Friday, October 23, 2009

To market, to market to buy a fat gig...

For many years, I enjoyed market analysis just a little more than dental surgery, considering it just as tedious, but less likely to induce involuntary drooling. After I was finally persuaded to take an Economics class, I reached a stage of personal development where conversations about opportunity cost and contractionary fiscal policy no longer made my eyes glaze over, but even so, I found this week's market-centric readings a little challenging.

But after I'd buckled down and adjusted to Cowhey and Aronson's writing style (did anybody else think they went a little crazy with the lists?), I found that I was genuinely interested in what they had to say about leadership, pressure and change. From the beginning, they predict that the United States will lead, but not dictate, ICT policy development over the next few decades, largely due to the size and existing strengths of the U.S. ICT industry. They devote pages to discussing how markets in the United States and other national states respond to domestic and international stiumuli and how political and economic bodies respond to changes in the ICT markets. But they only briefly focus on the influence of international institutions -- pointing out that they can initiative global governance shifts and discussing some issues related to principal-agent relationships.

Many of our other readings have suggested that the rising power of international institutions is one challenge that threatens the sovereignty of nation states, and I know that Internet and ICT governance is one area where that has been particularly true. In fact, the Internet Governance Forum (established at the WSIS meeting in Tunis) is largely hailed for establishing a new model of governance in which governments are given no more power than representatives from civil society, NGOs and the private sector. Of course, the IGF is largely a talking body, and Cowhey and Aronson seem more focused on action. While institutions may weigh in, governments are still responsible for establishing policy and their behavior (tragically for me) responds more to political and economic forces of supply and demand.

One of the points I really liked was that changes in technology can raise the necessity for change without dictating its path, which allows a lot of room for agency and explains why individual nations have made such different choices about market regulation and ICT development. What I'd like to know is this: What happens after 2025 when (if Cowhey and Aronson are correct) countries like China and India have risen in significance? Will the absense of one clear market leader lead to greater instability in the global markets? Will it lead to more cautious governance? Will another nation or institution come forward to fill the void? Or will we adopt a more global governance pattern to address the frequently shifting ICT market?


  1. Hey Laura,
    I'm glad to see that you found the readings a little challenging because I said nearly the same thing in my post, especially Ch. 5. However, I also found Cowhey, et. al.'s approach to discussing the various actors impacting the global ICT governance playing field. The whole thing with 2025 as the end date for the US as the pivotal player in the global economic system struck me as a bit apocalyptic, especially because they didn't discuss life after. However, I guess they just wanted to illustrate how the US's power is waning in the face of rising economies, such as China and India. However, I found it confusing that they say here are these countries that are challenging US dominance and then later in the book cast doubt on the ability of China to do this. I think there is always a perception, especially from Americans, that a multipolar system (or actually a "non-US as hegemon" system) will result in greater instability, and I think we can already see reactions to this perceived risk in the formation of regional agreements and organizations, such as NAFTA and the EU, which are perceived to encourage stability by closer cooperation among neighboring countries.

  2. I am a bit relieved to hear that both of you had some difficulties with this week's readings, because even after re-reading chapter 5 twice, I am still left a little confused and with some doubts. Cowhey and Aronson focus a great deal on the strength of the U.S. and its pivotal role in the global economy but then discuss how this will diminish around 2025, similar to the both of you, I was confused as to how they came up with that date and as Marie points out, they make no future reference to it. I was hoping they would describe what they felt the ICT infrastructure would look like in the future and who the major players would be within that. They also briefly refute some of the arguments proposing that U.S. leadership is currently declining without going into any real depth on some of the opposing arguments which would have helped to disprove them more effectively.