Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Spacing Out -- what is cyberspace?

An interesting thought is how exactly we, as a society and as individual users, wish to govern this radically pervasive "space," the internet.

My first reaction is that "space" is a false term for the digital network. It was a term coined by William Gibson to describe his virutal world in his groundbreaking sci-fi/cyberpunk book, The Neuromancer. His passage reads as follows:

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding ...

His conception of cyberspace was of a representation of a data, a visual image that conveys the connections between nodes. Cyberspace in this sense is no space at all, but merely a representation of relationships.

For this reason, I believe a discussion of how we regulate and control cyberspace (by law, by behavior, by practice) must be informed by a knowledge of the relationships of the involved parties. Governing cyberspace is then governing relationship, be they human-human, human-machine, or machine-machine. Our laws should reflect this dynamic, and not attempt to draw up radically new measures for regulating some alternative, 4th dimension "space."

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