Cyberspace

Cyberspace

Josh Lepawsky (University of Kentucky, USA) and Kyonghwan Park (University of Kentucky, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-563-4.ch021
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Abstract

Cyberspace is the geographies made possible by the adoption of computer technologies into everyday life. At first, this broad description and its emphasis on plural geographies may not seem intuitive. Yet, the breadth of this description is helpful when considering the massive variety of ways that computer-related technologies are unevenly incorporated into human life. The incorporation of these technologies is altering the scales and rates at which people can organize, intervene in, and understand human and nonhuman worlds (Hayles, 1996). Yet these processes are not universal. They differ from place to place and matter in different ways for different people as individuals and collective groups. Thus, cyberspace crosses numerous social, political, economic, and cultural boundaries (Haraway, 1991, 1997). The term cyberspace was first used by novelist William Gibson (1984), but the phenomena now described by it predate the term’s common use. It is difficult to understate the widespread resonance that the publication of Gibson’s novel and the popularization of the term cyberspace has had in terms of underwriting studies of cyberspace (Bukatman, 1993a, 1993b; Chesher, 1994; Stone, 1992). Often, the term is used interchangeably with specific technologies (especially the Internet and the World Wide Web) and their effects (e.g., Starrs, 1997; Starrs & Anderson, 1997; Warf, 2001; Warf & Grimes, 1997), not to mention being used in marketing strategies for the late dot.com industries and the so-called New Economy (Graham, 1998). With some important exceptions, early commentators took a techno-utopian stance toward cyberspace and saw what Bell (1973) called the postindustrial society and Toffler (1980) called the Third Wave finally coming to fruition. Gibson uses the term to both tell a story and provide a critical commentary about technology and society (Benedikt, 1991). The simultaneously conceptual and material relationships between technology and society are central to the concept of cyberspace. The plural geographies comprising cyberspace raise the issue of spatiality. The term spatiality is itself a complex and contested concept (Johnson, Gregory, & Smith, 1994). In a broad sense, spatiality refers to co-constitutive relationships between societies and their spatial organization. The concept informs a wide range of academic disciplines in the social sciences and humanities in what has come to be known as the spatial turn (Soja, 1989). While this idea may appear rather simple, it is a source of considerable philosophical and practical debate (Crang & Thrift, 2000; Gregory, 1994; Harvey, 1996; Lefebvre, 1991; Massey, 1994; Smith, 1990; Soja, 1996). With respect to cyberspace, research centers on how the incorporation of computer-related technologies into everyday life can change how human spatialities are organized, intervened in, and understood.

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