Bruce D. Larkin. Professor of Politics. MWF 11.00-12.10
University of California at Santa Cruz MF: Baskin Engineering 156
Winter Quarter 2003 W: College Eight Academic 252

Politics 172

Winter 2003

Politics of the Internet

This class meets in the wired classroom on Mondays and Fridays: Baskin Engineering 156. On Wednesdays we meet in College Eight 252.

We will exploit technology [computer-generated display, real-time Web access, ‘live’ whiteboard] to focus discussion and lecture on texts, many of them on-line documents students can consult further after class. Each policy issue will be illustrated by citing articles, reports, and policy documents. Moving between the original texts and my own lecture notes, I will develop contending claims and their political significance. Policy questions include Net and Web governance, censorship, privacy, encryption, taxation, transaction security, net security, access, police-state surveillance, globalization, and implications for the State, governance, accountability, and democracy. [Students who have taken Politics 80X Politics of the Internet may not also take Politics 172.]

This Syllabus is on line at

The Table of Links is on line at

Notices and Email Addresses of class members, for registered UCSC student use only, are at

This course takes “the Internet” to be a community of culture, practices, relationships, economies, governance, rules, claims, arguments, and decisions. It is a form—a novel form—of polity. It has some affinities to the worlds of one-directional communication [newspapers, radio, television] with which it can be usefully compared, and which it may come to encompass. As in a state, there are issues concerning economy, security, and organization; here ‘organization’ includes the question how authoritative claims are made. Who governs? and how? by what rules? and how are those rules themselves subject to change?

What is the relationship of the State to the Net and Web? Does the State shape the Net? And what are the prospects that the Net will change the State?

On key issues—copyright, encryption, censorship—states have already declared intention to regulate the Net. Was Justice’s attempt to compel Microsoft to disengage its browser from Windows 98 an old-fashioned anti-trust move, or novel claim required to sustain a vigorous Web?

What of politics among non-State actors? For example, Microsoft and Sun are in a complex contest about the dominance of Windows and the possibilities of Java. The Universities, racing against each other, are hell-bent on securing control of education on the Net through ‘distance learning’ and ‘certification.’ Corporations are clashing over whether systems are to be ‘open’, or ‘proprietary.’ Is the Net bringing and forcing these issues? Shaping outcomes?

Assigned Works

Abbate, Janet. Inventing the Internet (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1999).

Brown, John Seely and Paul Duguid. The Social Life of Information (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2001).

Diffie, Whitfield and Susan Landau. Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1998).

Franda, Michael. Governing the Internet: The Emergence of an International Regime (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2001).

Karmack, Elaine Ciulla and Joseph S. Nye, Jr. [eds]. Democracy in the Information Age (Washington, DC: Brookings, 2002).

Lessig, Lawrence. Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace (New York: Basic Books, [1999] 2000).

Lessig, Lawrence. The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (New York: Random House [2001], Vintage Books, 2002).

Further Reading

Berners-Lee, Tim [with Mark Fischetti]. Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999).

Cairncross, Frances. The Death of Distance (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1997).

Dodge, Martin and Rob Kitchin. Atlas of Cyberspace (Addison-Wesley, 2001). Highly recommended. This is not at the Baytree Bookstore, but can be ordered from sources such as

Everard, Jerry. Virtual States: The Internet and the Boundaries of the Nation-State (London: Routledge, 1999).

Grossman, Lawrence K. The Electronic Republic: Reshaping Democracy in the Information Age (Penguin, 1996).

Grossman, Wendy M. net.wars (New York: New York University Press, 1997).

Hafner, Katie and John Markoff. Cyberpunk: Outlaws and Hackers on the Computer Frontier (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991).

Hargittai, Eszter and Manuel Cinteno [eds]. AMERICAN BEHAVIORAL SCIENTIST, Vol. 44 No. 10, June 2001. Special issue of ABS titled "Mapping Globalization". [See their introductory chapter on line.]

Lanham, Richard A. The Electronic World: Democracy, Technology, and the Arts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

Liberty [The National Council for Civil Liberties] ed. Liberating Cyberspace: Civil Liberties, Human Rights & the Internet [London and Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press, 1999].

Loader, Brian [ed]. The Governance of Cyberspace: Politics, Technology, and Global Restructuring (London and New York: Routledge, 1997).

Lyon, Matthew and Katie Hafner. Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

Margolis, Michael and David Resnick. Politics as Usual: The Cyberspace “Revolution” (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 2000).

On-Line Materials

All registered students enrolled in the class are urged to use the detailed P172 Table of Links, which complements this syllabus. The readings and sites to which the links lead are recommended, not required. Reference will be made to many of them in the lectures. You are free to draw on these in writing your papers. For these reasons we strongly recommend that you incorporate use of the Table of Links into your personal study program for this course.

Visitors: Following the Course On-Line

If you are not enrolled in Politics 172, and even if you are not a student at UC Santa Cruz, you are free to organize your own program of self-study around the P172 Syllabus and P172 Table of Links. Although Visitors must rely on their own circle of friends for discussion and comment on their work, we are quite ready to tell enrolled students of your interest in the class and share your inquiries with them. You may identify yourself as a Visitor by email to


The first meeting of class [and Week 0] is Friday, 3 January 2003. Week 1 consists of the classes meeting 6, 8, and 10 January. And so forth. There is no class on Monday, 20 January, or Monday, 17 February. The last class is Friday, March 14.

