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Is the Concept of 'Cyberspace' Stupid? 292

frank_adrian314159 writes "In an article titled 'Stop Pretending Cyberspace Exists,' Salon writer Michael Lind notes that 'Some ideas make you dumber the moment you learn of them. One of those ideas is the concept of "cyberspace."' He says that analogizing cyberspace as a real place leads to an inability to think logically about laws, rules, and how and when the governments could or should intervene to regulate the Internet. He states that such a debate is essential, but that an '[invasion of] a mythical Oz-like kingdom called cyberspace is just as dopey' when talking about governments and corporations taking a larger role in online communications. Is Lind right? Does the notion of cyberspace make the debate over its governance less fruitful?"
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Is the Concept of 'Cyberspace' Stupid?

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  • by Mitreya ( 579078 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `ayertim'> on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:02PM (#42876859)
    Perhaps the first exception ever, where the answer is not "no"

    Yes, the concept of 'Cybespace' is quite stupid.

    • by Aardpig ( 622459 )

      As are the mods tonight, for rating your post 'Flamebait'.

    • by Spazmania ( 174582 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:48PM (#42877355) Homepage

      People spend money on virtual pets. They spend money on cool duds for their game avatars. The whole free-to-play concept depends on the sales of these virtual goods. And the pure vitriol when one of these places shuts down before they're bored with it...

      Of course cyberspace exists.

      • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
        And remember, it is also virtual money, but we are doing our (dumb)best to pretend that is real.
      • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:56PM (#42877463) Homepage Journal

        Cyberspace isn't a stupid concept. It is a concept applied stupidly to the network and applications that we actually have.

        Now, you'll excuse me as I jack my 'trodes into my deck...

      • by krotkruton ( 967718 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:12PM (#42877635)
        Those are cyberspaces (no idea if that's a real term, but I think you'll get my meaning), in which cases people live in a virtual universe (i.e. WoW, etc). They're a bit different from the idea of an all-encompassing cyber world, or the definition of cyberspace presented in the article: “a graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system ” So no, "cyberspace" doesn't exist, but cyberspaces do.
        • by TheLink ( 130905 )
          There's also Augmented Reality.

          We're not far from virtual telepathy and telekinesis either. We're already communicating "like magic" with phones, and even buying stuff from vending machines with our phones. Some people are already going shopping, posting pics of something and asking their friends whether they should buy it. So just a few changes to the user interface, add some infra, standards and we'd be there.

          Then we could pick different "Planes"/
          "Augmented Reality Modes" depending on what we are trying t
      • But that's not *A* cyberspace. That's a bunch of separate virtual worlds that are implemented on a relatively small number of servers (or P2P between users obviously).

        People have used the term cyberspace to invoke imagery similar to hyper-space, like you can send your avatar to observe a router somewhere and "see" all of the traffic passing through it. Or chase someone from router to router as their avatar moves around.

        That has nothing to do with how the internet actually works.

        • This is a Slate meme-push to get terminology on their terms. As you cite, the Internet is essentially IP-addressable space, be it IPv4 or IPv6 and whatever's connected to *that*.

          Meme shifters want to start divvying up all of that into their own arguable memes, realms, constituencies, and politic. Nice try, Slate. Go back to washing bottles.

    • Wrong. (Score:3, Interesting)

      It's a big NO. The concept of cyberspace is not stupid. It's some people's understanding of it that is. As is the concept in some undeveloped minds that a "hacker" is a term for cyber-locksmith instead of cyber-craftsman. Eastasians alltime unknow and badsay words.
    • by foobsr ( 693224 )
      Perhaps the first exception ever, where the answer is not "no"

      Not quite: "Random headline from Washington Post: "How High Should You Be on High-Dividend Stocks?"

      ( [] )


    • by thej1nx ( 763573 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:05PM (#42877581)
      If the concept of cyberspace is stupid, so is the concept of political boundaries. Both are merely hypothetical concepts devised by men. The author of the article is a moron. You cannot legitimately argue that "USA", "UK or "China" are any more real than cyberspace. We simply agree that there is an imaginary line dividing nations, much like we "pretend" that corporations are persons. If governments are willing to accept these, there is nothing less "real" about cyberspace either.
    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:18PM (#42877709) Journal

      Yes, the concept of 'Cybespace' is quite stupid.

