We’ve released a new study
on public participation at ICANN, plus a serious critique of that
study by senior fellow Andrew McLaughlin here. (It’s a forceful statement, and I’ll have to give some thought to a response to his critique).
A few notes, speaking for myself only:
1) I mean to be constructive, not piling on criticism on an institution
struggling mightily to reform itself. The purpose of this study
is to take a hard, objective look at about 100,000 messages posted to
online forums to determine whether ICANN has succeeded at creating an
open and representative decision-making process. My view is that
this experimentation, at least with respect to these online forums, has
not worked well. The technology of online message forums and
listservs has not been effective at attracting and then enabling the
incorporation of Internet user community input into the ICANN
process. And, it’s my view that ICANN is not the right venue —
given its highly technical mandate and other factors — in
which to seek to prove a point about Internet user community
involvement in a global decision-making process. It’s not the
right place to prove a big point about the Net and global democracy.
2) I have some reservations about our study, primarily with respect to
its scope. While I believe that our methodology and research
into the 100,000 public forum postings is defensible, I quickly
acknowledge that we have been cursory in our review of public
participation through the SOs. Why? After probing some of
the data available, we thought it would be too hard to draw meaningful
conclusions using a consistent methodology. Someone might succeed
where we’ve ventured only gingerly. Such a follow-up would be a
worthy undertaking, as it may well be that the SOs are the place where
public participation in ICANN is the most effective.
Given this mode of seeking to be constructive and these reservations, I’m pleased that my very insightful colleague Andrew
McLaughlin is offering a concurrent critique of this study. Andrew is well-positioned
to put this work in context — and certainly to do so from a healthily and helpfully skeptical place.
Update: Andrew blogs about his critique here, with a summary of his argument.