Calls > Session 8

8 – Representing cyberspace: landscapes, territories and sovereignty. Geopolitical and legal challenges

Co-facilitators: Frédérick DOUZET (UP8 Castex Chair of Cyberstrategy) & Anne-Thida NORODOM (CUREJ)

Cyberspace is neither a physical place nor a territory according to the classical definition in geography. It is a new environment generated by the global interconnexion of information and communication systems, primarily the Internet, a space forged by an infinity of links between users that challenges the traditional notions of distance and frontiers. Cyberspace is the product of human groups who organize and shape this new space for the purpose of appropriation, exploitation of its resources, exchanges and communication. This environment is however generated by physical infrastructures and equipment deeply grounded in terrestrial space. Cyberspace is supported by a material network that is strongly dependent on its physical, political, economic, social and legal environment, an environment that in turn it helps to shape through the activities it allows.

These characteristics mean that a multi-dimensional and multi-scalar approach is required to understand the complexities of the interactions that constitute cyberspace. The transfrontier activities it permits and the emergence of new powerful global actors like intermediation platforms challenge the notions of national territory, jurisdiction and sovereignty, and transform power relationships between a multiplicity of actors. From a legal perspective, attempts to "territorialize" cyberspace involve projecting state borders to justify law enforcement by states. Cyberspace also forces us to rethink the issue of extraterritorial law.

This territorialization of cyberspace thus creates a new form of sovereignty in the digital era. It raises the question of a specific geography that combines a topographical approach (physical, legal, technical territoriality of the elements of cyberspace) and a topological approach (reticular territoriality defined by centers, links, communities, flows or even a new form of territory) to represent this new space of links and interactions. It would therefore seem most appropriate to revisit the notions of distance and power relationships between actors at the very heart of geopolitics.


Desforges A., 2013, « Les frontières du cyberespace », in Douzet F., Giblin B (dir.), Des frontières indépassables ?, Paris, Armand Colin, pp. 101-112.
Desforges A., Douzet F., Limonier K., 2014, « Géopolitique du cyberespace : territoire, frontière et conflits », CIST2014 – Fronts et frontières des sciences du territoire, mars 2014, Paris, France, Proceedings du 2e colloque international du CIST, pp.173-178.
Douzet F., 2007, « Les frontières chinoises de l'Internet », Hérodote, n° 125, pp.127-142.
Douzet F. (dir.), 2014, Cyberespace : enjeux géopolitiques (Cyberspace : Geopolitical Challenges), La Découverte, Hérodote, pp. 152-153.
Douzet F., Faravelon A., Grumbach S., Robine J., 2015, "The Geopolitics of Intermediation platforms: a cartographic approach", Plurimondi. An International Forum for Research and Debate on Human Settlements.
Kittichaisaree K., 2017, Public International Law of cyberspace, Springer.
Kohl U., 2007, Jurisdiction and the Internet: a study of regulatory competence over online activity, C.U.P.
Treppoz E., 2016, “Jurisdiction in the Cyberspace”, Revue suisse de droit international et droit européen, vol. 26, pp. 273-287.
Tsagourias N.K., Russell B., 2015, Research Handbook on International Law and cyberspace, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Expected types of paper

Beyond reflections that could be made on the distinction between territory, space or zone in cyberspace, it is important to know, on the one hand, to what extent the theories applicable to so-called classical or real territories apply and, where appropriate, to those spaces referred to as ‘virtual’ and, on the other hand, to analyse the power struggles in cyberspace and to seek insights into the development of a geography of cyberspace.

The following topics could be the subject of a communication:
- Are the criteria for state jurisdiction over a territory still relevant (personnel, equipment)?
- Has the effects doctrine, as set forth in the Lotus jurisprudence, been renewed by cyberspace, in a similar manner to the theoretical reflections on the extraterritoriality of law?
- Conflicts of jurisdiction and sovereignty issues in cyberspace
- Mapping of different dimensions, landscapes and territories in cyberspace
- Analysis of geopolitical representations of cyberspace (territory, military environment, battlefield, a ‘virtual’ space)
- Cartography of power strategies in cyberspace
- Intermediation platforms, territories and juridictions in cyberspace

The aim is to be able to prepare a cartography of cyberspace in both its geopolitical and legal dimensions.

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