Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back to the Basics

John Perry Barlowonce used the word “meatspace” to identify the physical world we live in everyday, where we sense contacts with each other and see the images, hear the sounds, smell and taste different scents and textures for “real”. However, the development of cyberspace and the ever increasing number of rods and poles that link people together virtually forever changed the way we conceptualize space and time. For me personally, I think that makes a lot of things easier to understand because on cyber space, we are looking at a huge, meta-space with the same methods of how we look at microscopic things, like particles, electrons, etc. 

Just to point out one simple example: our bodies are all made up of particles: the solid, seamless nature of our beings is just an illusion of the magnetic fields created by electrons circling around the neutrons. I’ve heard some of the wildest thoughts, saying that if at one moment, just one single moment, if all of the particles that we are made of are perfectly aligned with the brick wall in front of us, we can walk through it. 

In Cyberspace, our actions are understood and transmitted in carefully calculated computer languages, perfectly fine for factual, exact information without nuances or ambivalence. I’d like to imagine the way we communicate in cyberspace more like the way people with Asperger syndrome communicate: it’s extremely difficult and unlikely to deliver a piece of message and at the same time, its intonations and underlying meanings. Emotion icons were thus born to fix that problem, which is what we’ve been leaning all these past months: translating the language of one dimension to another for the purpose of mutual understanding.

The existence of Cyberspace seems pretty vague to me. In the text it is basically described as the space and connection between internet surfers as they are linked through computers. However, the distances between individuals are now measured now by the miles, but by the speed of the internet, the frequency of communication and the types of media you use for the communication. For example, the space between two people communicating through email is larger than two people using webcam or skype to talk (even if they’re in two extreme corners of the world, while an email unanswered for several days brings the distance between the sender and the receiver infinitely large. 

The texts also offer the discussion of the safety of Cyberspace communication, which brings about another difference between reality and virtual reality: in virtual reality, everything is retrievable and have imprints as soon as it got turned into computer language. In physical world, however, at least we haven’t found the way to retrieve those fleeting data from our complicated mind.

In the last book Windows and Mirrors, we were introduced to the interactive nature of virtual reality and cyber space and the use of it in arts. In this book it was discussed that cyber space has positive educational purposes. I believe that’s another proof of how the concept of space changes. The space of a classroom, in particular, becomes extremely flexible. The participants can be in various places and might participate in one discussion at different point of the day or week. 

It’s a wonderful prospect for the people of 21st century that we are no longer limited by physical space and time differences thanks to cyberspace. Of course there will be problems surfacing as we explore, but that’s the cost of moving forward.

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