Approachable Internet Governance: TWyIGF and New gTLDs – Dmitry Kuznetsov

As important as internet governance issues are, it is sometimes hard to convey them in a way that can engage those who are not “in the know”. Of course, some topics such as online privacy or censorship appear often in the public sphere and are thus relatively easy to present in relation to personal experiences and concerns of IG forum or workshop attendees. But other more technical or bureaucratic questions often remain underemphasized, or even completely omitted from the discussion. And while it can be tempting to underplay certain areas or details to keep the conversation going, such an approach inevitably puts a limit on both the breadth and the depth of IG discussions and public engagement.

As a NetMission ambassador, I believe that my objective is not just to raise IG awareness among young people, but also to entice at least some of that demographic to actively participate in the discourse, regardless of their existing knowledge. Thus, finding a way to explain seemingly inconsequential and tech-heavy issues in an accessible and relatable way naturally became one of my (and other ambassadors’) primary concerns during the organization of the Taiwan Youth Internet Governance Forum.

Specifically, we tasked ourselves with introducing the subject of new gTLDs quickly, effectively and in a relatively comprehensive way, using it as a case study for many of the forum’s activities. And while the research required on our part was substantial, learning the intricacies of this technical yet impactful programme has been an exhilarating experience, only matched by seeing the workshop participants actively engage with the material we prepared. Of course, part of that material contained definitions, examples and overviews; but the core of the workshop consisted of a role-play session that tasked our participants with assuming roles within GAC, GNSO or ALAC.

Our consideration when designing content for the session – the scenarios and role descriptions – was two-fold:

  1. It needed to be based on already existing debates within the field to make the content of the session applicable outside of the context of the workshop;
  2. The cases and scenarios had to be presented in relation to areas of life that go beyond the Internet itself.

And it is the second point that proved to be the key – by demonstrating the connection between, for instance, community gTLDs and the question of identity or representation, it was possible to position seemingly trivial disputes over strings of characters within larger societal issues, thus grounding it in the context of the everyday. And it is this connection to ‘reality’, this emphasis on the tangible and omnipresent nature of ICTs – and by extension internet governance – that has to be emphasized in interactions with those who have only just started to pay attention.

About the writer

Dmitry Kuznetsov, NetMission Ambassador of Class 2017/2018,

Year 1, MA Global Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong