You will produce a scholarly paper. It must discuss in terms of the themes of this course and make reference to at least two course readings. In addition, you may wish to discuss material taken from additional readings outside the required and recommend list. The paper will be related to Virtual Reality and offer an answer to one of the following questions:
What is the value of the “Digital Humanities” and how does VR contribute?
How does VR have a profound impact on any/all of: Knowledge, Work, Disciplines, Research?
What does VR enable and what does VR constrain?
What is our freedom and responsibility online? Do the same rules and values apply to VR?
Being Digital Citizens
Being Digital Citizens
Engin Isin and Evelyn Ruppert
London • New York
Published by Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd.
Unit A, Whitacre Mews, 26-34 Stannary Street, London SE11 4AB
Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd. is an affiliate of Rowman & Littlefield
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706, USA
With additional offices in Boulder, New York, Toronto (Canada), and London (UK)
Copyright © 2015 by Engin F. Isin and Evelyn S. Ruppert
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems,
without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN: HB 978-1-7834-8055-5
ISBN: PB 978-1-7834-8056-2
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Isin, Engin F. (Engin Fahri), 1959–
Being digital citizens / Engin Isin and Evelyn Ruppert.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-78348-055-5 (cloth : alk. paper)—ISBN 978-1-78348-056-2 (pbk. : alk. paper)—ISBN 978-1-78348-057-9 (electronic)
1. Internet in public administration. 2. Internet—Political aspects. I. Title.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed
Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.
Printed in the United States of America
We are grateful to Marianne Franklin, Matthew Fuller, and Adrian Mackenzie, who read an earlier version of the manuscript and
provided brilliantly incisive comments that can only be made by those who truly understand the help needed during the last stages of
writing a book. We are also thankful for the insightful comments of four anonymous reviewers. Anna Reeve of Rowman & Littlefield
International spurred the idea for this book and has been a superb editor. We gratefully acknowledge her attentiveness and
responsiveness, which made publishing this book a pleasurable experience. We also acknowledge that the research leading to this
book was supported by funding from the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Research Grant 249379 (Isin) and
Consolidator Grant 615588 (Ruppert).
Doing Things with Words and
Saying Words with Things
That things we say and do through the Internet have permeated our lives in unprecedented ways is now a cliché that needs not
repeating. That this has happened practically throughout the world despite a digital divide is also accepted. That both corporations
and states have become heavily invested in harvesting, assembling, and storing data—for profits or security—about things we say and
do through the Internet is practically the strongest evidence of the significance attached to our connected digital lives. That for many
people Aaron Swartz, Anonymous, DDoS, Edward Snowden, GCHQ, Julian Assange, LulzSec, NSA, Pirate Bay, PRISM, or
WikiLeaks hardly require introduction is yet further evidence. That presidents and footballers tweet, hackers leak nude photos, and
murderers and advertisers use Facebook or that people post their sex acts are not so controversial as just recognizable events of our
times. That Airbnb disrupts the hospitality industry or Uber the taxi industry is taken for granted. It certainly feels like saying and doing
things through the Internet has become an everyday experience with dangerous possibilities.
The worldwide debate over the social, economic, and cultural consequences of digital life connected to the Internet has been in
full swing for about twenty years now. Early and notable books such as Sherry Turkle’s Life on the Screen (1995) and Nicholas
Negroponte’s Being Digital (1995) were by and large celebrations of digital lives being connected to the Internet and enabling people
to do things through it. Yet within twenty years the mood has decisively changed. Evgeny Morozov’s The Net Delusion (2011),
Turkle’s own Alone Together (2011), or Jamie Bartlett’s The Dark Net (2014) strike much more sombre, if not worried, moods. While
Morozov draws attention to the consequences of giving up data in return for so-called free services, Turkle draws attention to how
people are getting lost in their devices. Bartlett draws attention to what is happening in certain areas of the Internet when pushed
underground (removed from access via search engines) and thus giving rise to new forms of vigilantism and extremism. Perhaps the
spying and snooping by corporations and states into what people say and do through the Internet has become a watershed event.
Seen from another angle, novels such as William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) and Dave Eggers’s The Circle (2013) practically
bookmark an era. While Gibson projects an experimental and explorative, if not separate and independent, cyberspace, almost like a
frontier, Eggers announces the arrival of the guardians at the gates of the frontier. As Ronald Deibert recently suggested, while the
Internet used to be characterized as a network of networks it is perhaps more appropriate now to see it as a network of filters and
chokepoints. The struggle over the things we say and do through the Internet is now a political struggle of our times, and so is the
If indeed what we are saying and doing through the Internet is dramatically changing political life, what then of the subjects of
politics? If the Internet—or, more precisely, how we are increasingly acting through the Internet—is changing our political subjectivity,
what do we think about the way in which we understand ourselves as political subjects, subjects who have rights to speech, access,
and privacy, rights that constitute us as political, as beings with responsibilities and obligations? Like those who approach the study of
the Internet as remaking social networks, identities, subjectivities, or human-technology interactions, we are interested in how the
Internet involves the refashioning of relations not only between people but between people and vast arrangements of technologies
and conventions that have become part of everyday language, such as tweeting, messaging, friending, emailing, blogging, sharing,
and so on. We are specifically interested in the consequences of these conventions for political life, which we think is being
reconfigured in novel ways. Moreover, with the development of the Internet of things—our phones, watches, dishwashers, fridges,
cars, and many other devices being always already connected to the Internet—we not only do things with words but also do words
with things. (We are going to elaborate on this awkward but necessary phrase ‘saying and doing things through the Internet’ and its
two sides, ‘doing things with words’ and ‘saying words with things,’ in chapters 2 and 3 when we discuss the figures of the citizen and
cyberspace and then speech acts and digital acts.) These connected devices generate enormous volumes of data about our
movements, locations, activities, interests, encounters, and private and public relationships through which we become data subjects.
When joined up with other data collected by private or public authorities concerning our taxes, health, passport, travel, and finance, the
data profiles that can be compiled about people is staggering. Who owns the data generated by the digital traces of people and their
devices? The Internet has not only permeated our social, cultural, and economic lives but also resignified political life by creating an
interconnected web of relations among people and things. It has influenced almost every aspect of politics, and its presence in politics
is ubiquitous. It has created new kinds of politics where there is ostensibly no previous equivalent. It has also given rise to new
subjects of politics such as Anonymous, cypherpunks, hacktivists, and whistle-blowers.
Along with these political subjects, a new designation has also emerged: digital citizens. Subjects such as citizen journalists,
citizen artists, citizen scientists, citizen philanthropists, and citizen prosecutors have variously accompanied it. Going back to the
euphoric years of the 1990s, Jon Katz introduced the term to describe generally the kinds of Americans who were active on the
Internet. For Katz, people were inventing new ways of conducting themselves politically on the Internet and were transcending the
straitjacket of at least American electoral politics caught, as it were, between conventional Democratic versus Republican party
politics. Considering this as the birth of a new political subjectivity entirely owing to the Internet, Katz thought that although digital
citizens were libertarian, they were neither alienated nor isolated. Rather, digital citizens were a political movement struggling to come
together with a common cause mobilized by values of sharing, prosperity, exchange, knowledge, and openness. Katz’s optimism
has not been entirely borne out by our subsequent (and international) experience. A recent website, for example, calling on people
to become digital citizens seems to be more about personal safety and personal security than Katz’s libertarian political subjects
dedicated to openness and sharing. It promises, for example, that through becoming digital citizens you will ‘learn how to protect
yourself and your family. Be a voice for real solutions. Help us take our online neighbourhood back from the criminals and predators.’
As this signals, these different imaginaries of being or becoming digital citizens are contested. This contestation is not entirely a
product of the Internet, as we shall see later, and perhaps expresses the paradox of the late modern citizen with conflicting and
ambiguous callings. The question that we face in relation to this contestation or struggle as both an object of theorizing and of
politics is: What kind of political subject, if not a citizen, is coming into being through the Internet? What are the callings that mobilize
people with ever more force to become digital citizens, and what are the closings that generate dread and motivate them to withdraw?
In posing these questions our focus is thus on the political subject that arises from acting through the Internet. To state from the
outset, we understand the political subject not as a coherent and unified being but as a composite of multiple subjectivities that
emerge from different situations and relations. We ask how it is possible for political subjects to make rights claims about how their
digital lives are configured, regulated, and organized by dispersed arrangements of numerous people and things such as corporations
and states but also software and devices as well as people such as programmers and regulators. This question concerns not only by
now well-known activists who are mostly male and Euro-American but also the innumerable and often anonymous subjects whose
everyday acts through the Internet make claims to its workings and rules. And as we have already suggested in the questions raised
above, how these everyday acts come to produce a political subjectivity that we call digital citizens is our central concern. We have
already implied two key ideas of this book; let us now specify them.
First, by bringing the political subject to the centre of concern, we interfere with determinist analyses of the Internet and hyperbolic
assertions about its impact that imagine subjects as passive data subjects. Instead, we attend to how political subjectivities are always
performed in relation to sociotechnical arrangements to then think about how they are brought into being through the Internet. We
also interfere with libertarian analyses of the Internet and their hyperbolic assertions of sovereign subjects. We contend that if we shift
our analysis from how we are being ‘controlled’ (as both determinist and libertarian views agree) to the complexities of ‘acting’—by
foregrounding citizen subjects not in isolation but in relation to the arrangements of which they are a part—we can identify ways of
being not simply obedient and submissive but also subversive. While usually reserved for high-profile hacktivists and whistle-blowers,
we ask, how do subjects act in ways that transgress the expectations of and go beyond specific conventions and in doing so make
rights claims about how to conduct themselves as digital citizens? Second, by focusing on how digital citizens make rights claims
through the Internet, we ask, how are their relations mediated, regulated, and monitored, and how is knowledge generated, ordered,
and disseminated through the Internet? We consider both of these concerns as objects of struggle and ones through which we might
identify how we otherwise conduct ourselves as digital citizens when we engage with others and act through the Internet.
When the sociotechnical arrangements and subjects that make up the Internet traverse not only national borders but also legal
orders, both borders and orders become permeable and reinforced simultaneously. The implications of this are evident in struggles
over the Internet; from Anonymous to WikiLeaks, from activists to security professionals alike, acts can and do cut across national
borders and multiple legal orders. Some of the Internet’s novel aspects, such as the speed and reach of interactions and
transactions, have spurred concerns about high-frequency trading, the hacking of financial and banking services, state and corporate
spying on citizens, deliberate cross-border virus attacks, covert cyberwars among states, and the rise of often anonymous racism,
xenophobia, and homophobia along with cyberbullying and issues of freedom of speech. These are just a few prominent issues of
how technical, material, cultural, ethical, and political matters collide and collude across multiple and overlapping orders. The
challenge we set for ourselves in this book is to find ways of investigating how people enact themselves as citizens by negotiating
their rights such as privacy, access, openness, and innovation and their rights concerning data. We investigate these rights not in
terms of their substance but in relation to who the subject is of these rights, or more precisely, who is constituting themselves as
political subjects of these rights by saying and doing things—and thus making rights claims—through the Internet.
BETWEEN DIGITAL LIFE AND POLITICAL LIFE
So far there has been a remarkably limited discussion, let alone theorization, of the relationship between citizens and the Internet. It
has been limited in two senses. First, discussions of the relationship have focused on issues concerning the provision and delivery of
public services through the Internet, variously described as e-government and measured by indicators such as the United Nations egovernment readiness index or other indices and metrics. This is also the case for studies of government transparency and citizen
rights to open data that have lead to initiatives such as the G8 Open Data Charter. Although open data and the provision and
delivery of public services through the Internet are important aspects of contemporary citizenship, to limit citizenship to these meanings
is obviously too narrow for understanding various broader, if not fundamental, issues we have just mentioned. Second, those who
consider such broad issues that we discuss under the rubric of ‘digital citizens’ seem to overlook how citizenship itself in contemporary
societies is undergoing fundamental changes that are related to a series of other transformations similar to and different from those
concerning the Internet. The issues of transnational mobility and migrations, resurgence of nationalism, assertions of sovereignty,
internationalization of capital, the decline of the social state, and the rise of neoliberalism are all forcing the boundaries of citizenship
as an issue of concern. Just as the extensity of the Internet enables digital life to flow across state regulatory jurisdictions, so too do the
rights claims of citizens increasingly traverse multiple legal orders.
To an extent, these issues are now being addressed in the field of digital studies. Questions concerning who shapes the
Internet, who uses it, and who shapes law and regulation regarding it are now being debated. It is well recognized that digital studies
concerns itself with not only underlying digital technologies but how these technologies are embedded in sociotechnical arrangements
and subjects who shape these arrangements both as users and producers. More significantly, digital studies spans both social
sciences and humanities as well as science and technology studies and asks questions concerning the relation of digital technologies
to social and cultural change. For Arthur and Marilouise Kroker especially, critical digital studies revisits the question concerning
technology and its embodiment in political, social, and cultural lives. For Kroker and Kroker ‘What is truly critical about critical digital
studies is the emphasis on not only understanding the dominant codes of technology, politics, and culture in the digital era but also on
digital studies that excel in breaking the codes and in introducing new visions of the digital future by disrupting the codes, disturbing
boundaries, and adding uncertainty to established patterns of (code) behaviour.’  As we shall see in chapter 6, breaking codes or
conventions is an essential aspect of the performativity of digital acts, and hence being critical is inherent in a performative
understanding of acts.
If indeed we want to engage with critical digital studies concerning the connectivity of people and things through the Internet, our
premise is that even in critical digital studies that explore ‘the politics of the Internet’, the figure of the citizen makes a faint appearance.
As we explain below, we do not mean that either the term ‘citizens’ or ‘citizenship’ is absent from digital studies. On the contrary, since
the 1990s, the terms ‘citizens’ and ‘citizenship’ have been used to describe politics of and on the Internet. The question is, rather,
concerned with the faint appearance of the figure of the citizen as a subject making rights claims. A brief survey of exceptions to this
absence will help us explain what we mean by this.
An early work by Kevin Hill and John Hughes, Cyberpolitics: Citizen Activism in the Age of the Internet (1998), explores the role
and impact of the Internet on democratic politics in America. Hill and Hughes conclude that ‘politics on the Internet is dominated by
a relatively savvy, conservative minority’, and perhaps for this reason, ‘the Internet is not going to radically change politics’. More
recently, R. J. Maratea’s The Politics of the Internet: Political Claims-Making in Cyberspace and Its Effect on Modern Political Activism
(2013) also explores the politics of making claims in cyberspace. Maratea argues that ‘the ability to publicize claims and have them
disperse through cyberspace does not guarantee that they will connect with prospective supporters, because the Internet has
increased audience fragmentation’. Yet for Maratea it is clear that the increased state surveillance of the Internet has shown that
those with power will use Internet technologies ‘to expand social control and disseminate propaganda’. What is important to
recognize is that although the Internet may not have changed politics radically in the fifteen years that separate these two studies, it
has radically changed the meaning and function of being citizens with the rise of both corporate and state surveillance.
It is also in those fifteen years that several studies have demonstrated that gradually, if not quite significantly, what it means to be
a citizen on the Internet has changed. This includes studies that continue to monitor and assess the impact of the Internet on citizen
politics, especially in the United States and United Kingdom, as illustrated in studies of online conduct, participation, and
engagement. Karen Mossberger, Caroline Tolbert, and Ramona McNeal, for example, demonstrate in Digital Citizenship: The
Internet, Society, and Participation (2008) how online participation in society has become a necessary element of democratic
citizenship. By defining ‘digital citizens’ as ‘those who use the internet regularly and effectively—that is on a daily basis’, they have
shown how inclusion in prevailing forms of communication have affected the ability to participate as democratic citizens. Stephen
Coleman and Jay Blumler in The Internet and Democratic Citizenship: Theory, Practice and Policy (2009) have shown that the Internet
has a huge potential to deepen democratic citizenship when invested by imaginative governments. Phillip Howard, by contrast, has
shown in New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen (2006) how information technologies are used in producing a managed
These studies have also started to expand in scope beyond the United States and United Kingdom to include international
developments. In part, this reflects the increased involvement in the politics of the Internet of social groups such as youth, women,
and minorities whose actions increasingly cross national borders and legal orders and have opened up various meanings and
functions of being citizens. Mark Poster, for example, argues that these involvements are giving rise to new political movements in
cyberspace whose political subjects are not citizens, understood as members of nation-states, but instead netizens. By using the
term ‘digital citizenship’ as a heuristic concept, Nick Couldry and his colleagues also illustrate how digital infrastructures understood
as social relations and practices are contributing to the emergence of a civic culture as a condition of citizenship. Yet, they argue, it
is not quite clear what kinds of subjects are emerging from these digital citizenship practices.
We argue that despite this proliferation of the term ‘citizen’ the figure of the citizen is lost in digital studies by both its presence and
absence. When it is present, the figure of the citizen appears as a recipient of rights, a figure that already exists, and whose conduct
already pertains to good civic behaviour such as participation. The citizen, it is observed, engages (or fails to), participates (or fails to),
and receives (or fails to) rights and entitlements. The figure, then, is largely an already present figure or a problem figure. To put it
differently, the figure of the citizen is a problem of government: how to engage, cajole, coerce, incite, invite, or broadly encourage it to
inhabit forms of conduct that are already deemed to be appropriate to being a citizen. What is lost here is the figure of the citizen as an
embodied subject of experience who acts through the Internet for making rights claims. We will further elaborate on this subject of
making rights claims, but the figure of the citizen that we imagine is not merely a bearer or recipient of rights that already exist but one
whose activism involves making claims to rights that may or may not exist.
The figure of the citizen is also lost in description of the experiences of subjects who act through the Internet. This absence is
evinced by the fact that the figure of the citizen is rarely, if ever, used to describe the acts of crypto-anarchists, cyberactivists,
cypherpunks, hackers, hacktivists, whistle-blowers, and other political figures of cyberspace. It sounds almost outrageous if not
perverse to call the political heroes of cyberspace as citizen subjects since the figure of the citizen seems to betray their originality,
rebelliousness, and vanguardism, if not their cosmopolitanism. Yet the irony here is that this is exactly the figure of the citizen we
inherit as a figure who makes rights claims. It is that figure that has been betrayed and shorn of all its radicality in the contemporary
politics of the Internet. Instead, and more recently, the figure of the citizen is being lost to the figure of the human as recent
developments in corporate and state data snooping and spying have exacerbated. As Rikke Jørgensen has documented,
increasingly, rights to privacy, access, and protection are solely articulated as human rights arguments. There are, of course,
exceptions to this, perhaps most famously Edward Snowden’s pseudonym Citizenfour and scholars such as Timothy Luke and Mark
Poster. Nevertheless, the figure of the citizen is dimly visible and instead is either a problem subject of government or a problem
subject of human rights.
