Integrating Cyberspace and International Relations: The Co-Evolution Dilemma

14 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2012 Last revised: 7 Dec 2012

See all articles by Nazli Choucri

Nazli Choucri

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

David D. Clark


Date Written: November 7, 2012


International Relations (IR) – whether in pursuit of wealth or power – have been traditionally predicated upon the dominance of the State and the effectiveness of geographical boundaries. The Internet has shattered these assumptions. Consequently, the properties of information goods such as information security, control, or freedom, or those of international activities such as trade, or diplomacy must be framed in the context of emergent behaviors of a system where the Cyberspace interacts with traditional IR. The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize the hitherto separate domains of Cyberspace and International Relations into an integrated socio-technical system that we jointly call Cyber International Relations (Cyber-IR) System, and to identify and analyze its emergent properties utilizing the methods of engineering systems. Our work is an exploration in both theory and methodology. We begin by identifying important actors in Cyberspace and IR, and the core functions they perform for their respective systems. In doing so, we disambiguate important questions of system boundary. We then create a domain structure matrix (DSM) of the interdependencies among the core functions of the various actors. This method enables us to integrate the domains of Cyberspace and IR that we then examine in two ways. First, we qualitatively analyze DSM to show how Cyber-IR is characterized by the activities of multiple actors who are interdependent in various ways, and who are highly heterogeneous in their roles and capabilities. Second, we perform quantitative analysis using several matrix-based techniques to illustrate and verify how certain core functions are more important than others, and why attributes such as geographical location, economic status, etc., of the actor shape their influence in Cyber-IR. This work forms a baseline for further understanding of the nature of the heterogeneous influences of the various actors, and the various outcomes that could result from it.

Keywords: Internet, Cyberspace, International Relations, Domain Structure Matrix, DSM

Suggested Citation

Choucri, Nazli and Clark, David D., Integrating Cyberspace and International Relations: The Co-Evolution Dilemma (November 7, 2012). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2012-29, Available at SSRN: or

Nazli Choucri (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

David D. Clark

MIT CSAIL ( email )

Stata Center
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-6003 (Phone)

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