April 2, 1999

ELECTRONIC COMMERCE LAW AND PRACTICE. By Michael Chissick and Alistair Kelman. Sweet and Maxwell, pp230 Pounds 125.00, ISBN 0 7520 0650.

The internet may be a foreign country, but British laws still apply to doing business there. Two lawyers specialising in IT have set out to explain those existing laws: Michael Chissick, a partner at Field Fisher Waterhouse, and Alistair Kelman, a barrister and visiting fellow at the LSE's Computer Security Research Centre. The book is analytical rather than prescriptive, but is a useful guide for anyone going into cyberspace business - or who wants to get in early on what will soon be an important legal field.

LIBERATING CYBERSPACE: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and the Internet. Edited by Liberty. Pluto Press, 304pp Pounds 13.99/Pounds 40.00, ISBN 0 7453 1294 2/0 7543 1299 3.

Many of the usual activist suspects - Privacy International's Simon Davies, the Foundation for Information Policy Research's Caspar Bowden, psychologist Sherry Turkle, Global Internet Liberty Campaign's Yaman Akdeniz - have turned out to write essays for this volume, covering the gamut of internet hot-button issues. Censorship, copyright, privacy, cryptography, democracy, governance, human rights and equality of access are covered by genuine experts. The material should be familiar to anyone who has studied the net and it also serves as a good introduction.

COMMUNITIES IN CYBERSPACE. Edited by Marc A. Smith and Peter Kollock. Routledge 338pp Pounds 15.99/Pounds 50.00, ISBN 0 415 19140 8/0 415 19139 4.

Sociologists at UCLA, student Marc Smith and associate professor Peter Kollock have spent several years constructing theories to explain how cyberspace communities work. This collection of papers looks at problems raised by online communities: conflict management, power structures, gender, identity, cooperation, activism and participation. There is still some debate as to whether cyberspace communities deserve the term; Kollock and Smith argue that they do, even though such communities are not exact replicas of their real-life counterparts.

THE PEARLY GATES OF CYBERSPACE: a History of Space from Dante to the Internet. By Margaret Wertheim. Virago 320pp Pounds 14.99, ISBN 1 86049 5 3.

In every culture, Margaret Wertheim argues, humans have sought to escape the limitations of the body, and new concepts of space have typically set off a massive cultural shift. Medieval scholars believed that the Earth was surrounded by spheres populated with angels and other types of spirits, beliefs which were killed off by Copernicus and subsequent scientists. Our spiritual longing is creating the bustling virtual realms of cyberspace, where we look for soul-data and immateriality. And you thought it was only email.

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