Climbing the Walls of Your Electronic Cage

Space. The final frontier. Not so, say the doyennes of the firstgeneration Internet community, who view themselves as the new frontiersmen and women staking out a previously unexplored territory – cyberspace. Numerous metaphors in the Internet literature picture cyberspace as a new, previously unexplored domain. Parallels are frequently drawn to the American colonies, the Western frontier, or outer space. In Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lawrence Lessig says, “Cyberspace is a place. People live there.” In this place, we will build a “new society” (p. 4). A sense of this background is helpful in appraising Lessig’s claims. He argues that “we” need a “constitution” for cyberspace. This seems reasonable, a new social compact for a new society. While Lessig has his legal training in the U.S. system, as a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and a recognized American constitutional law scholar, in Code, he uses the word “constitution” in its British rather than its American sense. For the British, a constitution is an unwritten common understanding about fundamental social values and social practices that merits institutional protection from the vicissitudes of ordinary poiitics. The purview of Lessig’s project, then, is constitutional theory understood as the theory of social order, a broader inquiry than the top-down, text-based American constitutional theory.