Writing on the wall

Diagram from 'Virtual Walls'The ‘accepted manuscript’ of my forthcoming article, ‘Virtual walls: the law of pseudo-public spaces‘ is now available at my page on the University of Edinburgh website.  The article will be published next month (September 2012), in print and electronic forms, in the International Journal of Law in Context.  Download the PDF here.

The paper came about after I submitted my thesis, with me wanting to explore something I had hinted at – but not developed – in the middle chapters on different forms of control for online intermediaries.  The most difficult bit (which was, as often the case, very rewarding) was exploring the ‘law and geography’ literature.  In the article, I tackle different kinds of ‘place’ and ‘space’, material and virtual, and explore the similarities and lessons that emerge from joining them.  The focus is what I call the pseudo-public space, mapped (for illustration, not measurement) on the diagram (above), on the two axes (material/virtual and communal/private) with pseudo-public shaded in grey.  Many of them will be familiar to you.

I worked on this project in 2009/10 and presented it to a great audience in the ‘challenging ownership’ stream of the Socio-Legal Studies Association conference in spring 2010.  After that, there were revisions and various things relating to the publication process, but that’s now in the past and I’m delighted that it’s seeing the light of day.  There is much more that could be said on this topic and I will be revisiting it shortly, but in the meantime, here it is.  Formal abstract below.

Abstract: This article considers and assesses pseudo-public spaces, considering both physical and non-physical spaces. Presenting perspectives from law, geography, architecture and communication studies, it is argued that there are links between the conditions pertaining to shopping centres, redeveloped city centres, Internet service providers and websites. Particular attention is paid to unfulfilled claims regarding the promise of new spaces, or inconsistencies as between the form and substance of a given space. The owners of pseudo-public physical spaces use legal tools such as the right to exclude from private property, while the owners of pseudo-public virtual spaces often base the relationship with a user on contractual agreements; in both cases, concepts of fundamental rights are also affected, if not often vindicated. The consequences of these approaches are assessed, drawing on critical legal geography and the history of ‘common carriers’ and other forms of regulation.

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