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Is the Concept of 'Cyberspace' Stupid?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the can-we-also-stop-using-'cyber'-as-a-prefix dept.

The Internet 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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Exception to Betteridge's law!! (5, Insightful)

Mitreya (579078) | about a year ago | (#42876859)

Perhaps the first exception ever, where the answer is not "no"

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

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (3, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year ago | (#42877355)

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.

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#42877441)

And remember, it is also virtual money, but we are doing our (dumb)best to pretend that is real.

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (1)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year ago | (#42877543)

It's not so virtual when you sell it on eBay.

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#42877689)

When was the last time you spent or received real money on ebay. It's all numbers in a database unless you are buying vintage coins.

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (4, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#42877463)

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...

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877487)

Sounds more like stupid people exist.

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (4, Insightful)

krotkruton (967718) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (2)

complete loony (663508) | about a year ago | (#42877869)

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.

Wrong. (3, Interesting)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | about a year ago | (#42877373)

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.

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877379)

I'm going to write a news piece entitled: "Is Betteridge's Law Accurate?"

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (4, Insightful)

thej1nx (763573) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Exception to Betteridge's law!! (5, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year ago | (#42877709)

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).

This is too specific (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42876867)

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

Re:This is too specific (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877601)

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


No. (3, Insightful)

MrEricSir (398214) | about a year ago | (#42876905)

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

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42876935)

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

I assume the question implies "regardless of whether a new term has been invented to refer to Cyberspace".

Re:No. (4, Informative)

foobsr (693224) | about a year ago | (#42877567)

But it's not 1993 anymore.

Just to put time into perspective.

Wikipedia:"The word "cyberspace" (from cybernetics and space) was coined by science fiction novelist and seminal cyberpunk author William Gibson in his 1982 story "Burning Chrome" and popularized by his 1984 novel Neuromancer."

That what we have today does in no way resemble what was envisioned then, thus the use of the term, to me, just denotes ignorance.


Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42876965)

The blogosphere is where the action is!

Re:No. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877011)

Or use Al Gore's 'Information Superhighway' term he popularized in the early 1990s, a few decades after he invented the Internet.

Re:No. (3, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#42877673)

He created the Internet in the 1980s. And his statements weren't wrong. He opened the closed Internet to the world (starting with US citizens). If it weren't for his efforts, the Internet would not exist as it does today. But he did nothing technical to further it, which is why he is mis-quoted. And the rabid anti-liberal slant of Slashdot and the media make it easy to bash him for claiming responsibility for things he actually did.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877785)

anti-liberal slant on /. ? What /. are you reading?

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877085)

the term cyberspace makes it too difficult for governments to regulate the Internet without coming across as old entities that hinder progress.

Re:No. (1)

Threni (635302) | about a year ago | (#42877363)

There'll always be new words for it, but basically, whether you're talking about the cloud, the blogosphere, cyberspace, the web etc, you're essentially talking about `somebody else's computer`.

Re:No. (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#42877733)

The concept of "cloud" is "anything I don't understand", "blogosphere" is "amateur journalists" and "cyberspace" is "a computerized approximation of real life" Cyberspace doesn't have to encompass all, but something as "simple" as an MMO can count as cyberspace. Someone else's server isn't necessarily cyberspace. Your own MUD on your own computer in your own mother's basement could be cyberspace, and be 100% yours.

It is. (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42876911)

It is plain stupid. A pure fantasy. Nothing else to say.

No (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:No (1)

arlo5724 (172574) | about a year ago | (#42877753)