The situation in citizenship studies is the opposite of digital studies. It is the figure of cyberspace that is practically lost in
citizenship studies. We also observe cyberspace in relation to both its presence and absence. When the figure of cyberspace is
present, it often refers to a nebulous space, often separate if not independent of physical space and one to which only some people
belong. There is a certain mysticism that surrounds the figure. Its absence is often evinced during major political events such as
Occupy Wall Street, los indignados of 15M, or Arab uprisings by the difficulty of accounting for the role of digital media in them. But
the figure of cyberspace is also absent in citizenship studies as scholars have yet to find a way to conceive of the figure of the citizen
beyond its modern configuration as a member of the nation-state. Consequently, when the acts of subjects traverse so many borders
and involve a multiplicity of legal orders, identifying this political subject as a citizen becomes a fundamental challenge. So far,
describing this traversing political subject as a global citizen or cosmopolitan citizen has proved difficult if not contentious.
To summarize, when we say that the figure of the citizen is lost in digital studies and that the figure of cyberspace is lost in
citizenship studies, our aim is to bring attention to the question concerning political subjectivity in cyberspace. So rather than defining
digital citizens narrowly as ‘those who have the ability to read, write, comprehend, and navigate textual information online and who
have access to affordable broadband’ or ‘active citizens online’ or even ‘Internet activists’, we understand digital citizens as those who
make digital rights claims, which we will elaborate in chapter 2.
So to understand what it means to be digital citizens requires theorizing between digital life (and its digital subjects) and political
life (and its political subjects). Both are simultaneously undergoing transformation, and understanding the dynamics of these changes
is a challenge. It is a challenge that critical citizenship studies amply illustrates by focusing on citizenship as a site of contestation or
social struggle rather than bundles of given rights and duties. It is an approach that understands rights as not static or universal but
historical and situated and arising from social struggles. The space of this struggle involves the politics of how we both shape and are
shaped by sociotechnical arrangements of which we are a part. From this follows that subjects embody both the material and
immaterial aspects of these arrangements where distinctions between the two become untenable. Who we become as political
subjects—or subjects of any kind, for that matter—is neither given or determined but enacted by what we do in relation to others and
things. If so, being digital and being citizens are simultaneously the objects and subjects of political struggle, and understanding the
relations between these struggles is the aim of this book.
Towards developing an understanding of being digital citizens, we draw on a number of scholars who typically study the technical
workings of digital devices and platforms and their social, cultural, and political effects. We have learned a lot from the burgeoning
literature on the Internet. Our goal is not to focus on the specificities of how technologies like Google or Twitter algorithms work.
Although we do give many examples, our aim is to develop an empirically grounded but theoretical conception of the digital citizen as
a political subject. We also recognize that our examples are predominantly from Anglo-American sources, which in part says a lot
about the concentration of technologies, ownership, and the scandals of our digital lives. We mention these issues to especially
foreground that our focus is on theorizing what we call digital acts and being digital citizens and that such theorizing is necessary to
clear the ground for more detailed and penetrating investigations. It is an approach we share with others and especially with J. L.
Austin’s How to Do Things with Words, work that we take up in chapter 3 to develop our conception of digital acts drawing on his
theory of speech acts. Austin understands language as a means of social action. We take this up to interpret digital acts as a kind of
speech act and means of social struggle. At present, studies of the Internet and empirical analyses of specific digital platforms are
proliferating, yet we lack concepts for framing and interpreting what these mean for being digital citizens. Many of the conventional
concepts with which we are familiar, such as online, offline, virtual, and real, for example, do not hold up to critical scrutiny but instead
serve as placeholders in search of concepts. Yet having concepts is critical because they shape our perceptions and imaginaries, and
it is through concepts that we make sense of our experiences. Our aim, then, is to provide a conceptual apparatus that might help us to
think across the numerous studies and accounts so that when we consider Twitter, for instance, we can ask: How do conventions such
as microblogging platforms configure actions and create possibilities for digital citizens to act?
BECOMING DIGITAL CITIZENS
We use the term ‘critical’ to indicate a tradition that is marked by critical reflexivity but also by an open, engaging, and political style of
thought. More specifically, however, ‘critical’ designates a style of thought where we investigate the acts of those who rupture
contemporary conventions of being political and enact creative, autonomous, and inventive ways of becoming political. Through this
approach, we have marked out what we consider to be several moves in how we theorize being digital citizens. We outline them here,
recognizing that one can grasp their fuller meaning and function only by reading the chapters that follow.
In chapter 2, we develop an understanding of the space of digital life as the figure of cyberspace and an understanding of the
figure of the citizen that we inherit. Rather than a separate or independent space constituted by the digital interactions and transactions
of people, we define it as a space of relations between and among bodies acting through the Internet. We develop our approach to
being digital citizens by drawing on Michel Foucault to argue that subjects become citizens through various processes of
subjectivation that involve relations between bodies and things that constitute them as subjects of power. We focus on how people
enact themselves as subjects of power through the Internet and at the same time bring cyberspace into being. We position this
understanding of subjectivation against that of interpellation, which assumes that subjects are always and already formed and
inhabited by external forces. Rather, we argue that citizen subjects are summoned and called upon to act through the Internet and, as
subjects of power, respond by enacting themselves not only with obedience and submission but also subversion. If indeed we
understand cyberspace as a space of relations between and among bodies acting through the Internet, ways of being digital citizens is
a site of struggle between virtuous, malicious, righteous, and indifferent acts. Our performativity always involves relations between
ourselves and others. In this way, conducting ourselves means to act with others as we place ourselves and take up and carve out
social positions—something that Foucault captured by defining power as ‘action upon action’ or ‘conduct of conduct’.
Chapter 3 develops a conception of how we say and do things through the Internet by defining digital acts as a kind of speech act.
We do this by taking up Austin’s definition of five classes of speech acts that have performative force: judgments, decisions,
commitments, acknowledgements, and clarifications. To this we introduce a sixth class of speech act, which we think these classes do
not account for: claims. We arrive at this through our consideration of the citizen subject who articulates ‘I, we, they have a right to’.
While subjects perform all classes of speech acts and not only through the Internet, making rights claims are specific to our definition
of citizens as not sovereign rights-bearing but performative rights-claiming subjects. We argue that making rights claims involves not
only performative but also legal and imaginary forces. We then argue that digital acts involve conventions that include not only words
but also images and sounds and various actions such as liking, coding, clicking, downloading, sorting, blocking, and querying. If
Austin showed how we do things with words, we also try to show how we do words with things. We argue that these digital acts
resignify four political questions about the Internet: anonymity, extensity, traceability, and velocity.
In chapters 4, 5, and 6 we then specify how these contestations are enacted through three groupings of digital acts—callings,
openings, and closings—and outline the various conventions and actions that compose them. Chapter 7, rather than considering the
substance of digital rights, attends to the processes involved in enacting digital rights claims. We do so by bringing together those
political subjects who make digital rights claims by their acts through the Internet (performativity) and those who make digital rights
claims in or by what they say about those rights in declarations, bills, charters, and manifestos (imaginary) and call upon authorities for
the inscription of those rights (legality).
Collectively, these moves refine our approach to enacting digital citizens. We work through a complex terrain of openings and
closings that cyberspace occasions but also raise a fundamental—and increasingly universal—question: How do we conduct
ourselves through the Internet? Given the rights cyberspace occasions and we demand, should we embrace it without question?
Given the perils it elicits, should we avoid it? Given the dangers it creates, should we abandon it? Given its potentialities, should we
tout the dawn of a new era? All these questions are being asked today, yet they may not be the questions that really matter. Given its
pervasiveness and omnipresence, avoiding or shunning cyberspace is as dystopian as quitting social space; it is also certain that
conducting ourselves in cyberspace requires, as many activists and scholars have warned, intense critical vigilance. Since there
cannot be generic or universal answers to how we conduct ourselves, more or less every incipient or existing political subject needs to
ask in what ways it is being called upon and subjectified through cyberspace. In other words, to return again to the conceptual
apparatus of this book, the kinds of citizen subjects cyberspace cultivates are not homogenous and universal but fragmented, multiple,
and agonistic. At the same time, the figure of a citizen yet to come is not inevitable; while cyberspace is a fragile and precarious space,
it also affords openings, moments when thinking, speaking, and acting differently become possible by challenging and resignifying its
conventions. These are the moments that we highlight to argue that digital rights are not only a project of inscriptions but also
1. We recognize that digital life has preceded the Internet. The connectedness of digital lives is a more recent phenomenon associated
with the Internet, especially the World Wide Web protocol. Our focus in this book is the political consequences and implications of
digital lives being connected through the Internet rather than digital lives in general. See J. E. Cohen, Configuring the Networked Self:
Law, Code, and the Play of Everyday Practice (Yale University Press, 2012); N. Negroponte, Being Digital (Hodder and Stoughton,
1995); Z. Papacharissi, ed., A Networked Self: Identity, Community and Culture on Social Network Sites (Routledge, 2011).
2. Negroponte, Being Digital; S. Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet (Simon & Schuster, 1995).
3. E. Morozov, The Net Delusion: How Not to Liberate the World (PublicAffairs, 2011); S. Turkle, Alone Together: Why We Expect
More from Technology and Less from Each Other (Basic, 2011).
4 . R. Deibert, “The Geopolitics of Internet Control: Censorship, Sovereignty, and Cyberspace,” in Routledge Handbook of Internet
Politics, ed. A. Chadwick and P. N. Howard (Routledge, 2009), 324.
