Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet)

A global network for scholars of internet governance

Candidate Statement - Derrick L. Cogburn - GigaNet Vice Chair

Dear GigaNet Colleagues,


As we begin 2016, it is my pleasure to re/introduce myself to you and to stand as a candidate for Vice Chair of our beloved GigaNet.  I apologize for the delay in sending out this Candidate Statement.  I am just returning from a long sabbatical, and getting ready to teach on Monday.


GigaNet Background


As some of you may know, I am one of the founders of GigaNet. I participated along with Wolfgang, Milton, Jeanette and many others in the initial organizing meeting in Ratten, as part of the pre-conference for the International Communication Association (ICA) Annual Meeting in Dresden.  I served on the initial GigaNet Steering Committee, and served as our first Communication Coordinator (setting up a listserv and initial website), and subsequently as Vice Chair.  I initiated our efforts to enable remote participation for all of our early GigaNet meetings (before the IGF started providing remote participation).  My research program has enabled me to attend many of the preparation processes for both phases of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and almost every GigaNet and IGF since the initial meeting in Athens to the most recent meeting in Joa Passoa.  I have also helped to organize several of the IGF-USA meetings and have also participated in numerous ICANN meetings from some of the earliest to some of the most recent.  Over the years, along with other colleagues, I have organized and participated in GigaNet and IG-related panels almost every year at APSA, ISA, and other international academic conferences such as TPRC, IAMCR, and ICA.  I also organized the GigaNet mid-year workshop at American University.


Beyond GigaNet


Outside of GigaNet, I am Associate Professor of International Relations in the International Communication and International Development Programs at the School of International Service at American University, and collaborate closely with colleagues in the School of Communication.  Along with Laura DeNardis and Nanette Levinson, I co-chair planning for the Internet Governance Lab at American University, and currently serve as Executive Director of the Institute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) for the ASEAN Region.  I hold visiting appointments in the Department of Political Science at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines; the International Institute for Public Policy and Management at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and the Faculty of Creative Multimedia at Multimedia University in Cyberjaya, Malaysia.  I am former chair of the Information Technology and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association (APSA) and former chair of the International Communication Section of the International Studies Association (ISA).  I also edit the book series on Information Technology and Global Governance for Palgrave McMillian, and our most recent book in the series, an edited volume with Francesca Musiani, Laura DeNardis, Nanette Levinson, and myself, was just released.


Plans and Propositions for GigaNet


I believe we have achieved a great deal in our last decade, but believe we can achieve more.  Not only do I believe we can achieve more, but I am certain we need to do so.  Global Internet Governance has become a critical, interdisciplinary, international challenge that requires the intellectual contributions of serious scholars from around the world to address them.  With the recent WSIS+10 review completed, and the extension of the IGF mandate for another 10 years along with the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (which highlight the importance of ICTs to international development), GigaNet has the potential to make the kind of sustained contribution to this global debate of any organization.  However, in order to capitalize on this historic period over the next decade, we need to carefully consider what is working within GigaNet and what could be improved.  We started this process briefly at the conclusion of our most recent meeting in Joa Passoa, but it was insufficient.  We need to do much more in this regard.  We need to develop concrete strategies for aligning GigaNet with the potential of the next decade, and an institutional structure that allows us to execute on that strategy, including the financial resources to do so.


While this strategy should be developed collectively amongst our membership, and after a thorough review of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, I have several specific proposals that may be appropriate for us to consider.  Some of these we have already engaged in to a certain degree, and this proposal highlights my recommendation for more sustained strategic engagement with those issues.


Leveraging and Formalizing Our Relationship with Specific Academic Associations


We have had a good history of working with existing academic associations, and I and others have fairly consistently organized panels and workshops at the annual meetings of various academic associations, especially APSA, ISA, IAMCR, ICA, TPRC, IPSA, AOIR, 4S, and others.  However, in most cases, these have been only at the initiative of individual members, or groups of members.  In my opinion, while still “letting a thousand flowers bloom” it is important to identify and strategically engage more formally with a selected group of important existing academic associations.  For example, we might want to pursue formal recognition as a “Related Organization” within APSA or similar status within other organizations.  Also, instead of thinking about engaging with the entire organization, we should highlight the specific “section” or “special interest group” that is most relevant to GigaNet scholarship and make that information available to the membership.




We have done a good job of highlighting publications by GigaNet members on the listserv, and Brenden Kurbis did an excellent job of starting to collect these and make them available on the website.  While this has been effective thus far, to move us to the next level, I think it is important for us to focus on more special issues of journals, as well as highlight and contribute to the various book series organized by GigaNet members.  We could also consider starting a GigaNet Working Papers series and open access repository.


Course Syllabi and Reading Lists


Another potential project we have discussed over the years is a course syllabus and reading list archive.  Several members have been highlighting how valuable it would be to have a list of courses related to Internet governance that are taught at universities, and how these courses are being taught.  In addition, GigaNet curated reading lists for various IG related topics would be helpful to strengthening our scholarly contribution and profile.


Resurrecting the Mid-Year GigaNet Workshop


In addition to our wonderful Annual Symposium, I propose resurrecting our mid-year GigaNet Workshops.  For several years, many members worked together to organize a mid-year workshop.  If my memory serves, the first was in Paris, followed by Toronto, and then Washington, D.C.  These GigaNet workshops allowed members to get together outside of the Annual Symposium and highlight certain national or regional issues.


Virtual Meetings and Workshops


One mechanism I have suggested in the past for strengthening the GigaNet membership is to have virtual membership meetings and special workshops or seminars.  When I served as GigaNet Communications Chair, I introduced our use of webconferencing tools to convene Steering Committee meetings (I am not sure if the SC still meets this way).  However, I think it would be helpful to have somewhat regular open meetings of the membership, so that we can discuss and engage in the kind of strategic planning and execution proposed herein.


Getting New Scholars Involved


As we move forward to strengthen GigaNet and promote our role with IGF, SDGs and other venues, it is important that we continue to work to get new scholars involved in GigaNet.  I am constantly meeting scholars who are studying Internet governance related issues, but do not know about GigaNet (or some who know about it but are not involved).  It would be helpful for us to redouble our efforts at getting new scholars involved in GigaNet, and reaching out to formalize our relationships with specific international academic associations might contribute to that goal.


Support for Junior Scholars


Finally, I would like to see GigaNet be more supportive to junior scholars, both non-tenured faculty and doctoral students.  The strategies to support both of these goals are different, but I want to highlight the possibilities for convening a GigaNet doctoral consortium, either stand alone or linked to the annual Symposium or a related conference.


Thank you for the nomination and second to serve the GigaNet community again as Vice Chair.  I look forward to engaging with each of you if elected to serve in this capacity along with my other colleagues on the Steering Committee.




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