Week 0. Introduction.

Week 1. Political origins of the Internet. Design of the Web. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3). ICANN [Internet Corporation on Assigned Names and Numbers]. The domain name controversy. “North-South” differences. Standards. HTML. Browser competition.

     •  Required: Abbate, Inventing the Internet.

Week 2. Access. “Citizenship.” Exclusion. Costs. One net, or several nets? Marginalisation. English-language hegemony? "North-South" differences?

     •  Required: Franda, Governing the Internet

Week 3. Privacy. Concealing identity (including ‘anonymization’). Encryption. Personal communication. Communication in aid of criminal acts. State assertion of authority. Surveillance. Communications interception of international transactions?

     •  Required: Diffie & Landau, Privacy on the Line

Week 4. Governance in the State. Implications for democratic practice. Informed voting. Government accountability. Transparence. Coercive possibilities. Database compilation, access, and abuse. Efficiencies.

     •  Required: Ciulla & Nye,

Week 5. Commercial transactions. Scams. Frauds. Secure payments. Digital signatures. Commercial tie-ins. Advertising. Spam: is there no answer to spam? Commerce: will money shape the Web to serve profit? Anti-trust.

     •  Required: Margolis and Resnick, Politics as Usual

Week 6. Security of society. Infrastructure vulnerabilities. Banking transactions. Power transmission. Air traffic. Databases. Internet as instrument of war (‘cyberwar’ and ‘inforwar’). Was Y2K remediation wise? worth the cost? Internet security. Attacks. Preventions. Responses. Deterrents. State authority. Can the Net ever be safe from attack?

     •  Required: Brown & Duguid, The Social Life of Information

Week 7. Intellectual property rights: software, music, graphics, text. Illich thresholds. State authority. Enforcement. A ‘free public library’? or copyrighting history?

     •  Required: Lessig, The Future of Ideas

Week 8. Free speech. Pornography. Filtering. State censorship (China, Germany). Do duties rightly fall on Internet Service Providers?

Week 9. Taxation. Regulation. Jurisdiction. Courts. International agreements. Import-export of digital files?

Week 10. Political design questions. [See below] Are the Net and the State compatible? Should there be Web access to all state documents? Voting via the Web?

     •  Required: Lessig, Code

Design Questions

(A) Should our particulars (of medical, insurance, auto, residence, voter registration, legal, and other facts) be accessible on-line? Proposed ‘Total Information Awareness’? Convenient in medical emergencies, for example, or in preventing vote fraud, would that be consistent with privacy and personal rights?

(B) Do the Net and Web render universities obsolete? Under what circumstances? If the functions now performed by universities were lodged from scratch in a web-rich world, what would institutions and practices look like? Does a similar argument apply to the public school system?

(C) “The Net and Web are more nearly like fresh air, which the polity does not control, than anything subject to state regulation. The pertinent phrase is ‘free as the air we breathe.’ The reason for this is that the marginal cost to create a new instance of a file and transmit it to a requester is close to zero. Therefore the State should not regulate the Net and Web.” Discuss.

(D) The Web will make direct democracy possible. Would that be desirable?

(E) What would a Web look like which could not be exploited by ‘terrorists’? Which would be ‘more difficult’ for ‘terrorists’ to exploit?


Attendance at the scheduled class lecture/discussion sessions is ‘required’. The number of unexcused absences may be noted in your evaluation, if greater than two. Can you devise one (or more) procedures to grant excuses, procedures which are participatory, just, adequately efficient, and protect individual rights?

Term Paper and Final Exam

Your term paper will be in three parts: [i] a 5-page ‘intellectual biography’ which traces day by day the important steps in defining, researching, and writing your paper; [ii] a 12-page (measured as finished 12pt book pages) paper on a question agreed with the instructor, [iii] a 1-page bibliography, to accompany the paper, and [iv] a 2-page annotated bibliography, identifying concisely the content and utility of your main sources. Your model for the paper (items ii and iii) is a finished journal article, a polished piece of serious work. Anticipate making it available to the instructor in hard copy, and to all members of the class on line. A draft of your term paper should be submitted for comment during the week of 17-21 February, and the final version is due on Friday, 7 March.

The final take-home exam will consist of two essays, each an argument on the political significance of brief texts, which will be supplied. It will be given to you at the end of the next-to-last class [12 March], and will be due at the beginning of the final class [Friday, 14 March]. In your essays, show that you can use arguments and materials from the assigned books. (Of course, you may also cite other sources you have read.) The point of this final exercise is to give you an opportunity to show that you have studied the assigned texts with understanding. Taking the same format used for your term paper as a guide, your essays should each be at least two pages and no more than three pages long: that is, the emphasis is on the quality of your arguments, not their length. Bring to the final class as hard copy.

Office Hours

Office hours: M 8.30-10.30 at Cowell 183 (southwest corner of the Cowell Library).

Please forward questions, comments and notice of lost links by email to me at
including the expression “P172” somewhere in the subject line.
The URL of this page is

Revised 2 January 2003.

© 1998-2003 Bruce D. Larkin