Fabio Cristiano (@cristiano_fab) is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs at Leiden University. Fabio’s research and teaching broadly lies at the intersection of critical security studies and international relations theory, with a specific interest for automation, autonomy, and international norms in the context of cyber and information warfare. Other areas of interest include cyber diplomacy, digital rights, blockchain technology, and digital pedagogy. Fabio has published on a wide array of topics, such as national cybersecurity policies, cyberwar game simulations, internet access as human right, augmented reality videogames, cyborg theory, aesthetics by algorithms, and more.
Embracing the ‘adversarial cyberspace’: agonistic cyber norms for antagonistic cyber conflicts
This article introduces agonistic cyber norms as novel perspective and grammar for international cooperation on cyber security. Academic and diplomatic narratives commonly look at the ‘adversarial cyberspace’ as a condition to surpass through responsible state behaviour and towards the eradication of (cyber) conflicts. According to an agonistic perspective, however, conflicts are ineluctable and the category of the ‘adversary’ is central to democratic politics. Contrarily to the ‘enemy’, the concept of adversary defines an opponent that, while sharing a common allegiance to fundamental norms, disagrees on their interpretation. This article analyzes how countries and non-state actors articulate their antagonisms during the ongoing negotiations at the United Nations Open-Ended Working Group. In light of these, it argues that an agonistic perspective on cyber norms is required in order a) to recalibrate negotiations toward more realistic objectives; b) to consider alternative deliberation routes beyond consensus; and c) to promote pluralism and inclusiveness through constructive contestation.