Monday, August 13, 2007

Who Governs the Internet: Literature Review

Here is a public call to assist me in adding to this brief, but hopefully comprehensive, academic literature review on the question of "Who governs the Internet?". I don't need every citation or hyperlink known to man, only those representative of the different schools of thought on the subject. So in the spirit of Web 2.0 participation, please let me know if you're aware of something I have left out, and of course feel free to leave comments on your ideas.

The academic literature exposes several distinct arguments in answering how the Internet is being governed. Lawrence Lessig supports the notion that code governs cyberspace, meaning that software is programmed to set the rules for behavior, and therefore is the central authority. Goldsmith and Wu counter with the proposition that local and national governments increasingly govern cyberspace, as they have recently taken a more proactive role in formulating traditional public policies affecting cyberspatial content. Marcus Franda puts forth the argument that the Internet is governed by an international regime consisting of both the public and private sectors, as well as international consortium groups. Meanwhile, Web 2.0 proponents argue that the Web is increasingly governed and self-regulated by the masses of people, or netizens, who actively engage in cyberspatial activities and social networks. Milton Mueller takes a more narrow definition of internet governance, referring to the phrase only in terms of the functional operation of the internet, and therefore argues that ICANN and a small handful of semi-public international consortium groups comprised mostly of academics and engineers govern cyberspace, particularly through standards-setting processes, and uses the creation and administration of the domain name system (DNS) as the primary example.


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