Global Networks and Local Values
Posted: 8 Apr 2003
Opportunities and risks are twins. There are few to deny the opportunities of global networks in general and of the Internet in particular. But many fear for the concomitant risks, or what they perceive as a risk. Racists speech, pornography and personality profiling rank highest in public awareness. Some concerns are quasi universal, like child pornography. For others there are at least differences of degree. Following its history, Germany has tabooed right wing publications. And Americans, in their majority, feel hurt by nudity, which most Germans find quite inoffensive. Such examples lure into a simplistic opposition: Global networks threat local values. The reality of global networks, and of their interrelation with local values, is much more complex.
The National Research Council has set up a binational, German-American committee to study the question. The committee has convoked two symposia. This abstract refers to the final report drafted by the committee and approved by the review process of the National Research Council. The report brings to bear knowledge from many fields: technology, economics, political science, communications science and the law. The report starts by outlining how the historically highly unlikely success of the Internet could happen. It lays conceptual foundations by determining the individual and social functions of values, what makes them local, and how global networks can impact on them. On these conceptual foundations chapters are built that look at democracy and political institutions, the highly contentious issues of free speech, privacy and freedom of information, and at commercial values. Each of these chapters demonstrates that the issue is by far not as simple as public discourse tends to assume. Not surprisingly, the potential solutions are not simple either. Characteristically, they imply considerable institutional creativity, and usually some hybrid mix of private and public, national, international and sub-national inputs. The report concludes with an outlook beyond the German-American perspective.
Posted along with this abstract is a short document, summarizing the basic insights of the report. The full report is accessible on the web.
Keywords: Global networks, Internet, Cyberspace, local values, local culture, free speech, privacy, freedom of information, electronic commerce, Internet governance, hybrid governance
JEL Classification: H1, H4, H7, K33, L96, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation