Theme 6: Informational governance

Governance of information has become one of the most relevant, complicated, multi-scale and controversial issues in today’s world as a result of  increased capacities to collect, store and share information. A major challenge is to identify governance arrangments that can foster knowledge creation, learning and innovation and social networking but at the same time be responsive to societal concerns on totally free or fully controlled flows of information.

On the other hand, it erodes personal freedom, intelligence of businesses and the powers of classic public and private institutions as nobody is in control of information. What kind of governance arrangements can assist in assuring the positive developments in the Information Age? For instance, how can increased transparency of different types of information and inclusion of a variety of societal groups lead to a more inclusive, sustainable and fair society? For a brief presentation of the theme and special topics within this theme, watch this short video (contact persons: Dr Katrine Soma, Prof. Katrien Termeer).

Private governance arrangements - transparency, traceability and trust
The trends of more interconnectedness among actors involves that businesses increasingly are taking responsibilities for collective goals. This involves the global food industry, who increasingly contributes to the development of different standards and certification schemes to promote more sustainable production of their raw materials. A core condition for such a new role of private governance arrangement to be successful relies on whether they are trusted among different societal actors, including consumers worldwide. Against this background,   global food industry are transforming their rather virtual monitoring systems into traceability systems that can demonstrate certain conditions, such of impacts on environmental conditions and treatments of workforce, throughout a value chain from farm to fork in a transparent way. The issues of trust, traceability and transparency are thus critically important to these new governance challenge. Research on this topic is part of the PhD research programme on Next Generation of Governance Arrangements in Global Value Chains (contact person: Dr Otto Hospes.

Self-governance arrangements - uncertainty and ambiguity

Increasingly, local communities are governing their common pool resources, while becoming responsible for implementing sustainable use of marine and land based ecosystems. Challenges of reconciling individual and collective values in situations characterized by uncertainty and ambiguity are dealt with through collaborative processes and  networks, in which trust is conditional for developing desired learning capacities. Information stemming from, for instance, governments and scientists can play a key role in fostering learning processes and adaptive capacity, either directly because it shows how resources can be used, or indirectly by changing the structure of governance networks. However, even more important are the information collected by the local communities themselves, because of context relevance and trust to sources within the networks.  Research on this topic is part of a strategic programme on Informational governance and sustainability at Wageningen University (contact persons: Dr. Art Dewulf, Prof. Katrien Termeer, Dr Katrine Soma).

Contested processes of information use and provision

Governments and markets organize information provisioning to govern sustainable management of resources. Because of the involvement of many actors, bringing with them different frames and interests, governance actors have to cope with contested information. Such processes can become contested when they conflict with normative principles of, among others, rights on privacy, freedom of speech. Against this background, organizing legitimate use of information becomes increasingly challenging to contemporary governance. Research on this topic is part of a strategic programme on Informational governance and sustainability at Wageningen University (contact persons: Dr. Art Dewulf, Prof. Katrien Termeer, Dr Katrine Soma).

Role and potential of new (uncontrolled) information systems in science and governance

Social media are computer aided communications systems, that facilitate fast information streams and facilitate social networks, such as twitter, hyves, Facebook, emails, wikipedia etc. The increased interconnectivity through social media are increasingly restructuring our science (increased data availability; but also loss of credibility and authority) and governance (with radicalized disclosure such as Wikileaks, new forms of crime and espionage, new relations between politicians and voters, new political spaces, etc.). They influence the production, use, release, framing, accessibility, demand, and verification of information. We explore, for instance, how social media influence or restructure the governance of sustainable agro-food and environmental systems. Research on this topic is part of a strategic programme on Informational governance and sustainability at Wageningen University (contact persons: Dr Art Dewulf, Prof. Katrien Termeer, Dr Katrine Soma).

Boundary work in governance of wicked problems

In this track students apply and/or further develop the concept of discursive boundary work in relation to the literature on the usability and power of knowledge in informational governance. Students pay specific attention to interpretive struggles about facts and uncertainties. Facts do not necessarily provide governance solutions, but may be part of definitional problems of what is the policy issue. This approach is urgent, especially in the case of informational governance as this often become dominated by contests about facts and counter facts and how to interpret these (contact person: Dr Tamara Metze).