Cyberspace and Cloud Knowledge

Cyberspace and Cloud Knowledge

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4727-5.ch012
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Cyberspace and cloud computing represent emerging phenomena that are commanding tremendous interest and generating immense activity across organizations—corporate, government, military, non-profit, and others—today. Understanding how knowledge flows influence and are influenced by these phenomena is important for harnessing the power of dynamic knowledge principles for competitive advantage in our current, technology-driven and socially connected world. As discussed in Chapter 11, these phenomena have both technical (esp. involving information technology) and non-technical (esp. involving people and organizations) aspects, which come together through the process for productive and goal-oriented action. Indeed, the process is where the socio and the technical parts come together: how people in organizations employ technologies to perform goal-oriented activities. Because the process provides an action-focused interface between fast-moving technologies and comparatively slow-moving people and organizations, it governs the proliferation and change of emerging phenomena. As such, technologically enabled, organizational, knowledge, and work processes in particular are key to leveraging emerging phenomena for competitive advantage. In this chapter, the authors employ familiar principles for understanding and analysis of cyberspace and cloud computing as emerging knowledge phenomena.
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Cyberspace as a term has changed considerably from consensual hallucination (Gibson, 1984; 2004) over the past three decades, and it continues to carry different meanings across a variety of contexts, communities and circumstances (Kuehl, nd). The US Military, for instance, offers a relatively current, unclassified definition emphasizing a largely infrastructural role for Cyberspace: “A global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, including the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers” (JP1-02, 2011). Arguably, from this definition Cyberspace would include all networked computers and associated networking equipment; hence it’s difficult to conceive of anything in the networked world that’s not part of Cyberspace. The implications might surprise some people.

Consider the venerable land-line telephone, for instance, which like the telegraph before it has played an instrumental role in remote human communication for over a century. Many people would not consider the telephone as part of Cyberspace, particularly because most people using land-line telephones pick up and use telephone handsets, not computers. Nonetheless, telecommunications texts dating back to the mid-Nineties (e.g., Beyda, 1996; Goldman, 1995; Rowe, 1995) reveal how most aspects of a telephone conversation take place via networked computers. Indeed, voice data are digitized early in the process of each conversation and carried as such through a part of Cyberspace owned and operated largely by large telephone companies, and of course some telephony is accomplished via computer directly (e.g., VOIP, Vonage, Skype).

This and like examples help to illustrate the breadth of Cyberspace as viewed through the infrastructural lens from above, and such lens focuses principally upon technological phenomena. Because Cyberspace exists solely within IT systems and artifacts, its enabling technological infrastructure changes quickly and frequently. Scientists discover continually new materials, architectures, algorithms and mechanics that enable faster, more powerful and more discrete network and computational effects. Engineers then follow quickly to apply the underlying knowledge to design, test and field innovative devices and systems that put such effects into practice. In this respect, despite the considerable current attention being drawn to Cyberspace, not much is new. Technology changes quickly and requires flexible architectures to accommodate such frequent change. We’ve understood this for several decades. From a purely infrastructural perspective, even as an emerging knowledge phenomenon, Cyberspace is neither new nor particularly interesting.

Alternatively, the people and organizations using Cyberspace within a socio-technical context change comparatively slowly. Cyberspace may exist solely within IT systems and artifacts, but the phenomenon is important and emerging because people depend increasingly upon computer and network systems and artifacts to perform both critical and everyday organizational knowledge and work processes. The enabling technology may change very rapidly, but it’s not until such technology is put to novel and productive uses that the emerging knowledge phenomenon Cyberspace appears to be new or interesting.

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