Cyberspace: A space at all? (Week 4)

What is cyberspace? Is it real? And if so, where is it?

To answer these questions it is important to understand what exactly “cyberspace” is. Cyberpunk fiction writer William Gibson coined the term in the 80s in his short story “Burning Chrome.” Gibson states that cyberspace is “a graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system…Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data” (1984). However, Gibson himself eventually criticised the term as being simply a code for his cybernetic musings.

The definition above implies that cyberspace lacks the reality that “space” suggests. Cyberspace infers that information, that from communication, is a physical element that humans can delve into and explore . However, this idea seems far-fetched and impossible. “Hackers” had to detach their minds from reality and and leaving their body behind, making them unaware of their physical surroundings. This means there is a clear distinction between a physical world and a digital world; a “dualism” between “real” and “virtual.” There is a notion of a virtual reality; a three dimensional digital environment that humans can enter and traverse, looking for information. The second, is a world of networks of computers which enable us to communicate, store and retrieve information (Bryant 2001). An example of the latter, is the internet which is increasingly at our fingertips. Gibson’s proposed cyber-jockeys and netrunners were required to blend their mind with digital sources to “navigate through a labyrinth” of information in its “physical” form. I also reject the notion of a “virtual world”, because like these sources suggest, information and our human brain’s interpretation of it does not exist in a physical sense. It only exists because we know it exists because we understand information in various forms; but it is not a tangible element. We know understanding happens because for every action there is a reaction. The thought of a “virtual” world where we must fly through light sources to access information sounds ridiculous. Even stranger is that cyberspace has been given its own dimension and world of its own in the future. Will we end up like that? Consider this episode of The Simpsons which explores the idea of being trapped in cyberspace. In  “Homer3“, Homer finds himself trapped in a three dimensional world, inspired by an episode in The Twilight Zone. Search “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror VI” to learn more.

Essentially, cyberspace may not be a physical state of being but more so a “place” where cyber communication occurs. One blogger described it as the “indefinite place out there, where [the] two of you, two human beings, actually meet and communicate” (Rey 2012). It is a representation of the digital world of communication that exists only by using the technology that is now available to us. Cyberspace is therefore a complex and difficult concept to grasp as even its own definitions are vague and misleading. More relevant is the idea that a virtual reality will be constructed in the form of simulations that mirror reality or perhaps be indistinguishable from reality; our own Matrix. Even then, the word “constructed” is inaccurate unless we can prove this already exists – in my interpretation, this idea seems like a social experiment or a God-like invention. Either we know about it because humans created it in a smaller reality, or we don’t know about it and we are already living in one.  Constructing a new reality is only comprehensible when seen in the like of Big Brother, or Lisa Simpson’s new world that she creates by accidentally electrocuting one of her teeth in Cola.

The following blog is an interesting interpretation of the idea of “cyberspace” and how it is mythical: The Myth of Cyberspace. Also, this blogs further supports the notion that the concept of cyberspace is obsolete (watch out for bad language): Gibsonian Concept of Cyberspace is silly and outdated

Catch you later cats and kittens,

Anneleise xx

References:

Bryant R 2001, What kind of space is cyberspace?, Minerva – An internet journal of philosophy, ISSN 1393-614X, viewed 30 August 2012,< http://www.minerva.mic.ul.ie//vol5/cyberspace.html >

Gibson, W 1984, Neuromancer, Ace

Rey PJ 2012, The myth of cyberspace, viewed 30 August 2012,< http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/the-myth-of-cyberspace/ >

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