      It's no surprise that there are people for whom visualization is difficult, and that might explain your frustration, Mitreya. But for most people, visualization is a very useful way to think about abstract things. From Newman Projections to Giordano Bruno's use of loci to create "memory palaces" people have extended the reach of intellect using imaginary constructs such as "cyberspace". In fact, such abstractions are among the most powerful tools that human beings have in their mental toolset.

      It does not surprise me that there are those whose lack of imagination and frustration with abstraction would lead them to say something like "the concept of "Cyperspace" is quite stupid". Nor does it strike me that there is someone writing for Salon who craves attention so much, and that the best they could come up with to farm hits would be a criticism of such a useful device. Such "web magazines" are well-known for such desperate trolling to promote readership.

      You first-posted yourself some karma, Mitreya (at least for a moment), but as long as you use readily use similar devices, like "deskspace" and "screen real estate" and "folders" and "directory trees", you might want to reflect a little more before you say something as ridiculous as "the concept of "Cyberspace" is quite stupid". It's no less a troll than "people who use perl are stupid". Worse, I'll hazard a guess that you use the term "the Cloud" several times a day [note: I'm profiling here]

      Now, if you want to say, as the writer of the Salon article at least tried to say, that "people have used the concept of "Cyberspace" in stupid ways", that might at least be a little bit defensible (if you gave sufficient evidence).

      • MOD PARENT UP (Score:4, Insightful)

        by khchung ( 462899 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @10:21PM (#42878337) Journal

        You first-posted yourself some karma, Mitreya (at least for a moment), but as long as you use readily use similar devices, like "deskspace" and "screen real estate" and "folders" and "directory trees", you might want to reflect a little more before you say something as ridiculous as "the concept of "Cyberspace" is quite stupid". It's no less a troll than "people who use perl are stupid". Worse, I'll hazard a guess that you use the term "the Cloud" several times a day [note: I'm profiling here]

        Now, if you want to say, as the writer of the Salon article at least tried to say, that "people have used the concept of "Cyberspace" in stupid ways", that might at least be a little bit defensible (if you gave sufficient evidence).

        Where's mod points when you need it?

        The concept of a "space" is widely used in many science disciplines, especially on the more abstract concepts, e.g. phase space, Hilbert space, address space, etc. But of course, any fool can use them in stupid ways such as writing fictions where people "enter" them (anyone who knew what a phase space is will see how silly it is to say it can be "entered", double bonus for quoting a novel with people entering an address space).

        The concept of "Cyberspace" is no different. We mentally used that concept of a "space" every time we used the term "log in" or "log out" of a remote system. We talked about "going" from one node/server to another in online games, have terms like "server hopping", or even the most common usage of "surfing the web" (yuck!). All of them used the metaphor of a "space" to refer to computers connected to a network.

        The concept of a space is not stupid, it is how people used it that is stupid.

        • Well I don't think the concept of cyberspace is exactly wrong, much less stupid. It's that there are strong froces trying to kill it and that widespread usage has changed its significance.

          In other words it's becoming (and it is being made to become) outdated.

          Rather than the product of stupid minds. Cyberspace was how the Internet felt like before social networks and governments became dominant.

          1) Not everything was indexed.
          2) IRC and email was a sizable chunk of what people did online.
          3) Governments didn't

    • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:59PM (#42878127)

      "Yes, the concept of 'Cybespace' is quite stupid."

      No, it isn't. The idea that the Internet is "cyberspace" is stupid. But those are two different things.

      But what really gets me is that I don't know ANYBODY who really has that idea in their heads... except maybe Lind himself. There is no reason to rail against this idea unless you think it's prevalent... and I don't think it is. Methinks Lind is looking more in a mirror than out the window.

  • This is too specific (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:03PM (#42876867)

    The use of the word "cyber" is stupid in any computer-related context.

  • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir ( 398214 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:06PM (#42876905) Homepage

    But it's not 1993 anymore. Instead of "cyberspace," just say "in the cloud" and you'll sound like you're living in 2013.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:11PM (#42876937)

    The notion of "cyberspace as place" ala Neuromancer may be a bit out dated, but it paints an interesting picture. As someone who does understand how networking works, I find the concepts from early cyber punk to be valuable attempts to try to imagine the future of a data driven world. We don't see pictures in the raw data, there is no blond in the red dress. But we can take the numbers and extract the blond in the red dress and make her visible to everyone.

