4 Dec 2013
Book Review: Regulating Code: Good Governance and Better Regulation in the Information Age
Book review by Mira Burri.
Digital technologies have profoundly changed not only the ways we create, distribute, access, use and re-use information but also many of the governance structures we had in place. Overall, "older" institutions at all governance levels have grappled and often failed to master the multi-faceted and multi-directional issues of the Internet. Regulatory entrepreneurs have yet to discover and fully mobilize the potential of digital technologies as an influential factor impacting upon the regulability of the environment and as a potential regulatory tool in themselves. At the same time, we have seen a deterioration of some public spaces and lower prioritization of public objectives, when strong private commercial interests are at play, such as most tellingly in the field of copyright. Less tangibly, private ordering has taken hold and captured through contracts spaces, previously regulated by public law. Code embedded in technology often replaces law. Non-state action has in general proliferated and put serious pressure upon conventional state-centered, command-and-control models.
Under the conditions of this "messy" governance, the provision of key public goods, such as freedom of information, has been made difficult or is indeed jeopardized.The grand question is how can we navigate this complex multi-actor, multi-issue space and secure the attainment of fundamental public interest objectives. This is also the question that Ian Brown and Chris Marsden seek to answer with their book, Regulating Code, as recently published under the "Information Revolution and Global Politics" series of MIT Press.
This book review critically assesses the bold effort by Brown and Marsden.