This book is a testament to collaboration. About five years ago, it became clear to several of us—at the University of Cambridge, Harvard Law School, and the University of Toronto—that we might accomplish more by working together, across institutions and continents, than we could by going it alone. Since that time, the Oxford Internet Institute has joined our team, along with more than fifty researchers around the globe. Collaboration is not easy; we have had our share of struggles along the way to keep our partnership functioning effectively. Neither the analytical chapters of this volume nor the new global data set that we have compiled, on which our analytical work relies, would be possible without the partnership that joins us.
The insight that brought us together as collaborators was the sense that the architecture of the Internet was changing rapidly—and that these changes would have far-reaching implications. One of the forces at work is that states are using technical means, in addition to other kinds of controls, to block access to sites on the Web that their citizens seemed to wish to access. We set out, together, to enumerate these technical restrictions as they emerged, to track them over time and across states and regions, and to set them into a broader context. Though we have published many of our findings to our Web site (http://www.opennet.net) and will continue to do so, this book is our first effort to tie the many strands of our shared work together into a single fabric.
Just as we shared a sense of the importance of this area of inquiry, we realized also that this phenomenon could not properly be understood without bringing to bear a series of academic disciplines to analyze it and to set it into a fulsome context. The way we have approached our work, which begins with technical enumeration, required technologists among us to develop a new methodology for testing for choke points in the Internet. Political scientists and international relations theorists hold another piece of the puzzle, as do those with expertise in regional studies. Those of us who study and practice international law and how it relates to information technologies understand another part of the whole. Our shared view is that interdisciplinary research is the only way truly to understand our field in all its complexity.