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The appropriate role of place- and space-based metaphors for the Internet and its constituent nodes and networks is hotly contested. This essay seeks to provoke critical reflection on the implications of place- and space-based theories of cyberspace for the ongoing production of networked space more generally. It argues, first, that adherents of the cyberspace metaphor have been insufficiently sensitive to the ways in which theories of cyberspace as space themselves function as acts of social construction. Specifically, the leading theories all have deployed the metaphoric construct of cyberspace to situate cyberspace, explicitly or implicitly, as separate space. This denies all of the ways in which cyberspace operates as both extension and evolution of everyday spatial practice. Next, it argues that critics of the cyberspace metaphor have confused two senses of space and two senses of metaphor. The cyberspace metaphor does not refer to abstract, Cartesian space, but instead expresses an experienced spatiality mediated by embodied human cognition. Cyberspace in this sense is relative, mutable, and constituted via the interactions among practice, conceptualization, and representation. The insights drawn from this exercise suggest a very different way of understanding both the spatiality of cyberspace and its architectural and regulatory challenges. In particular, they suggest closer attention to three ongoing shifts: the emergence of a new sense of social space, which the author calls networked space; the interpenetration of embodied, formerly bounded space by networked space; and the ways in which these developments alter, instantiate, and disrupt geographies of power.

Publication Citation

107 Colum. L. Rev. 210-256 (2007)