Cyberspace: No Definitive Definition
Labeling cyberspace is no easy task. Countless people have tried to define it since William Gibson first coined the phrase in his 1984 novel Neuromancer. Regardless of whether a unified meaning is ever reached, it seems like almost everyone has an opinion.
The notion of cyberspace can be explained in a number of different ways. A simple Google search of “what is cyberspace?” brings back the website’s definition: the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs. Collins English dictionary defines it as: “all of the data stored in a large computer or network represented as a three-dimensional model through which a virtual-reality user can move.” David Birch and S. Peter Buck further back this description with “Cyberspace is an extension of the idea of virtual reality. Instead of seeing computer data converted into pictures that come from human experience (as in a flight simulator), or extensions from human experience (such as the “desktop” metaphor used with personal computers), cyberspace comprises computers, telecommunications, software and data in a more abstract form.”
Rain Ottis and Peeter Lorents expand these ideas in their publication “Cyberspace: Definitions and Implications.” They note that the aspect of time is missing in most explanations and describe cyberspace as “a time-dependent set of interconnected information systems and the human users that interact with these systems.” The article also refers to it as “unthinkably complex.” I whole heartedly agree with the latter statement.
Trying to wrap my brain around the question of “what is cyberspace?” and devise my own opinion makes my head feel like it’s going to implode. While most definitions refer to it as being computer based, I agree with Mr. Yurgens about it being invented with the introduction of the electrical telegraph. The electrical telegraph made it possible to transmit information over vast physical distance in short periods of time. I view cyberspace as a realm where communication is not stifled by the limitations of physical attributes. If I wanted to hand deliver a message to someone in Beijing, China, I would have to drive to Detroit Metro Airport, board a plane and fly for twenty hours. With the internet, the same message can be delivered in minutes, if not seconds. I see cyberspace as a platform for the instantaneous exchange of ideas via technology. It seems to have effectively flattened the world, and as everyone knows, the fastest way to get from point A to point B is a straight line.
I also consider cyberspace to be our collective consciousness. It has allowed us to befriend (and sometimes hate) people who we would never have had a chance to before. It has opened up the minds of countless people and showed us how small we are in the grand scheme of things. It has given a voice to the voiceless, and played a major part in the uprisings against tyranny across the changing world. The information offered in cyberspace continues to alter the spirit and mood of our era. In my opinion, cyberspace will never be clearly defined because it will never cease to evolve.
“Cyberspace.” Google.com definition. 10 Jan. 2012.
“Cyberspace.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. 2009
Birch, David G.W., and S. Peter Buck. “What Is Cyberspace?” The Cyberpunk Project. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://project.cyberpunk.ru/idb/what_is_cyberspace.html>.
Rain Ottis and Peeter Lorents. “Cyberspace: Definition and Implications” Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence 2010. Web. 10 Jan. 2012. <http://www.ccdcoe.org/articles/2010/Ottis_Lorents_CyberspaceDefinition.pdf>.