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Yesterday, the papal encyclical “Laudato Sii” was finally released. Environmentally engaged members of the Roman Catholic Church have awaited this day with cautious excitement since January 2014, when it was first announced that Pope Francis prepares such a document on “the ecology of mankind”. Over the last months, the event has also received remarkable attention in the wider public all over the globe.

The release of the encyclical exemplifies how religious actors can influence regulatory processes. Short-term, it may affect current political events with judgments about concrete political choices, influencing their (il)legitimacy. For instance, the papal encyclical calls the final document of the Conference of the United Nations on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, “ineffective”. Further,

the strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. […] it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors (Laudato Sii).

The release may also create a new momentum of debate and hope in the year of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol in Paris during which parties aim for a new, legally binding agreement.

Long-term, it is a significant theological document meant to give direction to contemporary Catholicism and 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. Even if we cannot know how it will be interpreted in thirty years from now, its effect is likely to last longer than the next international climate agreement. But despite or especially because of its character, it enfolds its dynamic only with its reception by an audience willing and eager to engage with it. At least three factors have helped to turn the publication of the encyclical into a widely received event which is likely to deserve all the hope that is attached to it.

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Anonymous_emblem.svg

Logo of “Anonymous”

It all began with a blog post back in 2012 entitled “Anonymous’ Boundaries: Expelling by Exposing” that I had prepared prior to a workshop on “organization as communication“. It describes how the so-called “hacker collective” Anonymous had expelled one of its self-identified members by exposing its full name, address and other contact information. The closing paragraph of this post reads as follows:

Of course, Anonymous is an extreme case. But exactly because of its distinctiveness I think there is a lot to learn about organizing practices in general.

After the workshop I teamed up with Dennis Schoeneborn and together we tried to harvest the explanatory potential of the case. Our joint efforts resulted in the paper “Fluidity, Identity and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous”, which is now available as a pre-print version at Journal of Management Studies: Read the rest of this entry »

google-good-or-badEllen P. Goodman (Rutgers University School of Law) and Julia Powles (University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law) have assembled 80 scholars (including myself) in support of an open letter to Google, which demands ”

Aggregate data about how Google is responding to the more than 250,000 requests to delist links, thought to contravene data protection laws, from name search results.

The letter mentions two main reasons why more transparency is needed:

(1) the public should be able to find out how digital platforms exercise their tremendous power over readily accessible information; and (2) implementation of the ruling will affect the future of the RTBF in Europe and elsewhere, and will more generally inform global efforts to accommodate privacy rights with other interests in data flows.

Read the letter in full, which ends with a long list of unanswered questions, over at the Guardian or at Medium.

(leonhard)

Yesterday the German comedian Jan Böhmerman claimed responsibility for a YouTube video where Yanis Varoufakis, the current Finance Minister of Greece, had allegedly stuck the finger to Germany. The video had been featured in Germany’s most popular Sunday evening talk show “Günther Jauch“. Confronted with this video as a guest of the show, Yanis Varoufakis denied the accuracy of the footage and instead claimed that the video had been “doctored”. However, most of the German media were convinced by the video, the German tabloid “Bild” even explicitly called Varoufakis a “Lügner” (“liar”):

In the video below (English subtitles start at 3:00 min), Böhmermann now describes in a very detailed manner how he and his team (allegedly?) had faked the segment of the video where Varoufakis shows his middle finger and claims that he had conspired with the organizers of the Croation conference where the video had been made to spread the fake version of the video.

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Over at the Strategizingblog, I have blogged about a current pardigmatic struggle in the realm of organizational strategy research. In a recent article in the Strategic Management Journal, Bromiley and Rau (2014, Preprint-PDF) suggest to adopt a “Practice-based View” (PBV) on strategy. What sounds very similar to approaches labelled strategy-as-a-practice, is actually merely a rhetorical assimilation tactic:

Effectively, all this renders the PBV practice-based in name only. Neither is the PBV rooted in practice theory nor does it propose a methodological approach equipped to empirically capture practices. Rather, the PBV as outlined by Bormiley and Rau treats practices more or less as variables.

Read the full article.

(leonhard)

Over at his Open Enterprise Blog, Glyn Moody explains “Why Open Source is Replacing Open Standards” by quoting Linux Foundation’s Executive Director, Jim Zemlin, as follows:

Logo of the Linux Foundation

Logo of the Linux Foundation

The largest form of collaboration in the tech industry for 20 years was at standards development organisations – IEEE, ISO, W3C, these things – where in order for companies to interoperate, which was a requirement in tech, they would create a specification, and everyone would implement that. The tech sector is moving on to a world where, in the Internet of things [for example], do you want to have a 500-page specification that you hand to a light bulb manufacturer, or do you want source code that you can hand to that manufacturer that enables interoperability? I think that’s a permanent fixture. People have figured out for a particular non-differentiating infrastucture they want to work on that through open source, rather than creating a spec.