There is a bigger issue here, though. If we assume that people can create communities online, and that we should take this as evidence of a "space" for these avatars, then how does morality work in such a space? How about governance? Laws? Would/should these concepts apply only in the space itself? Currently, there is no effective governing body within "cyberspace" (cringe) that acts solely within that same space. Instead, the assumption is made that there exists a mapping of the members of the "online community", the avatars, back to human people in the real world, and we attempt to govern the human people accordingly. The problems with this are many, this site seems to exist to list them. As just one of the many examples, what if behavior is legal in the person's place of residence, but is perpetrated against someone in whose country it would be illegal? Should there be an International Court of Cyberspace? What about crimes perpetrated by online "beings" outside of control of people in the real world? The behavior of viruses of even just buggy software that are unintentional? If we want to go ahead and say that cyberspace is real, then shouldn't we be able to define a governing body whose jurisdiction is online and who punishes/reforms avatars? This seems absurd if for no other reason than that any mapping from people to avatars is not injective. Although it is amusing to imagine the CyperPolice putting my Slashdot avatar in CyberPrison until I learn to shape up. It is this very absurdity that makes me want to agree that the notion of some sort of online "space" is just simply invalid. It seems that any definition of space, in as far as it should apply to people and governance, needs to include the ability to meaningfully govern within the space itself. A corn field is a space, because the governance of a community of people within that space can enact laws with repercussions within that space. And perhaps that example sums it up. Avatars are not people, they are not really much of anything other than a sequence of electrical impulses and magnetic fields, and even then only by a system of assignment, and so cannot be governed as avatars. Because of this, there can be no cyberspace in this sense.

just the word; not the concept. (4, Insightful)

eobanb (823187) | about a year ago | (#42876941)

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'.

Re:just the word; not the concept. (3, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:just the word; not the concept. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877407)

I was born in 1979 and I was navigating BBS before the Internet. To me, the Internet is analogous to the human mind. They are both "things" that are very real but not directly physical. You can't point to my brain and say "There is your mind". Just the same, you can't point at a bunch of server and say "There is the Internet". There's something more that is intagible. With that said, people should understand how this intangible world works, that is what matters. When they don't understand, they start to talk non-sense about "cloud" and web 2.0.

Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42876957)

... so is Texas.

Re:Yes, but... (beep! beep!) (2)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#42877343)

I wasn't born in Cyberspace, even if I remember using 110 baud modems on ARPANET.

But I was born in Texas.

The main question is: Did the Internet exist before we turned it on?

"YRO" same (2)

Alimony Pakhdan (1855364) | about a year ago | (#42876981)

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.

Re:"YRO" same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877129)

Neither is McDonald's, but I have rights there too, like non-discrimination.

Re:"YRO" same (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42877427)

Only if the particular McDonald's you're in is itself in a jurisdiction that grants you such, which I think is the GP's point. "The Internet" is not a place, it's a medium. And it's a medium that does in fact extend into places where you have no guaranteed rights.

Re:"YRO" same (2)

osu-neko (2604) | about a year ago | (#42877291)

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 can be written to actively protect your right, it can simply ignore it, doing nothing to either protect or infringe upon it, or it can be written to actively infringe upon your right. But I was born in a country founded on the principle that rights are innate and the government doesn't grant them, it merely protects them. Depending on your philosophical beliefs, YMMV, but really, this is another discussion entirely...

Re:"YRO" same (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#42877797)

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.

What I really learned from this submission. (5, Funny)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#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.

Dated (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | about a year ago | (#42876999)

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.

"Cyberspace" is a metaphor (5, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:"Cyberspace" is a metaphor (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42877365)

"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 (3, Insightful)

mosb1000 (710161) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Yes (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#42877833)

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.

Re:Yes (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about a year ago | (#42877863)

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 example of why it is risky to use words such as 'all', 'none', 'always' and 'never'.

remove the term - remove the thought (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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.

Terminology != Reality (2, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Terminology != Reality (3, Funny)

Aardpig (622459) | about a year ago | (#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!

Re:Terminology != Reality (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#42877737)

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 if the word is the name of a different color.

Bottom line the words we use *do* affect the way we think about things. And especially when it comes to technological stuff the folks calling the shots are by and large completely ignorant and legislating based entirely on a metaphorical understanding of what something like the internet is, so I'll go out on a limb here and say that the language we use to describe it probably has a profound effect, even if often subtle.

As for your most people think... arguments, I think you may be living in a filter bubble. I've had a dismaying number of conversations with otherwise intelligent people where lines like "If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear from surveillance" were delivered with complete earnestness - and that's from people under 30. Scarey I know, but there's a heck of a lot of people out there that believe things you would find utterly stupid or horrifying.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877087)

There is no cyberspace the same way there is no Narnia or Middle Earth.

