Cultural Understandings and Contestations in the Global Governance of Information Technologies and Networks

Authored by: J.P. Singh

Routledge Handbook of Science, Technology, and Society

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415531528
eBook ISBN: 9780203101827
Adobe ISBN: 9781136237164


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The following pages trace the cultural understandings that informed two sets of important global governance practices at two historical moments: the formation of the International Telegraph Union (ITU) in 1865 among nation-states, and the recent governance controversies about the internet, information technology and development, and intellectual property among states, global firms, and societal actors. 2 Three interrelated arguments inform this essay. First, successive stages of global governance have involved an increasing number of social groups in shaping the ordering principles of global governance. The current principles in no way replace the influence of powerful actors but as a whole they do dilute it, making the global information policy regimes increasingly participatory. Second, in the new systems of governance, increasingly, a greater share involves global mechanisms. Networked technologies proliferate through engineered and human interconnections; this essay goes further in exploring the social construction of international interconnections that have increased the share of the global in their governance. Third, the social construction of these principles moves parallel to the materiality of information technology networks. The calculations of engineers regarding telephone switching protocols in the late nineteenth century reflected the idea of “national” networks, while Facebook’s corporate owners in the twenty-first century write technology codes that reflect both their commercial prerogatives and their users’ needs and their advocacy. 3

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