View Thread > ISIE Fall 2004: Symposium > Internet Governance Experiences > No Noticeable Oversight
When would you say, as an Internet user, that you've had a direct brush with an Internet governor? What was it like? (Are you sure it was internet governance you were experiencing?) If you can't think of such a time, can you think of an instance where you wish there were a clear Internet governor to whom to turn for a particular problem you experience(d) or opportunity you think is missed?
Since the advent of the actual Internet, I have seen no evidence of Internet governance. My earliest network experiences were with the Air Force from 1967-1970--a very defined hierarchy and limited network. I prefer no governance except that of the "marketplace" of peers.
Your post got me thinking about the growth of the internet over the past handful of years, particularly the world wide web, and thinking whether it has any similarities to the rise of automobiles or airplanes in the general commerical marketplace. When the number of autos were small, it probably didn't pose a big issue and no specific laws or goverance was needed, but after the numbers exploded, and cars where a basic part of everyone's lives (with good considerate drivers, and particularly the opposite), advanced mechanics which ordinary customers could not understand, unavoidable interaction, alterations, and accidents, that this gave rise to formal rules and regulations and government involvement (constituency concerns over fatalities and hazards that turned into legislative action). The airline industry may also be a good example, that at one point, no one was really concerned about routes or imposed saftey standards. But as the sky grew more crowded, the need for goverance increased, from the military wanted to adopt standards for security purposes, to commerical airlines realizing that there needed to be a better system to designated routes (and avoid running into each other), and ways to generally ensure quality and safety to consumers. Maybe we are reaching a point, where it's getting crowded enough that even the players on the field are thinking that it may be better trying to set some rules for play, and it's a question of trying to figure out who should the referee be and what rules are needed to keep the game rolling along.
While the information superhighway is a near ubiquitous metaphor for the internet, it is not only inadequate to interpreting the notion of governance applied to the internet, it is, on a very elemental level, totally misleading.
Sure the internet has, on one level, a physical infrastructure, but that is where the metaphor ends, especially with the traffic of the internet increasingly being pushed to the edge of the network and into the wireless realm. You need only look at a visualization of the internet to realize that it resembles an emergent self organizing neural network far more than the interstate highway system. On an operational level the metaphor completely breaks down. Packets on the internet are far different from cars and planes. Congestion emerges as cars and planes proliferate, but as the internet grows the emergent properties are very different. Complexity on the internet produces novel emergent behaviors that are less a subject for governance and more a property of creating the right initial conditions. eg an agreement to share contents of a directory and a simple technology to search them across the internet creates a phenomenon (P2P) that self organizes and in the process redefines the basic business models for an entire industry. Emergent governance is not something in need of regulation as much as cultivation.