Subsuming the Heterogeneity of the Seminar Paper
Excerpt from Seminar Paper :
697). Rutherford goes on to submit that Graham's narrative is more about the city within a city (cyberspace), in "all its forms and functions," than it is about the utopian of "dystopian visions of technology" that some authors have alluded to.
As for Graham's book, in the Introduction he explains that he has put together a book with a myriad of inputs from scholars in several technology-related fields; and, in publishing this 2004 classic he intended to "transcend the Anglo-American domination of recent English-language debates on ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and cities" (Graham, p. 23). In other words, there are competent authors and journalist in Europe, South and East Asia, Latin America, Australia and elsewhere that have worthy scholarship to share.
What Graham's book accomplishes, according to Graham's assessment (p. 22), is to take the "hybrid" concept of "cybercity" to lay out in clear narrative the "inseparable fusion of relations that are mediated by ICTs with those that are mediated between human presence, and movement, within and between urban places" (Graham, p. 22). He says at the outset, and proves throughout the book, that his intention is to place emphasis on the ways that that the use and experience of "knowledge and technology…now blur seamlessly into the political economies, and experiences, of place in an internationalalising capitalist society" (p. 22).
Graham takes a page out of Joanna Zylinska's book (see "Micro-spaces of the everyday" later in this paper) when he asserts that today's cities are "combined ensembles" of cyberspace and real time space. They "recursively interact and mutually constitute each other," he goes on. Separating the cybercity from the bricks and mortar city "makes no sense," Graham raves on page 18. "One is not 'virtual' whilst the other is 'real' [but rather] cities, bodies, physical flows and ICT exchanges are socially shaped in combination, in parallel -- together" (p. 18). ICTs aren't just something we can look forward to in the future. The contemporary city of today is being built around ICT "traffic and infrastructure," he insists (p. 18).
Graham can make these assertions because he has done his homework and he has a knack for putting together phrases that are philosophical; "…Whilst there is no doubt that ICTs can act as 'prostheses' to extend human actions, identities and communities in time and space, it does not follow that the human self is 'released from the fixed location of the body, build environment or nation'. Rather, the self is always somewhere, always located in some sense in some place, and cannot be totally unhoused" (p. 18). But he follows these kinds of passages with pragmatism; for example, on page 18 Graham insists that ICTs have "now moved from the status of novelty to rapidly diffuse into all walks of life…they are now increasingly ubiquitous -- even banal."
The author also asserts that while the new media and digital technologies are stunning and offer unprecedented access to information and communications, they do not fully trump what has been invented in the past. Quite the contrary, Graham writes (p. 11); "We are not experiencing some wholesale, discreet break with the urban past, ushered in by the impacts of new technology." Rather, he continues, we are today experiencing a "complex and infinitely diverse range of transformations where new and old practices and media technologies become mutually linked and fused in an ongoing blizzard of change."
Critic Rutherford has mostly good things to say about Graham's book, albeit he takes serious issue with the ending of the book; two American consultants have proposed deploying a "blanket high-tech surveillance and military systems across the world as a central weapon in the 'war on terror'" (Rutherford, p. 698). Supposedly this would prevent another attack like those of 2001 in New York and Washington, D.C. And this system would basically spy on everyone in order to "filter out" dangerous persons and groups. Yes, Graham rejected this idea, and yet Rutherford blasts Graham's "…sheer belief in moral impassivity towards the socio-political and military power of such technologies." For Rutherford, those final pages ends the book "on a deeply depressing note" albeit it does reinforce the argument put forward earlier in the book that there must be a tandem approach when it comes to urban socio-cultural and technological dynamics and practices vis-a-vis Cybercities.
