Academic journal article Global Governance

Internet Governance Regimes by Epistemic Community: Formation and Diffusion in Asia

Academic journal article Global Governance

Internet Governance Regimes by Epistemic Community: Formation and Diffusion in Asia

Article excerpt

1 Introduction

Internet governance has rapidly shifted from a nonpolitical issue area in the 1990s to one that is the focus of contention in high politics today. Because the Internet has become so indispensable that it is now the substrate of almost every technology and because of the high stakes involved owing to the lucrativeness of the Internet, and its implications on national security, (1) contention in Internet governance may naturally be unavoidable. Greater challenges in coordinating and cooperating among the stakeholders have correspondingly emerged. (2) The question of how the Internet should be governed and who controls the Internet has become of paramount importance.

This article contributes an essential piece to the field by focusing on the role of a community of domain-specific professionals in shaping and managing global Internet regimes. Previously, scholars, drawing on the international relations theories, tended to point to several factors for emerging contention: extrinsic uncertainty, changing market conditions, declining US dominance, and regime complex formation. (3) We, however, argue that, despite such contention, the idea of multistakeholderism has been sustained and embodied in transnational Internet organizations and norms until now because an epistemic community of technical experts has played a critical role in shaping and even guiding the current modality of Internet governance by supplying necessary domain-specific norms. (4)

Experts in the Internet epistemic community in Asia, for instance, were often more interested in technological standards and protocols for scientific purposes than economic benefits, political clout, and national security purposes. (5) Their service to the public through providing such standards and protocols was frequently based more on technical rationality, embedded typically in principles of collaboration, meritocracy, and "rough consensus" than on material compensation or reward. (6) Rather than being forced by states, (7) these experts aimed to pursue technological efficiency and public convenience.

Communities of Internet experts tended to voluntarily participate in and implement Internet governance based on certain norms. Their tendency to welcome any type of entity who was interested in participating and who came from other fields and a state-led tradition of international coordination has laid the foundation for many Internet governance organizations to be multistakeholder and for the Internet ecosystem to be the regime complex in managing global cyberactivities. (8)

In this study, we did not intend to side with a naive technological determinism or a sort of technologist supremacy. (9) Rather, we attempt to add a piece to the still incomplete picture that depicts Internet governance only with sovereign states, businesses, civil societies, and intergovernmental organizations. (10) This missing piece is the domain-specific network of experts, (11) or the Internet epistemic community. The perspective of such experts is necessary to understand who makes the rules on Internet governance or where the rulemaking power comes from, and yet, currently only little literature focusing on their role is available. In order to unpack their roles, we examine Asian Internet history because the region is imbued with complicated international affairs, yet has developed vibrant Internet cultures. (12)

We ask why and how Internet regimes were formed and diffused in Asia, as they are seen today, and to answer these questions, we focus on the role of a specific Internet epistemic community. In doing so, we expect to contribute to the field in the following ways. First, theoretically, we identify attributes shared by members of the Internet epistemic community, which are regarded as the key source of the influence of the epistemic community but are seldom analyzed. (13) Second, we clarify why and how such diffusion occurs, an issue that remains unclear in the literature. …

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