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[I-coordination] New: How do we dissect Internet governance?[Was: Europe at a tipping point?]

WUKnoben wolf-ulrich.knoben at
Tue Dec 17 11:06:58 CET 2013


I fully agree to your last para, Bill. I can't follow all the threads re 
definitions of IG - and I will not unless more focus is given to coordinate 
for the Sao Paulo meeting.
I did not yet ever participate in any IGF meetings and wonder what has been 
done in the past - if not clarifying definitions?

I hope better coordination is done at the CCWG-IG from which results could 
then be used as input for 1net.

Best regards

Wolf-Ulrich Knoben

-----Ursprüngliche Nachricht----- 
From: William Drake
Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 10:27 AM
To: Jeremy Malcolm
Cc: i-coordination at
Subject: Re: [I-coordination] New: How do we dissect Internet 
governance?[Was: Europe at a tipping point?]


On Dec 17, 2013, at 6:51 AM, Jeremy Malcolm <jeremy at> wrote:

> On 17/12/13 08:45, George Sadowsky wrote:
>> The WGIG definition of Internet governance, the result of meetings in 
>> 2004-5, was the result of political compromise.  I think that it is not 
>> helping us here.  AS Brian says below, the notion of Internet governance 
>> mixes up too many things, and does not seem to be useful for addressing 
>> real issues.
>> Can we come up with a different vocabulary and a somewhat different 
>> structure that is much more consistent with our problem space, so that 
>> these different issues don't get confused (and yes, I understand that 
>> there may well be overlap between them)?
>> Brian, can you suggest some appropriate vocabulary and/or taxonomy?
> The wording of the WGIG definition of Internet governance is almost 
> identical to a widely cited definition of an international regime that has 
> a considerable body of theory behind it.

Not by accident, since the chief proponent was a political scientist who 
writes about international regimes.  But we did some changes due to 
political games and logical necessities given the issue-space.  The standard 
regime definition is "sets of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, 
and decision-making procedures around which actor's expectations converge in 
a given area of international relations.”  The WGIG def is "Internet 
governance is the development and application by Governments, the private 
sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, 
norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the 
evolution and use of the Internet.”  So the differences are:

*I was unable to sell people on "sets of implicit or explicit” or "around 
which actor's expectations converge”, both of which some thought to be too 
“academic,” i.e. meaningless.

*WGIG added “development and application” to connote both an intentional 
agents-centric conception of governance (as opposed assertions of unintended 
spontaneously emergent norms etc. in some scholarly treatments) and the 
necessity of them actually being applied to count——i.e. high falutin 
declarations that aren’t implemented and don’t actually affect behavior are 
not governance.

*WGIG added "by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their 
respective roles” as a sop to certain members (Chatham prevents me from 
saying who, but you can guess it wasn’t the nongovernmentals who were 
supposedly relegated to secondary status by the phrase) in order to get 
their agreement to the rest of the definition.  Since the definition 
completely decentered the question of “who” governs (recall at the time we 
were stuck between ICANN fetishism and ITU fetishism, both definitionally 
nonsense), established that government takes many forms other than 
formalized governmental agreements, and explicitly covered both the Internet 
and its use (again, as opposed the instructions SG Utsumi gave us at the 
first meeting, to concentrate only on names and numbers and who should run 
them, meaning ITU), the respective roles garbage was an acceptable tactical 
trade.  While it’s been repeatedly cited and abused in some UN contexts like 
the WSIS reviews and CSTD, its not like claims of special government 
privileges and monopolies on policy wouldn’t have been made in its absence.

*The addition of “programmes” was a change from the regime def because it 
admits as forms of governance some centralized organizational activities 
that are separate from generally applicable rule systems, e.g. 
organizational initiatives to implement rules or intervene in conditions 
through e.g. technical assistance programs that can reconfigure facts on the 
grounds and abilities to engage in governance systems.  To put it another 
way, what ICANN the org or UN agencies do programmatically is often not part 
of a regime, but they can be consequential in providing social steering.

*And again, "evolution and use of” was key to ending the debate over whether 
IG just involved names and numbers.  That this was consensually imported 
into the Tunis Agenda nailed that coffin, at least for WSIS purposes.  Like 
the creation of the IGF, it helped break the deadlock and allowed the Tunis 
Agenda to declare victory instead of a break down in cooperation.

That said, it’s not my preferred formulation, and I’ve written stuff 
subsequently that tweaks and adds terms and explain them at numbing length, 
but this is probably not of interest here.  I can provide pointers to any 

I may be biased but I can’t understand how a definition that broadly 
conforms to a core standard concept used in other realms of international 
policy, established that IG is a broad phenomena that takes place in a 
highly distributed institutional architecture, and decentered the silly 
ICANN/ITU fight of 2003-2004 is now being deemed inadequate and in pressing 
need of revision.  I especially don’t understand George’s complaint that it 
"mixes up too many things;” the point was precisely to say that governance 
is a process of social steering that take multiple forms, has multiple 
source, and plays out at multiple levels of social organization and across 
institutions and issue spaces.  To say that a definition is generalizable 
and captures a class of like cases rather than one instance of that class is 
not normally regarded as a logical weakness; quite the opposite.

BTW I think we also explained the definition in some detail in the WGIG 
Background Report, which it seems has not been widely read.

> So I would hesitate to throw it out because it is unfamiliar or 
> threatening to those who are more familiar with technical aspects of 
> Internet governance.
> I also don't think that redefining the terms of the debate now, when 
> governments and other stakeholders have already become comfortable with 
> those terms and have been operating under them for years, is going to 
> bring the stakeholders any closer together, if that is something that 1net 
> is aiming to do.
> If the terminology does not fit well with the technical community's 
> self-defined problem-space, or seems to extend to issues that you think 
> are not "real issues", then maybe it is that that problem space is too 
> narrow, rather than that the terminology is inappropriate or that those 
> broader issues are not real.

Do we really have nothing more important to be doing here at this point than 
redefining the wheel as just a round thingy?  I thought this list was 
supposed to be for coordination of multistakeholder dialogue on Sao Paulo 
and beyond, but it seems to alternate between being a troll paradise and the 
site of a lot of meandering debates on points that are generally being 
addressed more systematically elsewhere.  Or am I alone in this perception?



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