by Nadia Tjahja & Gül Akcaova, August 2020
Programme & Pre-event Reading Materials
The diversity of the programme, both thematically and structurally, reflected on current debates and encouraged us to further our thinking through discussions, thereby preparing us to hit the ground running in active IG discussions.
In preparation of the programme, we followed a mandatory pre-event lecture and thematic readings. The easy reading provided an overview of the IG field but also some repetition of the lecture. The specific thematic and further readings focused on providing us access to the latest developments in those fields. While it was interesting to look around these websites and articles, they have been more valuable as post-event readings, as in the beginning it wasn’t always clear what to engage with in preparation.
The programme itself consisted of lectures, breakout sessions and case studies:
- Lectures: Kleinwächter and Schneider sat at the negotiations tables of the historical decisions made. While others would say this was a lecture, it was more than that. It was part of their life’s work and therefore you also had a better understanding of how the policy processes and relationships work. A better understanding of how policy is designed and which considerations were engaged with to make the tough decisions which created the internet as we know it. This was balanced by including other academics (Tropina and Mueller) who take a more broad/balanced/multi-perspective/theoretical approach. In essence, it’s different to learn from (academic) practitioners sharing their experience vis-a-vis (academic) researchers. To quote Kleinwächter: “first we had a technical problem with political background, now we have a political problem with technical background”.
- Break-out sessions were excellent, more personal and independent, as the group was split in half or smaller groups reflecting either knowledge level or interest. The half an hour break in between the actual session and the break out gave us time to reflect and prepare questions rather than having to engage straight after a presentation, which was a lot of information to take in and process. We used the time to look back over our notes and discuss our initial ideas with our colleagues before engaging the speaker. Also, the smaller more intimate discussion groups felt as if we could address things more informally, rather than having to engage in public speaking in front of the group and provide relevant context. On some days it was tough to choose a break-out session. Besides choosing between the different speakers, sometimes we had to choose our break-out session before every speaker had the opportunity to introduce themselves and their expertise.
- Case Studies conveyed the practical realities of the technicalities of policymaking or implementation of services. They also provided the perspective of discussions of the same topics that are happening across different countries. This led to different approaches and thoughts. Discussion among the faculty was fun to watch (especially Glaser &/vs Eppenberger adding but also differentiating from each other, plus commentary on their discussion from Chatzistamou)
Interestingly, on a pedagogy level, Koch decided to use three different approaches to present his materials: participatory, in which he opened the floor to the group to reflect on the existing knowledge in the group and building/connecting ideas together; presenting (business as usual); and moderating, where he brought in questions and discussions of current events and topics that we may not be familiar with, but he thought were important that we should have an insight about from Botterman directly.
Social Events & Breaks
The group of 2020 was nearly half of the previous groups due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite being a small group, we have all gotten the chance to bond as a group throughout the week. On the first evening, after arrival on Sunday, we started with an opening dinner and opening speech by Kleinwächter who welcomed us all to the Akademie. The dinner continued in the yard of the Akademie with a game to break the ice. After the game, smaller groups of three were formed to start knowing more about each other. Even on the first evening at the Akademie a small group sat outside till 1 AM chatting about what brought us to Meissen. Having chats outside till late night, pairs and small groups going for a walk around the city under the sky lighted by a bright moon and stars. The weather in Meissen was perfect for the whole week, even in the night. Although we had a busy and intensive academic programme, we also had the opportunity to explore the culture of Meissen together by visiting and exploring unique phenomena of the city by daylight. The dinner on Monday took place on a nice terrace at a restaurant with an amazing view over Meissen. While enjoying the food, (local) drinks and the view, we had nice conversations about our experience and the impression so far.
On Wednesday, we had BBQ for dinner and continued afterwards by starting a bonfire. It first took a while to light up the fire, but soon everyone grabbed themselves a chair and drank to collect around the fire. We (almost) forgot about COVID-19 and the rest of the world for a night when the first one grabbed his instrument. Participants and faculty were encouraged to bring instruments for this activity and perform as they desired. Schneider was the first one to play the guitar he brought and sang a few songs. In no time everyone joined Schneider and started singing. After a few songs and a couple of drinks, Tjahja also grabbed her ukulele. After her performance, everyone was invited to share songs and traditions from their countries they are living or from their hometown, ranging from lullabies to poetry and the never-ending song about “alten Germanen” who drank a lot of layers beer. At some point everyone started singing the refrain: “Und eins und zwei und drei und vier …”. It was epic and the longest night of the week, since we sat till 3 AM.
