[discuss] My current understanding of scope and why

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Mon Jan 6 23:59:43 UTC 2014

Dear colleagues,

Over the past couple weeks I have made rather a nuisance of myself, I
think, in pressing certain questions like a crazed 5 year old asking,
"Why?"  I want to thank you for your indulgence as I tried to

In this note, I want to outline what I now believe to be the goal of
this effort.  (You may have your own pictures of the goal of our
activity.  This is mine.)  Absent corrections of this outline, I plan
to use these principles for understanding what we are trying to do,
how I (at least) should respond to certain kinds of questions, and
what limits I should expect to be placed on the scope of activities
from this group.  I welcome replies and comments, of course.  I gather
there is some concern about the volume of mail to the list, so if you
want to send me a response off list, I am prepared later to summarise
such responses for the list.  If you want your remarks in that case
_not_ to be acknowledged, please tell me.  Otherwise, I'll assume you
want to be acknowledged.

As always, I speak for myself; I'm participating here as an individual
and not an IAB member or a representative of my employer.  I will, of
course, use my own lens (outlined here) in discussion with my IAB
colleagues and my employer when focussing on these topics, but they're
wise enough to ignore me (or tell me I'm wrong) when I speak to them

1.  The goal of this activity

    The goal of 1net is not necessarily to create new institutions,
    nor even to create the founding conditions for any new
    institution.  It is instead to provide a forum in which the
    interplay of various institutional relationships may happen.  One
    result of this is possibly the discovery of a scope for new
    institutional relationships.  This could take the form of
    determining that a given topic correctly belongs in the scope of
    some existing institution we have, or could take the form of
    determining that a new institution of some sort is in fact

2.  On the meaning of Internet governance

    "Internet governance" is an enormous topic that links together
    diverse topics, which may not in themselves obviously fit in the
    same discussion.  What links them is the technical impingement of
    the Internet upon them.  To those who are technically minded, this
    may seem to be a hodgepodge category, because it is plain that
    the technical implications of (say) international trade in child
    pornography and (say) the details of how ranges of addresses are
    allocated to RIRs are at best distantly related.  Nevertheless, if
    only by virtue of these topics having been treated under the same
    rubric for some time, it is necessary to engage across all these
    issues.  At the same time, it is beneficial to make clear,
    well-delineated distinctions as we go, in order not to muddle
    topics that can properly be treated distinctly.  By way of
    analogy, local schools and the department of national defence may
    both be "government activities", but they are plainly different

    Governance need not entail a new overarching role for governments,
    and the thing to be governed need not be controversial.  For
    instance, the mere fact of decision-making about IP address
    allocations to RIRs is a kind of governance.  It is small and it
    really only needs some reasonably fair if possibly arbitrary
    convention to which everyone can subscribe.  This is not like a
    large and controversial topic (such as, say, child protection on
    the Internet), which may also involve a kind of "governance".
    Many of these simpler cases may in fact ne adequately governed
    already, and the main need may be to communicate what that
    governance is and show it is adequate.  Of course, in such
    discussions, we may discover that such governance actually is
    inadequate after all.
3.  On the need for this exploration

    There are three reasons that existing forums and institutions are
    inadequate to the purposes of our activity.  One is that it is
    nearly impossible for someone unfamiliar with the various topics
    to learn how they relate to each other or even where a given topic
    may already be treated.  We can function as a clearing house for
    such questions, hooking interested parties into existing
    structures that already treat the issue of interest.

    A second is that trust in both the technology and in the good
    faith of existing institutions has been shaken by some reported
    actions in recent history.  Only by facing such behaviour and
    discussing what can be done can any trust be restored.  When
    facing those facts, we must acknowledge that the answer might be,
    "Nothing can be done.  To make this better would require that no
    bad people exist, that perfect knowledge was universal, and that
    sovereign states will have to give up chunks of sovereignty."  It
    is the discussion in an open forum of many actors that is at least
    as important as the outcome.

    A third is that everyone acknowledges that there have been "orphan
    issues" even in the narrowest meaning of Internet governance.
    This activity provides an opportunity to uncover these gaps and
    either identify where those orphans fit, or to identify new
    institutions that should be created.  

    In general, we could say that our activity functions as a
    facilitator for the "tussle" necessary for continued global
    scaling of the Internet, without the creation of global or local
    hegemons, and in service of the minimization of any perceived
    existing threat from hegemony.  In the end, we hope to converge on
    something that most people, including people of very different
    backgrounds and interests, will agree is legitimate even if
    imperfect.  We do not seek merely something that is effective.  We
    do not aspire to universal happiness, but we do aspire to wide
    acceptance across different types of interests and experiences.


    I particularly want to thank Brian Carpenter, John Curran, Avri
    Doria, Jeremy Malcolm, Milton Mueller, Suzanne Woolf, and some
    people who contacted me only off-list (and who, I therefore
    assume, don't want to be associated with the public debate) for
    detailed remarks that helped inform my thinking.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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