"Domains of Convenience": Dr. Kenneth Merrill Defends Dissertation on Open ccTLDs and the Geopolitics of Internet Governance

Congratulations to Dr. Kenneth Merrill, who successfully defended his dissertation on April 13 titled, Domains of Convenience: Open ccTLDs and the geopolitics of Internet governance. 

 Dr. Merrill with his committee chair and advisor Dr. Laura DeNardis. 

Dr. Merrill with his committee chair and advisor Dr. Laura DeNardis. 

Chaired by Internet Governance Lab Co-Director Dr. Laura DeNardis, Ken's committee also included Internet Governance Lab Faculty Fellows Dr. Kathryn Montgomery and Dr. Patricia Aufderheide, Co-Director Dr. Derrick Cogburn, and Internet Governance Lab affiliated scholar Dr. Francesca Musiani of the Institute for Communication Sciences at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, who served as the outside reader. 

Dr. Merrill's project draws on multiple case studies to investigate the ways in which so-called "open" country code top-level domain names (ccTLDs) (ccTLDs with no local presence requirements) mediate global debates over Internet governance. Specifically, it focuses on three cases in which open ccTLDs became implicated in cross-border controversies over (1) political censorship (wikileaks.ch), (2) intellectual property rights enforcement (rojadirecta.me), and (3) cybercrime (the redelegation of .TK). Drawing on an interpretive comparative approach, the project uses interviews with ccTLD technical operators, regulators, civil society groups, and users, as well as analysis of relevant documents (e.g. registry and registrar policies, court documents, media reports, and minutes from various governance fora) to examine the outsized role that open ccTLDs play in the networked information economy. Identifying the "commodification of sovereignty" as a key component in the co-production of open ccTLDs, the project draws on a sociotechnical approach to examine the ways in which these country-specific identifiers simultaneously reinforce and undermine notions of sovereignty in cyberspace and the consequences this poses for Internet governance.

 From left, Dr. Patricia Aufderheide, Dr. Merrill, Dr. Kathryn Montgomery, Dr. Derrick Cogburn, and Dr. Laura DeNardis. 

From left, Dr. Patricia Aufderheide, Dr. Merrill, Dr. Kathryn Montgomery, Dr. Derrick Cogburn, and Dr. Laura DeNardis.