Re:Yes. (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#42877821)

Actually, it's more like, there is no cyberspace in the same way that there is no Euclidian space, or Hilbert space.

Yup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877121)

I feel the same about the constant "3D printing is just like a replicator" and "private companies will colonize space" stories.

Virtual Reality (2)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about a year ago | (#42877147)

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 definition of place, etc. Or then we might as well say the Internet is a series of tubes and be done with it.

Re:Virtual Reality (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42877395)

Wait until we have Virtual Reality and ask again.

What do you think EveOnline or WoW are?

Ask the EFF (2)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about a year ago | (#42877149)

the electronic FRONTIER foundation.

Re:Ask the EFF (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42877431)

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?

Re:Ask the EFF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877547)

It's a bit of a whoosh, but the connection is also pretty subtle, so you can have a bye on this one.

a combining form meaning “computer,” “computer network,” or “virtual reality,” used in the formation of compound words ( cybertalk; cyberart; cyberspace ) and by extension meaning “very modern” ( cyberfashion )."

Space = FINAL Frontier
Cyberspace = ELECTRONIC Frontier

"Cyberspace" is the soul of the Internet (3, Interesting)

Rinnon (1474161) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:"Cyberspace" is the soul of the Internet (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#42877515)

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! [knowyourmeme.com]

Yes! (2)

dugndog (617883) | about a year ago | (#42877169)

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!)

Who stepped on your gadget? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877175)

I do not know anyone who thinks of "cyberspace" in the terms that Mr. Lind writing about. In fact, I haven't even seen terms like "cyberspace" or "netizen" in quite some time. He just sounds a little cranky. I wonder who stepped on his gadget?

Books (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | about a year ago | (#42877181)

Cyberspace exists in the same way that stories in books exist; as information stored in the real world on some physical medium. We can imagine a new world based on that information, but that never removes it from existing as "simple" information in the physical world. Trying to govern it as anything other than what it is will just end up relying on metaphors that break down and cause problems.

Re:Books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877341)

It's an metaphor, not reality, and that's what a lot of people seem to miss. A previous poster mentioned "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" and that is, on it's face, wrong. Think of mathematics, the distance function. This can be easily visualized in 2D and 3D, but you can write a distance function for any metric space. In such a way can one extend metaphors about 'space' to the Internet.

As a metaphor, 'cyberspace' is actually pretty descriptive. The problems arise when congresscritters and jobcreators forget that metaphors aren't perfect.

Re:Books (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#42877583)

More than books, ideas. For ancient greeks (Plato? [wikipedia.org]) there was the "real" world and the world of ideas. At least is a better name than Imaginationland [wikipedia.org].

Internet is becoming a rough implementation of it, too bad a lot of companies and stupid laws are puting labels of "this area is mine" all over it.

All names are stupid (2)

Kwyj1b0 (2757125) | about a year ago | (#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 [wikipedia.org] 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.

Somebody can't google (2)

EnempE (709151) | about a year ago | (#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.

No Cyberspace then No Cybercrime (2)

Gim Tom (716904) | about a year ago | (#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.

Its real (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877201)

Just because its more of a 'concept' than a physical entity doesn't make it any less real.

Just like the "New World" (4, Insightful)

davydagger (2566757) | about a year ago | (#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

Someone who has never said cyberspace before... (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about a year ago | (#42877239)

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 physical place. It works well. Packets of information are like cyber letters being delivered by a cyber post office to cyber addresses. Ideas like encryption and email sender spoofing also have great post office analogies. I think this analogy will go away once kids are born that will never mail or receive a letter by the post office.

i dont get it.. (1)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about a year ago | (#42877247)

Its a thing in which people have a persistent existence. In a lot of applications you exist as a virtual avatar. In MMOs...well that one is obvious. It contains storefronts, it has "laws of the kingdom," it is (in some places) unpredictably interactive, you can buy real estate, and it has it's own" currencies." Sounds like a strong enough parallel to justify theterm. Maybe not in the 80s...Even if it's not perfect...it's just a metaphor to teach stupid people..a learning framework of sorts.

