Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Incoming Essay: Defining Cyberspace

An essay will be posted on this blog, from the topic below for a university assessment piece.

William Gibson says cyberspace is a consensual hallucination. Is he right or is cyberspace just another part of the everyday world? Is there a future for the concept of cyberspace? or is it time to come up with a better term for human interaction with computer networks?

Defining cyberspace can be a difficult task. There are various explanations that are simple. The simple explanations pertain to the functional side of cyberspace. The difficulty of defining cyberspace is rooted in the paradox of cyberspace - cyberspace is a non-physical space. From my recent literature review of cyberspace, I came to the conclusion that cyberspace has two main elements, two sides to it. The first is the functional element, previously mentioned. The second is the existential, experiential side.  

This second element is extremely complicated, trying to pull together definitions from philosophy of mind, socio-cultural determinants, and it is this realm of cyberspace explanations that often carries the romanticism of cyber ideologies. 

My essay will delve into both elements in an attempt to provide a more complete description of cyberspace, using the two elements previously mentioned as a simple framework. My essay will discuss William Gibson's original meaning of cyberspace as a consensual hallucination, and conclude that this description is entirely insufficient. To be fair, even Gibson didn't truly know what it meant. In an interview he says that he thought it and then saw it on the page and there it was. He couldn't have known the mutations in the use of the word that were to follow. 

I will also address the topic question by arguing that there is a future for the concept of cyberspace. The ramifications that can occur in the economic and developed worlds due to misuse of computer power are a real threat, and there are plenty of people out there that want the internet sewn up with laws and regulations. The most insane idea I read about was that everybody who wanted to access the internet would have an individual ID. This ID would be like an access card with a security clearance. So depending on who you are, would determine what you are allowed to access and to do online. Governments are worried. It's been a long time since the Peace of Westphalia, and governments don't like the idea of cyberspace diluting their long held sovereign borders. 

Perhaps there is room however, for some new terms. Just like the internet is a mother to the world wide web, perhaps there are some other terms that can be the sons and daughters of cyberspace? and just like the internet, people will continue to use the term in general conversation, and not for it's true meaning. But the new common terms may provide clarity and assistance for writers and academics who further explore the ever-changing realm of cyberspace. 

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