Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cyberspace: Reality or Forced Reality?

It was kind of refreshing to take a break from the last two books and open up to one which sounds more earthy. at least from my point of view. The introduction to the book clarifies cyberspace in a way that I didn't understand and it simplified the meaning and the angles which other writings that I have come across don't do. Professor Strate does a good job explaining this and giving us the historical timeline of what events have constituted our arrival to this notion or concept we know as "cyberspace". I like the way that space is defined, as existing independently from human beings. It is a conceived notion we have of some "area" that we designate to be for our use. The three types of space: physical, perceptual, and conceptual present three dimensions in which we can effectuate our exchange of ideas and/or physical exchange of actions. (We can call this the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the blessed trinity for those of us who are Catholics). The cyberspace myth is one that has been created to make sense of the perceptual and conceptual spaces, but it is the conceptual space that is more befitting for cyberspace. It is here where the exchange of ideas, communication, and actions (such as making an online payment) takes place. This results from the "interconnection" of computers along a network making communication between or among individuals possible.

Another element that stood out for me was the element of seeing people as "cyborgs". Yes, The Terminator gave us an example of what a cyborg is and what it does, being half man-half machine. However, it is our relation to the computer and the way we use it, by clicking on a mouse, scrolling down a web page, and multitasking on the desktop which, according to the authors of the book, render us as cyborgs. The term may sound far-fetched but it does provide some technical description to what we as individuals perform on a daily basis. In a way, computers dictate our behavior and in another way, we control the machine to perform the functions we desire. It is that relation from man to machine which turns us into some technological "creation" because we are relating with an inanimate object that communicates in some foreign language (code). But it is this cyberspace where we are now connecting with people, sending and receiving money, accessing information, producing works of art and/or business, emailing, etc., the list goes on and on. Although many people will want to believe we have entered the "Twilight Zone", it is an environment that has been created so that tasks that need immediate attention can be completed in a shorter amount of time. Yes, this is the reality that has been created, or as I like to say, "forced upon us". 99 percent of the population may think it is a work of nature and of the "powers that be". I am quite sure that there is no Divine Intervention here, but this is the "space" that has been bestowed upon us, attempting to undermine our "physical space" as humans.

To say that this creates some form of a culture, as the introduction implies, is, in my opinion, something that can be argued. To me, a culture requires physical one-on-one interaction. Let's look briefly at cultures that have been created in the past. Aside from foreign cultures, such as ethnic ones, let's look at our current 20th century cultures that have come about. One that comes to my mind is the Hippie culture of the late 1960s. Here we have a group of kids, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, who believe that the Vietnam War is wrong and refuse to go fight. They backlashed against this government of ours that has been and is to this day "square" and unrealistic to the needs of people, which was sending people abroad to get killed to fight against Communist intervention. These kids got together, dodged the draft, and began changing their way of dress, promoted demonstrations for peace, and believed in the principle of peace and love (of course sex, drugs, and rock and roll were also part of it!). Most important, there was people interaction, human, which made possible a counterrevolution, one that is deeply needed in today's world or at least a resurgence of it. Unfortunately, with the digital age and computers, that does not seem to have the same effect. Here, codes, binary information, etc. are phenomena that have been created but do not present that human interaction necessary. It is a weak culture which is only getting absorbed by corporate greed and ulterior motives, promoting a false sense of security to the users of the technology. I wouldn't call this a culture, but rather, a progressive alternative to accomplishing tasks. It seems like the more we use a computer, the more aloof we become to our surroundings and human ineraction is not fostered, so this results in decadence and corrosion of our society. Think about it, cyberspace may be faster, it may provide some type of a "voice for some", and perhaps a ray of hope for others, but since there is no "physical space" in cyberspace, it vanishes into thin air, leaving some cloud of dust and confusion for all.

To answer the question of reality or foced reality, I see it as a forced reality. For those who want to accept it as a reality, it's their choice to do so. We won't discredit the internet for what it has done for us in the last fifteen years and we won't deny the existence of cyberspace. Calling people cyborgs is not appropriate just because some person knows how to handle a computer. We are still humans beings and we have mental functions and abilities that render us as being above-average in intelligence or even geniuses. Knowing how to use a computer does not make us smarter than an average person. I also don't want to sound like a skeptic but I do see where it is not necessary to take cyberspace and embrace it in its entirety. It should not be taken as the sole source for communication; it should be an "alternative" source of communication. Otherwise this action would justify the streamlining principle, or searching for uniformity in things, and that would defeat the initial purpose of the technology to begin: the purpose for individuality. Regading policing methods for cyberspace, yes, policing and even regulations would be appropriate to "regulate" behaviors that would seem inappropriate, but I wouldn't classify those measures as comparable to physical policing of streets and a justice system comprised of humans. These latter two have thinking abilities and provide for physical interaction, providing a more meaningful "experience". These things should be examined first before getting lost in a "fantasy world" with no concrete nature.

To finalize my post, it all comes down to choice. Put it this way, this is one of the features of our human life that is difficult but the most rewarding. Making a choice is what really makes a difference in the way we want our lives to run, especially with cyberspace as a phenomenon. We can choose whether we want this to control our lives or we can opt to control it and reduce it to its intended purpose, in other words give it its place as an expedient of information. I like the bit about Neil Postman asking, "Do we really need cyberspace?" In other words, here we can really take stock and determine if this is what we truly need to operate our lives. There are things in life we can go without, and perhaps we can determine, in time, if this cyberspace concept is one we can sacrifice, especially when we know for a fact that it makes us grow father away from our society.


  1. I agree, I liked the several definitions of what cyberspace is. It was easy to understand and clarified some misconceptions for me.

  2. Interesting argument about culture. I wouldn't go to the extreme that you do, but instead would distinguish between different types of cultures. We speak on a very large level of western culture, more specifically about national cultures, more narrowly about regional, local, and ethnic cultures, and also about organizational cultures and family cultures, so why not online cultures, as the shared rules, languages, and meanings of a specific online community?