14.0156 the poetics of "cyberSPACE"

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Tue Aug 08 2000 - 20:43:09 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 156.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

       [1] From: Melissa Terras <melslists@yahoo.com> (18)
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

       [2] From: "Chris McMahon" <pharmakeus@hotmail.com> (50)
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

       [3] From: Mark Horney <mhorney@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU> (16)
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

       [4] From: Mark Wolff <wolffm0@hartwick.edu> (18)
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

       [5] From: "Michael S. Hart" <hart@prairienet.org> (21)
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

       [6] From: "Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett" <bk3@is.nyu.edu> (13)
             Subject: RE: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

       [7] From: Paul Oppenheimer <peo@ERC.MsState.Edu> (15)
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

       [8] From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) (47)
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

             Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 21:29:45 +0100
             From: Melissa Terras <melslists@yahoo.com>
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

    Dear Willard et al,

    in reply to your question, you may like to look at

    "This is an atlas of maps and graphic representations
    of the geographies of the new electronic territories
    of the Internet, the World-Wide Web and other emerging
    Cyberspaces".... while it may not give you definite
    answers, the attempts at representing cyberspace
    create some amazing, thought provoking images.


    Melissa Terras
    Melissa Terras MA MSc
    Engineering Science / Centre for the Study of Ancient
    University of Oxford
    OX1 1DP


             Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 21:30:15 +0100
             From: "Chris McMahon" <pharmakeus@hotmail.com>
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

    Personally, I think its funny that the term seems to have emerged from a
    body of science fiction in which "cyberspace" is quite different from what
    we have today as the "internet" (particularly the www). In that science
    fiction, "cyberspace" is sort of seamless and creates a "virtual reaity"
    which can be hard to discern from "real reality".

    But whatever the case, it does seem that many are interested in the impact
    of the internet on what McLuhan called "the ratio of [our] senses". In this
    connection I find Paul Virilio's "Open Sky" quite profound, though I think
    rather too pessimistic. What I like about Virilio's thinking, tough, is the
    way his theory of the *disaster* can be hooked-up with his thinking about
    global technologies. When you invent the ship you also invent the
    shipwreck. What sort of disaster do you invent when you invent the internet?

    The new technologies - robotics, genetics, computers - these are developing
    rapidly towards a meeting place somewhere not too far down the track at
    some sort of amazing level of power. There are presently at least 6 teams
    woring on "quantum computers" - a technology that promises to pack the
    computing power of a present day IBM the size of a planet into something
    the size of an egg. Genetics might never be applied to human eugenics, but
    it has already been applied to warfare. Robots might never take over the
    world, but they might replace human labour (as they are already doing). But
    even more frightening, what sort of *disaster* shall we be inventing with
    this new technology?

    In my opinion, I do not see that the idea of the *disaster* (or any bad
    effects) should make us stop our R&D. But I do think that there is not
    enough thought going in to how we might respond to such a disaster, or head
    or such a disaster, or even what sorts of disasters we might be looking at?

    But to return to the matter of what the internet is doing re: ratio of the
    senses? From Virilio:

    "Paul Klee hit the nail on the head. 'To define the present in isolation is
    to kill it'. This is what the teletyechnologies of real time are doing;
    they are killing 'present' time by isolating it from its here and now, in
    favour of a commutative elsewhere that no longer has anything to do with
    our 'concrete presence' in the world, but is the 'elsewhere' of a 'discreet
    telepresence' that remains a complete mystery." (Open Sky, 10)

    There's plenty more of that sort of thing.

    Too pessimistic? Too hyberbolical. I think so too, at least not yet. But
    maybe already? To whom am I writing? What will they think of "me" (this
    simulated ... it is still nothing more, and has never been anything else
    but writing).

    :) Chris

    >Perhaps someone might be interested in persuading me and, I suppose, some
    >others that the metaphor of "cyberspace" actually contributes something to
    >our ability to talk about computing and its cultural consequences. In other
    >words, what does this term mean? What is spatial, and what good does it do
    >for us to speak in spatial terms about computing when the physical
    >disposition of computers and people is not the issue? We are already so
    >vexed by bafflegab and hyperinflated promotional claims that, I'd suggest,
    >using such words as thoughtlessly as I hear them used is no minor
    >annoyance. Unless I'm being insensitive to some deep stab of insight....

    Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com

             Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 21:30:44 +0100
             From: Mark Horney <mhorney@OREGON.UOREGON.EDU>
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

    It has been my understanding, unsubstantiated however, that the term
    cyberspace is attributed to the novelist William Gibson, especially his
    Neuromancer (1994) trilogy. The spacial reference is from the particular
    vision Gibson has about a future internet which appears as a three
    dimensional geometric pattern. "Cyber" I should think harks back to Norbert
    Weiner and his term cybernetics, which delt with the behavior of adaptive
    feedback systems.


