Power, Information Technology, and International Relations Theory
: The Institutional Power of the Internet and American Foreign Policy

  • Daniel McCarthy

Traethawd ymchwil myfyriwr: Traethawd Ymchwil DoethurolDoethur mewn Athroniaeth


This thesis examines the place of information communications technology (ICT) as a form of power in International Relations (IR) theory. Through an examination of the dominant approaches to ICTs in IR I outline the need to introduce a concept of technological power which can account for agency and culture in the process of technological design and development. Turning towards the critical theory of technology of Andrew Feenberg, the thesis argues that conceptualizing technology as biased but ambivalent provides the space within which agency may be considered alongside the structuring characteristics of technology to provide a more theoretically balanced and analytically productive account of the politics of technology. Building upon this foundation, the thesis outlines ICTs as a form of institutional power in international politics, acting upon agents at a distance in both space and time. This form of power is enmeshed in, and supported by, structural power relations and the interrelated discursive and ideological forms of power which maintain these structures. I examine the utility of these concepts through an extending empirical illustration of the role of the Internet in American Foreign Policy. This analysis argues that the Internet, as a product of American technological development, expresses a bias towards liberal capitalist values which forces other states to either alter their social practices or enact costly filtering regimes. The open networks of the Internet thereby facilitate the pursuit of an Open Door foreign policy by the United States government. Accounting for the technologically embedded cultural norms of the Internet casts a different light upon the nature of power in international relations, and requires that we take the constitution of an global material culture into account in our theories of international relations.
Dyddiad Dyfarnu03 Maw 2011
Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
Sefydliad Dyfarnu
  • Prifysgol Aberystwyth
NoddwyrEconomic and Social Research Council
GoruchwyliwrMichael Foley (Goruchwylydd) & James Vaughan (Goruchwylydd)

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