Reading Neuromancer -- Daniel Punday -- Poignancy and Possibilities
Daniel Punday is a professor in the Departments of English and Philosophy at Purdue University. He notes that when William Gibson basically
originated the term "cyberspace" for his 1884 novel Neuromancer, he was only seeking a practical way to solve specific narrative issues. Gibson found that using cyberspace allowed "for a lot of moves, because characters can be sucked into apparent realities" (Punday, 2000, p. 194). Gibson found that a writer can use cyberspace to place characters in "any sort of setting or against any backdrop" the writer wishes to embrace. And so a new concept was launched and Gibson found that the concept of cyberspace was a way of "manipulating traditional narrative elements to product new effects" (Punday, p. 194).
Taking Gibson's narrative strategy, and his concept of cyberspace as a place where characters can be moved like chess pieces in and out of the "real" world, one can see that online users can use cyberspace to move themselves in and out of virtual worlds and reality worlds and in the process re-invent conventional thinking just as Gibson re-invented conventional narratives. Philosophically and psychologically there are avenues within cybercities that open the door to creative and practical changes in society -- through research, interpretation, metaphor, analogy, and organization according to non-traditional thinking.
This is the door to perception and Punday does not critique Gibson's novel by simply responding to the narrative innovation and powerful entertainment value. Punday sees within Gibson's approach to cyberspace the hope of producing a "fundamentally new kind of social space and very different ways of understanding human identity" (Punday, p. 195). He's not alluding to Facebook or MySpace when he alludes to "social space"; instead, Punday is talking about a virtual community located in a multi-use dungeon (MUD). Punday is referring to a place with many individuals connect and each of them create "characters" that move through the "virtual" place. Players ask questions, ask directions, congratulate one another when a specific action presents a worthy accomplishment -- and "Gibson's writing allowed us to discover a surprising truth about cyberspace's original conception: as a means of social interaction it does not exist to create new identities or simply to destabilize all identity" (Punday, p. 212).
While MUDs have the effect of turning the user's attention back to "the narrative construction of the social interaction in this space and to the fact that this play arises from the duality between player and character" (Punday, p. 212). Punday concludes his essay by basically thanking Gibson for helping alert, progressive individuals see that one of the essentials of cyberspace / cybercities is that it offers "…the ability to reveal how this dialogue is being constructed as and from narrative" (p. 213).
This is not by way of putting down traditional uses in the cybercity world -- like online conferences, marketing, and serious scholarly research -- but rather Punday's point (213) is that "we need to foster an appreciation of the kind of narrative play that Gibson describes." The kind of play that Gibson innovated with the release of Neuromancer can be "extremely effective" because it will reveal "stereotypes and bring cultural narratives into conflict with one another." This kind of "intertextual narrative play within cyberspace" could help revitalize social and educational uses of "online discourse" (Punday, p. 213).
Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchen set out in 2001 to "map cyberspace" in a book -- that is, to attempt a fine-tuning of the concept of space and how people interacting in Cybercities (cyber cultures) use that space. On page 19 the authors point to the argument that cyberspace is replacing "rapidly disappearing public spaces with new social spaces" and that in the process somehow citizens are ducking out of the natural world into the quiet, hidden world of cyberspace. Another concern they address is that with the continuing emergence of more and more technologically sophisticated ICTs implications of a loss of privacy and confidentiality are coming into the fore. Is this becoming a "surveillance society"? Dodge acknowledges that many personal financial records, credit cards and more are available online for professional hackers, and these issues need attention. The whole notion of whether or not cyberspace is a public space is mapped thoroughly in this book, and Dodge (Dodge, et al., 2001, p. 19) believes that because users in Cybercities have "very few legal rights" (p. 19).
The point Dodge makes on page 29 summarizes the theme of this book. "…Space is not a neutral and passive geometry, but rather is continuously produced through socio-spatial relations" and the relationship between "space, spatial forms and spatial behaviour is…
Sources Used in Documents:
Basset, Elizabeth H., and O'Riordan, Kate. "Ethics of Internet Research: Contesting the Human
Subjects Research Model." Ethics and Information Technology Vol. 4 (2002): 233-247.
Boyer, Christine M. Cybercities: Visual Perception in the Age of Electronic Communication.
New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996.
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