    Mark Horney, Ph.D.
    Center forAdvanced Technology in Education
    University of Oregon
    1244 Walnut St
    Eugene, Oregon 97403
    (o) 541/346-2679 FAX: 541/346-6226
    Web de Anza: http://anza.uoregon.edu
    Project INTERSECT: http://intersect.uoregon.edu

             Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 21:31:08 +0100
             From: Mark Wolff <wolffm0@hartwick.edu>
             Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

    The term comes from William Gibson's sci-fi classic <i>Neuromancer</i>
    (1984). Just off the cuff, I would say that for us cyberspace refers to
    the network of social relations created by information technology.
    Email, chat rooms, the World Wide Web, etc., allow us to fashion new
    identites and form new communities in a world that exists only
    digitally. There is a lot of jargon-bouncing out there, but one thing I
    learned from the growing body of literature on cyberspace is that the
    term has more to do with notions of the mediated Self and Other than it
    does with hardware, software, or encoding.

    My 2 cents.


    Mark B. Wolff
    Modern and Classical Languages
    Center for Learning and Teaching with Technology
    Hartwick College
    Oneonta, NY  13820
    (607) 431-4615


    --[5]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 21:31:30 +0100 From: "Michael S. Hart" <hart@prairienet.org> Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?


    Because most people need a way to visualize what it going on, and most things that are not three dimensional still seem to have decent 3-D representations.


    I can tell you that I, personally, do visualize much of cyberspace, but not necessarily the way others do, not in "the consensual" manner described by William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. . . .


    I even visualize what is in my own computer. . .and I do that backwards, too, seing the "tree" grow *down*wards from the root directory, not up.

    More later, if you desire.


    So nice to hear from you,



    Michael S. Hart, Professor of Electronic Text Benedictine University [Illinois Benedictine] Carnegie Mellon University Visiting Scientist Fellow of the Internet Archive, for year 2000 Internet User Number 100 [approximately] [TM] One of the several "Ask Dr Internet" Sponsors

    --[6]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 21:31:56 +0100 From: "Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett" <bk3@is.nyu.edu> Subject: RE: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?

    May I suggest something I have written?

    The Electronic Vernacular. In _Connected: Engagements with Media_. Pages 21-65. In the series, _Late Editions_, ed. George Marcus, vol. 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1995.

    As well as, of course, the locus classicus, _Necromancer_, by William Gibson.

    Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett Department of Performance Studies New York University 721 Broadway, 6th fl New York, NY 10003 212-998-1628 tel 212-254-7885 fax bk3@is.nyu.edu

    --[7]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 21:32:14 +0100 From: Paul Oppenheimer <peo@ERC.MsState.Edu> Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?


    This is, I think, a second-order metaphor. Mathematicians use a first-order spatial metaphor when they speak of functions living in a function space. My guess is that "cyberspace" was coined from this mathematicians' use of "space", in which the metaphor has already become dead, or at least moribund; I suspect that many mathematicians would be at least momentarily startled if it were suggested to them that this use of "space" is metaphorical. I don't know how to test this hypothesis of mine, however.

    ---------------------------- Paul E. Oppenheimer Research Assistant, Engineering Research Center Mississippi State University peo@erc.msstate.edu phone: 662-325-2656 FAX: 662-325-7692

    --[8]------------------------------------------------------------------ Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2000 21:32:36 +0100 From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance) Subject: Re: 14.0152 why "cyberSPACE"?


    Consider the set "cyberspace" contains the subset "internet" which contains the subset "web".

    Do these belong to the set "Humanities Computing":

    Interactive Voice Response (IVR)



    Remote Sensing

    Anecdote: The hardware at institution X konks out. The group of scholars at institution X had been using te hardware to convert data from an older disk format. Scholars at institution X with the assistence of technical support staff check various ftp sites for catalogues of institutions that still operate the specific type of hardware. (assuming that such an inventory to a "distributed museum" exists). They locate institution Z. The disks are bundled in a package and the package is tracked via the courier company's IVR.

    Encoding the Anecdote: A subsequent team of scholars is encoding the records of the previous team with a view to producing a glossary of archaic technical terms and a mapping of network interfacing...

    Rhetorical Question: Would the metaphor of reticlinated and enfolding space not be useful?

    Note: For me, the influence of the term "cyberspace" on the slippage (and substitution) between the terms "hyperspace" and "hypertext" is greater source of muddled thinking than the use of the term "cyberspace" itself.

    Note: The mathematical concept of "phase space" may have some interesting used in modelling the interaction between humans, computers and cultural artefacts. For example, Jean Petitot has extended Rene Thom's work on morphogenesis to semiotic processes.

    Note: How "cyberspace" relates to "hyperspace" is a key to its metaphorics.

    Coda: Some scholars, especially historians and students of discursive formations, do wade through the "hype" of bygone eras. Other scholars are just irritated by the hype as it crosses the threshold of thwir awareness as their era is becoming bygone.

    Non-Rhetorical Question: How does the use of "set", "space" and "discipline" (and any combination thereof) shift the "object of study"?

    -- Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance Member of the Evelyn Letters Project http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~dchamber/evelyn/evtoc.htm

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