    If, however, someone's notion of cyberspace starts and ends at Tron, then they're going to have a hard time understanding the lack of control they have over the system.

    But, that's not to say the the idea of cyberspace as place has no, well, place. People create communities on line, both private and public. These communities have their own rules both written and unwritten. If a government wants to regulate it's place in cyberspace, then it can attempt to do so. It's when governments try to regulate the cyberspace of people outside it's jurisdiction, that we run into issues where the concept of cyberspace can muddy the waters.

  • by eobanb ( 823187 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:11PM (#42876941) Homepage
    Laugh all you want at the retro-ness of the word 'cyberspace', of course, but let me just say this: I was born in 1986, so during my childhood the internet grew with me. I only barely remember there being a time when the internet was not widely used. Consequently, I essentially do think of the internet as a 'place', or least I imagine that an MRI scan would see the same area of my brain lighting up. And why not? It's infinitely more democratised, instantaneous and ubiquitous than any other prior communication medium. Which, at least in my subconscious, makes me think of it as closer to real life and place than to '0s and 1s on wires and in computers' in the same way I think about real life itself as such, rather than 'matter and energy bumping around in a universe of space-time'.
    • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:36PM (#42877227)

      And why not?

      Because in the big scheme of things the internet isn't much more grandiose than a fancy telephone answering system like what any large corporation has.

      When I'm on hold with AT&T I'm not in telespace. I don't have a virtual telepresence at AT&T. When my call is eventually connected to some fine chap in India I don't marvel that the two us are meeting in some virtual non-corporeal tele-reality.

      Its also just as ubiquitous and just as democratic. Anyone can talk to anyone from anywhere, instantly.

      I'm not looking to mock you, I'm just pointing out the logical flaw.

      I remember BBS systems; and telneting into the university, and the rules back then were all perfectly rational without imagining being in some new space. The server was there. I was here. I communicated with the server. The laws that applied at the server applied at the server. The laws that applied where i was apply where I was.

      The problem specifically addressed in the article is the idea that this isn't adequate, that cyberspace is 'somewhere else' where laws either don't go, don't apply, or need to be brought, or need to be fought off. The reality is the law applies and has always applied where the servers are, and where the participants are.

      Some complexity arises due to instances where the law at the server and client but legally it really doesn't need to be more complicated then how we think about phone call.

  • For the same reasons, the Slashdot category of "your rights online" is equally stupid. Last I checked, "online" is not a nation or city state with its own legal code defining any actual rights.
    • by osu-neko ( 2604 )

      For the same reasons, the Slashdot category of "your rights online" is equally stupid. Last I checked, "online" is not a nation or city state with its own legal code defining any actual rights.

      The phrase does not in any way imply "online" is a state with its own legal code defining anything. Your inability to parse simple English properly in context does not make the phrase you're misinterpreting stupid. It is a fact that you have rights, and it is a fact that you are sometimes online, and thus those rights can be impacted by things that occur online.

      I would also argue that rights are not defined by legal code. If you have a right, the only impact the legal code can have upon that is that it c

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      As this site is explicitly US (located, run, and content-oriented), YRO indicates US-laws regarding computers and transmissions, which is surprisingly close to what is covered there. Only the deliberately obtuse have an issue with that.
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:14PM (#42876983)

    What I really learned from this submission is that:

    1) Salon still exists and, apparently, people read it?
    2) This "Lind" guy was desperate for something to write an article about, at the last minute.

    • This "Lind" guy was required reading in my policy sci department. He's writing about policy, not technology. Putting a policy framework around "cyberspace" is much harder than coming up with a policy framework for telecom competition, free expression, and surveillance.

      His most famous book is a dissection of how a wealthy overclass is separating itself from American society and rigging the system, particularly banks, to it's benefit. It was published in 1995, and considered kind of crazy at the time.
      http://e []

  • I guess this was something that sounded hip and cool back then when the WorldWideWeb was new, but now that we all know what computers and the internet can do, it sounds a bit dated.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:17PM (#42877017)

    "Cyberpace" is a metaphor. Used as such, it is sometimes useful, but, like all metaphors, it can be misleading if taken as a literal description; the internet is obvious not a literal physical place.

    Is "cyberspace" a stupid term? No. Is it sometimes used stupidly? Yes.

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      "Cyberpace" is a metaphor. Used as such, it is sometimes useful, but, like all metaphors, it can be misleading if taken as a literal description; the internet is obvious not a literal physical place.

