“Cyberspace” is dead

William Gibson invented the word, cyberspace, in his first novel, Neuromancer. Now a Wired article advances that the word is dead, because the “Internet feels less like an alternate world that we “go to” and more like just another layer of life.”

When asked for alternative expression to describe cyberspace, several gurus came up with, in my opinion, ludicrous suggestions: ubiquitous computing, infosphere, global brain, the world.

Sheesh. Cyberspace, as a word, caught on because it is immensely descriptive and intelligent. Cyber comes from cybernetics, which comes from the greek word kubernetes, meaning governor. So, cyberspace is the “governor of space”, which describes very well how a collection of processes control world communications.

Cyberspace has not expanded or shrunk; it simply has more access points than it had 37 years ago, that’s all. It’s still not a physical space, it’s intangible, but it has succeeded in shrinking the Earth.

When I was working on my Master’s in Industrial Psychology twenty years ago, a major problem was how to integrate the teaching of computer use into other training; many academics were trying to determine if special skills were needed (meaning that some people would never be able to use one, because their brain wasn’t wired for it). My opinion, at the time, was that teaching computers would eventually become a moot point. It would become a household accessory, just like the telephone, the VCR, or the washing machine. Granted, there are still many people who have none of these things, but researchers in a recent survey found that “56 percent of all Canadians log on for at least seven hours a week, with the average user spending 13.5 hours online per week” and “Three quarters of Canadians own at least one computer.”

The Internet has become a fact of life, but it doesn’t mean it is not a world that we can’t enter. In the same survey, “Twice as many net users surf for information as oppose [sic] to entertainment,” with “Canadians between the ages of 18 and 24 compris[ing] ninety percent of those who regularly log on.” The tool, meaning the computer (or the handheld, or the cell phone) has become a means of entering the world of cyberspace. Forget infosphere.

Thanks to Ed Willet for pointing towards the Wired article.

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