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Archive for October 2005

New Brown University global e-government report

Posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2005 at 5:58 PM by Andrew Chadwick

The sixth Brown University global e-government report has been published.

UK position on Internet governance

Posted on Fri, Oct 21, 2005 at 6:34 PM by Andrew Chadwick

Nominet, the .uk domain name registry, has spoken out against the EU/Brazil/China/Iran position on Internet governance. It will be interesting to hear the position of the British and other European government spokespersons on this issue in the build up to the next WSIS meeting. I suspect that the British government may be much keener on the 'pro-regulation' perspective than Nominet, primarily because all of the pro-regulation options involve greater political involvement to a greater or lesser extent.

The UN working group on Internet governance has outlined four options (quoted from the BBC report):

'Option One - create a UN body known as the Global Internet Council that draws its members from governments and "other stakeholders" and takes over the US oversight role of Icann.
Option Two - no changes apart from strengthening Icann's Governmental Advisory Committee to become a forum for official debate on net issues.
Option Three - relegate Icann to a narrow technical role and set up an International Internet Council that sits outside the UN. US loses oversight of Icann
Option Four - create three new bodies. One to take over from Icann and look after the net's addressing system. One to be a debating chamber for governments, businesses and the public; and one to co-ordinate work on "internet-related public policy issues"'

Internet Studies as a discipline?

Posted on Tue, Oct 18, 2005 at 4:27 PM by Andrew Chadwick

The latest issue of The Information Society has some interesting contributions on the theme: 'What is Internet Studies?' Is Internet Studies a discipline, an interdisciplinary field, a fragmented mess, or does it exist at all? [Subscription required to access].

Do we need existing disciplinary lenses to study it, and are some lenses better than others? From my experience of writing Internet Politics, I'd say that the best academic literature on the Internet comes from the (firmly entrenched) disciplines of sociology, political science, and communication.

Internet traffic visualization

Posted on Mon, Oct 17, 2005 at 2:46 PM by Andrew Chadwick

A nice Internet traffic visualisation from the Science Photo Library.

Internet traffic visualization  

Technologies as complex ecosystems

Posted on Thu, Oct 13, 2005 at 5:41 PM by Andrew Chadwick

I was listening to the excellent TWiT (This Week In Tech) podcast the other day and was impressed by an argument made by Cory Doctorow, science fiction author and now EFF staff member, about technologies as 'complex ecosystems' with parasitical elements that contribute to their vibrance. In basic terms, the argument is that relatively 'open' technologies attract innovation, continuous improvement and development because they encourage parasitism. People pick up a technology, twist it, borrow elements from it, and hack together something different, better and newer. If technologies are relatively closed, they are less subject to this form of parasitism. Thus, it's better for all of us to have open technologies.

On the TWiT podcast Doctorow gave the example of the DVD format, which is very tightly restricted compared with, say, the CD. Thus, one of the reasons we have lots of innovation around the digitization of music is that the CD is an open format; it's easy to extract the data, compress it, move it, mix it, and republish it. Compare this with DVD, which, due to its restrictive nature (digital rights management), has not encouraged parasitism. He writes:

CD has a rich ecosystem, filled with parasites -- entrepreneurial organisms that move to fill every available niche. If you spent a thousand bucks on CDs ten years ago, the ecosystem for CDs would reward you handsomely. In the intervening decade, parasites who have found an opportunity to suck value out of the products on offer from the labels and the dupe houses by offering you the tools to convert your CDs to ring-tones, karaoke, MP3s, MP3s on iPods and other players, MP3s on CDs that hold a thousand percent more music -- and on and on.
DVDs live in a simpler, slower ecosystem, like a terrarium in a bottle where a million species have been pared away to a manageable handful. DVDs pay no such dividend. A thousand dollars' worth of ten-year old DVDs are good for just what they were good for ten years ago: watching. You can't put your kid into her favorite cartoon, you can't downsample the video to something that plays on your phone, and you certainly can't lawfully make a hard-drive-based jukebox from your discs.

The online text version of the argument is at Cory's website.

Email tracing

Posted on Mon, Oct 10, 2005 at 4:03 PM by Andrew Chadwick

A superb post on Kuro5hin outlining how easy it is to find out the locational origins of email. These sorts of things just pile on the evidence for Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson's theory of the surveillant assemblage.

Open source and governance

Posted on Tue, Oct 04, 2005 at 2:07 PM by Andrew Chadwick

There's a brief interview on opendemocracy with Geoff Mulgan (former adviser inside Number 10, now at the Young Foundation) about open source as a democratic principle to guide governance. This comes on the back of his and Tom Steinberg's Demos pamphlet earlier this year. See also the paper I published (pdf) as part of a symposium on Jane Fountain's book Building the Virtual State in 2003, especially the sections towards the end. But more importantly, see the excellent book by Steven Weber which goes beyond the 'open source is inherently democratic' view. Some bits of open source method are democratic, some aren't.

Roll your own search

Posted on Mon, Oct 03, 2005 at 11:46 AM by Andrew Chadwick

Rollyo personalised search is an idea whose time has certainly come. If only I could create something similar that would crawl the major e-journal databases (Ingenta etc) to save me having to log in to each one...

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