On Tuesday, we hosted a lively session on the Publius Project at Supernova.
The conversation, liveblogged in detail by Ross Mayfield, was a great
fit for this year’s theme, “Challenges for the Network Age,” with participants discussing how decision-making processes –whether via Web 2.0 technologies, international organizations, or new business models–stimulate rolling constitutional moments that shape not only our behavior online, but the future of the Net.
Colin Maclayinvoked Doc Searls' framing questions
in his opening remarks, asking that the audience consider governance not as an abstract concept, but as a dynamic act of
steering. Both top-down controls and every-day user choices are impacting our
future network. How do power and authority become imbedded in the system? Are
tacit or explicit rules more appropriate, or do we need both? (See David Weinberger’sPublius
piece - and associated responses - for a thoughtful discussion.)
Publius contributorWendy Seltzer responded in defense of rules. The Net Neutrality debate, for example, shows us
that sometimes formally articulating the rules can be essential to preserving
critical values—such as openness—within a norm-based community.
as in her Publius piece, picked up on
the notion of control (“the central question for governance is who gets to boss who around”) and presented the ICANN model as an experiment in governance being challenged by “titanic” forces of government, business and private interests. ICANN’s constitutional moment is now, she argued, and we should all be paying attention to how it chooses to move forward.
Joi Ito mapped the business
perspective onto ICANN: is there potential in the model? A version that could
protect innovation by preventing domination by monopolies or shareholder
Wendy’s observation that rules should remain fluid and flexible was echoed by Lili Cheng of Microsoft research.Despite the ‘rules’ implicit in software
design and operating systems, their most creative form will emerge from how they are interpreted and
implemented by their core community and their norms of use. How do they enact
the rules, with what unpredictable and unintended consequences?
Although the Publius Project
features a growing collection of essays in conversation with each other, Supernova enabled a real, live discussion between four participants with diverse perspectives. Together with our dynamic audience, we agreed that adopting a long, broad, and flexible view of
the Internet’s future will be crucial for finding consensus around sustainable
values, rules, laws, and norms.
Keep watching the Publius Project for what promises to
be a provocative and diverse conversations about the evolving constitutions of