four puzzles from cyberspace
MOST PEOPLE THINK THAT TO UNDERSTAND LAW, YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND A SET OF rules. That's a mistake, as Stanley Fish taught us. 1 The law is best understood through stones—stories that teach what is later summarized in a catalog of rules.
So it is with stories that I begin. Each (there are four) captures a theme that recurs throughout the book. Each is meant both to orient and to disorient—that is, to show ways in which cyberspace is both like and unlike real space. At the end of this chapter, I come clean about the themes and provide a map. For now, just focus on the stories.
It was a very ordinary dispute, this argument between Martha Jones and her neighbors. 2 It was the sort of dispute that people have had since the start of neighborhoods. It didn't begin, this particular dispute, in anger. It began with a misunderstanding. In this world, misunderstandings like this are far too common. Martha thought about that as she wondered whether she should stay. There were other places she could go. Leaving would mean abandoning what she had built, but frustrations like this were beginning to get to her. Maybe, she thought, it was time to move on.
The argument was about borders—about where her land stopped. It seemed like a simple idea, one you would have thought the powers-that-be would have worked out many years before. But here they were, her neighbor Dank and she, still fighting about borders. Or rather, about something fuzzy at the borders—about something of Martha's that spilled over into the land of others. This was the fight, and it all related to what Martha did.
Martha grew flowers. Not just any flowers, but flowers with an odd sort of power. They were beautiful flowers, and their scent entranced. But however beautiful, these