5. M. Venkataramanan, “The Data Industry Is Selling Your Life,” Wired, Nov. 2014; L. Harding, The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of
the World’s Most Wanted Man (Vintage, 2014). As we shall see below, what is also staggering is the emergence of a commercial and
noncommercial security industry that advises data subjects that they are individually responsible for protecting their privacy and safety,
thereby individualizing what is essentially a political and hence a collective problem.
6. A. Hern, “Sir Tim Berners-Lee Speaks out on Data Ownership.” Guardian 2014 [accessed 8 October 2014], bit.ly/1t2DEPR.
7 . O. Bowcott, “Bullied Man Uses Video from Sunglasses to Mount Private Court Case,” Guardian, 7 October 2014 [accessed 12
October 2014], bit.ly/ZVoTBF.
8. J. Katz, “The Digital Citizen,” Wired 5, 12, Dec. 1997, 5.
9. Ibid., 7–8.
10. W. J. Miller, “Digital Citizen,” in Encyclopedia of Social Media and Politics, ed. K. Harvey (Sage, 2014), 2.
11. Digital Citizens Alliance, “Become a Digital Citizen: Get Involved in Making the Internet Safe 2014” [accessed 26 September
12. S. White, The Ethos of a Late-Modern Citizen (Harvard University Press, 2009).
1 3 . D. Bigo, “The Transnational Field of Computerised Exchange of Information in Police Matters and Its European Guilds,” in
Transnational Power Elites: The Social and Global Structuration of the EU, ed. N. Kauppi and M. R. Madsen (Routledge, 2013); D.
Bigo, “Security, Surveillance and Democracy,” in Routledge Handbook of Surveillance Studies, ed. K. Ball et al. (Routledge, 2012).
For Bigo, the rights of data subjects depend on their behaviour within digital networks. If their behaviour conflicts with targets identified
by algorithms, their rights will come under question.
14. This is a question posed with respect to surveillance by Z. Bauman et al., “After Snowden: Rethinking the Impact of Surveillance,”
International Political Sociology 8, 2 (2014). The authors raise the question about how multiple actors would need to resist
surveillance strategies but also the question of how Internet users will adjust their everyday conduct. It is an open question whether
Internet users ‘will continue to participate in their own surveillance through self-exposure or develop new forms of subjectivity that is
more reflexive about the consequences of their own actions’ (124).
1 5 . Ibid., 128. Using the Möbius strip as a metaphor to capture the transversal nature of the Internet, especially concerning
surveillance, Bauman et al. argue that ‘while big data collection blurs categorizations of what is “domestic” and what is “foreign,” the
consequent reconfiguration of the boundaries of the sovereign state into a Möbius strip has in turn become a site, in and of itself, of
political struggles, resistance and dissent. Along the Möbius strip, states, social movements, and individuals can play a variety of
games, reenacting the meanings of sovereignty and citizenship, security, and liberty.’
16. We must heed Didier Bigo’s work, which documents how an international field of security professionals emerged and how its
professionals are heavily invested in the hyperinflation of dangers and threats of cyberspace. Often, Bigo argues, interventions to quell
such dangers serve to expand the security apparatus itself rather than enhancing security. See Bigo, “Security, Surveillance and
17. Some examples include T. W. Luke, “Digital Citizenship,” in Emerging Digital Spaces in Contemporary Society: Properties of
Technology, ed. P. Kalantzis-Cope and K. Gherab Martín (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); M. Poster, “Digital Networks and Citizenship,”
Proceedings of Modern Language Association of America (PMLA) 117, 1 (2002).
1 8 . K. Mossberger et al., Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society, and Participation (MIT Press, 2008); K. Mossberger et al.,
“Measuring Digital Citizenship: Mobile Access and Broadband,” International Journal of Communication 6 (2012).
1 9 . E. Mayo and T. Steinberg, “The Power of Information: An Independent Review,” June 2007 [accessed 12 October 2014],
20. The field of digital studies not only comprises the impact of digital technologies but also their increasing connectedness. As such,
digital studies includes but is broader than another incipient field, that of Internet studies. The broad scope of Internet studies includes
not only the technologies that make the Internet possible but also uses of these technologies and the development of national and
international policies to govern and regulate their functioning. C. Ess and M. Consalvo, “Introduction: What Is ‘Internet Studies’?,” in
The Handbook of Internet Studies, ed. M. Consalvo and C. Ess (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013); W. H. Dutton, “Internet Studies: The
Foundations of a Transformative Field,” in The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies, ed. W. H. Dutton (Oxford University Press, 2013).
21. A. Kroker and M. Kroker, Critical Digital Studies: A Reader, 2nd ed. (University of Toronto Press, 2013).
22. Ibid., 14.
23. K. A. Hill and J. E. Hughes, Cyberpolitics: Citizen Activism in the Age of the Internet (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998).
24. Ibid., 180, 182.
25. R. J. Maratea, The Politics of the Internet: Political Claims-Making in Cyberspace and Its Effect on Modern Political Activism
(Lexington, 2014), 117.
26. Ibid., 126.
27. This is quite evident in a large collection of already established essays on the politics of the Internet. W. H. Dutton and E. Dubois,
eds., Politics and the Internet, 4 vols. (Routledge, 2014).
2 8 . S. Coleman, “The Lonely Citizen: Indirect Representation in an Age of Networks,” Political Communication 22, 2 (2005);
Mossberger et al., Digital Citizenship; P. N. Howard, New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen (Cambridge University Press,
2006); S. Coleman and J. G. Blumler, The Internet and Democratic Citizenship: Theory, Practice and Policy (Cambridge University
29. Mossberger et al., Digital Citizenship.
30. Coleman and Blumler, The Internet and Democratic Citizenship.
31. Howard, New Media Campaigns and the Managed Citizen.
32. J. C. Santora, “Crossing the Digital Divide: Do All Global Citizens Have Their Passports?,” Academy of Management Perspectives
20, 4 (2006); J. James, “The Digital Divide across All Citizens of the World: A New Concept,” Social Indicators Research 89, 2 (2008);
G. Yang, The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online (Columbia University Press, 2009); K. L. Schlozman et al., “Who
Speaks? Citizen Political Voice on the Internet Commons,” Daedalus 140, 4 (2011); K. Tartoussieh, “Virtual Citizenship: Islam,
Culture, and Politics in the Digital Age,” International Journal of Cultural Policy 17, 2 (2011); M. Gillespie, “BBC Arabic, Social Media
and Citizen Production: An Experiment in Digital Democracy before the Arab Spring,” Theory, Culture & Society 30, 4 (2013).
33. T. Kern and S.-h. Nam, “The Making of a Social Movement: Citizen Journalism in South Korea,” Current Sociology 57, 5 (2009); W.
Y. Lin et al., “Becoming Citizens: Youths’ Civic Uses of New Media in Five Digital Cities in East Asia,” Journal of Adolescent
Research 25, 6 (2010); Tartoussieh, “Virtual Citizenship: Islam, Culture, and Politics in the Digital Age”; L. Herrera, “Youth and
Citizenship in the Digital Age: A View from Egypt,” Harvard Educational Review 82, 3 (2012); Y. M. Kim, “The Shifting Sands of
Citizenship: Toward a Model of the Citizenry in Life Politics,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 644
34. Poster, “Digital Networks and Citizenship,” 101–3.
35. N. Couldry et al., “Digital Citizenship? Narrative Exchange and the Changing Terms of Civic Culture,” Citizenship Studies 18, 6–7
36. R. F. Jørgensen, Framing the Net: The Internet and Human Rights (Edward Elgar, 2013).
3 7 . Poster, “Digital Networks and Citizenship”; M. Poster, “Cyberdemocracy: Internet and the Public Sphere,” in Politics and the
Internet, ed. W. H. Dutton and E. Dubois (Routledge, 2014); Luke, “Digital Citizenship.”
38. Neither of the two major handbooks on citizenship studies surveying the entire field globally, for example, features a chapter on
digital citizens or discusses broadly the impact of the Internet for citizenship studies. H.-A. Van der Heijden, ed., Handbook of Political
Citizenship and Social Movements (Edward Elgar, 2014); E. F. Isin and P. Nyers, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Global
Citizenship Studies (Routledge, 2014).
39. The debate over global or cosmopolitan citizenship is now extensive, but it has proved to be a contested concept. H. Schattle, The
Practices of Global Citizenship (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007); D. Archibugi, The Global Commonwealth of Citizens: Toward
Cosmopolitan Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2008).
40. Mossberger et al., Digital Citizenship, 140.
41. J. Clarke et al., Disputing Citizenship (Policy Press, 2014).
42. K. Hayles, “The Materiality of Informatics,” Configurations 1, 1 (1993).
4 3 . Cohen, Configuring the Networked Self; E. G. Coleman, Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking (Princeton
University Press, 2013); R. Deibert, Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace (McClelland & Stewart, 2013); C. Fuchs, Social
Media: A Critical Introduction (Sage, 2014); P. Gerbaudo, Tweets and the Streets: Social Media and Contemporary Activism (Pluto,
2012); T. Jordan, Cyberpower: The Culture and Politics of Cyberspace and the Internet (Routledge, 1999); L. Lessig, Code: Version
2.0 (Basic, 2006); Morozov, Net Delusion; Papacharissi, ed., A Networked Self; H. Postigo, The Digital Rights Movement: The Role of
Technology in Subverting Digital Copyright (MIT Press, 2012); J. van Dijck, The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social
Media (Oxford University Press, 2013).