      Noooo! The cyberspace is the total amount of space enclosed in those tubez.

  • Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:17PM (#42877021)

    Obviously, none of the metaphors that come to mind when we are talking about a conventional "space" apply when you're talking about communications and networking. It's a different concept entirely.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      You can "do" things at a real place. Shop at a mall. You can "do" things in cyber space. Shop at Amazon. There are enough parallels that it helps to form a common metaphor. Otherwise, we'd use "online" to mean the same thing as "in cyberspace" (some do). So the concept would still exist, even if the term changed.
    • If it's that obvious, then why do so many people use such metaphors, and in so many ways? "Bandwidth" is itself a spatial metaphor (the word "width" inside should be a subtle clue). Are you seriously trying to claim that the people who talk about bandwidth in communications are all fools who don't see what is obvious? I don't think you meant to deliberately troll the group, but if there's any real point you intended to make, you lost it by generalizing to the point of absurdity. Your post makes a fine exam

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

        by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:43PM (#42877985)

        Bandwidth [] literally refers to the width of band of radio spectrum, which can be measured in units of length. The term has continued to be used in communications for similar purposes since then. Cyberspace has never been a space, neither by the conventional definition, nor the mathematical definition, nor any other definition I am aware of.

        • no, it measures the diffrences in acceptable length of waves, not a physical size of space.

          So your measuring the diffrence between the lower and upper frequncy, even in meters or nano meters, your not actually measuring any peroid of space. You don't measure bandwith in meters. such as a 50mm wave vs a 40mm wave giving you 10mm of bandwith. no more than the diffrence between the largest and smallest blocks of wood used to make a house infers width, in any meaningful term. The term band "width", has more to
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:18PM (#42877029)

    He says that analogizing cyberspace as a real place leads to an inability to think logically about laws, rules, and how and when the governments could or should intervene to regulate the Internet.

    So what he says is that if you stop using certain words, it becomes harder to think about things in ways that the author doesn't like. This is a classical Orwellian exercise.

    Actually, cyberspace exists - just like many other intangibles exist. The reason we're Homo sapiens rather than some other primate is precisely because of our ability to work with intangibles. Some sophomoric selective limitation of this ability which suits a partiuclar belief system isn't going to make it go away.

    • by Geof ( 153857 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @10:18PM (#42878315) Homepage

      Lind treats countries and legal jurisdictions as "real," but says "there is no such place as cyberspace." It's a specious argument. A space is not the same as a place. I don't think mathematicians confuse the spaces they talk about with places. Geographer Manuel Castells, in his influential book series The Information Age, wrote about the conflict between "space of flows" - of networked finance, data and communication - and contrasted it with the "space of places" - physical locations where people live.

      To be fair, Lind seems to be arguing tha cyberspace is not like a physical territory. The metaphor of cyberspace, by implying that it is, supports misleading conclusions. This is a reasonable argument. Metaphors are useful for description, but they are not predictive - though many people, journalists among them, take them too far. Lind is right that governments already have jursidiction over people acting on the Internet, though as others Slashdot commenters point out the Internet has raised numerous jurisdictional questions. However, we could not name or understand anything new if we did not compare it with something already known. I don't think the imperfection of a metaphor is sufficient grounds for discarding it.

      But the motivation of the argument, it seems to me, is political. He writes: "it makes no sense to say that California and the U.S. are extending their jurisdiction 'into' cyberspace . . . The idea that corporations are 'invading' a mythical Oz-like kingdom called cyberspace is . . . dopey." I don't know about that. Scholars often use the language of colonization in cases like this. We could talk about government "invasion" into private or family space. Canada's then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau used a spatial metaphor when he said in 1967, upon the introduction of a bill to decriminalize homosexuality, "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."

      . . . try substituting “fax” or “telephone” or “telegraph” for “cyber” in words and sentences. The results will be comical. “Activists denounced government criminal surveillance policies for colonizing Fax Space.” “Should Telephone Space be commercialized?” . . . the point is not that telecommunications should not be structured and governed in the public interest, but rather that the debate about the public interest is not well served by the Land of Oz metaphor.

      He takes it for granted that these comparisons are reasonable. I don't think they are. I don't hear anyone talking about a "fax" community or a "telephone" community. But people do talk about an "Internet community," an "Internet generation" (more questionable in my mind) - even of belonging to an online "tribe". The Aaron Swartz memorial site is full of such statements. Note also the big-I: the Internet is a proper noun (even he spells it that way).