Next day everyone managed to be in class at 9 AM. In the afternoon we went to enjoy a concert in the Dom, along with its architecture and exhibition. And then it was Friday, the last day of the summer school. After having our last session, we had spare time till 6 PM. At 6 PM we started a hike towards a vineyard on the other side of Meissen up in the hills. A hike of ~40 minutes that was worth it considering the unique history and flavours of Meissen and the view over the city. After this fruitful experience we continued our walk to the restaurant for our last dinner with an exceptional performance. After the performance, we gathered outside for our final drinks and tried to find Comet Neowise.
Throughout the whole week Schiefner rang the bell to let us know it was time for next session. After every breakfast, coffee break, lunch, break-out session, and even on Tuesday after dinner, Schiefner had one job: ring the bell! This was a very important job since the breaks and breakout sessions gave us the opportunity to have discussions among fellows but also with faculty members. Not only did we have discussions, but we also shared knowledge, experience and our personal interest. Altogether, a wonderful programme with plenty of time to spend together and bond as the class of 2020.
Health & Safety
Safety measures were taken very seriously, not only by faculty but also by staff of the Evangelische Akademie. When entering the building wearing a mask was obligated. Which meant everyone had to wear a mask during the sessions that took place inside. At the entrance everyone could disinfect his/her hands. Everyone was provided a private room and bathroom. Everyone was also advised to use the toilets as much as possible in his/her own room. The room where the sessions took place was aired and the air was cleared every 15 minutes. We could choose where to take a seat, but we were asked to stick to the same seat and desk for the rest of the week. The desks were placed on a distance of 1.5 meter and the room was arranged in the shape of U. As much as possible was organised outside to provide us the possibility to get fresh air.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served inside at the restaurant, but the possibility to eat and drink outside was given to us, which most of us chose to do. Outside as well we took the 1.5 meter distance into account. Everyone took it very seriously and respected the rules. DENIC was even kind enough to provide us with plenty of masks.
Our best Moments
On the last day we had a recap and everyone was asked to share his or her moment of the week. We all agreed on the time we have spent with each other, meeting each other and the friendships we formed. By sharing knowledge and experiences we were also helping each other with initiated projects. We opened up our networks and shared connections.
Being in Meissen, participating in the summer school, was an eye-opener and gave us the opportunity to learn from the policymakers who designed, or contributed to, the internet and the internet governance as we know it today.
We have learnt to challenge and hold the organizations accountable who are making and/or advocating for policy development. The diversity of backgrounds fostered different emphasis/perspectives in the asked questions.
The night of the bonfire and singing songs was one of the most memorable moments. Altogether, we were a very energizing, multicultural group of fellows interested in Internet Governance since we are well-aware of how the internet is affecting our daily lives and the future of our world.
Although the Summer School had to end, we haven’t stopped being in touch with each other. Besides the mailing list in which we share interesting and relevant articles and the Telegram group where we hold more informal chats, we continue to have discussions on upcoming topics in smaller groups. We also have Zoom calls among us and have planned or gone on multiple group trips to Hamburg, Amsterdam, Prague, IGF2020, and EuroDIG 2021. We also have participated or collaborated in each other’s webinars and we are planning to set up a media literacy project.
Some of us have reached out to faculty members who provided further information such as Kleinwächter, Schneider, Esterhuysen. Also, we were referred to other IG stakeholders with whom we’ve had contact such as IGF, RIPE NCC, ISOC and SIDNLabs for further discussions and input into projects.
Besides expanding our network and projects, we saw a direct implementation of our studies in real life. For example, during Koch’s first session, he introduced RFC’s and we had a discussion about the current use of the RFC and how it has developed over the years. Recently the ISOC Internet History mailing list raised a discussion about the applicability of RFC’s and its future development, which builds on the discussions we had. Also, Carsten pointed out topics on the ISOC Policy mailing list that were a direct follow up from discussions we had, allowing us the opportunity to directly engage on the topics at the same level as experts in the field.