Global Governance as a Complex Adaptive System

Global Governance as a Complex Adaptive System

K. Geiselhart (University of Canberra and Australian National University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch132
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Abstract

The recent advent of Internet technologies has greatly intensified existing globalization processes. The development of full multimedia international communications has the potential to democratize information flows. Citizens can communicate with each other and with governments to create and document public and private accountabilities beyond jurisdictional borders. Ironically, it is also now possible to achieve intensive and intrusive surveillance of individuals and organisations, virtually untraceable criminal exchanges of data, and even forms of cyberwarfare. These possibilities are all part of the global information commons. Like physical common spaces, beneficial and nefarious elements coexist. A working definition of the global information commons is the set of all information systems critical to managing global resources and governance, and the set of protocols for their exchange. While both cumbersome and broad, this definition of the global information commons helps to ground it as a concept that can be modelled and managed. It responds to Dahl’s query about the possibility of a third transformation of democracy beyond the nation-state. This article considers key issues for the emerging global information commons. These relate to the role of new technologies in possible forms of global governance. Global governance is here considered to be the emerging mechanisms for managing trans-national issues and resources. These can be particular to a specific issue or resource, such as the fisheries, or may be more formal, such as the European Union. Governance can be seen as a management function, much as the “governors” on early steam trains. First, the author presents an overview of technology as socially determined, followed by a sketch of how global governance may be seen as a complex adaptive system. This includes an analysis of how models might embed democratic structures. Finally, examples of sub-systems of the global information commons demonstrate the range of actors and rules such a system would need to consider. This theoretical perspective builds on empirical work in the physical, biological, and social sciences and emphasizes the value of modelling governance at all scales. This approach is seen as fruitful for identifying and monitoring dynamic patterns. It provides useful insights for managing the global information commons. In human systems, the rules of interaction and information exchange are determined by the values of the actors (Theys, 1998). Modelling can help to articulate these values. In complex human systems, the direction of change can be as important as absolute measures.

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