      Benedict Anderson wrote Imagined Communities about the formation of new nations, such as Indonesia, following decolonization. He explains how arbitrary colonial lines drawn on a map gave rise to real feelings of national identity among people who did not know each other: but who had a sense that they had shared histories and experiences. I think the Internet has produced some similar feelings. I don't think Lind's argument is entirely clear, but it seems to me this is what he is really arguing against. But that's a judgment of what should be. Disguising it as an objective description of the Internet is problematic.

      Or hey, just read China Mieville's The City and the City.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:18PM (#42877031)

    Guys, how is this any different than "cloud" computing, or "cluster" computing, or pretty much the overwhelming majority of technical terms. Zip, unzip, explode, compress... yes, if I stopped and thought about it, I'd probably consider it perverted. And cloud computing doesn't mean we're all hovering above our cubes playing magical harps. Getting hungup on terminology is neither productive nor interesting.

    The term "cyberspace" may be stupid, but it refers to something that is very real: The internet may just be a collection of wires, boxes with circuit boards in it, and a lot of ones and zeroes, but that is not how people look at it, anymore than they look at their car as a collection of fiberglass, steel bolts, and rubber. And the problems of the digital world aren't terribly hard to comprehend, nor do most of them require radical change in how we think about it.

    Those of us under the age of 40 can conceptualize this "brave new world" quite well, and make moral and ethical decisions about it. Most of us understand and agree that privacy is a right, online and off. We may disagree about the particulars, but not the substance. Same with file sharing: Most of us are against people "pirating" for profit, but likewise have little objection to Joe Average maintaining his own personal collection of downloaded music and movies. This isn't hard for us to understand.

    However, for people who grew up without computers, and are reluctant to embrace them, and still carry around Nokia phones from ten years ago because it's "more like a phone"... well, those people are more easily swayed by certain wealthy interests to look at it as a confusing and nebulous thing, and turn to said interests for guidance. Afterall... if you're rich, you must have done something right. There is a disconnect between our legislators (most of whom are 50+ years of age) and the general population (median age: 35).

    The problems of "cyberspace" actually has nothing to do with technology: It has to do with people. Specifically, old people. Boomers. These people have taken an unwarranted familiarity with the technology and made bad decision after bad decision, institutionalizing ignorance and stupidity because that's what they were told to do. And that, really, is the only problem here.

    • by Aardpig ( 622459 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:42PM (#42877311)

      The internet may just be a collection of wires, boxes with circuit boards in it, and a lot of ones and zeroes...

      LOL, you n00b! Evry1 knows the internet is a series of tubes!

    • Humans operate on metaphor - to the point where metaphor will actively interfere with our ability to analyze reality. Use language that suggests that a process possesses active volition (the market climbed three points today) rather than passive (the market gained three points) and non-experts will be considerably more likely to predict that the trend will continue in the future. In a likely related phenomena it takes something like twice as long to correctly name the color of the ink a word is written in

    • by foobsr ( 693224 )
      Those of us under the age of 40 can conceptualize this "brave new world" quite well

      I'd rather hypothesize that the ability to "conceptualize" is based on degree of education and ability to learning (think life long). Besides, "newromantic" would be a better adjective, as WE (hint: Semjatin) do more likely live in a more dystopian world.

      Given that the idea of 'cyberspace' was coined in the mid 80ies and that a book on the history of networking was written as early as 1990 (The Matrix: Computer Networks a

  • Wait until we have Virtual Reality and ask again. Other than that, we still use a bunch of webpages and instant messaging protocols which do not make a place, in my opinion. Of course, you could argue that anything done with virtual reality amounts to data traveling between a client-server or multiple-peers and then being interpreted by the engine. However, starting this discussion does call for entering into technical details of how the Internet/Cyberspace works, what is the Cyberspace, what is the definit

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      Wait until we have Virtual Reality and ask again.

      What do you think EveOnline or WoW are?

  • by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:28PM (#42877149) Journal
    the electronic FRONTIER foundation.
    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      the electronic FRONTIER foundation.

      Well, be a good chap and wake me up when they change their name to the CYBER frontier foundation, will you?

