The study of Cyberspace, from Nicolas Negroponte (1995) to Lawrence Lessig (2006) to Rebecca MacKinnon (2012), has encouraged a view of it as a separate domain, including as a place in itself characterized by specific, even unique, types of behavior. The superficial rhetoric of the “cyber” and the “real” is understandable, and there is undoubtedly some value as a point of departure in this schema. However, notwithstanding that many attempts to blur the distinction are frequently plagued with naïve cyberutopian theory or zealous attempts to debunk it (Morozov 2011), the dividing line does nonetheless break down inter alia when individuals start to be criminalized for those novel gestures or face other serious consequences resulting there from. Furthermore, while the Internet is, at least at first glance, spatially global, and represents a great hope for genuine cosmopolitanism, geographical and socio-economic inequalities in its availability again remind us that it is far from being some discreet “other” domain. This talk will examine some of the pressing philosophical and practical problems inherent in the separation of our lives and obligations into networked “space” and physical space and attempt to arrive at a working problematisation of that distinction.
This lecture was given within the framework of the 2012 School of Critical Theory organized by the Centre for the Humanities in Utrecht. The programme was titled ‘Risk Societies and Cosmopolitanism’, and offered trans-national and interdisciplinary approaches drawn from the humanities, social sciences, law, philosophy and international relations. Its focus on the development of cross-national European perspectives in these areas, allows for the innovative use of key notions of cosmopolitanism across different national, cultural and disciplinary traditions. The school consisted of three clusters, which focused on Cosmopolitanism and risk society, Cosmopolitanism and the social responsibility, and Cosmopolitanism and the civic duty of Digital Media.