My research concentrates on the chances and challenges for democracy in a world that is - economically, politically and societally - increasingly interconnected. 

I am member of the Leibniz-funded [»] research network "External Democracy Promotion" [»].

Ongoing Project

01.-12.2019. University of St.Gallen─Basic Research Fund (HSG-GFF) "Ownership of Telecom Companies and Internet Control", Principal Investigator. [»]

Ownership of the internet infrastructure, in particular internet service providers (ISP) is critical to understanding a state’s capacity to control the internet since most direct forms of control require ISP to comply with government requests. Specifically, we study the relationship between ISP ownership and intentional disruption of the provision of internet services in sub-Sahara and North Africa. Theoretically, the project draws on insights from the socio-technical and management literature on the link between infrastructure and politics for further theorization of the internet’s political effects. Methodologically, it puts forward an innovative approach utilizing large-scale data of real-time Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) activities to measure internet shutdowns at ISP-level. Besides, it uses the first comprehensive dataset of ISP ownership structures in Africa. The project will make at least two scientific contributions. First, it produces a more realistic understanding of the internet as tool of repression or liberation, taking into account the role of telecommunication companies. Second, it produces new datasets that can be used to analyse more accurately the political and economic determinants as well as effects of internet diffusion. The findings have important practical implications for the assessment of the political effects of internet use, including the corporate responsibility of telecommunication companies.

Completed Projects

2016-2018. Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS), "Telecommunications Politics in Authoritarian Developing Countries", Principal Investigator with Cinzia dal Zotto (University of Neuchâtel). [»]
This project offers a comprehensive analysis of political effects of information and communications technologies (ICT) in authoritarian developing countries focusing on the influence of varying types of ownership of commercial internet service providers (ISP). We explore how and when authoritarian rulers are restricted in their control of ICT if the state is no majority shareholder through theory-guided and rigorous empirical research in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We use large-N analysis [all SSA; 1970-2015] to identify determinants of the effect of ownership on the likelihood of internet shutdowns, and small-N case studies to investigate how different types of ownership restrict a state’s coercive use of ICT.

 

2013-2017. Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF), NCCR Democracy, "Democratic Governance in and through Transgovernmental Networks", Principal Investigator with Sandra Lavenex (University of Geneva). [»]
While research into transgovernmentalism has hitherto mainly focused on the effectiveness of this inter-administrative cooperation in terms of political problem-solving, this project studies whether (a) this kind of cross-border rule-making poses a challenge to democracy, or (b) whether it contributes to greater democratic governance and legitimacy in global politics. The project tackles these questions not just by analyzing EU and global transgovernmental networks in isolation but also by studying both citizens’ perception of them and their representation in the media. In doing so, the project intends to reach a more profound understanding of the democratic quality and challenges of such rather novel forms of political cooperation.