Contemporary history of Europe

Closing Keynote: Networks, governance and design. A journey through some historical case studies

As famous as the quotation by Lawrence Lessing “Code is law”, the sentence by David Clark at a meeting at the IETF in 1992 “We reject kings, presidents and voting, we believe in rough consensus and running code” became a “motto for Internet standardization” (Russell, 2006) that invites us to have a look at the past relationships and intertwinements between networks design and governance. From the 1970s topics related to distribution and openness have become key in networks infrastructures, while complementary issues related to asymmetries and multi-stakeholderism (Raymond and DeNardis 2015) have been emphasized in the 1990s and 2000s, and notably during the WSIS in Tunis and Geneva. Research related to Internet governance (Mueller and Badiei, 2020; Musiani, Schafer, 2021) has also brought to the table strong issues related to agencies, privacy, and many others that have strongly followed the development of networks and their uses as well as controversies related to net neutrality or information flows for example (DeNardis, 2020).
This presentation will go through several historical case studies and rethink them through the lens of infrastructure design and governance, from Arpanet in the 1970s, XNS and then the OSI (Russell, 2014), to web archives (Schafer, Winters 2021) and research infrastructures today, through past designs and attempts, related to the Web and Xanadu, the Minitel (Schafer, Thierry, 2012; Mailland, Driscoll, 2017), platforms like Wuala (Musiani, 2022) and Wikipedia (Cardon and Levrel, 2009). This will allow us to explore some notions and approach related to closure, secret, incentives, empowerment, while finally moving from “governance” to “good governance” and its challenges.

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