44. J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words (Oxford University Press, 1962).
45. This is inspired by Bruno Latour’s reversal of Austin’s statement—doing things with words—to ‘doing words with things’. Though
he does not refer to Austin when he uses this phrase in this chapter, we think his approach very much follows Austin’s
conceptualization of speech acts. B. Latour, “The Berlin Key or How to Do Words with Things,” in Matter, Materiality and Modern
Culture, ed. P. Graves-Brown (Routledge, 2000). However, in another writing, Latour references Austin’s How to do Things with Words
in his analysis of how legal texts are made up of not declarative but performative statements. There he argues that a weakness of
Austin’s concept of speech acts is his reliance on grammar and short interactions rather than ‘the whole regime of enunciation.’ B.
Latour, An Ethnography of the Conseil d’Etat (Polity, 2010), 225.
Citizens and Cyberspace
If indeed the premise of this book is that there is an emerging political subject called ‘the digital citizen’, we cannot assume that
this subject is without history and geography. We cannot simply assume that being a citizen online already means something (whether
it is the ability to participate or the ability to stay safe) and then look for those whose conduct conforms to this meaning. The
understanding of citizenship and political subjectivity associated with it has a complex history and geography that should not be
simplified as participation, safety, security, or access, although obviously these are arguably important aspects of being a citizen. To
say that ‘digital citizenship is the ability to participate in society online’ leaves out too much to properly understand the impact of the
Internet on a central figure of political life—the citizen. So any attempt at theorizing ‘digital citizens’ ought to begin with the historical
figure of the citizen before even shifting focus to the digital. Moreover, confining the digital to the Internet or the online overlooks how
digital citizens come into being through the meshing of their online and offline lives. For us, this means developing a robust
conception of cyberspace that moves beyond this binary trope and ostensibly virtual versus physical or ‘real’ spaces. This chapter
aims to accomplish these two objectives. We first summon a figure of the citizen as a historical and geographical figure by drawing on
critical citizenship studies. Then we summon a figure of cyberspace as a space of acts—digital acts—by drawing on critical digital
studies. We then develop a first set of propositions on citizens and cyberspace that guide the following chapters.
THE FIGURE OF THE CITIZEN WE INHERIT
Over the past three decades, just when the Internet has become prominent, there has also been a growth of studies on citizenship in
the social sciences and humanities. This has led to the development of a field called ‘citizenship studies’ that is large and diverse
enough that it is impossible to outline, let alone discuss its basic tenets. The field begins with citizenship defined as rights,
obligations, and belonging to the nation-state. Three rights (civil, political, and social) and three obligations (conscription, taxation, and
franchise) govern relationships between citizens and states. Civil rights include the right to free speech, to conscience, and to dignity;
political rights include voting and standing for office; and social rights include unemployment insurance, universal health care, and
welfare. Although conscription is rapidly disappearing as a citizenship obligation, taxation is still fundamental; voting, although
declining, remains vital. The field of critical citizenship studies makes two basic interventions on this understanding. First, it recognizes
new rights, such as sexual rights, cultural rights, and environmental rights, and documents struggles over their institutionalization (e.g.,
the struggles over same-sex marriage in the United States and Europe). Second, it also recognizes that increasingly, whether
traditional (i.e., civil, political, social) or expanded (cultural, economic, environmental, sexual, transnational, and urban), rights and
obligations are negotiated through supranational institutions such as the United Nations (e.g., Universal Declaration of Human
Rights), the Council of Europe (e.g., European Court of Human Rights), and the European Union (e.g., European Court of Justice) as
well as devolved institutions such as regional parliaments (e.g., Quebec or Scottish parliaments) and traditions of minority
communities (e.g., applications of Sharia law) that question the assumption that citizenship is membership in only a nation-state.
Moreover, critical citizenship studies is distinguished from conventional citizenship studies by its performative understanding of rights
and that the polities that give rise to and protect those rights are various. If we begin thinking about citizenship as ‘a membership in the
nation-state’, we are already approaching it in conventional ways. Rather, critical citizenship studies often begins with the citizen as a
historical and geographic figure—a figure that emerged in particular historical and geographical configurations and a dynamic,
changing, and above all contested figure of politics that comes into being by performing politics. How does the figure of the citizen
function in critical citizenship studies?
The figure of the citizen as it is inherited from the European Enlightenment is paradoxical. This is born out of two contradictions
that it embodies: a contradiction between freedom and obedience and a contradiction between universalism and particularism.
Étienne Balibar has drawn attention to both of these contradictions in his response to Jean-Luc Nancy’s question ‘Who comes after
the subject?’  Nancy asked a question about the status of the speaking and acting subject of Enlightenment after the critique of the
sovereign subject—or the Cartesian subject—that was the linchpin of political theory since the Enlightenment. To put it
schematically, modern political theory created a divide between modernity and tradition where a subject to power (tradition) was
replaced by a subject of power (modernity). To put it differently, if on the one side of the divide stood a subject of the sovereign (subject
to power), on the other side stood the sovereign subject (subject of power). Modern political theory hailed the arrival of the latter as the
displacement of the former. Critical political theory questions both the divide and displacement. Instead, it asserts that a subject is a
composite of multiple forces, identifications, affiliations, and associations. The subject is divided by these elements rather than by
tradition and modernity. It also asserts that a subject is a site of multiple forms of power (sovereign, disciplinary, control) that embodies
composite dispositions (obedience, submission, subversion). The question, then, was if we reject the sovereign subject behind every
act or deed, then how can we understand the acting subject today composed of, as it were, these multiple identifications, powers, and
Balibar’s response to this question was surprisingly straightforward: what comes after the subject has already a name, and it is the
citizen. Balibar highlighted the paradoxical aspects of the figure of the citizen. To begin, Balibar thought that the very idea of the
rights of the citizen institutes a historical figure that is not merely subject to power or the subject of power but embodies both. This
move is quite significant: if being a subject to power requires obedience, being a subject of power requires disobedience. But these
are not pure forms; rather, the citizen subject embodies these as potentialities. Being a subject to power is marked by the citizen’s
domination by the sovereign, and her rights derive from that which is given to her by the (patriarchal) sovereign. Being a subject of
power means being an agent of power, even if this requires submission. There is an important difference between obedience and
submission. If being subject to power means obedience to the sovereign, then it requires domination as a mode of power. Whether this
is total obedience or resistant obedience depends on the circumstances. By contrast, being a subject of power means submission to
authority in whose formation the citizen participates and its potential subversion. What distinguishes the citizen from the subject is that
the citizen is this composite subject of obedience, submission, and subversion. The birth of the citizen as a subject of power does not
mean the disappearance of the subject as a subject to power. The citizen subject embodies these forms of power in which she is
implicated, where obedience, submission, and subversion are not separate dispositions but are always-present potentialities.
This is, at any rate, our reading of Balibar, and we obviously read him through Michel Foucault’s rethinking of the transformation
from ancient to modern forms of power with his emphasis on the simultaneous presence of obedience, submission, and subversion.
Expressing the basic question that motivated his studies on power, knowledge, and ethics, Foucault said, ‘How is it that in Western
Christian culture the government of men demands, on the part of those who are led, not only acts of obedience and submission but
also “acts of truth,” which have the peculiar requirement not just that the subject tell the truth but that he tell the truth about himself, his
faults, his desires, the state of his soul, and so on?’  For Foucault, it was ‘acts of truth’ that afforded possibilities for the subject to
constitute herself as a subject of power. For us, this also means that acts of truth afford possibilities of subversion. Being a subject of
power means responding to the call ‘how should one “govern oneself” by performing actions in which one is oneself the objective of
those actions, the domain in which they are brought to bear, the instrument they employ, and the subject that acts?’  In describing
this as his approach, Foucault was clear that the ‘development of a domain of acts, practices, and thoughts’ poses a problem for
politics. It is in this respect that we consider the Internet in relation to myriad acts, practices, and thoughts that pose a problem for
the politics of the subject in contemporary societies.
To our knowledge, Balibar is the only scholar who describes Foucault’s contribution as describing ‘the birth of the citizen
subject.’  This is intriguing. It shifts our attention on how subjects become citizens through various processes of subjectivation that
involve relations between bodies and things that constitute them as subjects of power. If we focus on how people enact themselves
as subjects of power through the Internet, it involves investigating how people use language to describe themselves and their relations
to others and how language summons them as speaking beings. To put it differently, it involves investigating how people do things
with words and words with things to enact themselves. It also means addressing how people understand themselves as subjects of
power when acting through the Internet. This requires exploring how people come into being through the Internet not only as speaking
subjects who use language but also other modes of engaging and acting. For Balibar ‘the citizen’s becoming-a-subject takes the form
of a dialectic, this is because there are necessary contradictions between founding a definition of the citizen and the contestations over
it.’  As we shall see, becoming digital citizens in acting through the Internet is not free of these contradictions.
The citizen then bequeaths us a figure of politics that not only is capable of being obedient but can also be simultaneously a
submissive (to authority) and a subversive (of authority) figure. It also always carries within it the possibility and danger of the obedient
subject of sovereign power. The citizen is a subject who submits to government in which she is implicated. This submission makes
this figure a subject of subversion capable of questioning the terms of her own submission. To put it differently, the agency of the
citizen appears in the gap between the capacity to submit to authority and yet the ability to act in dissent. This is not a sovereign
subject in the mastery of her destiny but an embodied subject formed through games of multiple affiliations and of submission and
subversion. The rights that the citizen holds are not the rights of an already-existing sovereign subject but the rights of a figure who
submits to authority in the name of those rights and acts to call into question its terms. This is the inescapable and inherited
contradiction between submission and subversion of the figure of the citizen that can be expressed in a paradoxical phrase:
submission as freedom.
