Question One: ICANN Input Processesgreenspun.com : LUSENET : IS99 Project : One Thread
ICANN seeks public input to its processes. Mailing lists have been a common way to focus online comment, although they seem unwieldy for broad-based public participation (too disjointed, not synchronous, etc.) Even the more limited [names] list has had such problems where participants have found arguments and dialogues difficult to follow and perhaps participate in.
Is there anything the Net can offer to help provide meaningful public dialogue between the people who are in positions of responsibility within ICANN and the at-large Internet community?
-- Dialogic (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 07, 1999
There are many ways that parties who are interested in or concerned about ICANN can communicate through the net. A mailing list is one example. Usenet news is another. A web board is yet another. Each has its strenghts and weaknesses.
There are more "real-time" tools available, such as multimedia conferencing tools. However, they require people to run special software (and in some cases, have a certain type of IP routing service provided to them). Also, being "real-time", they require that everyone interested be participating at (roughly) the same time, which does not work for people spread over the entire globe.
I'm not sure how much historical knowledge you have of these issues, but IMHO, they can be very difficult to follow if you don't know the history. Most of the organizations or bodies who are mentioned here are mentioned by acronym, and there are quite a few of them, which can be confusing.
Also, I have noticed that some people quote the entire article in their response that they are responding to, sometimes not providing clear attribution, so it is difficult to tell who is being quoted where.
A major aspect of the dispute is the culture clash between some of the "old school" types who believe that the engineering/administrative Internet community can find a technical solution to the problems (and are willing to rely on existing laws to handle cases of trademark violation, etc), and some more conservative types who believe that the situation has become so politically charged that ICANN is necessary to provide stability. From what I have seen in this and other related debates (e.g. in the newsgroup rec.radio.broadcasting, there is a split between people who criticize much of commercial radio because they feel it is too homogenized, and people who laud it because it is more profitable today than it ever was [although the profit tends to be realized in radio station valuation, rather than revenue]), the divide tends to be very deep, and there is little common ground. Thus, there is likely only to be disagreement. We are unlikely to ever know what "the public" really wants regarding ICANN or "Internet governance" in general, because of the infeasibility of polling everyone who might have an opinion.
So, I guess to sum up, there are a lot of tools that can be used to communicate, but it won't matter much if the dissenting parties can't come to some kind of compromise.
-- Greg Skinner (email@example.com), December 07, 1999.
There is a large and long body of research about teleconferencing modes and behavior. The first computer-based formal conferencing system was build to help manage the gas crisis in the early 70's. Murray Turoff was the author. I haven't tracked the recent literature.
Part of the challenge in these systems is between providing useful structure versus having the structure be inflexible/procrustean.
-- Dave Crocker (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 07, 1999.
I wish one could store acronyms and their definitions in a personal directory(just like email addresses) and when one embeds the aconym in a message, it will automatically expand its defintion for the receiver to read.
I also wish that the class had a Who's Who of the different list contributors with short bios.
-- Diane Cabell (email@example.com), December 07, 1999.
You are right about the confusing format. It resembles a speech dialogue, often less civil because intrruptions cannot be controlled.
One possibility is to require marked paragraphs and mark the answers by the same number. You can then read tone statement and then the answering statement. That may require some duplication if the interjecting argument is short. I think that is the best.
Another solution is to have someone organize the debate. That, however, takes effort and may cause distortions. Less preferred.
-- Tamar Frankel (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 07, 1999.
>ICANN seeks public input to its processes. Mailing lists have been a > common way to focus online comment,
There has been little intentional use of lists for that purpose.
> although they seem unwieldy for broad-based public participation >(too disjointed, not synchronous, etc.).
I have not seen this as the problem. In truth, there has been little substantive participation by the board on the public or semi-public lists. The real discussions have been in private.
> Even the more limited [names] list has had such problems where > > participants have found arguments and dialogues difficult to follow > and perhaps participate in.
You can't just jump into this pool and swim. It is a foreign language which requires time to acquire.
> Is there anything the Net can offer to help provide meaningful > public dialogue between the people who are in positions of > responsibility within ICANN and the at-large Internet community?
Voting/polling on issues.
-- Weisberg (email@example.com), December 07, 1999.
