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<nettime> Re: there is no place in cyberspace
brian carroll on 17 Sep 2000 02:11:33 -0000

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<nettime> Re: there is no place in cyberspace

 hi Pit. i've been thinking about your points, which are
 intriguing to me. i'll try to keep this related to the
 proposition: there is no place in cyberspace.

> bc>  astronomical space has space dust, asteroids, stars,
> bc>  gases, high-energy particles, etc.

pit > beautiful! how about digital dust, info asteroids, web stars,
pit > bit gas, high-information particles, not to forget cyberspace
pit > trash etc. ?

  sure, to a certain extent, it could be described this way,
  and i think 'gravity' would be a term applicable to the
  curved space-time of hyperlinking around major nodes, etc.
  but in the same sense, i keep thinking of the dual-aspects
  of cyberspace, in that if everything were described in these
  spatial/universal analogies or metaphors, that while poetic
  and descriptive, they might be but one layer of many of the
  same phenomenon, not the only one or the overriding one, not
  that i think you are asserting this. for example, i can see
  the relevance of web stars having online (and offline) gravity
  whereby other objects orbit around these gravitational masses,
  and contextual ecosystems, like solar systems of interrelated

> bc>  [astro-space] is a void, but it
> bc>  is not completely empty.

pit > sure, nothingness as a concept. but the zero was invented at
pit > a certain time in human history, it wasn't preexisting. its
pit > a conceptional thing filling a fictional space.
pit > cyberspace is full of zeros.

 to me this is fascinating in many ways. i know there was in
 the last few years a book written about the zero, and its
 philosophical importance.

 from my perspective, the zero, while symbolic, does not
 represent an artificial concept, but validates much of
 mathematical law which has helped unlock parts of the
 mysteries of the universe (astro and cyber). as a symbol
 it may be a fiction (why not the symbol '*' for example?)
 yet what it describes is known factually. thus, what the
 zero describes (as a artificial symbol) is preexisting
 (in the nature of reality). as far as i know, the zero
 is a universal constant. you could probably go the the
 other end of the universe, if it was physically the same,
 and it would function similarly in describing the universe.

 that mathematics may be considered a fictional space of
 symbols, i probably would agree with, but i cannot override
 its real correlation to the external, physical world of fact,
 like stars, space dust, asteroids, particles of matter.

 i think you've written of the zero below when refererring
 to nothingness and binary information. in this case, the
 zero is valueless, and it could be equated with nothingess,
 an astronomical void with mysterious affects. that cyberspace
 is full of informational zeros and made up of zeros, in my
 perspective, does not negate the factual aspects of the
 fictional symbol, but instead reinforces the cosmology
 of plenum/void or being/nothingness of the astronomical
 space (empty) and the earthly space (full), zeros and ones.

 thus, to me, binary electronic information as mathematical
 symbols represents that emptiness of the sub-atomic realm
 of the atom, whereby charged particles whir about their
 orbits. the zero representing the immaterial void of the
 universe, the one representing the atomic particles of
 matter existing within it.
 conceptually, via symbols, i think it could be reasoned
 that the zeros and ones of cyberspace reflect/represent
 the material realities of thingness and the immaterial
 realities of nothingess of the universe. both from an
 existential point of view related, in that there is no
 no-thing without some-thing. chicken and egg. cosmology.
 big bang of information, energy, and matter. and, the
 metaphysics of being in electronic cyberspace.

pit > but what i meant is that with the appearence of the "information
pit > space", real space begins to disappear and the kosmos becomes
pit > a blueprint of how to describe this "space". the age of cyber
pit > takes the grand fairy tales of the space age and turns it into
pit > movies about grandfather astronauts.

 to me this is the narrative you talk about, the story of space,
 belief in space, use of space. conceptual relation to space.
 symbolic representations of space. whereas, what i've written
 about is more space itself, astro and cyber.