The second contradiction concerns its universalism against particularism. For the subject to become a citizen, the conditions must
be equal for everyone. To become a citizen is predicated on this equality. This equality is universal. Who is then the citizen? Balibar
says that the citizen is a person who enjoys rights in completely realizing being human and is free because being human is a
universal condition for everyone. We would say the citizen is a subject who performs rights in realizing being political because
becoming political is a universal condition for everyone. There is, however, a contradiction here. It is that, historically speaking, while
some subjects are considered capable of conducting themselves as citizens, such as white, male, propertied, able-bodied, Christian,
and heterosexual beings, the opposites of each of those subject positions will remain subjects. As Mark Poster writes, ‘Western
concepts and political principles such as the rights of [hu]man[s] and the citizen, however progressive a role they played in history,
may not provide an adequate basis of critique in our current, increasingly global condition.’  Poster says this is so, among other
things, because Western concepts arise out of imperial and colonial histories and because situated differences are as important as
universal principles. This contradiction of the figure of the citizen can be expressed in another paradoxical phrase: universalism as
From a critical perspective on citizenship, these contradictions are the sources of the vitality of the figure of the citizen. These
contradictions constitute the figure of the citizen as a subject of claims for rights. Each claim that a citizen articulates against an
authority puts her under demands of that authority. If rights of citizenship come into being in law, the citizen comes into being through
the performance of that law or performance of the right to claim rights. If the citizen comes into being performatively through rights, the
imaginary of citizenship mobilizes this figure of the citizen as a subversive subject. She is a subject of power whose acts of citizenship
are simultaneously of submission and subversion. Acts of citizenship embody these two contradictions. On the one hand, acts produce
universalism because its subjects claim that everyone can act; on the other hand, and simultaneously, acts produce particularisms
against those who are rendered unable or incapable to act or whose acts cannot be recognized.
If indeed we understand this dynamic of taking up positions as subjectivation, we then identify three forces through which citizen
subjects come into being: legality, performativity, and imaginary. These are neither sequential nor parallel but simultaneous and
intertwined forces of subjectivation. We will explain why we call these ‘forces’ in more detail later, in chapter 3. For now, let us briefly
describe each in turn. The legality of citizenship inscribes the figure of the citizen as that person with the right to claim rights. Since the
late eighteenth century in Europe and postcolonial societies, this figure of the citizen has acquired certain rights that define it: civil,
political, and social rights. Civil rights, such as the right to free speech, the right to privacy, the right to due process, freedom from
arbitrary power, freedom to associate, the right to dignity, and the freedom of conscience, are outcomes of social struggles over these
liberties and required simultaneously submission to authority and its subversion (e.g., dissent, resistance, protest). Similarly, political
rights, such as the right to vote representatives to the parliament, to run for office, to organize political parties and movements, to
protest, to assembly, and to civil disobedience are political rights that overall define the figure of the democratic citizen. The social
rights of citizenship have their history of struggles, too. The right to universal benefits, welfare, allowances, and health and other social
services are not only won through social struggles but also establish a principle: the figure of the citizen, to be an effective political
figure, has to acquire not only a modicum of civil life but also social existence. The charters, bills, and declarations claiming rights—
with all the symbolic dates associated with them of 1689, 1776, 1789, 1835, 1945—are largely about inscribing again and again rights
as claims through social and political struggles both the origins and effects of which are the figure of the citizen.
If making rights claims is performative, it follows that these rights are neither fixed nor guaranteed: they need to be repeatedly
performed. Their coming into being and remaining effective requires performativity. The performative force of citizenship reminds us
that the figure of the citizen has to be brought into being repeatedly through acts (repertoires, declarations, and proclamations) and
conventions (rituals, customs, practices, traditions, laws, institutions, technologies, and protocols). Without the performance of rights,
the figure of the citizen would merely exist in theory and would have no meaning in democratic politics. As Karen Zivi writes, if we
consider citizenship as making rights claims, it is because it is a performative practice. For Zivi, ‘we make rights claims to criticize
practices we find objectionable, to shed light on injustice, to limit the power of government, and to demand state accountability and
intervention.’  We often focus on the content of these rights rather than rights claiming as the performativity of citizenship. As Zivi
writes, ‘[T]o approach rights and rights claiming from the perspective of performativity means, then, asking questions not simply about
what a right is but also about what it is we do when we make rights claims.’  So what is it that people do when making rights claims?
We will address this question in chapter 3. For now, let us note that making rights claims in or by saying and doing ‘I, we, they have a
right to’ involves performing both contradictions inherent in citizenship. We need to make two points here. First, performing citizenship
both invokes and breaks conventions. We shall characterize conventions broadly as sociotechnical arrangements that embody norms,
values, affects, laws, ideologies, and technologies. As sociotechnical arrangements, conventions involve agreement or even consent
—either deliberate or often implicit—that constitutes the logic of any custom, institution, opinion, ritual, and indeed law or embodies
any accepted conduct. Since both the logic and embodiment of conventions are objects of agreement, performing these conventions
also produces disagreement. Another way of saying this is that the performativity of conduct such as making rights claims often
exceeds conventions. As Zivi writes, ‘[A]nalyzing [citizenship] from a performative perspective means, then, appreciating the extent to
which our claims both reference and reiterate social conventions, and yet have forces and effects that exceed them.’  We have
identified this as the contradiction between submission and subversion or consent and dissent. Jacques Rancière captures this as
dissensus. We will return to dissensus in chapter 7. Second, while articulating a particular demand (for inclusion, recognition),
performing citizenship enacts a universal right to claim rights. This is the contradiction between the universalism and particularism of
Yet for the figure of the citizen to come into being through making rights claims that are expressed in and through law, there has to
be an imaginary of citizenship produced through thought, symbols, images, ideas, and ideals of the democratic citizen. This imaginary
force of citizenship is indispensable for its performative and legal forces, which cannot be thought without them. The imaginary of
citizenship includes a whole series of statements and utterances about what citizenship is, ought to be, has been, will have to be, and
so on. The imaginary of citizenship is obviously mobilized by and participates in the formation of the legality of citizenship and its
performativity and yet cannot be reduced to them. In a way, how we orient ourselves towards 1689, 1776, 1789, 1835, and 1945 and
the contested meanings we attach to them are part of this imaginary work of citizenship.
Let us make it clear that our sketch of a critical perspective on citizenship that involves legality, performativity, and imaginary as
three overlapping and yet distinct forces of subjectivation, at least for interpreting modern democratic citizenship, is open to
disagreements, qualifications, and clarifications. We find it difficult to express it systematically since we have more or less assembled
it from various dispersed sources, not least our own writings on the subject. But we hope we make a sufficient case that the figure of
the citizen cannot enter into debates about the Internet as a subject without history and without geography—and without
contradictions. Rather, a critical approach to the figure of the citizen at a minimum recognizes that it is both a subject to power and
subject of power and that this figure embodies obedience, submission, and subversion as its dispositions. If indeed the citizen subject
comes into being legally, performatively, and imaginatively through making rights claims, it inherits these sedimented histories and
THE FIGURE OF CYBERSPACE
We cannot think, let alone write, without concepts. But concepts are not merely organizing principles of our experience; they emplace
us in that experience. We experience the world through and with concepts. The concepts that become dominant parts of discourse
shape our perceptions through which we make sense of our own experience. We, in other words, live our lives through concepts we
have inherited. Cyberspace became such a concept with which we experience being ‘online’ and participate in online activities. We
mentioned earlier that we are critical of a supposed difference between online and offline lives and politics. This is in part because
connected devices such as phones, tablets, and wearable technologies render that difference problematic, as people don’t need to
use a computer to become connected. It is not only our bodies that are connected through the Internet but also our devices in which
our lives are embodied. To put it differently, while being online may be a discontinuous activity, being connected is almost always
continuous. For these reasons, the concept of cyberspace is a challenge for theorizing being digital citizens not because we make that
choice but because it is a concept that already functions in contemporary discourse.
Yet despite its dominance, the concept of cyberspace is usually used in a way that makes it difficult to theorize being digital
citizens. Just consider how ubiquitous three of its derivatives have become: cyberwar, cybersecurity, and cybercrime. Confronted with
a dominant concept, we could choose to ignore its ‘flaws’ and use it for convenience; we could entirely ‘reject’ it; or we could note its
flaws but use it cautiously. All approaches have been taken with mixed results. If indeed the figure of cyberspace is not something we
can merely ‘avoid’ or ‘critique’ as the dominant concept through which we conceptualize our experiences of online life, how do we
approach it? To explain why we’d rather analytically focus on ‘being digital citizens’, we will have to come to terms with the figure of
cyberspace and its allure and continue to use it with reservations.
We begin with a banal observation. The Internet and cyberspace are not equivalent things. The Internet is a layered and complex
phenomenon. It is certainly an interconnected network of computers (and devices) using standard and negotiated protocols to transmit
information converted into binary numeric form known as digital objects. These can be sounds, images (moving or still), words, and
numbers. The Internet includes governments, corporations, and organizations that own and operate terrestrial and extraterrestrial
infrastructures that transmit digital objects. It also includes Internet service providers (ISPs) who own and operate additional
infrastructure that connects users to the Internet. It includes software such as operating systems, code, and cryptography to encrypt
and decrypt data, and hardware such as routers, switches, cables, transmitters, receivers, servers, and server clusters. And it also
contains all of the people who maintain, operate, and configure these infrastructural elements. Let us now describe cyberspace as a
space of transactions and interactions between and among bodies acting through the Internet. But this is hardly uncontroversial. If
indeed cyberspace is first a relational space, these relations are between and among bodies through the Internet. These bodies can
be collective (institutions, organizations, corporations, collectives, groups), cybernetic, or social. Finally, these acting bodies are
neither subservient nor sovereign subjects. To restate our conception in short, cyberspace is a space of relations between and among
bodies acting through the Internet. Cyberspace is a space of social struggles and no less or more ‘real’ than, say, social space or
cultural space—concepts that also describe relations between bodies and things. Yet this separation between ‘real’ space and
cyberspace is so pervasive and carries a baggage that needs questioning.
