E-Net News

Videos document research on the future of Internet governance

The video interviews recorded by a crew of student researchers at the Internet Governance Forum in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in November are now posted online on Elon University's Imagining the Internet site.

Senior journalism major Andie Diemer was part of a university team that documented the Internet Governance Forum in Egypt in November.

The School of Communications team included undergraduate students Eugene Daniel, Andie Diemer and Drew Smith and iMedia graduate student Shelley Russell. They were led by Janna Anderson, associate professor and director of the Imagining the Internet Center.

The annual global IGF is a United Nations-facilitated conference at which nearly 2,000 participants from government, business, academia, the technology sector and civil society gather to discuss the issues tied to the new knowledge society being established as the Internet evolves and expands.

The Elon team asked five research questions in a convenience sample gathered in the IGF Village and the hallways of the conference. Respondents included 43 people from more than two-dozen nations.
Details, including video clips and some results can be found at this site:


General results:

Question one – Should IGF be continued, yes or no? Why?

The original mandate for IGF, established by the World Summit on the Information Society processes, called for five years of IGF gatherings. The IGF meeting at Sharm El Sheikh was the fourth meeting, and it was a time for taking stock of the future of IGF. Most global Internet governance leaders are saying the IGF mandate should be extended, and that was reflected in the survey answers. All survey respondents said IGF has merit in some way. Many noted that open dialogues carried out at IGF among many different stakeholders can’t take place in any other global Internet body they way they take place at IGF.

Question two – What is your greatest hope for the future of the Internet?

One of the most common answers to the “greatest hope” question was expressed in people's desire to achieve Internet access for all, which was also referred to by some as a “human right.” Another popular theme for answers to this question was an emphasis on maintaining the original values established in the 1970s through the early 1990s by the pioneers of the Internet.

Question three – What is your greatest fear – primary concern – regarding the future of the Internet?

One of the most common answers to the “greatest fear for the future of the Internet” question was a concern that industrial-age institutions and governments might exert controls that divide and conquer the Internet and stifle accessibility, knowledge-sharing, creativity and innovation online. A second common theme to the responses was that all tools can be leveraged for positive or negative purposes that bring about some positive, negative and unintentional effects, and the negatives are a fear.

Question four – Twenty years from now, when people talk about the Internet “back at the turn of the century in the early 2000s,” and they say “the people back then didn’t see this coming” what will they be referring to – what do you think might surprise most people?

One of the most common responses to the “looking back 20 years from now” question was commentary that played off the idea that the Internet of Things and hyperconnectivity will bring massive changes in the social, political and economic future of the Internet. The advancement of wireless communications on small, powerful, personal devices combined with the digital tagging and inclusion on wired and wireless networks of billions, even trillions of items such as cars, retail products and other objects creates information flows beyond most people's perception.

Question five – Describe the future of the Internet in one word.

The majority of the people interviewed expressed the view that "hope" or "hopeful" best describes the future of the Internet in one word. The second most popular selection was "open" or "openness." Other choices included: contested, fragile, interesting, confusing, united, interoperability, inclusive, change, connection, ubiquitous, pervasive, dynamic, empowerment, limitless, promising, bright, great, cool, amazing. And many people did not use one word to describe the Internet in one word. Among these choices were seamless universality, the source, there in the clouds, to dream, basic infrastructure, promising and growing, promoting enlightenment and a human right.

The interviews were recorded with small Flip Ultra HD video cameras and uploaded as Flash video files playable in Flowplayer, open-source software under the GPL license. Funding for the research journey was provided by the Imagining the Internet Center, the School of Communications and Elon University’s Undergraduate Research Office.

In addition to this research, the Elon research team compiled daily journalistic reports on IGF, and Anderson also provided reports to technology blogs such as Ars Technica. To find Elon University’s complete documentary journalism coverage of IGF-Egypt, go to this link:


Colin Donohue,
1/4/2010 10:31 AM