Sunday, 5 January 2014

Don't Nuke Our Cyberspace, Bro!

collective hallucination
I have begun reading a book, Technobiophilia, Nature and Cyberspace by Sue Thomas, and although I haven't read very much yet, it is really interesting. Interesting enough to send me scurrying back here to take screenshots of Kitti in space-soldier gear in the multi-coloured sensation that is the bar at Hangars Liquides.

Thomas cites John Perry Barlow's 2006 book, From Counterculture to Cyberculture, as discussing how 'the notion of the disembodiment of cyberspace got mixed up with mysticism and LSD for a while',  and goes on to say that the term 'cyberspace' itself has long been out of fashion, except with the military, 'where it represents a potential combat area'. In 2011, the US Department of Defense issued a document entitled a Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, the purpose of which, as I understand it, was to encourage a full use of cyberspace for offensive and defensive purposes. In the foreword (these documents have forewords?!), Barack Obama wrote 'the digital world is no longer a lawless frontier' - but does not go on to say what the virtual world now is.

Thomas goes on to say that the internet, the World Wide Web, cyberspace, the whole lot, has deep roots in nature: 'the bramble of interwined ideas, links, documents, and images create an otherness as thick as a jungle'.

And that's it - that's what I'm getting at, getting into. In a few short pages of this book, a wonderfully terrible and frightening and empowering image of cyberspace, of the virtual world, as being something strange and dangerous and other has materialised. And it is complicated by Thomas' definition of cyberspace as being something that exists only in the mind - so this strange dangerous otherness becomes something we carry around in our heads.

Are you still with me? Maybe this is a bit self-indulgent, but hang in there.

There's a series of episodes of South Park in which the boys have to try to convince the military not to nuke the world's imagination after the imagination has been taken hostage by terrorists. The imagination becomes a battleground, and, in true South Park style the military do, of course, nuke it, and Santa has to save the day. I'm not sure that Santa is going to come and save us if our cyberspace gets nuked.

And doesn't it seem all-too-organic that cyberspace would be associated with LSD and hippydom, since it is a potential space of threat to the US Government? The opposition is almost funny.

What it seems to boil down to is vagueness. We don't yet know, truly, the limits of cyberspace. There are so many dark and shady places online, and in them lurk things most of us couldn't even dream up on an LSD trip. But the worst thing is that it, as a space, is organised. There are groups and hierarchies and networks along which pass all kinds of information in all kinds of formats. Very recently, people have met in cyberspace to organise, and then to conduct, riots and revolutions on grand scales. Is it any wonder that cyberspace and indeed the internet can be viewed as a threat?

Amongst the general public, understanding of how it all works can get mixed up and confused very easily, and misapprehension and not understanding something at all are wonderfully fertile grounds for fear.

Where do we, as inhabitants of the virtual world of Second Life - a 'collective hallucination' that has begun to have more tangible, more visible, roots, if anything in cyberspace does - fit into all of this? How much power do we have to shape cyberspace, considering that the space exists inside everyone who is aware of its existence to whatever degree and it is unlikely that we know nearly enough of these people to begin to make a dent? Whilst we might all be connected in cyberspace, we are most definitely not all listening to each other. Second Life is bigger than any one of us, and it is only a small part of cyberspace in the first place.

Already, it's starting to sound messy. I'm going to stop.

But isn't it interesting?

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