  • by Rinnon ( 1474161 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:29PM (#42877159)
    It occurs to me that the concept of "Cyberspace" is not too distant from the concept of a soul in the individual. The soul seems to have originated, and continues to be accepted as a valid metaphysical concept, because we do not want to believe in ourselves as merely the firing of synapses in the brain. We want to believe that there is more going on there, something that supersedes those physical boundaries and makes us more than that. Thus, we think of the soul as a real thing, even as it's directly linked to our brains in some way. Thinking of Cyberspace as being more than the a mere collection of the computers, pathways between then, and signals being sent, is very similar. We seem to want to think of the Internet as more than the merely the the sum of those parts. Where the analogy breaks down of course, is that unlike the human brain, there is nothing we do not know about how the Internet functions. As such, it seems to me like the author is right, and we really should be taking a physicalist approach in order to have a meaningful conversation: The Internet really is merely the sum of it's parts, and nothing more. There is no "Cyberspace," it is a metaphysical mistake to think there is one, and it is a result of the way we use our language that lends credence to the concept.
    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      It occurs to me that the concept of "Cyberspace" is not too distant from the concept of a soul in the individual.

      So, you too think the Internet was created by God? I mean, it's highly complex, perfectly tuned (most of the time) and it's quite magic how the things in it interact and live or die from this interaction...
      Look, I write a post, I press the submit button and you get to read my thoughts... you can't explain that! []

  • Cloud is another example of the same. Read vendor's ad's replacing the word "cloud" with "service center" or "network" as appropriate and watch the magic go away. Read it to your boss and see his common sense come back online (unless, of course, you are being paid big bucks for the magic, then hide this and run away! run away!)
  • by Kwyj1b0 ( 2757125 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:32PM (#42877191)

    This is a problem with all names with a kind of non-uniqueness. The moment you use a common word (like space) to describe an idea or concept, you limit the mental map. For example, I find that using the word "saved" in a religious context limiting for the same reason. "Saved" in generally a good thing. So you start thinking the alternative (not being saved by religion) as bad.

    As for the laws, we already have something I consider similar: the European Union. A region without real political unification, but with a sort of economic unification to allow free transport of goods, services, and capital. Which is kind of like `cyberspace', except information is included instead of goods (I'm not sure what the current status of the European Union Copyright Law [] is).

    I know that the analogy goes back to a 'spatial' interpretation, but calling it the cloud or cyberworld or cyber-dimension (which might be another good way to think of it?) would bring similar problems in restricting our mental map of things.

  • by EnempE ( 709151 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:33PM (#42877193)
    Basing a critique of a term on its earliest use is beyond ludicrous. The concept of cyberspace is with us because we needed it and couldn't find anything better to define the phenomenon. Smart people well versed in the matter have debated this very point for a long time and we haven't yet found a more apt or useful word to explain the body of communication that traverses the Internet but is not limited to its technology. It is not the virtual reality dream of yesterday but it is a real environment with properties that differ from other realms. The idea of theft must redefined where taking something of value does not deprive the owner of its use. The impact of intrusion, harassment, and contraband all change in this arena of continual communication. Mr Lind seems to believe that the Internet is owned by governments and the have the ability to control it in much the same way they control traffic. We need the word cyberspace so that countries can seperate the laws for the Internet so that they can be uniform globally, not clouded by local legal systems. Each country trying to do it on their own is why we are in this mess. No country can regulate the Internet but by creating a common operating environment it can regulate itself.
  • by Gim Tom ( 716904 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:33PM (#42877195)
    I have hated the term cyberspace ever since I first heard it applied to the Internet. There is no place in space that IS cyberspace. Of course if cyberspace doesn't exist then Cybercrime can't exist either. There can not be a crime that can only happen in a place that doesn't really exist. Of course all of the crimes that are thought of as cybercrimes are really just ordinary crimes done using a new technology. Stealing 10,000 social security numbers to commit identity theft is just a technological variant on a type of fraud that has been around for centuries. Obtaining copyrighted content over the Internet, becomes as it should always have been, a civil matter of copyright infringement and not called piracy which can again apply to taking over a physical vessel, whether on land, sea or air, but not in a place that doesn't really exist.

    Unfortunately the concept of doing something that has been done for decades (think of scheduled deliveries of milk) becomes a new and patentable thing when done on a computer or over the Internet. That is the kind of thing that happens when people think of cyberspace as a real place and somehow a different place.
    • If someone in Nigeria defrauds a person in Florida via email, where has the crime taken place?

