there is no place in cyberspace
Date: Sat, 9 Sep 2000 20:50:25 +0200 (CEST)
"cyberspace" disappeared with the millenium bug, a romantic notion of adventures in unmarked territories, tales of etherel beeings, lonely cybercowboys, and the free choice of gender, class & race. Stories about Muds, Usenet-communities, digital cities and an Academic hyperproduction which saw an emmerging theory in every concept by attaching the word cyber to it. Cyberspace has left us with the burn rate of venture capital and there might be a few avatars waving from websites which still struggle to realize the full pontential of virtual reality. The same way as "the web" did overwrite "the net", cyberspace was overwritten by "e-commerce". (and since virilio we know anyway that speed governs space.)
what defines 'cyberspace' today are time and money. With the space metaphor, one was able to blow up the dull technological grid of servers, clients, routers and interconnections into a 'virtual landscape' ready to be colonized by myth and imagination, and later on by hungry hordes of start-ups. "the matrix" as Gibson called it, this combination of a night in neon-hong-kong, the central perspective of the movie tron, somewhat like a chip architecture, somewhat like a Dali picture, and certainly like an atari game of the mid-80ies, has become just another enigmatic version of "blade runner". "Space!" was the first thing some people thought when they looked in the black emptyness of the terminal, and created the game "Space War", "moon lander" and later "elite". The astronomic space, also rather uncolonized, known by the glory of pioneering technology and sciences, by old myths and science fiction stories became the blueprint of cyber-colonialisation.
"digital space" is of course a pure construction, a concept to design visual interfaces, and project a known order of things into a realm which is defined by corporations, individuals and instituations which control codes, standards, and operate within the laws of electrodynamics. cyberspace herited a lot from classic philosphy, or rather kosmology. today cyberspace becomes just another reactionary nostalgic concept in a cultural techno-politics which already puts the 'sub-culture' of the 80ies and 90ies into the retro-generator to attract newbies and establish a bit more. the "digital devide" is exactly about this, people who are damned to accept the laws of geography and people who can travel freely and dream about beeing "on the net". the idea that people have to fight for a place in cyberspace is merely an illusion, when it comes to their preexisting material problems. it almost borders to the comparision of people fighting for a place in heaven instead of changing things on earth. there is no space to live in cyberspace. there never has been.
but, well, as an interface metaphor replacing the desktop, space might have a potential to reappear. first in multiuser games, or infograhics, later on entertainment channels and portal sites. the space metaphor makes sense just because people who have the time basically know that there is no place in cyberspace, but plenty of games to play and plenty of harddrives to fill. the maps of cyberspace will not only follow the grid of the main pipes of bandwidth which follow the geography of economic growth. they also map the user-activity, page impressions, key-word-searches, most frequent chat channels and clouds of hyperlinks. astronomic space might be never really colonized by humans but it could become a master narrative to structure the time spent by large ammounts of consumers. cyberspace is where the entertainment is.