Saturday, November 19, 2016

About Cyber Science

One of the issues - among others - in cyber jurisprudence is what we mean by cyber science.  In the first posting I gave a pretty good working definition (you can go back to that posting for the informal citation):

Cyber science is concerned with the study of phenomena caused or generated by the cyberworld and cyber-physical, cyber-social and cyber-mental worlds, as well as the complex intertwined integration of cyber physical, social and mental worlds.

Now we need to elaborate on that and the paper from which that quote came is a very good starting point.  The problem is that there is a connection between cyberspace and physical space (or what used to be called "the real world" before we started accepting, de facto, that the real world includes cyberspace)  that is hard to ignore.

For example, before we dive back into the paper quoted from in my first posting, lets look at cyber criminology.  I debated for some time - and at least once in a formal debate - with my criminal justice colleagues at Norwich University whether the discipline of cyber criminology even exists.  Their position was that criminology is criminology.  Period.  Full stop.  There can be but one criminology and, while there may be specific specialized skill sets in play from subject area to subject area, it all is criminology.

However, K. Jaishankar in Cyber Criminology - Exploring Internet Crimes and Criminal Behavior (CRC Press, 2011) begs to differ. Jaishankar defines cyber criminology very specifically (page xxvii):

The study of crimes that occur in cyberspace and its impact in the physical space.

He goes on:

I academically coined the term cyber criminology for two reasons. First, the body of knowledge that deals with cyber crimes should not be confused with investigation and be merged with cyber forensics; second, there should be an independent discipline to study and explore cyber crimes from a social science perspective.

So, why should we care about Jaishankar's definition and reasoning in the context of cyber science? Simply because it acknowledges some important points. First, there is a sociological component to cyber crime that should be considered in cyberspace, physical space and their intersection.  Second, and perhaps most important to our consideration of cyber science, although cyberspace and physical space interact and influence each other, they are separate domains, each with its own constraints.

Even though there may appear to be similarities, similar is not the same as equal.  Events in cyberspace are unique.  Events in physical space are unique.  Where they overlap we have decisions to make.  In the law those are jurisprudential - philosophical and theoretical - decisions and they help us parse the cyber from the physical just as Jaishankar has with cyber criminology.

Hopefully, by this jurisprudential parsing of the cyber from the physical with due consideration for their intersection(s), we can arrive at legal constructs that assist jurists, litigators and legislators in interpreting existing law and, where necessary, creating new or modified laws to address cyber science as necessary.

Returning to cyber science

The authors of the paper divide cyber science into four broad categories, or families, each of which has sub-categories, or elements, based upon specific disciplines.  The families are:

  1. Fundamental
  2. Cyber-Physical
  3. Cyber-Social
  4. Cyber-Mental

The relationships between the families is shown in a table which I quote directly from the paper (Table 1 in the paper).

As we can see, this definition of cyber science broadly fits the criteria established by Jaishankar as prerequisites for cyber criminology and offers a rich field of exploration for jurisprudential analysis. For example, the authors explicitly call out Cyber-Law as an element of the family, Cyber-Social.

This legitimizes - but only as a starting point - a rough definition of cyber science.  It leaves us some room both to refine and grow into a solid, formal definition of cyber science and that we will do in a future posting.

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