Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Cyber as space, cyber as conversation: setting up virtual empires  


Salvatore Poier (University of Milan)

Paper short abstract:

The very use of the word "cyberspace" accustomed people to conceive the Net as a space. But the concept of space embeds property rights as well. This paper will explore the consequences of "cyberspace" in the copyright struggle over the Net presenting data collected in the recent Italian HackMeeting

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at the foundation of "cyberspace as space" as a conscious and aimed action set up by the emerging computer software industry during the 1980s and 1990s as a way to dominate an emergent (and very rich) market. There is in fact another way to conceive cyberspace, which was extremely powerful and shared by programmers during the 1970s. It was the conception of computer programs and protocols as a conversation, as a common language that allowed them to share information, help each other, give reciprocal (and free) advices. From that tradition derive those groups that are affirming the freedom of speech and information on the Internet nowadays. The struggle between people fighting for freedom from copyrights and from the mediation of big corporations (which, with the availability of cheap technology, are no longer necessary mediums) and copyright owners is grounded on a twofold conception of cyberspace as either space or conversation. In this struggle, big corporations are fighting for a privilege that no longer makes sense in the broadband connected world, where even teenagers can record and sell a song everywhere in the world from their own bedroom.

In order to set up an enterprise and ensure its competitiveness in an extremely fast market, corporations attempt to apply property rights also in cyberspace, which is grounded as common. This paper aims to underline the connection between the contested uses of the word "cyberspace", the claim of rights of properties, and privatization of public spaces in the Net giving account of ethnographic data collected in the most recent HackMeeting (Pisa, September 29-31, 2007).

Panel IW07
Empires and differences