pit > for the very most people beeing in outer-space is like a dream,
pit > they never have been there and they never will be. it might
pit > be disappointing, but the extra-planetary expansion of the
pit > human race might just remain a science fiction story.

 one of my favorite images was conjured up by Lewis Mumford in
 his Pentagon of Power, wherein he equated an astronaut in outer-
 space as a baby in an artificial womb, with umbilical cord as
 life-support, attempting universal rebirth. the inter- and
 extra-planetary expansion, while still having True Believers in
 NASA and the sci-fi crowd, seems to have fizzled based on both
 limited resources and limits of our current science and
 technologies. i think the International Space Station (ISS)
 is US $60 billion or more. astronomical space as the final
 frontier will (hopefully) remain a scale too large to for
 human beings or anyone else to conquer, yet it is in the
 popular mythology of space that this is our collective future.
 what seems more likely, and is already happening, is surely
 a conquering of space, but it is not external, but the space
 inside, the genes but also the memes, the information space
 of cyberspace and mindspace, i.e. consciousness and reality.

 in this sense, the wilderness (of the frontier) of astronomical
 space, that which also exists in the human mind, is increasingly
 under control. yet one is fiction, the other is fact. in astro-
 space, we mythically conquer. but both in cyberspace, which is
 an artificially constructed space which you've mentioned Pit,
 and also in the natural human brain, we do not mythically
 control but literally control the nature of space. we have
 constructed artificial cyberspace with metals and plastics
 and electronics, and control its technical behavior, and
 increasingly its future is being determined by a lack of
 the wilderness of space and any frontier. it is now being
 settled by an increasingly institutional control. likewise,
 the human brain, while always a wilderness in terms of its
 mystery and unpredictability, is increasingly being tamed
 by societal controls such as pills and prisons, in an effort
 to determine the institutional future of collective reality.

 thus, the myth of human mastery over astronomical space,
 while fictional, is the (natural) frontier, the future of
 the grand narrative of conquering `space.'

 yet, the myth or fiction of human freedoms on the Internet
 and democratic societies, while seen as a frontier and an
 immaterial space is literally being conquered. institutions
 both increasingly control cyberspace and human mindspace.
 these places are regarded limited sovereignty in some
 respects, but increasingly there is no room for dissent,
 as the space is conquered daily, bit by bit, brain by
 brain, into the collective mythology that space is
 `out there' and not `in here' or everywhere.

 while humans cannot conquer astronomical space, except in
 our dreams, we can conquer our dreams and our artificial
 constructions of space via electronic technology.

pit > space was always just a mirror of contemporary thinking. today's
pit > kosmology might be near to giving up the idea of an outer space
pit > ready to be colonized by human technologies, and convert it into
pit > an entertainment space. the selling the rights of the mars landing
pit > and mars attacks part IV feeds up into the same "content genre".

 there is a lot of talk about privatizing/commercializing the space
 programs so as to undertake large scale projects. an early parody
 on this idea was to affix advertisements all over the space shuttle.
 turns out that the idea is being realized on Muir and maybe even
 the ISS too. the Mars Rover was spectacle, amazing in many regards,
 but as entertainment, the fantasy (at least for me) ended with the
 subsequent disasters of two or more mars probes. yet, i think there
 was a Mars movie out in the past year or so dealing with conquering
 Mars alien life, or whatnot. factual inability to conquer astronomical
 space, while at the same time fictional conquering of astronomical
 space via mythologies of spatial mental domination via entertainment,
 and, as i think you're saying, what is increasingly filling up bits
 and bytes of information in cyberspace.

pit > we are about to discover a virtual cosm, an information space,
pit > which doesn't organize like a "physical" or better "optical" space
pit > along vectors and grids, but more along
pit > intensities, time zones, attention, knowledge, and most
pit > of all the flows of money. "space" then becomes an
pit > interface in itself, a metaphorical reference to the
pit > physical boundaries of the world, which defines perceptional
pit > and cultural boundaries. it's a constructed space, 100% man made.

