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Liang raises the concept of an illegal city in his essay “Porous Legalities and Avenues of Participation” claiming that the essence of an illegal city stems from an illegal housing supply. Yet the word illegal caries many negative connotations, especially within the context of piracy.

The illegal city can be physical; slums built illegally, people living in buildings that have not met code, stealing basic amenities like water and electricity. Or the illegal city can be a mindset, an underground economy where people persist by engaging in illegal technologies. Perhaps the most overt example of this would be cities infiltrated by the mob or mafia, but increasingly it is by those who are pirates.

Piracy now refers to the stealing of digital content and intellectual property, rather than sailing around looking for ships loaded with gold to plunder. Pirates are not readily identifiable by their appearance, but are now an integral part of the informal economy and of growing importance to the formal economy. When they sell counterfeit media they are fostering their business and their neighborhoods, but also hurting the legitimate owners and sellers of the media. Further in the age of globalization, the reverberations of their actions are felt worldwide.

The culture of the illegal city is also interesting and emerging. It is reminiscent of the culture and atmosphere of nighttown, and especially of the pit featured in Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic. The illegal city is at once outside the realm of traditional society and completely dependent on it.