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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Connecting dots....

As I've mentioned somewhere "way back when" in this (now increasingly intermittent) blogging, I tend to be engaged in reading two books on any one day -- one in the early morning while I am "working out" on a stationary machine at the gym (actually 'gyms', but that is another story) and another at various points of the day (when I have time to sit and read). In between I might pick up another of my accumulated backlist off the stacks found on the floors next to my desk or near my bed -- just to see if that title might be "worth a go" at this time (typically it is back on the stack for another year or so). But generally I am in two-at-a-time mode.

Today they are Lawrence Lessig's CODE AND OTHER LAWS OF CYBERSPACE and Nikolas Rose's POWERS OF FREEDOM.


Given my current preoccupation with a writing project on accountability (actually, I am always so preoccupied, but usually not so actively), it is not surprising that I am constantly engaged in a "connect the dots" exercise -- that is, relating the arguments of each author to the other even though they are focused on distinct topics. In this case, the connections are somewhat clear, for both authors are interested in the governing of "spaces", cyber for Lessig and political for Rose. What is intriguing this time are the missing dots that really link these works together -- Foucault and Hobbes.

Rose's work is explicitly Foucaultian, although in an intentionally cautious way for while he is clearly familiar with the theoretical constructions developed and preferred by the other followers of Foucault, his own work is attempting to be more "empirical" (in a Deleuzian sense that I am still trying to grasp). At the moment I am on second (and sometimes third) reading of his conceptual chapters, for I find in them a basic analytic approach that is very inviting for my own work.

Lessig's work, in contrast, has no explicit ties to any theory or theorist, but I see an implicit connection to Hobbes and Locke in his perspective. One cannot avoid seeing the pre-regulated cyberspace as a state of nature, although this one seems more Lockean -- or even Rousseauian -- than Hobbesian in the degree of harmonious relations that seems to characterize the virtual world of MOOS, etc. Whatever the condition of the un-regulated cyberspace, however, the fact is that its "architecture" renders it "regulable" (two of his favorite concepts), and that such regulation is inevitable. The question is whether the government or commercial interests will do the regulating, and what limits can (and will) be established on that regulation. In short, what degrees of freedom will remain in a regulated cyberspace. Here is where the two works link up, and where both social contract liberals and Foucault (and their respective ilk) meet up....

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