telecommunication Policy Forum (WTPF) to observe how international telecom policy agenda is being shaped in real time and to conduct some preliminary interviews with people who steer this process.

As many other similar events (such as the IGF) the forum is not aimed at producing binding resolutions.  Instead, its explicit aim is to set the agenda for the global telecom policy making.  Here is how it is described on its website:

It (WTPF-DE) is not designed to produce prescriptive outcomes with the binding force of an international treaty; rather, it strives to foster productive debate and build multi-stakeholder consensus on constructive ways forward.

This is why I think it is particularly fascinating event and this is why it will be interesting to look at how its outcomes describe MICT, priorities of related industries, and the associated regulatory principles.  Preparing for the trip I was pleasantly surprised to discover a wealth of information that the ITU made available online.  For example, there is a repository of all the iteration of the “Report by the Secretary General of ITU”, which is the pivotal document of this meeting.  In its preamble, the report states:

Decision 9 of the Antalya Plenipotentiary Conference states that arrangements for the fourth WTPF shall be in accordance with applicable Council decisions. In accordance with Decision 498 of the 2000 session of the ITU Council, discussions at the WTPF shall be based on a Report from the Secretary-General, incorporating the contributions and comments of ITU Member States and Sector Members (available at: http://www.itu.int/osg/csd/wtpf/wtpf2009/report.html) which will serve as the sole working Report of the Forum.

Since I am interested in words and in discourse, I thought to play a little bit with what was available.  Together with Veronica, and with the help of the Many Eyes project, we created the following visualization of the current Report by the Secretary General of ITU – the report that is at the basis of the upcoming discussion.  Here is what we got:

Words of WTPF09

This image shows the 150 most common words in this 53 pages long document and the relative size of the word signifies its popularity.  As we can see from a quick glimpse, this forum is going to be about ITU, Internet, networks, services, issues, international, ICTs, countries, use, resolutions…

The decision in 2006 called for convergence to be the main topic of this forum, yet, as we can see in terms of popularity, the word “convergence” is loosing to many other concepts.  This is not to say that the discussion cannot focus on convergence using different terms, but I find this detail interesting.  it is particularly interesting, because if you look at visualization of the first draft of this report (before numerous comments by stakeholders were absorbed in it) the word “convergence” was much more dominant (you can see visualizations of drafts 2 and 3 in the links).

These visualizations do not tell us much about the substantive content of these documents, but I think they are a nice way to have a brief glance at the terminology that is dominating this debate.  I hope to continue following and blogging more on this subject.

Your comments will be highly appreciated!