 i would partially agree, if this idea was limited to cyberspace
 and human mindspace, but not astronomical space. in that, although
 cyberspace is made of natural materials, it is constructed, and
 that also although the human mind is a natural organ, it is
 and has been formatted by humans, via artifice.

 i cannot see `space' being an interface, though, in the sense
 that interface is, in the definition i use, something mediating
 between two things. and then, also, based on physical and on
 electronic understandings of cyberspace and the mysteries of
 human mindspace and perception, there is a physical/material
 grounding in these as artifacts, and i do not easily understand
 how they can be separated. although it seems in direct disagreement
 with the cybernetic axiom you mention below, i do not understand
 how information can exist without a medium for it to exist in.

 my only idea is that `space' is an artificial construction, as
 a word, a fiction for the reality it's meant to describe, and in
 this way, it is metaphorical. at the level of language and of
 information this may be valid, but at the level of space as
 description of physical reality, i do not think this is the
 only way to see it, else we would not have astronomy nor
 space shuttles, or cyberspace, or even human consciousness,
 in my opinion. there is some external, non-human truth to space
 as a physical reality beyond our culture and our perceptions.

 for example, non-human lifeforms may have a word `ecaps' for
 the same phenomenon we call `space', and it may describe the
 same thing, have the same physics, etc. the word `space' as
 as a limited representation for this, is still able to define
 physical universals beyond subjective language. or so it seems.

> bc>  the relation between astronomic space and digital space,
> bc>  then is different in a physical sense, in that in one there
> bc>  is a vacuum, in the other, there is a plenum, a consistent
> bc>  materialized medium.

pit > i spoke more about "space" as a master narrative. take the dot-
pit > com economy which is dominated by a specific permutational
pit > scarcity in the .com - name-space. every brand monopoly
pit > territorializes a virtual claim in the brains of the consumers.
pit > it is an interesting difference of emptyness (thousands of
pit > possible top level domains) and fullness (the highly
pit > condensed and organized name-space of ICANN).
pit > meanwhile this space is rather about the psychology of marketing,
pit > then the technological boundaries itself.

 yeah, i didn't think of it this way, but i'm writing now based on
 this dimension. like i wrote above, i'd differentiate astronomical
 space in several ways from cyberspace and mindspace. i refer to
 these latter two as artificial cyberspace (electronic internetwork)
 and natural cyberspace (electronic mind). i think your quote above
 is directly talking about natural and artificial cyberspaces, and
 i think these are somewhat different than astronomical space, in
 that they are not 1:1 relations of spatial concepts. but, the myth
 of conquering outer-space, is literally happening within our inner-
 space of our minds and our technologies.

pit > the network society constructs the space which it deserves.

 to me this is an odd statement, and i'm not certain what or who
 the network society is meant to define. if it is institutional
 control of space, then, i'd agree and probably would change 'deserves'
 to `the network society constructs the space which it can master.'

pit > if a narrative of defending your bio- or sociotopes leaks over to the
pit > information infrastructure, you have these strange reactionary
pit > fights for identities vs. individualization, war and peace in the
pit > global village.

 to me this is the question of existence within the medium of space,
 be it astronomical or mental or the Internet. not only is there some-
 thingness in the nothingness of space, but it is being, and becoming
 within this space. if it is through identity as an occupant of the
 physical universe, if it is through having a sense of self in your
 individual mind, or if it is existing as an entity in cyberspace.

pit > while the imateriality of digital code radically subverts the idea
pit > of identity and an original object or subject. astronomic
pit > space behaves like
pit > a "retro" movement here. contemporary science fiction with its
pit > scepticism towards the realness of reality (matrix...) might anyway
pit > discover that "hyperspace" has many gateways to "cyberspace", that
pit > one space is the interface for the other.

