More of Less(ig)! Virtual Utopias and Dystopic Networks

David S. Wall, University of Leeds

An integral part of the debate over the politics of policing cyberspace crime are two contrasting visions of Cyberspace, which compete for the public's attention. On the one hand are the (Thomas More inspired) Utopian visions of Cyberspace promoted by commercial, media and governmental agencies, which exude optimism and hope. On the other hand are the dystopian so-called realities of the same Cyberspace that are "exposed" by other concerned commercial, media and governmental agencies: they paint pictures of a very different actuarialist cyberspace defined by predators and terror. In the midst of the public debate over the policing of cyberspace is a practical need to dispel myths and hyperbole inorder to inform the criminal justice processes and policies. This paper will draw upon the findings of recent research into Internet related crimes with small impacts and multiple victimisations and, in seeking to contrast risk assessments with realities, it will explore issues of trust, tolerance and tenacity. The first part of the paper will overview the various utopian and dystopian perspectives. The second will draw upon and apply Lawrence Lessig's "digital realist" theory to provide a grounding for the debate over the policing of cyberspace.

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Updated 05/20/2006