The Internet Architecture of Gender : Is the Internet an Ogre?

 

 

The internet, like ogres and onions, has layers. Layers, transparency and the end-to-end principle are considered the defining characteristics of a free, accessible and innovative internet. Lessig describes the internet as the most important ‘innovation commons’ the world has ever seen, both through culture and architecture. (6)
  
The end-to-end principle means a network should be as basic as possible and intelligence should be located at the ends. This can be traced back to Paul Baran’s shift from circuit to packet switching network design but was first articulated in 1981 by Jerome Altzer, David Clark and David P. Reed. It is NOT the default property of networks but a constructed one that is critical to the operation of the internet as we know it. (7)

The internet is really a network of networks, combining so many different technologies, companies and countries that as the internet has grown, problems of governance have arisen. Internet architecture was based on the layers principles as described by Solum and Ching, where the first corollary is the ‘principle of layer separation’ and the second corollary is the ‘principle of minimal layer crossing’. (8) The internet is arranged in a vertical hierarchy of layers and wherever possible issues within one layer should be addressed within that layer only. If layers must be crossed, either literally or legislatively, then the least distance crossed is the best ‘fit’.

The idea of utilizing internet architecture principles to inform the governance of the internet is generally credited to Yochai Benkler, Harvard Professor of Law. This was developed further by Lessig, Solum and Chung. Currently the UNCTAD (post WSIS2005) proposes, in the Information Economy Report 2006 (IER), to use the layers principle for internet governance. (9)
Benkler
Solum&Chung
IER
The Content Layer—the symbols, images and material that are communicated.
The Content Layer—the symbols and images that are communicated.
The Content Layer—the symbols, images and material that are communicated.
The Application Layer—the programs that use the Internet, e.g. the Web.
The Application Layer—the online technologies or programs
The Logical Layer—TCP/IP, the ‘code’ or software that enables data to travel across the wires and cables
The Transport Layer—TCP, which breaks the data into packets.
The Logical Layer—TCP/IP, the ‘code’ or software that enables data to travel across the wires and cables
The Internet Protocol Layer—IP, handles the flow of data over the network.
The Link Layer—the interface between users’ computers and the physical layer.
The Physical Layer—the copper wire, optical cable, satellite links, etc.
The Physical Layer—the copper wire, optical cable, satellite links, etc.
The Physical Layer—the copper wire, optical cable, satellite links, etc.

Lessig explains that the internet mixed free layers with controlled layers. The infrastructure or physical layer is fundamentally owned. The content and application layers are partially owned, but the center, the code, was free.

The internet is an ogre analogy can now be extended. As the donkey replied to Shrek, “You know, not everybody likes onions. Cakes! Everybody likes cakes. Cakes have layers.” (10) The code is the cream in the cake.

(The Internet Architecture of Gender / to be continued….)

6. Lessig, L. “The Future of Ideas” (2002) New York: Vintage Books Chapter 2 p23. Also available at http://lessig.org/blog/2008/01/the_future_of_ideas_is_now_fre_1.html

7. Lessig, L. “The Future of Ideas” (2002) New York: Vintage Books Chapter 3 p34. Also available at http://lessig.org/blog/2008/01/the_future_of_ideas_is_now_fre_1.html

8. Solum, Lawrence B. and Chung, Minn, “The Layers Principle: Internet Architecture and the Law” (2003) U San Diego Public Law Research Paper No. 55. p4. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=416263
9. “Information Economy Report 2006” (2006). UNCTAD United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Paper E.06.II.D.8. Available at http://www.unctad.org/Templates/WebFlyer.asp?intItemID=3991&lang=1

10. “Shrek” (2001) Quote from http://www.billionquotes.com/index.php/Shrek 

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