I have just been awarded a scholarship by Murdoch University to write my Masters thesis on the topic, A Collaborative Model of Internet Legal Governance. This investigates a possible new approach to the development of Internet-related legal norms, by adapting the same grass-roots consensus-based mechanisms that are currently used to develop the Internet’s technical standards. My joint supervisors will be well-known online and privacy legal expert Roger Clarke, and Communications and Cultural Studies senior lecturer Ingrid Richardson. This link (currently inactive) will be to a Wiki which I will be using to write the thesis online, so you will be able to follow its progress and even contribute to it if you wish.
I had applied for a grant from the auDA Foundation to assist me with my expenses in attending the first meeting of the Internet Governance Forum in Athens in October and November. Today I received a letter refusing the application, and stating with regret that “the provision of funds for overseas travel expenses was not a funding priority”. Well, I can certainly understand that, given that auDA (which has four staff) spent only $154,000 on travel in 2004-2005, and has a paltry $180,000 budgeted for 2005-2006. auDA’s CEO Chris Disspain attended the IGF’s public consultations in Geneva in both February and May, and although he spoke 380 words at the first meeting, the public transcripts do not indicate that he spoke at the second. However, he was also appointed to the IGF’s Advisory Group in the obscure process referred to in my last post, and its first meeting in Geneva, held following the second public consultation, took place behind closed doors. Thankfully it seems likely that Murdoch University will provide a grant to cover my flight expenses for the first IGF meeting, but for no subsequent meetings, and accommodation won’t be covered. Of course, most people who might otherwise be interested in attending the inaugural IGF meeting won’t even be in such a fortunate position as I am. I wonder what the demographic composition of those attending will be?
It’s official, my thesis has now been upgraded to a PhD and I have until March 2008 to complete it. Dom is rapt; she’s going to be married to a doctor and a lawyer. My thesis title has undergone a revision to Civil Society’s Role in the Collaborative Development of Public Policy as International Law within the Internet Governance Forum. That’s already 18 words down, only 99 982 to go.
I spent the day at the APIA and ISOC-AU Open Forum as part of APRICOT 2006, where I crossed swords with Chris Disspain again, during the closing panel. OK, so I had a tough crowd to try to convince that a UN-formed
intergovernmental organisationmulti-stakeholder forum should get a look in to Internet governance, but I was bemused by the argument that “governments will go ahead and make laws about the Internet anyway, so we should just let them do that rather than gracing the process with our presence”. Well, yes, they will go ahead and do it without us – behind closed doors, without input from the Internet technical community. Is that really what we want? The IGF is going ahead with or without us, and I for one think it is better to be on board than to miss the boat and complain about the consequences later.