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Configuring the Networked Self

Configuring the Networked Self

Julie E. Cohen
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Configuring the Networked Self
    Book Description:

    The legal and technical rules governing flows of information are out of balance, argues Julie E. Cohen in this original analysis of information law and policy. Flows of cultural and technical information are overly restricted, while flows of personal information often are not restricted at all. The author investigates the institutional forces shaping the emerging information society and the contradictions between those forces and the ways that people use information and information technologies in their everyday lives. She then proposes legal principles to ensure that people have ample room for cultural and material participation as well as greater control over the boundary conditions that govern flows of information to, from, and about them.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17793-0
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)

    • CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Imagining the Networked Information Society
      (pp. 3-31)

      Over the last two decades, the rapid evolution of networked information and communication technologies has catalyzed equally rapid change in the organization of economic and social activity. Spurred by the perceived economic opportunities and threats that new digital technologies create, powerful actors have endeavored to define and channel flows of information in ways that serve their goals. Those efforts have led to prolonged and often bitter struggles over the content of law, the design of technology, the structure of information markets, and the ethics of information use. In addition, they have stimulated heated scholarly and policy debates about what a...

    • CHAPTER 2 From the Virtual to the Ordinary: Networked Space, Networked Bodies, and the Play of Everyday Practice
      (pp. 32-58)

      Before exploring the questions about creativity, subjectivity, and sociotechnical ordering raised in Chapter 1, it is useful to establish a general framework for those inquiries. I have promised an account of the “networked self,” related in some way to something called the “play of everyday practice.” Those terms are not usual in legal scholarship about information policy. For most legal scholars, the most salient aspect of the networked information society is the network itself and the new patterns of cultural participation that it enables. As we have seen, legal scholars have used theoretical frameworks derived from liberal political theory—most...


    • CHAPTER 3 Copyright, Creativity, and Cultural Progress
      (pp. 61-79)

      Both in the U.S. and globally, the past few decades have witnessed a significant expansion of legally-conferred control over copyrighted content. Copyright attaches to a bewildering variety of human creations, ranging from novels and paintings to blog posts and snapshots. In the wake of recent term extensions, copyright also lasts longer than ever before. The rights conferred by copyright have become inexorably broader, encompassing nearly all secondary uses and adaptations of copyrighted content. Meanwhile, the exceptions and limitations to copyright that previously existed within national laws have been progressively narrowed.

      One especially noteworthy casualty of copyright expansion is copyright’s traditional...

    • CHAPTER 4 Decentering Creativity
      (pp. 80-104)

      Conceptualizing copyright’s role in processes of cultural development requires a model of creativity that faces outward: that recognizes the inseparable relationship between authorship and use of cultural works. Such a model must acknowledge the multiple ways in which users and user-authors interact with cultural works, and must recognize that those interactions cannot be explained by telling a story about linear, value-neutral progress, the separability of idea and expression, and the continuous availability of the public domain.

      This chapter develops an account of creativity and cultural progress as emergent properties of social and cultural systems. Within pre existing cultural networks, individuals...


    • CHAPTER 5 Privacy, Autonomy, and Information
      (pp. 107-126)

      In the last two decades, the environmental and social determinants of privacy have undergone rapid change. The amount of information collected about both individuals and social groups has grown exponentially and covers an astonishing range of subject matter, from purchasing history to browsing behavior to intellectual preferences to genetic predispositions. This information lasts longer and travels farther than ever before; it is stored in digital databases, exchanged in markets, and “mined” by both government and private actors for insights into individual and group behavior. The increase in data-processing activity coincides with the rapid spread of identity-linked authentication regimes for controlling...

    • CHAPTER 6 Reimagining Privacy
      (pp. 127-152)

      As we saw in Chapter 5, a viable understanding of privacy for the networked information society must consider the complexities of the self-society relation and must confront the assumptions that underlie the information-processing imperative—the culturally determined urge to collect more and more information. At the same time, it must avoid conceiving of either subjectivity or privacy in purely informational terms; both subjectivity and privacy have important spatial and material dimensions. Building on those insights, this chapter develops an alternative account of privacy interests and harms that is based on the emergent, relational development of subjectivity within social spaces that...


    • CHAPTER 7 ʺPiracy,ʺ ʺSecurity,ʺ and Architectures of Control
      (pp. 155-186)

      The changes produced by the ongoing expansion of copyright and the broadening and deepening of surveillance are not just legal changes. The perceived imperatives of piracy and security are catalyzing major realignments in the structure of the networked information society. In an effort to control flows of unauthorized information, the major copyright industries have pursued a range of strategies designed to distribute copyright enforcement functions across a wide range of actors and to embed those functions within communication networks, protocols, and devices. Meanwhile, in an effort to provide security against a variety of perceived threats, ranging from terrorism to fraud...

    • CHAPTER 8 Rethinking ʺUnauthorized Accessʺ
      (pp. 187-220)

      As we saw in Chapter 7, institutional and technological changes driven by the perceived imperatives of piracy and security are reshaping the networked information environment, leading to the emergence of architectures of control. Efforts to develop a framework for determining whether and how law should concern itself with these developments have been only partly successful, for reasons that reflect the analytical limitations of the model of regulation developed inCode. Meanwhile, the everyday practice of individuals and communities in the networked information society follows its own rhythms. The mismatch between institutional regimes organized around architectures of control and the tactical...


    • CHAPTER 9 The Structural Conditions of Human Flourishing
      (pp. 223-266)

      Within U.S. legal and policy circles, the discourse of information-policy reform has been organized principally around the themes of access to knowledge and network neutrality. Global discourses of information-policy reform are organized around parallel themes of access and connectivity. Each of those themes has contributed powerful insights to our understanding of the principles that should inform information law and policy. Human flourishing requires not only physical well-being but also psychological and social well-being, including the capacity for cultural and political participation. The access-to-knowledge movement reminds us that enjoying the latter goods requires meaningful access to the resources of a common...

  9. CHAPTER 10 Conclusion: Putting Cultural Environmentalism into Practice
    (pp. 267-272)

    The premise of this book has been that meaningful reform in information law and information policy requires a deep and fundamental rethinking of the most basic assumptions on which they are founded. Properly understood, “cultural environmentalism” requires engagement with culture in all its messy, materially embedded heterogeneity, and demands that we learn to value privacy as well as access and interstitial complexity as well as seamless rationalization. Put differently, it requires change in a culture that thinks culture and materiality unimportant and that treats gaps in market and informational frameworks as imperfections to be eliminated. That argument, though, suggests a...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 273-296)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-324)
  12. Index
    (pp. 325-337)