      Under whose jurisdiction has the offence occurred?

      I agree with you that the answer isn't "in cyberspace", but the fact is that the characteristics of "cybercrime" do actually differ in a significant way from traditional in-person crime.

  • by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @08:37PM (#42877233)
    When a bunch of rebels and outcasts when searching for gold, and good soil in the new world, it was cheered until it was found that some of them saw this as an oppertunity to do away with the cruel, tiered, hiearchial system of europe, and all its entitlements and entrapments.

    Then a bunch of kings, princes, dukes, and their beneficiaries found about how there rules, titles and privledges where simply ignored in this "new world", they decided to let people know that that just because they are on the other side of the world, there powers, and hierarchies still exist awnd apply.

    On a serious note, this concept of cyber space as a physical space never existed. There are, however decades of communities, with their own cultures that formed independantly of the TV culture of the time, and there have been unwritten rules about the internet.

    The situation is the same, titleholders, owners, and the others who stat back while everyone else developed online, did nothing, but are now demanding controll of the internet, to make it an extension of the dull, boring, distraught, mainstream most of us sought to get away from 20 years prior. They also mean to press their statutory hierachy, in place of what used to be a meritocracy, destroying everything beautiful of the internet, and condemning us all to the same backwards, corrupt, dogmatic line of thinking the outside world uses
  • I have literally never uttered the words "cyberspace". I have heard of it and I have a vague idea of what it might mean. I have been using computers since the dawn of the internet, and I have been a professional programmer for 9 years. I never even realized there was any controversy over the word. I just figured it was a dumb catchphrase that only MSM used because they didn't know how not to sound old (like when my mom saying that she "tapes" things on her DVR).

    I do like the analogy of the internet as a

  • Yes, of course it is. Unfortunately we are stuck with it: the sort of people who think that global warming might attract asteroids believe in it.

  • ... to put the series of tubes.
  • No.

  • Cyberspace, though the term itself is dated, is becoming even more real. The real world has physical and political boundaries, laws, and interactions. The physical world also has arbitrary boundaries (note that there is no black line on the earth at the US/Mexico border). We exist in the physical world and are governed by a set of arbitrary laws (do not "steal" this set of bits, pay more for this widget because it has a fruit logo, this person is beautiful and therefore gifted with wealth and adoration).

  • From the article:

    "There is no such place as cyberspace. It is not a parallel universe, coexisting with our world but in a different dimension. It is just a bad metaphor that has outlived its usefulness. Using the imagery of a fictitious country makes it harder to have rational arguments about government regulation or commercial exploitation of modern information and communications technologies."

    But in fact people do commonly engage with a place with those qualities. They use assumed names and identities, a

  • YES! The article has convinced me that I'm STUPIDER for having read the ARTICLE! I bELIEEEEEEVE! *aaahhhh!* *laaaahhhh!*

  • " and when the governments could or should intervene to regulate the Internet" -- dumbest concept I see.
  • analogizing Michael Lind' as a real place leads to an inability to think logically about laws, rules, ....

    Nobody thinks cyberspace is a real space, its unreal space, nothing there is real, its all just patterns, a place where geography doesnt matter.

    Stupid people ask stupid questions.

  • Look, this is very simple. We don't even know if THIS universe is a computer simulation. (See arXiv for constraints.) If this universe is a simulation, it is by definition a cyberspace. If cyberspace does not exist, then no law governing anything within this universe is possible.

    Since laws governing this universe are possible, one of the statements in that chain must be false. The one most likely to be false is that cyberspace does not exist.

    If cyberspace is true, then it is just as possible to establish la

  • by sdguero ( 1112795 ) is stupid.
  • Technically -- this is /. right? -- the answer is no for the same reason that we can measure the "weight of the internet." [] There is actual space that this electricity travels through. There is weight, and there is volume.

    As far as what the article is really getting it, I've always thought it was dumb that people can own such things. People can own land, water, and air. Back in the day, you could actually just live in the woods if you wanted to. Now, you'd be arrested because it's either owned by the
  • Stop saying we really exists. We are all just a hologram on a 2 dimensional plane very very far away.

    Cyberspace is real because we think it is and so is our physical world. You cannot prove reality, so Cyberspace is real if you think it is.

    However in speech, it's a metaphor and if these metaphors confuse our lawmakers we should get new lawmakers.

    When laws are involved the government usually oversteps their bounds anyway.