 the many spaces idea, to me, is like many words for space. they
 may partially describe aspects of a whole through different language.
 but i do not agree with the immateriality of digital code. it is a
 physical phenomenon. how can it exist without a medium, i wonder.
 clarification, on the material/immaterial, i would reason that there
 is immateriality, but that it is not inherently immaterial, we just
 might not know how to understand its material aspects. such as the
 human brain/mind. we know that nerves and synapses and neurons all
 impact and sustain thought, yet, there is a paradigm of difference
 between the patterns of information that appears non-physical, and
 the physical electronics making it possible. although it is not in
 any sense figured out, i do not think the materiality of the phenom
 can be disregarded to promote an immaterialist position of the phenom.

 for example, the recent `interfacing' between mind and matter, via
 electronics, when an implant in a human brain was made to move a
 cursor on a computer screen via programming the device based on
 neural patterns or something such. we are making the connection
 between the physical world and the physics of thought, and these
 are material connections which are arguably the basis for reality.

> bc>  the electro-chemical
> bc>  human brain, consciousness, and reality being a natural
> bc>  version of this e-space.

pit > for cyberspace the map is the territory. the physical nodes
pit > are important, but more in a semi-transparent way, for the
pit > technicians for example. on a higher network level, where
pit > applications like Explorer and Napster rule, the physics of the net
pit > are invisible, translated into adresses, transmission time etc.

 the current maps of cyberspace or not the territory, in my view,
 as they focus on only the technical-network aspects of the
 internetwork, and not, for example, on what sustains this
 territory. it is like mapping a country that appears barren
 because the huge river was left out of the cartographic reasoning.

 back to the proposition that `there is no place in cyberspace':
 sure, this could be reasoned if you limit the map to network
 topologies and routers (that is questionable in terms of the
 inhabiting of space through electronic information though).
 but if you take into account powerplants, computers, ISPs,
 distribution poles, transmission towers, etc, you can begin
 to see an external (to the internal network) physicality
 based on material artifacts which are the infrastructure
 (structure beneath/below) which supports this cyberspace.
 there is a place. it is just not being mapped.

 likewise, if we accept the browser map as the territory,
 then what we see is through this perspective. if we take
 in more aspects of the phenomenon, our view becomes more
 complete of the territory. it is our job, in my opinion,
 to try to realize the larger territory and map it. else
 we are stuck in a discourse which is limited by specific
 maps (of language). the physics of the network are only
 invisible if you choose to not include them in your map
 or analysis. this is something of a recurring theme on
 nettime, from my perspective, in that there is a lot of
 discussion about new concepts and keywords and ideas
 and trying to dissect what is going on, but that much
 of the thought is limited because it often does not take
 into account the physical reality of the science and the
 technology that underlies philosophies, politics, art.

 for example, i wonder how net.art can be disassociated
 with electrical powerplants and pollution and global
 warming and centralized power. to do net.art and not
 address these dimensions in the map, is in my opinion,
 not addressing the eco/soc/political context in which
 the art is being produced. yet, for some reason, it is
 a *choice* and net.art, like the browser, is limited
 in addressing the contextual territory of its medium.

pit > it wouldn't hurt much to have my local harddrive located in hongkong
pit > as long as the bandwidth is ok. there's an
pit > extreme stretching and bending of time and place possible
pit > which makes the continuity of optical space a construction,
pit > as well as the idea of 'beeing' in cyberspace.

 cyberspace (electronic networks) can be inhabited via
 information representing the user. a file on a hard drive
 or on a website is occupying an artificial space of a drive.
 in this sense, one can both exist and be in cyberspace, via
 a direct influence over the movement and creation (and destruction)
 of information in the electronic internetwork. for example, one
 can `live' in cyberspace a life they cannot live in the offline
 world. for example, my architectural research was and is still
 rejected in the privatized Academy, while online i have somewhat
 of an audience and can pursue my public goals, although in my
 offline life i do not discuss these ideas with anyone, because
 no one relates. therefore, i can be and become online what i
 can and could not offline, due to the different constructions.