One of the things that has been missing in many of the lists is someone performing a 'rapporteur' function, summarizing the discussion as it moves along, sugggesting areas that require more discussion, areas that are tangential, reformulating questions as they develop, etc. That's both time-consuming and requires some degree of substantive expertise and ability -- but it would go a long way towards making the public dialogue more substantial, in my view.
-- David Post (Postd@erols.com), December 07, 1999.
let's take a look at what's effective in the commercial world - threaded [moderated] discussions and organized [scheduled] chats. ICANN could combine the two - introduce a policy topic for threaded [e-mail] discussion similar to names; let it run for a set period of time (say one - two weeks); at the end of the time period, have the sysop/moderator analyize/summarize the main points of discussion and re-post to the audience as the topic(s) for the on-line chat; have the on-line chat/debate and then at the end, provide a means to vote on the various proposal(s). you could even limit the on-line chat voting privileges to those who took part in the threaded discussion debate. this idea is scalable, you could have a whole series of these on-line discussions/chats dealing with various policy topics. the trick is for the moderators/sysops to bring consistent coherence to their moderated areas. viola! web-enabled, participatory democratic policy making.
-- Marc Luoma (Marc_Luoma/FS/KSG@ksg.harvard.edu), December 07, 1999.
I believe that with time people will increaingly use both methods because each has advantages and disadvantages. The question is simply getting used to the method. For a threaded debate, moderators would be great, of course.
-- Tamar Frankel (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 08, 1999.
These mechanisms are effective in the commercial world at attracting visitors to the site. I'm skeptical that they're effective at generating high-quality, informed discussion of complex issues. An issue I've faced as a listowner in another context: How do you get well-informed, sophisticated observers to participate in the same discussions as less-informed, less-sophisticated ones (rather than channeling their energies into what they regard as more productive, less inclusive forums)?
-- Jonathan Weinberg (email@example.com), December 08, 1999.
Mailing lists such as [names] are not a workable forum for public comment to ICANN, because they don't scale up. The names list has only about 20 participants other than harvard.edu folk and ICANN personnel. It could not workably provide a similarly meaningful forum for an ICANN membership numbering in the thousands or larger. While some mailing lists have membership much larger than [names], meaningful interchange in those mailing lists is generally limited to a smaller core membership who have made the decision to invest in active participation. The first alternative to a [names]-style mailing list is one ICANN is in fact pursuing: (non-interactive) requests for comments. In some contexts, this approach can work well. In order to work well, though, it requires a commitment from the decisionmaker to take the comments seriously and to incorporate them into its decisionmaking. One would expect in a well-functioning system that at least summaries of the comments would be conveyed to the Board members (not merely to staff); that ICANN would from time to time make meaningful changes in its proposals in response to comments; that ICANN, in response to comments, would alter its tentative position and then issue *new* requests seeking comments on its newly-altered views; that ICANN from time to time would seek comments *before* deciding on its tentative positions. In fact, none of that much seems to be happening; ICANN for the most part seems to see the necessity of asking for comments as a procedural nuisance rather than as a source of useful input.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that in the administrative-law context, where this system works well, the mechanism of judicial review compels the agency to take comments seriously. In the ICANN context, there is no similar mechanism. Indeed, this lack casts doubt on any system of structured public interaction for ICANN. This is not to say that a system corresponding to judicial review for ICANN would be desirable -- I don't think it would be -- only that its absence carries costs.
An entirely different mechanism for communication between ICANN and the public at large lies in institutions of structured representation. This is what the DNSO is supposed to do: members of the Internet public who fall within the various constituencies who wish to communicate their views on domain-policy matters pass them on to their constituency representatives, who pass them on to the Names Council, who pass them on to the Board. This system was designed to scale up. As the NC demonstrates, though, designing representative institutions is difficult. The NC constituencies are neither complete nor coherent. A majority vote on the NC (counting the number of ICANN-approved constituencies on each side of a proposition, and then multiplying by three) is likely to correspond to the views of the "Internet community" only on a random basis. ICANN may seek to create a similar institution for the at-large memberhip. Its track record so far, though, doesn't engender confidence.
-- Jonathan Weinberg (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 07, 1999.