Three concepts are necessary to study the Creative Commons and Pirate Parties as distinct types of transnational organizations acting within the field of IP policy reform: organization type (epistemic vs. socio-political), the political tactics of hacker transgression, and the idea of a field configuring event (Lampel and Meyer 2008) as the theoretical location where organizational and political tactics overlap to form flexible linkages of transnational cooperation.
Peter Haas (1992) describes transnational epistemic communities as a network of knowledge based experts across political borders that articulate shared notions of cause and effects, frame debate, propose policies, and identify negotiation points for politicians regarding certain complex problems. Haas (2007) also refers to non-state actors and social movements as recipients of the epistemic community’s efforts, but there has been little discussion of the role of epistemic communities might play beyond the early stages of rule setting or later as the epistemic community interacts with interrelated socio-political movements. While epistemic communities have been considered transnational from their beginning, social-political movements have been predominately studied in local or national contexts; however, the availability of electronic communication has facilitated an emergence of transnational social movements that are specifically designed to seize upon global political opportunities (Della Porta and Tarrow 2005). Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink (1998) examine social movements that entail networks of activists coalescing and operating across national borders to affect international organizations or state policies while Cohen and Kennedy (2000) consider the “planetization” of socio-political activities, which involves pooling resources across borders and negotiating coalitions between different social movements. A key feature of transnational social a movement is that they “mount common claims against opponents, authorities, or elites” premised on overlapping interests which tap “deep feelings of solidarity or identity” (Tarrow 1998). Mc. Adam et al. (1996) advance a broad set of factors that led to the emergence of socio-political movements and shape their development including: the structure of political opportunities or constrains they face, types of formal and informal organization available for mobilization, and the process of framing issues. “Framing,” in this context, is the process by which a movement’s meaning is negotiated into a definition capable of legitimizing, motivating, and collectivizing what Tilly (2004) calls a public display of “Worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitments.”
In aggregate, literatures suggest that epistemic communities and socio-political movements have a number of features in common while diverging in others. Both develop around a common reform project, something that people want to achieve, and shared beliefs motivate them to pursue this project. However, epistemic communities need to be limited in size and homogenous in composition with clear distinction between members and non-members. Social movements share much larger, more diverse in membership, and tend to have fuzzy ideological or compositional boundaries. Members of epistemic communities share a common knowledge base, causal beliefs, and sense of judgment where participants in social movements often diverge on causal explanations, knowledge, and evaluation.
Literature review suggests the need to study more systematically how epistemic communities and social movements develop and use their political tactics and organizational structures to intervene in a similar issue. Djelic and Quack (2003) show how various private and public actors concerned with a particular type of transnational activity can come together, in non-structured and un-formalized settings, to elaborate and agree on collective rules. Often, though, transnational communities pursue a regulatory project directed beyond their membership, which Djeleic and Sahlin-Andersson (2006) call “transnational communities of interest,” defined by a common mission for regulation combining features of an epistemic community coexisting with the claims of an interrelated social movements (Boli and Thomas 1999), yet discussions of how epistemic communities and social movements transnationalize are generally staged separately from one another. The ways in which the two actors co-evolve and interact have not been sufficiently studied; nor does there exist a sufficient understanding of what their specific contributions are.
The recent development of a field-configuring event (Lampel and Meyer 2008) in theoretical literature has emerged as a worthy analytical tool to explain epistemic and social movement cohabitation. FCEs are transorganizational structures (Anand and Watson 2004) that allow actors from diverse backgrounds to collide in the proliferation of ideas, thereby structuring the “issue field” (Hoffman 1999) in which they are embedded. The conflict and contestation among multiple groups in a shared “issue field,” such as intellectual property, invokes a discourse coalition resulting out of the “processes by which diverse actors (re)produce and transform discourses crosscutting an issue in question” (Hajer 1993; 2005) that shapes new institutions and policies dialectically (Hargrave and Van de Ven 2006).
The projects of Creative Commons and the Pirate Party presented in this paper provide an interesting case to investigate these theoretical claims because both groups are directly inspired by three types of hacker practice, or ‘genres of speech,’ identified by Coleman and Golub (2008) which I call invention, inversion, and idealization in the context of this argument. Invention, demonstrated by the German Pirate Party, is a form of transgression that responds to violations of individual privacy, autonomy, or freedom through the writing and share of software that addresses societal problems. The tactic of inversion, exhibited by Creative Commons, is a form of transgression that modulates existing legal systems for a movement’s own normative ends- such as the creation of a flexible copyright system to encourage free non-commercial sharing as a form of freedom. The tactic of idealization demonstrated by the Swedish Pirate Party, on the other hand, differs from invention and inversion because political issues such as liberty, privacy, and expression are treated as values that can never be achieved absolutely. Instead, tactics of idealization transgresses by publically dismissing legal justifications for coercion, even as the transgression identifies the desires for influence. Idealization itself assumes a form of artful self-expression, dependent upon the continuous process of electronic surveillance and evasion between regulators with the authority to erect barriers and those with equal knowledge and desire to see them disarmed.
The three distinct tactics of hacking are not only beneficial in moving beyond dichotomous representations of electronic transgression, but also offer a clearer account of the overlapping and often contradictory styles of intervention underpinning the Creative Commons’ project of copyright inversion and the divergent national trajectories of popular Pirate Party activism in Sweden and Germany.