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Category: Symposium (First Amendment Architecture)

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One more principle: Nondiscrimination

There is one principle that I would add to the five that Marvin examines in the article:  nondiscrimination.  It seems to me that across public and private, physical and virtual “space” contexts (and judicial opinions), one persistent principle is that nondiscriminatory approaches to sustaining spaces, platforms, … infrastructures are presumptively legit and normatively attractive — whether government efforts to “sustain” involve public provisioning, subsidization or regulation.

I recognize that this might seem to tread too close to the negative liberty / anti-censorship model, but in my view, it helps connect the anti-censorship model with the pro-architecture model.  We should worry when government micro-manages speech and chooses winners and losers, but macro-managing/structuring the speech environment is unavoidable.  A nondiscrimination principle guides the latter (macro-management) to avoid the former (micro-management).

This sixth principle is implicit is the other five that Marvin discusses.  It’s not articulated as a stand-alone principle, uniform across situations, or even defined completely.  Nonetheless, nondiscrimination of *some* sort is part of the spatial analysis for each principle. For example, in the paper, when Marvin discusses designated public spaces, he says that government can designate spaces–so long as it does so in a nondiscriminatory way. The nondiscrimination principle here is limited: government cannot discriminate based on the limited notion of “content.”  Another example is limited public forums where government cannot discriminate on viewpoint, but can set aside a forum for particular speakers based on the expected content (say students / educational content).  There are other examples that Marvin explores in the paper.  In my view, there is something fundamental about nondiscrimnation and the functional role that it plays that warrants further attention.

Frankly, the idea of a nondiscrimination principle connects with my own ideas about the First Amendment being aimed at sustaining infrastructure commons and the many different types of spillovers from speech–or more broadly, sustaining a spillover-rich cultural environment;  I explored those ideas in an essay and I expand on them in the book.   It is important to make clear that government support for infrastructure commons — whether by direct provisioning or by common carrier style regulation — lessens pressure on both governments and markets to pick winners and losers in the speech marketplace/environment, and as Marvin argues, that is something that is and ought to be fundamental or core in any FA model.

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Speech and Spatiality

I too want to thank Danielle and Concurring Opinions for hosting this discussion.  I think Marvin has addressed a really timely and important topic, speech spaces and architecture, in his forthcoming article.  As readers can tell from his posts here and elsewhere, and from reading the piece, Marvin challenges a fair amount of what passes for conventional wisdom in the free speech area.  I look forward to discussing his thesis and some of its implications.  In this post, I want to address why the framing of the issues Marvin addresses as distinctly spatial ones is critically important.  

In my own work on speech and spatiality, I have focused on the importance to freedom of speech, assembly, and petition of access to public parks and plazas (public forums).  Marvin’s conception of speech spaces is much broader.  It includes not only these traditional forums, but various channels of communication.  Thus, he provides an expansive conception of free speech spaces, one that extends far beyond my own conception of the “expressive topography.”   Under Marvin’s conception, newspapers, broadcast and cable stations, the U.S. mail, and the Internet are all speech spaces.  Thay are part of our expressive architecture.  By treating these channels as spaces or places rather than simply mediums of expression, Marvin begins to push against traditional conceptual boundaries.  By framing the discussion in terms of spataility, he begins the process of rearranging conceptual, theoretical, and doctrinal boundaries.   

The central payoffs from this conceptual framing are two-fold.  Read More

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First Amendment Architecture Online Symposium

Next week, the Stanford Technology Law Review is holding its “First Amendment Challenges in the Digital Age” conference in celebration of its 15th year anniversary.  One of the panels will center on Marvin Ammori’s First Amendment Architecture article and the important concerns that he raises about doctrine and normative theory concerning speech spaces in our networked environment.  At CoOp, we will participate in that discussion online, bringing together guest blogger Marvin Ammori with thought leaders (and guest bloggers) Marc Blitz, Brett Frischmann, Gregory Magarian, Zephyr Teachout, and Tim Zick to discuss Marvin’s article and broader concerns about expressive spaces in the twenty-first century.

We will be holding an online symposium on Julie Cohen’s Configuring the Networked Self in March as well as one on Brett Frischmann’s book on Infrastructure (forthcoming Oxford University Press).  Hopefully, we can do the same for Tim Zick’s book on The Cosmopolitan First Amendment (forthcoming Cambridge University Press 2013).  This discussion will be a terrific way to begin our long-term commitment to thinking through what architecture means and should mean for civil liberties.

Here’s the abstract for Marvin’s article:

The right to free speech is meaningless without some place to exercise it. But constitutional scholarship generally overlooks the role of judicial doctrines in ensuring the availability of spaces for speech. Indeed, when scholarship addresses doctrines that are explicitly concerned with speech spaces such as public forums and media or Internet forums, it generally marginalizes these doctrines as “exceptions” to standard First Amendment analysis. By overlooking or marginalizing these decisions, scholarship has failed to explicate the logic underlying important doctrinal areas and what these areas reveal about the First Amendment’s normative underpinnings.

This Article adopts a different interpretive approach. It identifies and interprets the Court’s role in ensuring, requiring, or permitting government to make spaces available for speech. Across a range of physical and virtual spaces, the Article identifies five persistent judicial principles evident in precedent and practice that require or permit government to ensure spaces to further particular, substantive speech-goals.

Further, rather than quarantining these speech-principles as exceptions to the standard analysis, this Article explores the significance of these principles for “core” speech doctrine and theory. The resulting analysis poses fundamental challenges to conventional wisdom about the First Amendment and the normative principles generally believed evident in doctrine. Consequently, the Article provides timely guidance for legislators and judges, particularly for shaping access to the technology-enabled virtual spaces increasingly central to Americans’ discourse.