For Moody, replacing open standards with an open source approach brings two “huge advantages”, namely that (1) “compatibility is baked in” and that it (2) “not only saves money, it speeds up development and the pace of innovation”. Functionally, as Moody emphasizes, open source software still represents a standard, whose source code “both defines that standard, and does 99% of the work of implementing it.”

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In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

For a few hours today, Uber users could view their passenger rating thanks to a how-to posted by Aaron Landy. Uber gives both passengers and drivers ratings, probably by averaging the post-ride ratings each gets, and they affect whether riders can get picked up and whether drivers keep their jobs.

UberlogoPassenger ratings like these raise two kinds of concerns: first, that opaque and inaccessible metrics don’t allow for recourse or even explanation; and second that driver ratings aren’t very consistent or reliable raw material for those metrics.

You hear stories from people who missed a pickup because of buggy notifications, for example, and those people all of a sudden just can’t catch a cab. Any kind of technical error can skew the ratings, but because they’re invisible they’re also treated as infallible.

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Guest blogger Nina Engwicht discusses a controversial performance art project in Berlin aiming to help Syrian refugee children.

Arrival of Jewish refugee children, port of London, February 1939

(Wikimedia; CC-BY-SA-3.0-de)

“1 in 100” is the slogan of a nightly ironic talent show currently put on in Berlin by the activist performance artists of the group “Center for Political Beauty” (Zentrum für Politische Schönheit). One in a hundred Syrian children will be saved, is the promise. In order to help the German government decide which children should be rescued, the audience is requested to vote for a child they would like to see rescued from the civil war: “1 in 100! One child wins. The others can go on dying. (weitersterben).

The artists urge their audience not to make light of their responsibility, but to use their right to vote. The show’s web site (http://voting.1aus100.de/) displays pictures and videos of each child, many of them badly hurt, some of them crying, some of them starving. The video of “child number 2” shows a boy desperately crying after a bomb attack. From off-camera we hear a man, presumably his father, saying “My God. My God. My children are dead. My children are dead”, while the boy cries for his brothers and sisters. The campaign’s Facebook page presents all these candidates and informs readers about their respective chances: “Child Nr. 61 only has two votes. Call now!”
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When Sigrid and I researched the organizational network orchestrated by the US non-profit Creative Commons (see our MPIfG Discussion Paper 08/8, PDF), one of the most interesting findings was the benefits of its transnationalization efforts. What initially appeared as a challenge – legal differences between jurisdictions and the perceived need to adapt its alternative copyright licenses accordingly – actually turned out to be a mobilizing and diffusion strategy. At least initially, porting the licenses to different jurisdictions provided a task for locally embedded copyright lawyers, who then became part of a transnational network of affiliate organizations helping to promote Creative Commons licenses. So, at least in this case of private regulation via standards distance between different actors became an asset.

In their most recent paper entitled “Distance as asset? Knowledge collaboration in hybrid virtual communities” (not open acces available yet), economic geographers Gernot Grabher and Oliver Ibert make a more general argument emphasizing the benefits of geographically dispersed communities. They define hybrid communities as “a specific kind of community, which encompasses on the one hand the sphere of professional expertise, and the mundane world of ordinary users, lay-persons, enthusiasts, and hobbyists, on the other” (p. 101). Empirically, the paper compares three types of communities with three cases each:

  • Firm-hosted communities (Huggies Happy Babies Forum, Kraft Food Message Boards, Dell’s Ideastorm Forum)
  • Firm-related communities (IKEA Fans, Nikonians, BMW Luxury Touring Forum)
  • Independent communities (A Swarm of Angels Forum, Sandboarder Forum, DCA Forum)

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Over at orgtheory.com, Brayden King pointed to two recent studies on online activism. In their study on The Structure of Online Activism” (PDF), published in the newly founded Open Access journal Sociological Science, Kevin Lewis, Kurt Gray and Jens Meierhenrich investigate participation around a Facebook “Cause” on Darfur. Causes” is a platform for online activism which is linked to and builds upon Facebook and the latter’s possibility to recruit your Facebook friends for a certain cause. The cause under study was a campaign on Darfur with over 1.2 million supporters. The authors had access to great longitudinal network data and investigated how the decision to publicly support the cause on Facebook had translated into further support later on. The disillusioning result (p. 2):

99.76 percent of members never donated[.]

To a certain degree, the results of the paper corroborate what is known as the 1% rule on the internet. The overly large majority of an online community contributes nothing, only one percent is responsible for nearly all of the content; in the Darfur case even fewer people (0.24 percent) contributed in form of donations. Compared to traditional forms of mobilizing this is a very poor conversion rate, as reported by Lewis et al. (p. 4):

Mail solicitations, meanwhile, typically generate rates of 2 percent to 8 percent of people donating $10 to $50 each[.]

Furthermore, activism levels decreased quickly over time  (see Figure 1).

Decline of individual participation shown via a final portrait of the evolution of the Save Darfur Cause (taken from: Lewis et al. 2014, S. 6)

Figure 1: Decline of individual participation shown via a final portrait of the evolution of the Save Darfur Cause (taken from: Lewis et al. 2014, S. 6)

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The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
August 2015
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