James Grimmelmann’s discussion of the essential theory of generativity and its value as the ‘right theory’ (as opposed to its application, which he suggests needs more discussion for FOI 2.0) is a nice link to something I’m still quite curious about. Since The Future Of The Internet came out, a diverse bunch have been responding to it, and I think those responses are worth considering in this symposium, as a way of adding some further spice to our analysis of a fine book and particularly its role in debates about theory and ideology.
This can start at quite a simple level. I smiled when, in the wonderful bookshop in the Tate Modern gallery in London, I spotted a single paperback copy of The Future Of The Internet in the ‘Critical Theory’ section, completely surrounded by the many works of Slavoj Žižek. Of course, methods of classification in libraries and bookstores can be revealing (even when everything is miscellaneous), and that’s certainly the case here. What sort of impact is Zittrain’s work having outside of cyberlaw – and what does that say about the development of cyberlaw itself? Many will know of the preface to Paul Berman’s reader on Law & Society Approaches To Cyberspace (via SSRN), where he takes a three-generations approach, suggesting that Zittrain (through the 2006 Harvard Law Review generativity article), along with Benkler and others, are a third generation combining aspects of the first (mid-90s debates about exceptionalism and cyberlibertarianism) and the second (sceptical, sober, Lessig, Reidenberg). I wonder if we can now articulate a better version of the third generation in its own right, though – and whether Zittrain himself sees it that way.