Internet and Society Symposium Berlin #bsis11

I participated in the second day of the #bsis Symposium (known as “Google Symposium” for many :)) which slowly but surely started off with the keynote of

Rebecca MacKinnon “Consent of the Networked”

on internet governance, freedom of speech, surveillance and revolutions.

Short-term political vs. global interests? Examples of Surveillance and reactions

I particularly liked the visual examples of how websites particularly look in China and how censory is put into words (“this is international practice”, “this page is temporarily not available”). Examples like the Dog poop girl of 2005 in South Korea (a girl who was hunted down by internet vigilantes for refusing to clean up after her dog in a subway) can also be used as evidence of “crazy people on the net”. In Korea, all users of website are required to use a national ID. Other cases are frequently quoted as an example of countries becoming less free due to the internet, like bloggers being arrested due to posting critical content.

Disconnection denies our rights? Mess with one of us. Mess with all of us.

The presentation was further going through governmental reactions as well as concerns of surveillance from the other side (e.g. NSA and their massive database of Americans’ phone calls, Sarkozy’s claim of governments needing to control society). MacKinnons Book “Consent of the Networked” proposes that these trends might change with a much stronger global movement pushing for a more transparent level of regulating the internet. Among these “pushers” there are hackers, activists and others building awareness ( was mentioned as only one example). There are also international group asking how the declaration of human rights can be applied to the internet (Internet rights and Principles Coalition). It is also in the interest of company to improve the transparency so that public could understand the relationship between governments and companies. The current problem (also for academics!) is how to figure out how the new global networks can evolve so that citizens can hold governments to account. At the moment, we do not have those answers, but we own it to the entire world before problematic models become too dominant. We should also propose new business models to address these issues and develop best practice models in research. However, we do need governance, but we’ve seen that so far accepted models of democracy are not applicable anymore as in many situation this has gotten off balance. Part of the problem is that a lot of legislation is focusing very much on the short-time interest of politicians rather than a global interest.

Philip Müller (University of Salzburg)

Martin Luther as the first blogger – and how to capture open statecraft

It is time to figure out where we stand today and how we call this. 🙂 We definitely agreed on a media shift from mass media to social media, and n2n is not automatically many-to-many is about to be realised. For Müller, a key question is whether there is a pressure to transform the traditional types of organisations within society. Many analogies from history display a combination of technology and new ideas. Martin Luther was the first blogger, using a church door.:) Another historical example is Bertold Brecht, who like many others came up with the idea of a new social logic when confronted with new technology. In a Machiavellian reading questions reach from conceptualizing human or machine nature to theories of action. So how do we strategize and lead in new situations?

Ronald Coase proposed that peer production causes minimal transaction costs within organisation. But what if these new organisations are different to those we knew before? For the last 30 years we understood strategy in terms of organisational dynamics. But what if if things are in turbulence all the time – how do we define strategies then?

For capturing open statecraft we have some guides, like the strategic triangle (public value, legitimacy, capacity). We can increase capacity by including different forms of expert knowledge, for instance, so this triangle can help us to distinguish between these parameters. A second framework is the policy cylce (a model frequently used in political and economic studies, aparently). Müller distinguishes between crowds, experts, data and citizens as possibilities of increasing legitimacy of a process.

What would Machiavelli say?

We are radically moving into a society which is not legitimized through the traditional forces. The consequence is that we need a different structure to organise and lead. Machiavelli would probably suggest the following to the princess: Where do we use openness in our value chain? Openness can be very brutal, but also be used strategically.

The discussion addressed questions of the “currency of the future” in network societies (different platforms like google could be considered as currencies) and the type of governance structure we are going to have. Transparency seems to take over the role of democracy. Transparency and security questions are another key question of legitimacy in networked societies and we are probably moving beyond democracy.


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