pit > space reappears in 3d games, as one possible representation of
pit > data, one possible cyber-narrative. (especially in 3d space sims.)
pit > and einstein would be really amazed about the time compression
pit > function, which makes gamerz wait less...
pit > for some people the physics of space might be seperateable from the
pit > fascination for space. for most people its one coherent
pit > entertainment genre extending over different media.
> bc>  this is Virilian in that not only is the light of speed, the
> bc>  movement, the message. but that it is a twist on Einstein's
> bc>  equation: energy = mass x lightspeed^squared

> bc> which doesn't include the concept of information...
> bc>  in the digital realm of electronics and cyberspace, electrons
> bc>  of energy become electrons of information, carrying the
> bc>  symbolic code of human meaning. thus, the equation could
> bc>  be said to have become:
> bc>  electronic energy = electronic information
pit > interestingly information theory is based on thermodynamics,
pit > but this is a methodical decision... it's not a 'natural law'.
 curious what this means...

> bc>  thus--
> bc>  electronic information = mass x lightspeed^squared

pit > possibly there is a certain relation of information and energy on
pit > the level of computer hardware, it is based on how many smallest
pit > elements you need to carry a bit. an electron today, a quantum spin
pit > tomorrow. if you can control quantum physics you have the next
pit > generation hardware, if you can control the quantum effect,
pit > certain laws of locality are becoming obsolete.. (ugh, i'm not
pit > a scientist.) but what kind of hybrid is "electronic information"?

 electric charge occurs at the level of quantum physics, therefore
 there would be a quantum electricity, not based on electricity,
 but on quanta.

pit > the cybernetic axiom says that information is selfreferential:
pit > information is information not matter or energy. an electron is
pit > not a bit.
pit > it's just the physical carrier of a bit. and a bit is not an electron.
pit > by radically deviding both spheres information was born. this is
pit > the cybernetic cut which you seem to like to glue together again.
pit > information itself has no speed limit, only the carrier has it.

 i would like to know more about the cybernetic axiom, because
 axioms are made to be challenged, especially when they are no
 longer self-evident.

 in the past, binary scale was pre-electronic, and could be used
 to make computations. paper and pen were used, then wood and
 metal calculating machines, then electronic machines, and the
 first digital computers using binary code.

 while in terms of information, the bit of binary code may not be
 conceptually tied to electrical energy, it is physically tied to
 it, as a medium, and mostly inseparable on the whole in our
 civilization based on electrical power, media, and technology,
 all of which use electrons as information in some form. this is
 why, i think, McLuhan stated the electrical light as being pure

 if you take DNA, for example, you can look at the strings and
 see patterns of genetic information, but if you do not address
 the influence of atomic and molecular, and ultimately, electrical
 influence upon this information, you will not be able to utilize
 this information in the same way. it will only be rhetorical,
 a statement of information without action, as information,
 energy, and matter from my vantage are inseparable in both the
 genetic code of life and also in the speed-of-light bits of
 information being carried amongst us and our networks. if
 we choose our bits to be in books, then, yes, the speed of
 transmission would be slower, than, say, electronic networks.
 but information, as energy, is speed of light, if not beyond,
 in that electronic information is represented by electrons.

> bc>  when dialing in to an ISP via a phone line, not only is there
> bc>  a physical connection between the electrons coursing through
> bc>  the microprocessor and other circuitry of the computer, but
> bc>  a physical connection consists between the power plant miles
> bc>  away and the energy being transferred near lightspeed (not
> bc>  in a vacuum, but in a cable, probably copper, thus slower,
> bc>  but still instantaneous).
pit > which has a certain aesthetics, a futurist one?

 not sure what you mean... i do think there is an aesthetic,
 but it is not employed. until distribution poles and power
 plants and wires become icons online, connecting the inside
 of electronic space, with its artifacts outside, i think the
 disconnect between realities (immaterial/material, information/
 energy/matter) will continue.

