IGF 2018 WS #310
Cyberspace for geopolitics : can we map the Internet ?


Organizer 1: Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Organizer 2: Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Speaker 1: Marine Guillaume, Government, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 2: Jim Cowie, Private Sector, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Alberto Dainotti, Technical Community, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Panel - 90 Min


This workshop is in continuity with the Conference of Cartography of Cyberspace (http://cybercarto.com) that was organised in Paris in march 2018 under the high patronage of Mr. Emmanuel Macron, president of the French Republic. This conference gathered more than 100 participants during two days. The proposed panel at IGF will provide a more international fora for exchanging the existing academic and operational works on cartography of the cyberspace. The panel will include speakers from Academia and outside experts from civil society, governments and companies involved in the question of Internet mapping. Among the commissionners : Marine Guillaume, who is Policy Planning Officer on Digital Affairs at French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alberto Dainotti, who is research scientist at Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA), Maria Smekalova, Coordinator of Russia-U.S. Dialogue on Cybersecurity project at Russian International Affairs Council, Jim Cowie, who is managing director of Deep Macro, and Mihoko Matsubara, who is VP and Public Sector Chief Security Officer for Palo Alto Networks and member of the Japanese Government Special Committee on Technology-associated Strategy.


Speakers in this session will reflect both geographical, gender, stakeholder and disciplinary diversity. They include representatives from academia (geography, computer science, datascience), government and private sector coming from France, US, Russia, and Japan.
Both organizers and most of speakers are first-time IGF session attendees.

In the past decade, Internet has emerged as a major space of confrontation and rivalry between competing actors. From Snowden’s revelations to alleged Russian interferences in the last American presidential elections, the cyberspace has gained a huge political significance. Military institutions all around the world now consider the cyberspace as a new strategical dimension along with land, air, sea and outer space. While the existence of cyberspace is unquestionable, it is still intangible for most of its users. Internautes looking at cyberspace from the vantage of their flat screen cannot feel the depth of the field where it is deployed

By providing a better grasp to decision makers, but also to individuals or citizens, of the political, economical, or social environment of issues, maps have played a major role in strategic thinking. However extending classical cartography to cyberspace is challenging. We all have an intuitive feeling about the « cyberspace », but is it a new space or just an extension of the space that have been studied for a long time by geographers? Do humans have the same appropriation relationship with the cyberspace as we observe in classical geography? if yes, can we talk about cyber-territories and discuss about the power struggle to control them?

On one hand, Internet and the cyberspace are built over equipment and infrastructures that are positioned in the geographical space. These physical component anchor strongly Internet, and the cyberspace, in the terrestrial space. Cyberspace is a virtual and vaporous cloud that is rooted firmly in the concrete of geographic, economic, political, and physical interferences and constraints. On another hand, we have witnessed in the past 50 years of the Internet history that new dimensions are opened that go beyond geographical dimensions. Virtual communities emerge over Internet around concepts that have sometimes no equivalent in real world. Online social networks are new interactions spaces that cannot be simply related to the physical position of servers over which these services are executed. These networks enable the emergence of virtual communities that cross countries border, and circumvent geographical constraints. More generally, the Internet has its own concepts and metaphors, like IP addresses, Autonomous Systems, Proxies, etc., that are used to describe it and understand its evolution. Mapping these concepts to classical geography is challenging. The multidimensional nature of cyberspace, being a socio-technical artefact , is a good example of what Max Weber called the “wall of technicity” that stands between politics and technique. In the continuity with French geopolitician Yves Lacoste views, we consider that developing methodologies, representations and maps that describes the cyberspace have a major incidence on deconstructing domination strategies.

Policy and Research questions :
First Issue : Is it possible to graphically represent the cyberspace and what are the methodologies regarding cybergeography ?
Second Issue : Discuss the interactions between the map and the decision processes
Third Issue : Discuss the challenges of accessing relevant data from stakeholders and discuss the relevance of Open Source data.
Fourth Issue : How to represent the dynamicity of the cyberspace ? Toward the mapping of flows of changes.

The discussion will include 3 steps. Each speaker will present a key research finding to open the discussion between speakers, then speakers will engage with onsite and online audience participants. The moderators will facilitate the discussion and closely manage time.

Thinking the Internet and the cyberspace without representing its space of extension, and the field over which confrontation occurs, seems impossible. Nonetheless, despite the obvious importance of having maps representing relationships in the cyberspace, which are essential tools for organizing and summarise strategic thinking such representations are rare. It is noteworthy that the interest to such visual representations is not limited to military applications , they are needed for any concrete strategic thinking on issues that are related to Internet and cyberspace. The aim of this panel is to discuss the possibilities of mapping Internet and cyberspace as geopolitical objects, and even further to think about “cybercartography” as a new emerging field.

Online Participation

The moderators will actively seek online participation for each of the 4 issues mentioned above, along with participation from the onsite audience. Online and onsite moderators will coordinate to ensure full participation.