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Nodes and gravity in virtual space

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In 1996 John Perry Barlow made his now infamous Declaration of Independence for Cyberspace. In this the cyberlibertarian ethos was laid out: We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts. Since that date much has changed. The work of a number of US cyberpaternalist philosophers such as Jonathan Zittrain, Jack Goldsmith, Joel Reidenberg, Yochai Benkler and most famously Lawrence Lessig has illustrated the fundamental weaknesses in Barlow s (and therefore cyberlibertarianism s) basic premises. This does not mean though that because one can be controlled in cyberspace, one ought to be controlled or even one will be controlled. The distinction is between the ability to control and the effectiveness and legitimacy of control mechanisms. It is this distinction which is at the heart of network communitarianism and which is likely to come more to the fore as the network is replaced with the cloud, always on data, augmented reality and mobile data communications. The key issue for regulators now is the strength of the network and the ability of regulators to control within the network. Building upon previous regulatory designs of the author and taking account of nodal governance theory as developed by Clifford Shearing and Julia Black, this paper aims to demonstrate that the key to building effective and legitimate regulation in the virtual space is to recognise and harness key nodal connections and key nodes themselves. It will demonstrate how the cybercommunity functions as both a community and a group of individual nodes and will seek to develop a theory of regulatory gravity in which the relative communicative power of various nodes may be modelled to take account of the effectiveness and legitimacy of a regulatory intervention.

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