The term ‘cyberspace’ is often attributed to William Gibson’s telling of the story of a computer hacker whose adventures in
cyberspace drive Gibson’s award-winning novel Neuromancer (1984). This attribution is both a fact and fiction. There Gibson
imagines cyberspace as: ‘a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children
being taught mathematical concepts. . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human
system.’ Such is the life of words. Following Gibson, cyberspace became a dominant concept to express a separate and independent
sphere of life possibly for ‘digital citizens’ if not cyborgs. As Gibson himself recognized, it has travelled far from his usage and vision. In
the documentary film No Maps for These Territories he recounts, ‘[A]ll I knew about the word “cyberspace” when I coined it, was that it
seemed like an effective buzzword. It seemed evocative and essentially meaningless.’  This is reminiscent of Nietzsche’s
genealogical principle that just because something comes into being for one purpose does not mean that it will serve that purpose
forever. Cyberspace has now become widely used not only in popular culture but also in social sciences and humanities
scholarship. In fact, there is a strong resonance between popular culture and scholarship regarding cyberspace that many social
sciences and humanities concepts do not enjoy.
We can’t provide a genealogy of cyberspace here, but let it suffice to note two of its pervasive contemporary connotations. First, a
different and distinct, if not unique, space exists elsewhere, and it is separate from a space that is said to be physical. Second, this
space is (or wants to be) independent. These two connotations function in myriad ways, such as virtual versus actual space, cloud
versus real space, online world versus offline world, and nonphysical versus physical world. In the early 1990s, when the concept
began taking broader shape, cyberspace was saturated by its libertarian qualities as an independent space. ‘A Declaration of the
Independence of Cyberspace’, written by the cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, John Parry Barlow, became its poignant
and oft-quoted representative. The declaration argued that ‘[c]yberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself,
arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not
where bodies live.’  The declaration imagines that a new world is being created where everyone is entitled to enter and where no
distinctions or backgrounds exist. Being adversely addressed to governments, the declaration states that ‘your legal concepts of
property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.’
Leaving aside the paradox of using an American experience and language for creating a universal ‘civilization of the mind’, the
declaration reveals that cyberspace is to be conceived not only as metaphysical (no bodies and no matter) but also as an autonomous
space (‘On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty
where we gather.’)
These two functions—that cyberspace is separate and independent—mobilize not only analytical but also political and, as we
shall see, legal arguments about the distinctiveness of cyberspace. Currently, these functions operate so strongly that even the most
careful scholars, such as Lawrence Lessig, who routinely question the uses of cyberspace still maintain this distinction.
It is helpful to follow Lessig on this distinction. In 1996 he considers the Internet and cyberspace to be more or less the same
thing. For Lessig, cyberspace is a metaphor to understand the Internet and the ways in which it is different from what he called ‘real’
or nonvirtual space. Arguing that cyberspace is (or used to be) a space of freedom, Lessig writes that ‘the technologies of control are
relatively crude. Not that there is no control. Cyberspace is not anarchy. But that control is exercised through the ordinary tools of
human regulation—through social norms, and social stigma; through peer pressure, and reward.’  The main difference between
cyberspace and ‘real’ space for Lessig used to be the way in which conduct upon conduct was regulated—in other words, how power
is exercised. The anathema for Lessig is the loss of this freedom in cyberspace. In real space, governing people requires inducing
them to act in certain ways, but in the last instance, people had the choice to act this way or that way. By contrast, in cyberspace
conduct is governed by code, which takes away that choice. In cyberspace, ‘if the regulator wants to induce a certain behavior, she
need not threaten, or cajole, to inspire the change. She need only change the code—the software that defines the terms upon which
the individual gains access to the system, or uses assets on the system.’  This is because ‘code is an efficient means of regulation.
But its perfection makes it something different. One obeys these laws as code not because one should; one obeys these laws as code
because one can do nothing else. There is no choice about whether to yield to the demand for a password; one complies if one wants
to enter the system. In the well implemented system, there is no civil disobedience.’  What Lessig suggests is that cyberspace is not
only separate and independent but constitutes a new mode of power. You constitute yourself as a subject of power by submitting to
code. Lessig thinks that cyberspace used to be an open and uncontrolled space and its ‘regulation [used to be] achieved through
social forces much like the social forms that regulate real space.’  At one time it was not zoned, but now it has become so. For
Lessig, then, ‘the essence of cyberspace [used to be] the search engine—tools with which one crosses an infinite space, to locate, and
go to, the stuff one wants. The space today is open, but only because it is made that way.’  But Lessig argues that engineers were
acquiring too much power in creating zones by code and that people were increasingly filtering themselves out from various zones.
Here Lessig attributes almost sovereign power to code and accounts for the loss of freedom of cyberspace with the control of code.
This is almost equivalent to the (ancient-modern) divide we described above, between on the one side a subject of a sovereign and on
the other side the sovereign subject.
Lessig later develops a slightly more nuanced idea of the difference between cyberspace and the Internet, yet he still insists on a
basic difference between cyberspace and real space. Lessig thinks cyberspace, like geographic space, has architecture, and this
architecture is the code: algorithms that govern hardware and software switches and regulate access to its specific zones. Lessig
writes, ‘[C]ode is a regulator in cyberspace because it defines the terms upon which cyberspace is offered. And those who set those
terms increasingly recognize the code as a means to achieving the behaviors that benefit them best.’  For Lessig, the difference
between what he calls ‘real’ space and cyberspace is that real space is structured around public spaces that have access to everyone.
By contrast, cyberspace includes many zones that are off limits to many and is constituted by code, which means ‘You can resist this
code—you can resist how you find it, just as you can resist cold weather by putting on a sweater. But you are not going to change how
it is.’  We disagree with this view of code. Although we gather from Lessig and other scholars such as Ron Deibert and Julie Cohen
the importance of code, we cannot agree that code can or does have such a determining influence. We will, however, explain this
later in chapter 3, where we discuss in more detail the importance of language and the irreducible differences between speech,
writing, and code. For now, we want to emphasize that if we are bound to use the concept ‘cyberspace’ and compare it to something
called ‘real’ space, we’d better understand the complex registers in which cyberspace exists rather than being opposed to an
ostensible ‘real’ space.
Other scholars such as Julie Cohen and Richard Ford have made this point. Yet while critical of the uses of the term ‘cyberspace’,
we find them also implicitly if not inadvertently accepting a distinction between cyberspace and an ostensibly ‘real’ space. Cohen, for
example, rightly notes that ‘[c]yberspace is in and of the real-space world, and is so not (only) because real-space sovereigns decree
it, or (only) because real-space sovereigns can exert physical power over real-space users, but also and more fundamentally because
cyberspace users are situated in real space.’  Most scholars of cyberspace, says Cohen, ‘ignore both the embodied, situated
experience of cyberspace users and the complex interplay between real and digital geographies.’  She concludes that ‘theories of
cyberspace as space fail not because they lack the proper understanding of whether “cyberspace” is different from “real space,” and
indeed that debate simply muddies the issue. Rather, they fail because they lack appreciation of the many and varied ways in which
cyberspace is connected to real space and alters the experience of people and communities whose lives and concerns are
inextricably rooted in real space.’  Although we find her view agreeable, the question here is why continue to use cyberspace and
real space as though they still are different categories while at the same time arguing that people are embodied beings that connect
the two. It is almost as if having recognized the problem, Cohen is searching for a way to avoid it but, in our view, without success. It
seems it is difficult to maintain that cyberspace ‘is most usefully understood as connected to and subsumed within an emerging,
networked space that is inhabited by real, embodied users and that is apprehended through experience’ while avoiding the
assumption of some ‘real’ space or users.
We think Richard Ford experiences the same difficulty. He, too, rightly points out that ‘the decision to think of the Internet in spatial
terms—and increasingly only in spatial terms—will not help us to understand the Internet so much as it will affect the way we
understand the Internet.’  He also points out that ‘cyberspace also encourages us to import our biases, mythologies, misperceptions,
and unreflective habitual practices concerning land and territory into a new domain.’  Yet Ford continues to fight against the
existence of a separate, if not independent, space called cyberspace but unintentionally gives it an existence by being against it as a
We cannot claim that we will do better, but at least we will attempt to avoid thinking of cyberspace as either a separate or
independent space from geographic or physical space. We have already characterized cyberspace as a space of relations between
and among bodies acting through the Internet. We noted earlier that 1984 was the birth of the concept of cyberspace. Yet during the
very same year, a much less known work, or rather, a work known much more for its title, Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern
Condition (1984), appeared. Being asked to report on knowledge in the most highly developed societies and presented to the now
defunct Conseil des Universités of the government of Québec in 1984, Lyotard took as his main premise that the production,
dissemination, and exchange of knowledge could not survive what he called ‘the computerization of society’. Without assuming that
computerization ushered advanced societies into a machine age, as it was commonly understood then and still is today, Lyotard
instead argues that computerization was ushering knowledge into a new mode of production. We want to revisit both Lyotard’s
substantive argument and his method because, writing before the concept of cyberspace, his starting point is not an ostensibly existing
space but changing social relations through computerization. That, we think, ought to be the starting point.
