Comments: Reflections on "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace"

Ironically enough, when it comes to Lessig's books I'm a contrarian. Yes, liberbabble sucks, but isn't liberalbabble just as bad? The fact that people shut up when you namedropped code makes it sound more like they were cowed by Lessig's rockstar status than convinced by any argument. Lessig's attempt to seek out moderate ground seems to doom any hope for real progress.

Posted by Aaron Swartz at March 18, 2005 09:01 PM

I don't quite understand your objection, particularly the last part about "Lessig's attempt to seek out moderate ground seems to doom any hope for real progress." How is he harmful by being moderate? (there's always a generic radical/liberal schism, but I'm not sure that's what you mean).

Also, people didn't *shut up* in the sense of being cowed. Rather, they now had a reference point which they found sufficient.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at March 19, 2005 01:45 PM


As a fellow contrarian, I understand that people should take pause when we actually assign praise to something.

Code was of course brilliant-- it changed my understanding of the world. The model of what can be "regulable," and how it can be regulated, was elegant and meaingful. When I first heard the related argument from Helen Nissenbaum in the mind 90's in school-- that computer code embeds certain values-- I thought the whole thing was loony. At the time I felt like most armchair value-slingers, that "values" means how much skin you see on the screen, etc. It's far more complex.

It's funny, these days at my office, I still remind my co-workers that the software we develop exhibits certain values, and we need to be mindful of that. (We call our software rules for cryin' out loud).

At the Berkman BloJo conference, I held up bumblebee-colored copy of Code for all the room to see, lest they forget.

If I am envious of Aaron Swartz for one thing, it is that he has four years (natch, 3+) years ahead of him in school to gain an appreciation for this work. And he can meet the rockstar himself there.


Posted by Jon Garfunkel at March 19, 2005 03:19 PM