Future Challenges is co-initiator of the Internet and Society Collaboratory’s 9th initiative: Globalization and Internet – Information, People, Goods.
The Idea behind the Initiative
Trade agreements like the pending TAFTA hold great potential for people, the flow of information and the exchange of goods, and thus for progress and prosperity in participating countries. Unsurprisingly, mainstream media has so far emphasized their expected economic benefits. The lowering of trade barriers is seen as a benefit in itself within the logic of a market economy while new market opportunities for companies which previously had no footing in these regions complete the picture.
Even so, up to present alternative views have been largely ignored:
- No consideration has been paid to the internet and the trade with virtual and real goods as interactive variables even though they exert strong effects on one another. What specific shapes do these mutual impacts take?
- Why do we speak of free trade in goods when free movement of people – even between democratic states – and the free non-surveilled exchange of data and information is becoming increasingly restricted?
- Why are agreements made that concern all people in the participating countries without the people themselves (and even in some cases their national parliaments) having the remotest chance of influencing the outcome or participating in the decision-making process?
- What form could an ideal type of (global) governance for the globalization of the movement of people, information and goods take?
- Why is it that companies can take on a status almost similar to that of an official government body by acting as government partners and by playing a major role in shaping government policy? What spaces and freedoms do other actors need to build a global counterweight to corporate and government power?
- Why must free trade and non-tariff trade barriers that always relate to certain patterns of consumption (no genetically modified maize) necessarily contradict one another? Why should free trade still be automatically defined as the absence of non-tariff agreements which also represents the preferences of civil society in the countries concerned?
Possible focal points within the scope of these issues:
1. Evolution and interpretation of international agreements (like TAFTA). Based on a first stage evaluation of TAFTA from a purely economic perspective followed by a comprehensive catalogue of criteria for an in-the-round assessment of TAFTA in terms of legal standing, network policy and consumer protection. What does TAFTA means for users and consumers? What are the opportunities and risks for the internet and digital innovation?
2. Consumer protection and internet-assisted participation of civil society. The role of the internet as an artifact but also a method for the transparent evolution of supranational agreements and regulations (internet, trade, people). What would a functional and self-regulating alternative model of participation look like? What does all this mean for users? What role should be played by (networking) civil society in international developments (including in the fields of internet governance, regulation, consumer protection …).
3. Internet boundaries as a barrier to globalization. The issue of virtual national frontiers (geofencing) in the age of the digital universe (entertainment media, streaming, appstores, etc.) versus the free flow of information (5th Freedom of the EU) and free global exchange, trade and innovation. What effects do national controlling influences have on the internet; what effects are exerted on it by the closed systems (walled gardens) of corporations and what are the reciprocal effects and root causes? Why are there frontiers in the digital world when offline frontiers have long since been abolished?
Aims and Objectives
With its focus on these three topics of interest, the Initiative seeks to offer an opportunity:
- firstly to shed fresh light on existing (economic) analyses from its own personal and expert interdisciplinary perspective;
- secondly to work together with users and consumers – who at the end of the day are the ones affected by such agreements – to formulate participative supplementary interpretations and criteria, and define the possible options for such negotiating processes offered by the internet, and;
- thirdly to weigh up the possible negative impact on the internet, society and consumers against the positive effects on the economic, legal, social policy and culture level.
In this way the group of experts will use evaluation of TAFTA as a means of painting a fully comprehensive picture of the international aspects of network policy and the interconnectedness of the internet, globalization and the nation state. In the debate on network policy it is absolutely essential to present specific issues from the above mentioned topics of interest in a clear and readily understandable manner and to make both proposed solutions and explanatory examples accessible to non-expert members of the general public within a wider ranging narrative.
Questions and Answers
Click here for Questions and Answers (German) about the Initiative, now organized by the Collaboratory in partnership with the Future Challenges platform.
Dates and Participation
Join in now! We are looking for experts whose professional outlook mirrors the ideas behind the initiative and who would like to be part of a group of some 30 persons who will investigate these issues in a period from July to November this year. Students from related disciplines, professors, interns, activists and consultants are all welcome to join us. Our aim is to build a group of experts based on the multi-stakeholder principle. Membership is open to everyone!
The deadline for your application is 26 JUNE, please use this application form (German). We ask all applicants to consider whether they have time to attend the following key sessions which are held in Berlin:
- 26 June: deadline for applications
- 11 July: Opening workshop (get-together, questions, groups, briefing), optional extra: 11.7. first introductory evening, 12.7. Workshop Summer break
- 3 September: 1st workshop (tbc)
- 30 September: 2nd workshop / interim workshop (tbc)
- Ca. 6.11. final workshop (tbc)