EPFL’s College of Humanities and the Laboratory for the History of Science and Technology are pleased to invite you to the seventh session of Pierre Mounier’s monthly seminar on Governing Digital Knowledge Infrastructures.
Governance of and by the infrastructure: The case of Internet and other digital services
Internet governance was studied for a long time as an example of the “global” and “multistakeholder” governance of a technical infrastructure. The case of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), for example, has been extensively studied from many perspectives, among which its original dependence on the U.S. Department of Commerce, the influence of private providers in its governance, or the inclusion of “at large” users in its board of directors. Consequently, scholars have frequently discussed whether the models of Internet governance are to be situated in the continuation or as a departure from the governance of traditional media and means of communication. The balance between, on the one hand, the use of IP conflict resolution models and, on the other hand, the predominance of decision-making processes based on rough consensus at the technical levels is punctually disturbed by the interventions of governments pursuing a strategic agenda. This dynamic has transformed Internet governance into a fascinating object of study at the crossroads of private interests, the preservation of a public good, and community involvement.
More recently, however, scholars have been focusing on how the Internet as a technical infrastructure, with its distributed architecture, governs human interactions and the circulation of information. Beyond the governance of infrastructure, this issue of the governance by infrastructure is linked with–albeit not reducible to–the topic of algorithmic governance theorized by Rouvroy et al. As explained by De Nardis and Musiani, this topic addresses three main issues: the geopolitical balance of power between nations, the fight against piracy, and the privacy issue. From this new perspective, the Internet can again be taken as an example–amongst many others–of an infrastructure governing the activities it supports through its design, architecture, and algorithms. This case study may provide interesting insight into the tensions at the heart of knowledge infrastructures considered as socio-technical frameworks at large.
For this session, two scholars have been invited to lead the discussion:
Francesca Musiani is a researcher at CNRS and deputy director of the CNRS Center for Internet and Society that she co-founded with Melanie Dulong de Rosnay in 2019. A specialist of distributed technical architectures, she co-edited with Cogburn, DeNardis and Levinson The Turn to Infrastructure in Internet Governance in 2016.
Léa Stiefel is a graduate assistant at the Sciences and Technologies Studies Laboratory (STS Lab, SSP-UNIL). Léa Stiefel works on data sharing systems and governance by their technical architectures. She recently published with Alain Sandoz “Une plateforme en pair-à-pair pour l’échange de données: l’émergence d’un commun numérique” in Terminal 130. 2021; with Dominique Vinck “Rompre avec la centralisation pour partager des données” in Vinck Dominique, Goulet Frédéric (eds.) Faire sans, faire avec moins. L’innovation face aux nouveaux défis contemporains, Presses des Mines. 2022; and soon to be published “Les données du problème. Une plateforme numérique inadaptée à l’agriculture suisse” in Etudes Rurales 209. 2022. In March 2022, she organized with James Besse, of the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation at the University of Edinburgh, a workshop at the University of Lausanne on Governance by Infrastructure, gathering a wide array of over 25 case studies that will be useful for this session of our seminar.
- DeNardis, Laura, et Francesca Musiani. « Governance by Infrastructure: Introduction, “The Turn to Infrastructure in Internet Governance ». SSRN Scholarly Paper. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network, 15 septembre 2014. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2730689.
- Nains sans géants : Architecture décentralisée et services Internet. Sciences sociales. Paris: Presses des Mines, 2015. http://books.openedition.org/pressesmines/1853 .
- Musiani, Francesca. « 14. Gouvernance ». In Abécédaire des architectures distribuées, édité par Cécile Méadel et Francesca Musiani, 101-5. i3. Paris: Presses des Mines, 2016. http://books.openedition.org/pressesmines/2119.
- Workshop Governance By Infrastructure 17th – 18th March 2022 – University of Lausanne https://wp.unil.ch/workshopgbi/
- Julien Rossi, Francesca Musiani et Lucien Castex, « La gouvernance d’Internet, entre infrastructures et espaces socio-politiques : apports de la recherche », Terminal [En ligne], 132-133 | 2022, mis en ligne le 01 février 2022, consulté le 01 avril 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/terminal/8210 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/terminal.8210