Monday, October 26, 2009

Democratization of the Internet

Sounds ironic, doesn’t it? Apparently, the medium which was thought to be one of the greatest (if not the greatest) agents of democratization has started going through a process of real democratization only recently. What was it before, then? To me, it seems to have been leaning towards more of an authoritarian structure, although very decentralized, and as the system could not handle this decentralization anymore, it had to reform itself (authority of the government is in its power, after all). Hence, the ICANN “liberalization.” ICANN is only about “name control,” of course, but then naming an object ultimately gives one authority over it (was it the Bible that said this?).

Yes, Cowhey and Aronson put forward several arguments – quite reasonable – suggesting that the US is there to stay, at least for another decade or two, as the “pivotal” power in the net-o-sphere. Seems like it might not last that long, though. Just last month ICANN completed the Joint Project Agreement with the US, ending its “final say” over the “international” private organization that oversees the Internet’s naming system. And whatever debate on net-neutrality was taking place within the US, seems to had taken a slightly different form at the international level… although, structurally, it ran roughly along the same lines: freedom.

Despite being somewhat ignorant of the tech aspect of it all, I still find it difficult to comprehend the arguments against neutrality. Seems like no matter what the content, as long as there is an element of regulatory involvement, a motion is considered to be necessarily bad by some; even when regulation is meant to ensure freedom (supposedly, at least). This is worrisome. After all, we consider the Internet as the ultimate tool of empowerment of the post-modern individual. Yet, it seems that it’s running the risk of falling to corporate interests. Again.

So, what does this have to do with ICANN?

We have been talking about globalization and the power of the networks for two months now. If we are to have a truly democratic global system of “Internet governance,” the major powers would have to give in, eventually, no matter how hard they find doing that. But then, it would allow genuine plurality, as well as true glocalization of the Internet: be it through domain names in one’s own alphabet, or local (i.e. non-state) TLDs [top level domains], such as .nyc for New York, for example. More freedom; more neutrality; more democracy.

Yes, the Internet gives power to the global network of both, state and non-state actors (as the latest ICANN ruling suggests). It is obvious by now that we cannot have a truly democratic global governance system in the real world (not yet, at least). Virtually, however, there seems to be more hope, and the first steps are just being made… perhaps?

1 comment:

  1. I dunno if ICANN is necessarily a sign that the U.S. won't be the top dog till 2025...the priviledge of power is taken away, but that doesn't really affect the other strengths the author's named, like investment in innovation, having leading edge software designers, and 'deployed ICT stock"--- btw, does anyone know what that means? I am not techy enough to understand half of what they were talking about, and this phrase means nothing to me...does it mean like when cisco sells routers to China?