    Ask yourself a question:
    Would the benefits of the governance of the internet outweigh th

  • The physical embodiment of "Cyberspace" --- its computers, wires, and people --- is indeed, as Lind suggests, irrevocably bound to the material conditions of this world. To suppose otherwise; that Cyberspace offers some magical escape from the existing orders of our lives or from whatever powers control our cables and our bodies; is naive.

    The idea of "Cyberspace," however --- the projection of human yearnings for a different order to the cosmos --- is far from fictional. Lind and fellow defenders of the sta

  • by GrantRobertson ( 973370 ) on Tuesday February 12, 2013 @09:55PM (#42878089) Homepage Journal

    I have been saying this for decades. Yes, since even before the internet became popular. Since I was dialing up at 300 baud on a pay-phone in the barracks to get on bulletin boards with my TRS-80 Model 100. The internet is nothing more than a means of communication. Did people claim to be doing things in "phone space" when they first started using the telephone? (And they did some pretty interesting things with phones, like pipe concerts to whole towns at once.) Did people claim to be doing things in "Paper Space" when they first started writing letters back and forth? What about "telegraph space" or "radio space"? Seriously?

    When you order something "in cyberspace" it is nothing more than another way to do mail order. Easier and faster, yes. But fundamentally no different. If you insult someone "in cyberspace" it is no different from picking up a party-line-telephone and cussing at whoever happens to be talking at the time. You are still insulting a real freaking person.

    All the same laws should apply and DO apply. Pretending that "cyberspace" is an entirely different realm is just marketing speak made up by techno-hippies who wanted to get away with breaking the law. Now, a lot of the existing laws may suck. But claiming to be "in cyberspace" doesn't get you away from the suckyness. It just lets you pretend and rationalize until someone comes knocking on your very real door.

    • Indeed, replacing "Doing X" with "Doing X... with a computer!" changes nothing. Re-creating the old world a little faster and easier does not a revolution make.

      But, perhaps people have found a few *new* things that they can do in "Cyberspace"?
      "In the real world, everyone knows you're a dog."
      To create new identities, fluidly and anonymously, independent of existing hierarchies of age, race, wealth, and power; to explore new social arrangements and communities built from these new synthetic identities; these

      • People used to talk anonymously to strangers on the new phone system when it was first put in place. I heard a report on NPR or something like that about the early history of the phone system. You would be amazed at how creative and inventive they were about ways to connect people together. So, yes, they could have said, "On the phone, no one knows you are a dog." Remember, dogs typing is as improbable as dogs talking.

        • I'm not denying that the component ideas of Cyberspace existed *long* before computers --- but that doesn't mean the ideas don't exist. That desire for human connection that drove early anonymous phone connections still projects itself into contemporary ideas of Cyberspace. Maybe you'd prefer we called such things by different, less pretentiously dorky, names; perhaps give more credit to their pre-computer philosophical underpinnings --- as soon as you're appointed King of Language, you can declare whatever

          • A little touchy are we?

            Philosophically, I admit it is a different "head space." But that is not what this post is about. It is about law. And, legally, cyberspace is not a different legal jurisdiction. That is when all the philosophical rationalization starts to sound stupid.

            • This is precisely where philosophically touchy distinctions are most needed.

              The physical embodiment of Cyberspace ("people doing stuff on computers") is indeed stuck under the same legal jurisdiction as "people doing stuff on X," whether X is paper, telephones, or roads.

              The idea of Cyberspace (not new by virtue of chronology, but new by distinction from status-quo orders) is subject to law only so far as we permit jurisdiction of our minds --- and that is a border conflict that I have not yet conceded.

    • I think that for a time "cyberspace" really was a different realm. It was not a commercial venture in the early days; it was more like a research project that escaped the bounds of academia and the military. The .com TLD was vastly outnumbered by .edu and .mil. The first commercial Usenet spam [] provoked alarm and outrage, and the first advertising banners on the Web were seen as an unwelcome exploitation of a public resource. Due to its immediacy, richness, interconnectedness, and interactive nature, it

  • Cyberspace was created, developed, or fashioned, around 1878. It was the telephone, and when people could use it to project their presence in real time, cyberspace was a thing, concept, or result.

    As if you didn't know that already. The Internet was initially not even real-time for human communications. E-mail predates the Internet we think of anyways. Nothing you think you know is that simple.

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