It may be a few weeks late, but I’m glad to report that the International Studies Association conference in Montreal was a success. I presented on two separate panels – Getting to Grips with Global Governance, and Global Media, Open Media. Each panel offered a range of unique perspectives on global governance issues and some interesting points of discussion for future consideration. I was also able to attend several other panels, some of which were interesting, some of which I could not understand.
For my first night in Montreal, I decided to leave the hotel and try and experience some of the Québécois culture. The hotel doorman directed me to Dunn’s a Montreal landmark which serves up smoked meat and poutine. I sat down, ordered a ‘smoked meat’ reuben (I later found out it was smoked meat beef brisket since the menu was pretty non-descriptive of what type of meat it was) and poutine (my new favorite heart attack food. French fries topped with chunked cheese and gravy), as well as a Canadian Red ale. From there, I met with some former Professors of mine at an alehouse named Brutopia. The brew house offers local beers and a variety of imports. We ended up listening to acoustic covers of Bob Dylan, CCR, and Cake and spending some time getting to know a few of the Crescent St (the English-friendly bar district) frequenters.
Several rounds and several bars later, I made it back to the hotel. And in one piece.
The next day was spent preparing my presentations, reviewing final details, and hammering out what and how I wanted to present the information the papers we submitted were covering.
Day Three: Wake up at 6 am. Review notes, find breakfast, and run over to the panel room. The first panel was ‘Getting to Grips with Internet Governance‘. The theme of the papers presented revolved around the lack of a coherent governance structure for the internet as a whole. As second presented, I got to ease into the flow of the panel, letting the lead presenter set the tone and time. The papers ranged in topic from a review of the UN forum of internet governance to information excess and multi-stakeholder models for governance. The paper I presented, co-authored by one of my colleagues Michael Geary, focused on technical issues the internet presents as it is today, and what governments and the private sector can do about it. We emphasized that the current state of the internet should be unacceptable, especially when we consider the vast amount of extremely sensitive and valuable information which exists online. We offered descriptions of a number of ongoing efforts to correct the intrinsic security problems the internet faces and highlighted the fact that; while they are all helpful in their own way, the organizations managing each project do not tend to work together. The end point of our presentation emphasized the need for global cooperation and coordination if there was going to be any positive movement in the field of cyber security.
I’m rather proud to note that my presentation received a round of applause – one of the only ones of the panel – and that our work attracted the attention of several organizations who had representatives in the room.
The second panel of the day was ‘Open Media, Global Media’ and the papers presented focused on a wide array of global media issues. Censorship in China, media policy in India, censorship attempts by governments worldwide, and our paper, the use of social media in grassroots movements. We looked at the failed pro-democracy protests in Iran, beginning in 2009, and the successful revolution in Egypt, in 2011. Our work sought to define the role of social media in these protests, as well as explain why some protests failed and others were met with success. Our work showed that social media would not make or break a revolution, demonstration, or protest, but would provide a much needed and easily accessible tool for organization and dissemination of information, even circumventing the wishes of some government to curtail information.
While admittedly not quite as strong as my first presentation, the information was nonetheless well received by both the panel and the crowd, and several follow up requests for information have been sent my way.
Day four was devoted to attending other panels. I sat in on two different panels – the first one presented several takes on interventionism. Among the presentations were African Union interaction with European security organizations, a paper on African states using proxies to fight each other which seemed to contradict the first paper, an overview of nation building as practiced by the west, and a look at an almost chaotic theory of nation building which attempted to account for the diverse forces at work within a given state.
The second panel was on the economics of conflict management. At first I thought I would learn a great deal by attending the discussion, but I quickly found out that my limited training in economics was no match for doctoral students and professors in the field. Most of the presentations were way over my head, but I did manage to walk away with a vague notion of how trade triads can affect international conflict, so I’ll count it as a win.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any further panels as my flight home was calling my name. I arrived back in Washington D.C. later that night tired, elated, a bit smarter, and with a few more contacts in the professional field.