Tag Archives: Week 8

Disclosure via GUI to the Covert Net Collectors

DeNardis describes Internet architecture as “arrangements of power.” What does she mean by this (and by extension, what does she mean by “architecture”)?

In “The Global War for Internet Governance.” I found the connection Laura DeNardis made about the structure of the internet being a behind the scenes foundation built on political preferences and a “preferential” technical infrastructure, to be something that greatly affects our everyday usage, but that we take for granted. Essentially, for the majority of users, the internet is an overcomplicated web of yah-yah and the parts we use what can be compared to a GUI, or Graphic User Interface, which is like a user-friendly mask that we use to access the little bits of information and social chatter we know how to find.

What this means, for example, is that the links we find in a search have already gone through a ratings system or selective security filter that was designed and implemented according to the preferences of someone; whether a politician or software engineer.

So, is what we see and have access to neutral?

And, even prior to our searches and social interactions there was a clash; policy makers vs. technical experts.

You can’t implement policy for a system when you don’t know how it works. However, you can launch a unique or monopolistic technology that upholds or maintains a policy … or at least on the surface. A technology like this, for example, could be something that the masses want to use but, unbeknownst to them, collects all of their searches and stores their preferences and their demographic information … sound familiar?

Altering the Governance Process

2) Instead of thinking about the governance of communication technology, let’s talk about the technology of governance. How does Livingston think the practice of governance has changed given the availability of new communication technologies and information flows?

One of the biggest implications of technology’s rapid evolution is its support in the mobilization of non-state actors and their increasing influence on the governance process. Governance is no longer solely in the hands of governments; technology has allowed NGOs and even ordinary citizens to gain a voice in this most complex area. Governance has become more dynamic, more complicated, and more contested than ever before. The speed with which our data-driven global society is growing necessitates a better understanding of the concept in order to move ahead successfully.

Technological advancements have allowed for the evolution from the arduous task of setting up enormous machines like the C-band flyaway unit that didn’t exactly send the highest quality data to being able to connect to a peer on the other side of the world within seconds and have prompted a great deal of social change by doing so. Perhaps Latham and Sassem wrote it best when they wrote that “the distinctiveness of digital formations can contribute to the rise of social relations and domains that would otherwise be absent” (Livingston 27). Among the most visible changes in technological consumption and one of the reasons for the change of governance is the increase in access to devices. In Africa, for example, “mobile penetration soared from 2 percent at the turn of the century to 28 percent by the end of 2009” (Livingston 24). This influx of technology and information has led citizens in many places to organize and speak out about important societal issues in attempts to overthrow governments. The Arab Spring changed the power dynamic in a number of nation-states (and continues to do so) and was borne largely of civil society’s ability to communicate quickly and easily through newer technology. NGOs play a large part in increasing the prevalence of mobile technology in places like Africa, thereby allowing them to amass influence in the governance sphere. According to Livingston, they “’seed’ mobile systems to gain the social, economic and political benefits accrued to publics by the formation of networks” (24). Perhaps one of the most telling signs that the role of NGOs as non-state actors is becoming more and more important can be found in their role in exposing the Iranian nuclear program. That such a globally significant find was made by an entity other than a government shows how non-state actors are becoming increasingly involved in global affairs.

It should also be noted that while the use of technology has had a remarkable impact on the governance process by promoting global communication and introducing new ideas into society, it also allows communities to reinforce the nuances that define what it means to be a part of their particular group. While western consumers utilize technology as a means of keeping in touch with family (as the dispersion of family members is not uncommon in these areas), people living in Congo utilize technology less as a means of maintaining familial relations and as more of a tool to accomplish other, more administrative or bureaucratic needs (banking, violence-reporting systems, etc.) (Livingston 28).


Livingston, Steven. “The CNN Effect Reconsidered (again): Problematizing ICT and Global Governance in the CNN Effect Research Agenda.” Media, War & Conflict 4.1 (2011): 20-36. Web.

Coming up: WSIS +10

By: Carlos Diaz Barriga

Why was the WSIS a significant development in the role of non-state actors in international organizations and governance?

On Dec. 16 of this year, the ten-year Review of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10) will occur. The event is to determine whether progress has been made on WSIS’ goals in the last decade and to talk about where the Society is heading in the future.

With this in mind, it is important to look back and determine the significance WSIS has had for non-state actors in international organizations and governance.

The main element that made WSIS “different” from other communication and information organizations was that it involved debates among government and non-governmental actors, taking on issues of communication policy and governance (Raboy 20). These very different actors helped shaped an agenda that truly covered all perspectives.

WSIS was the first UN summit where civil societies had equal standing, or what appeared to be equal standing. It established a new parameter and standard when it came to these types of summits, promoting the “multistakeholder” model.

While the actual influence of civil societies in the first WSIS was minimal (in comparison to its intended purpose), it put this actor on the stage along with government to tackle internet governance issues.

Radboy argues that it was the inclusion of civil societies in WSIS marked a big difference from the NWICO debate.

The Civil Society Plenary at WSIS declared that there was “no single information, communication or knowledge society: there are, at the local, national and global levels, possible future societies.” And Radboy expresses that the right communicate and freedom of information were not substitutes for one another, but rather related concepts.