Understanding the New Virtualist Paradigm

Journal of Internet Law, Vol. 12, No. 8, 2009

11 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2009

See all articles by Jon Penney

Jon Penney

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Harvard Law School; Osgoode Hall Law School; Citizen Lab, University of Toronto

Date Written: February 1, 2009


This article discusses the central ideas within an emerging body of cyberlaw scholarship I have elsewhere called the "New Virtualism". We now know that the original "virtualists"- those first generation cyberlaw scholars who believed virtual worlds and spaces were immune to corporate and state control - were wrong; these days, such state and corporate interests are ubiquitous in cyberspace and the Internet. But is this it? Is there not anything else we can learn about cyberlaw from the virtualists and their utopian dreams? I think so. In fact, the New Virtualist paradigm of cyberlaw scholarship draws on the insights of early cyberlegal work while acknowledging the need to bring more realism and empiricism to cyberlaw analysis. With reference to examples of both original and new virtualist work, I set out three key features or innovations of the New Virtualism: first, its recognition of the permeability of real and virtual space; second, its reliance on the interdependence of cyberlaw analytical perspective; and third, its rejection of the cyber-utopian's Legal Immunity Thesis. The paper concludes with a discussion of future directions for New Virtualist scholarship in both privacy and copyright law.

Keywords: Privacy, cyberspace, technology, virtualism, virtualist, realist, internal, externalist, constitution, information privacy, fair information practices, virtualism, penney, jon

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Penney, Jonathon, Understanding the New Virtualist Paradigm (February 1, 2009). Journal of Internet Law, Vol. 12, No. 8, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1355392

Jonathon Penney (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
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Harvard Law School ( email )

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Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

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Citizen Lab, University of Toronto ( email )

Munk School of Global Affairs
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3K7

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