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7 February, 2006

The end of cyberspace?

An article in Wired acknowledges that the concept of the internet as 'cyberspace', a virtual destination where people go in order to interact with one another and computers, has become obsolete.  Development of Virtual Reality (headsets & gloves) foundered years ago, and immersive alternate realities remained in sci-fi (I don't count the recreational examples of World of Warcraft or Second Life).  The distinction between on- and offline activities is fading, and nowadays the internet is simply a facet of everyday, 'real world' life. 

The article invites suggestions for a term to replace 'cyberspace', but I'd argue that the very nature of the conceptual change means there's no longer a need for any specific name for 'virtual space'. I agree with Neil Gershenfeld, Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms (now that's a bad name!), who proposes calling the computer-orientated environment simply 'the world'.

Then again....

At BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow describes cyberspace as the "place of the mind", a concept with which I can identify.
If I'm participating in an online discussion, or reading a blog entry written, published and hosted on the other side of the world, or indeed whilst writing this, my consciousness doesn't really have a meaningful geographical location. Maybe the concept of 'out there' does still apply.
If so, it predates the internet – If I speak to my father in Norway, via a standard 'land line' phone, just as I have done since the 1970s, where is my mind? My full concentration is on the conversation, so it doesn't matter that my head is in the UK.

Hmm. I suspect one could think too hard about such metaphysics – and then where would one be?

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