> bc>  a symbolic representation. this energy-info then is sent
> bc>  via modem, through wires made up of atoms, whose electrons
> bc>  are used to relay the information from one orbit to the
> bc>  next by utilizing and controlling the materiality of the
> bc>  electron particle of the wire's atoms.
pit > not to forget the wireless transmissions, especially when
pit > it heats up a part of your brain and gives you a headache
pit > using the cellular phone for too long. watch out for UMTS
pit > running on more than 4 Ghz. The biochemical side effects
pit > of the carrier signals are a story in itself. Here is
pit > were cybernetics fails.
 yes. i think there is a statistic that says electrical line
 workers (the ones who work closely to the live power wires)
 have a 50% higher suicide rate than other occupations. there
 must be some influence of this artificial harnessing of energy
 and concentrating it to do work for us.

> bc>  the empty space of nothingness, in these cases, is sub-
> bc>  atomic, the interface between particles and nothingness,
> bc>  like the astronomical space of planets orbiting suns
> bc>  in the void, billions and billions of these in the known
> bc>  universe.
pit > well, take the void of empty hard-drive spaces... sure
pit > there never can be enough empty memory space, enough bandwidth...
pit > but this is exactly following the dominant narrative
pit > of space. there never can be enough.. Henry Jenkins says that
pit > computer game culture in Japan is brought forward by the lack
pit > of an 'own' space for teenagers in the urban environment. (fran
pit > illich pointed this out) the digital void is only unlimited in
pit > human imagination. cyberspace has computational limits (around
pit > 64bit at the moment) and it surely is of a calculateable size
pit > in terms of storage space, bandwidth, nodes etc. while technically,
pit > or scientifically these spheres are devided, on the level of
pit > the narrative, myth and esthetics the borders are more permeable.
pit > astronomical space is limited by the ways it is measured. with
pit > every bigger step in science it is fundamentally changing.
pit > but in the narrative it follows the same tale of an empty space
pit > "out there - ready to be colonized by imagination.
pit > after the tales of the sea, desert, wood you have the tales
pit > of cyberspace, of avatars, code breakers, terrorists...
pit > on the other hand: with every website you create a planet,
pit > a city or at least a "home". my concept of cyberspace is
pit > rather following "le petit prince".

 i really appreciate your view Pit. i don't think like this, but
 it opens up my mind to other interpretations and helps me get a
 grasp on the complexity of the question. what i've understood
 you to be saying is that cyberspace is what we perceive it to
 be, and it is limited by our technologies, and probably always
 will be. whereas i have been separating astro- from cyber-space,
 in this regard i can see one connection contrary to my initial
 view. in that, like early humans views of the universe, which
 may have been universal in the sense of space, that our perceptions
 and knowledge and technologies have changed and so has our view
 of space. that is, it is a dynamic, not static idea. in the same
 way, early views of cyberspace may be limited by our perceptions
 and knowledge and technologies, but may possibly always be, if
 they remain human constructions. in this way i can see the
 cosmology being similar. yet, to me it is still the same
 phenomenon we are discussing, over the years. it might evolve,
 but i do not think it is irrelevant. that must be the narrative
 you mention. in some sense, i think the subjectivity of the
 story can be questioned by our understanding the physical and
 material reality of the world. but there is still this over-
 riding influence of perception, regardless of certain facts
 that might contradict it, that might be the larger ideology
 of space (as entertainment, etc). to me this is interesting,
 yet is still bound to its material aspects. be they language,
 logic, or perception. all things that are informational and
 physical in that they are carried in a medium. if we could
 somehow talk about the one while talking about the other,
 i think our map of the phenomenon of cyberspace would change,
 and we would be able to achieve a more accurate analysis of the
 economic/social/political influences of immaterialist dogmas
 which only reinforce cyberspace as infotainment space. there
 is a cosmology that connects the seeming immateriality of info
 on the electronic internetwork with the electronic materiality.

 if we can acknowledge the physicality of the cyberspace, we
 may be better able to change its course for the better, and
 sustain within its mission a public place for human beings.


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