Lyotard saw the production, dissemination, and legitimation of knowledge taking on a new principle. He interpreted this principle
as commodification of knowledge, where it became a form of capital. Since the means of production, dissemination, and legitimation of
knowledge principally involves language, Lyotard saw language as the main site of social struggle. It is not surprising, then, that
Lyotard was attracted to Ludwig Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin to develop a method of understanding language as a means of social
struggle. Lyotard dubbed this as ‘language games’ involving different classes of utterances. Again, we will wait until chapter 3 to
elaborate these as speech acts. But what is important here is to note Lyotard’s conception of language games as being made up of
competitive (agonistic) social struggles where performative utterances—or what we will more generally call digital acts—are strategic
moves that bring into being rather than point to presumably already existing referents. What we find in Lyotard—albeit in incipient form
—is that rather than conceiving a separate and independent space, the point is to recognize that power relations in contemporary
societies are being increasingly mediated and constituted through computer networks that eventually came to be known as the
Lyotard’s significant contribution was to recognize that computerization was both mediating and constituting these language
games and resulting in new forms of capital, which Pierre Bourdieu would designate as cultural capital. Lyotard anticipates it by
imagining ‘that a firm such as IBM is authorized to occupy a belt in the earth’s orbital field and launch communications satellites or
satellites housing data banks. Who will have access to them? Who will determine which channels or data are forbidden? The State?
Or will the State simply be one user among others? New legal issues will be raised, and with them the question: “who will know?”’  If
the computerization of society raises such questions, the analysis of the production, dissemination, and legitimation of knowledge, on
which it has a profound effect, cannot be restricted to understanding computerization as communication or computer-mediated
communication. Rather, the object of investigation ought to be language games that became possible through what Lyotard saw as
The point here is not to claim that Lyotard provides a better description of ‘cyberspace’ or the Internet. Lyotard himself warned
against using his hypotheses as predictive claims. Nonetheless, when we examine the shape that the Internet has taken since 1984
with its social media platforms, access struggles, storage battles, copyright fights, protocol competitions, and so on, it is obvious that
what is at stake is the production, dissemination, and legitimation of knowledge and the control of its storage, access, and
transmission as objects of intense competitive struggles. Who owns the growing volumes of data generated by saying and doing
things on the Internet, who accesses it, who has right to its use, and who has right to profit from it are political problems of our age. So
when we conceive cyberspace as a space of relations between and among bodies acting through the Internet, we mean that it is
through those relations and struggles that it comes into being as a contested space. This is this approach we develop to contribute to
our understanding of the figure at the centre of these competitive struggles: the digital citizen, her claims, and the callings made upon
her. Understanding cyberspace as an agonistic space of relations and struggles is our general starting point. Rather than
understanding cyberspace as a separate and independent space, we interpret it as a space of relations. Put differently, Donna
Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto (1984), which is not about the then incipient Internet but about the interconnectedness of humans and
machines, is just as relevant to our age of the Internet through which we both say and do things.
We approach cyberspace, then, as a relational space in which digital citizens come into being through digital acts. The Internet—
whether it is a network of networks or a network of filters and chokepoints—is a sociotechnical arrangement that makes up only one
part of the relations of cyberspace that are not separate from bodies. Deibert rightly argues that ‘although cyberspace may seem like
virtual reality, it’s not. Every device we use to connect to the Internet, every cable, machine, application, and point along the fibre-optic
and wireless spectrum through which data passes is a possible filter or “chokepoint,” a grey area that can be monitored and that can
constrain what we can communicate, that can surveil and choke off the free flow of communication and information.’  Not only does
this mean that the Internet has material effects such as data centres, server clusters, and code, though this is certainly true and there
are studies about these material forms. It also means that cyberspace is a space of relations that comes into being through interactions
and transactions between and among bodies acting through the Internet. For this reason, to declare cyberspace as either being actual
or virtual, separate and independent from another space, ostensibly physical, is an inadequate starting point. If we make that point
emphatically enough, then where do we start?
We mentioned earlier how Balibar defines Foucault’s contribution as a genealogy of the birth of the citizen subject. It is worth
exploring this through Gilles Deleuze’s argument that Foucault’s theorization about the birth of the subject was spatial. As Foucault
provides a genealogy of various forms of power, he assigns certain properties to each in terms of strategies and technologies by which
and through which it is exercised. A form of power that works through exclusions, for example, is more appropriate for sovereign power
demanding of its subjects obedience. Being subject to power, in other words, brings about forms of sociospatial exclusion such as
banishment, deportation, expulsion, and so on. The spaces that sovereign power produces correspond to such strategies and
technologies of exclusion: expulsion, prohibition, banishment, eviction, exile, and deportation are such examples. By contrast, being a
subject of power mobilizes strategies and technologies of discipline, which require submission but open up possibilities of subversion.
The spaces that disciplinary power produces are appropriate to such strategies and technologies of discipline: asylums, camps, and
barracks but also hospitals, prisons, schools, and museums as spaces of confinement. Each of these spaces is a space of
contestation, competitive and social struggles in and through which certain forms of knowledge are produced in enunciations that
perform subjects. Neither spaces of exclusion nor spaces of discipline are static or container spaces. They are dynamic and relational
spaces. There are no ‘physical’ spaces separate from power relations and no power relations that are not embedded in spatializing
strategies and technologies of power.
The most notable contribution Foucault made to our understanding of the modern subject of power is that this subject was also
simultaneously a subject of knowledge. So Foucault often preferred to reflect on relations of power and knowledge and spaces
appropriate to them. If we are thinking about spaces of confinement, it requires not only the power relations necessary to constitute
such spaces but also what relations of knowledge are produced, disseminated, and exchanged about them. That a subject of power is
also a subject of knowledge is a significant aspect for both societies of exclusion and societies of discipline.
These two forms of power—sovereign and disciplinary—were conjoined by another—control—defined by Gilles Deleuze, who,
after Foucault’s death, thought about power in relation to spaces that were becoming prevalent and in which cybernetic control
depended on the movements and conduct of subjects. Deleuze recognized that ‘Foucault’s often taken as the theorist of
disciplinary societies and of their principal technology, confinement (not just in hospitals and prisons, but in schools, factories, and
barracks). But he was actually one of the first to say that we’re moving away from disciplinary societies, we’ve already left them
behind.’  Deleuze was now convinced that ‘[w]e’re moving toward control societies that no longer operate by confining people but
through continuous control and instant communication.’  The space of control societies was diffuse and dispersed and decisively
cybernetic in its modes of government.
For Deleuze, the logic of confinement is analogical: walls, perimeters, streets, checkpoints, height, volume, and depth were
prominent features of spaces of confinement for exclusion or discipline. By contrast, the logic of spaces of control is digital: movement,
opening and closing of circuits, transmission, and dispersion were its modulating operations. For Deleuze, ‘factories formed
individuals into a body of men for the joint convenience of a management that could monitor each component in this mass, and trade
unions that could mobilize mass resistance; but businesses are constantly introducing an inexorable rivalry presented as healthy
competition, a wonderful motivation that sets individuals against one another and sets itself up in each of them, dividing each within
himself.’  Deleuze thinks that, by contrast, in control societies ‘the key thing is no longer a signature or number but a code: codes are
passwords, whereas disciplinary societies are ruled . . . by precepts.’  He observes that ‘the digital language of control is made up of
codes indicating whether access to some information should be allowed or denied.’  For Deleuze, control societies function with a
new generation of machines and with information technology and computers. For control societies, ‘the passive danger is noise and
the active [dangers are] piracy and viral contamination. This technological development is more deeply rooted in a mutation of
capitalism.’  Deleuze cites Guattari imagining a city ‘where anyone can leave their flat, their street, their neighbourhood, using their .
. . electronic card that opens this or that barrier; but the card may also be rejected on a particular day, or between certain times of day; it
doesn’t depend on the barrier but on the computer that is making sure everyone is in a permissible place, and effecting a universal
modulation.’  Deleuze concludes, ‘[I]t may be that older means of control, borrowed from the old sovereign societies, will come back
into play, adapted as necessary. The key thing is that we’re at the beginning of something new.’  For Deleuze, ‘[i]t’s true that, even
before control societies are fully in place, forms of delinquency or resistance (two different things) are also appearing. Computer piracy
and viruses, for example, will replace strikes and what the nineteenth century called “sabotage” (“clogging” the machinery).’  What
Deleuze envisions at the end of the 1980s is the appearance of control societies merging analog and digital forms of controls to create
a space—perhaps cyberspace—that is embodied rather than a separate and independent space. As prescient as Deleuze’s thoughts
on control societies, he did not develop them further. He also made assumptions we cannot agree with, such as the succession of
sovereign, disciplinary, and control societies. We see sovereign, disciplinary, and control societies and their power/knowledge spaces
as coexisting forms, although they may have come into being in different historical and geographical circumstances.
To start where Deleuze left off and work with cyberspace as a space of acts, we briefly turn to scholars concerned with geographic
space who have long developed a critique of physical space as separate and independent. Central to this critique has been to
reject the existence of an objective, natural, or physical space separate and independent from represented or lived spaces—a flat
ontology, if you like. Following Henri Lefebvre, at least three registers of spaces have been elaborated: conceived space, perceived
space, and lived space. The essential point is that inhabiting spaces in three registers, we experience our being-in-the-world
through simultaneous but asynchronous registers. Subjects inhabit conceived spaces such as objectifying practices that code, recode,
present, and represent space to render it as a legible and intelligible space of habitation. People inhabit perceived spaces such as
symbolic representations of space t…
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