Table of Contents

Comment Icon0 While scholars deliberate on the enduring question of the regulability of the Internet, a way to better understand how Internet control could work, particularly in China, would be to employ Lawrence Lessig’s “Pathetic Dot” model, as seen in his 1999 book entitled Code and other Laws of Cyberspace. By the term cyberspace, we mean the total inter-connectedness of human beings through computers and telecommunication without regard to physical geography. William Gibson is often credited with popularizing the term cyberspace by using it in his 1984 novel, Neuromancer.

Comment Icon0 Most people believe that the Internet cannot be regulated due to its very nature of being open and free. In fact, John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” (1996) to demonstrate how netizens had wanted the Internet to be free of government control. Netizens refer to “people who care about Usenet and the bigger Net and work towards building the cooperative and collective nature which benefits the larger world” (DeLoach, 1997). Lessig argued that this belief was wrong as cyberspace in actuality has no real nature, only code, which is the hardware and software that it is composed of. Cyberspace is a mere construct of man and it can be designed as a place of freedom as it originally is, or a place of intense oppression.

Comment Icon0 Lessig also observed that cyberspace was changing also known asll the times. For instance, commerce is shaping cyberspace into a space of tighter regulation. Websites such as rely on a secured e-commerce system in order to conduct business in cyberspace. These systems have defined rules that we have to adhere to in order to get what we need. Any attempt to exploit this system would put the individual under the penalties of laws in the physical world. Lessig had argued that in such cases, tight control in cyberspace could rival that of the physical world.

Comment Icon0 With these points, Lessig proved that the fate of cyberspace was not set in stone. In fact, he explained that people have a choice as to what kind of cyberspace they want and what sort of freedom to go along with it. These choices are determined by the architecture we decide to have, which is in turn constructed by the code that we give importance to. In cyberspace, it is this code which is significantly equivalent to the laws that we pass in the real world.

The Pathetic Dot Model
Figure 4: The Pathetic Dot model as seen in Lawrence Lessig’s Code and other laws of cyberspace (1999)

Comment Icon0 As seen in figure 4, each oval represents one kind of constraint operating on the pathetic dot in the center. Each constraint imposes a different kind of cost on the dot for engaging in the relevant behavior. These constraints are distinct, yet relatively interdependent. Norms constrain through the stigma that a community imposes; markets constrain through the price that they exact; architectures constrain through the physical burdens they impose; and laws constrains through the punishment it threatens. In order to study the regulation of the Internet in China, we will look for these four types of constraint, namely Norms, Markets, Architecture and Law.

Chapter 3.2 – Regulability of the Internet


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