"Is the Concept of 'Cyberspace' Stupid?" (1, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year ago | (#42877275)

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.

The concept that corporations are people (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | about a year ago | (#42877315)

The concept that Cyberspace "exists" is just as silly as the concept (pardon, I mean "legal fiction") that Corporations are People.

If you deres us, do we not bleed photons?

Now, excuse me, I have to translate stored bits into screen displays so that people can understand what the genetic data "means".

Salon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877327)

There's an insightful source.

I always thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877369)

...cyberspace referred to virtual reality environments and that "cyberspace" as a synonym for the internet was PHB speak.

A Digital Frontier (1)

FarField12 (2804063) | about a year ago | (#42877405)

"The Grid.
A digital frontier.
I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer.
What did they look like?
Ships, motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways?
I kept dreaming of a world I thought I'd never see.
And then, one day...
I got in."
- Kevin Flynn

Not invalid at all (1)

digitalhermit (113459) | about a year ago | (#42877409)

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).
I work with people in the real world that I have never met. I purchase goods and services from businesses that may or may not have a physical address and stockrooms.

When I enter "Cyberspace" there is no distinction between a physical store and a virtual one. Some online stores even show a picture of their checkout clerk (she's cute and looks a lot like the girl who helps me pick insurance and the girl from my cellular carrier). Some stores even show a picture of their physical store, but everyone knows that this can merely be clever marketers that know that people are slightly more likely to buy from physical stores with an online-presence than a purely online store.

When I interact with avatars in my fake world, and we're all in the same virtual room, it's no different than interacting with people over a conference call.

In a larger sense though, the virtual worlds act as an amazing proxy and model for real world issues. In the virtual world there are runs on banks, inflation, speculation. Life models art and art models life. In fact, we can also learn about interesting market conditions from studying virtual worlds.

Anyhoo.. I'm going back to watching my Caprica. Ciao.

Where do the cyber space marines live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877481)

if not in cyber space?

It is a useful concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877503)

Without "cyberspace" we would be limited to describing the Internet in terms of its physical constitution: pieces of silicon and wire, electrons and current. Yet we all know that the purpose and usefulness of the Internet does not derive from the existence of those physical objects, or the exact details of movement of the various physical components. It would be just as useful even if it was constituted entirely differently.

If somebody asks "What happened on Slashdot today?" they are not asking for a plot of the CPU temperature.

If people behave as though it exists, it exists? (1)

julian67 (1022593) | about a year ago | (#42877535)

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, abrogating or concealing or even faking gender, nationality, marital status, qualifications, employment, sexual orientation, religion etc. There *is* an online environment of dissimulation which exactly fits the metaphor. So how does "cyberspace" not exist? It doesn't have to exist because there is no barrier to being verifiable and identifiable and consequently accountable, but it does exist, and will do so for as long as more than one connected person wants it to and there are means to successfully disavow one's geographical, social and legal status. Whether any of that is a social or moral good is a completely different matter.

Cyberspace has to exist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877545)

Only in such a place would a crap writer like that have anyone reading what he wrote...

Let alone actually PAYING him to do so.

That's a far cry from 'the real world'.

So yes. cyberspace is a real thing. and in it any hack two bit writer can get published and actually have some people browse over what they said and get paid for it.

Cyberspace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877591)

So the argument is that the term "cyberspace" is in some way presenting a "gray beard" generation that is insistent on the Internet as a mechanism of change, and that the real "cyber-space" is in fact not interested in that change and reliant on governments to best server the protection of free expression? really? seriously? ....

I hope that I read that inaccurately... if I did not let me just say this... hello retard. Cyberspace is the freedom and ability to collaborate on ideas / which some might call a virtual "world"... for the first time since radio and TV shoved the ideas of whats right and wrong down peoples throats.... see "propoganda."

If the new generation thinks that "rebelling" means overturning the ability to actually talk to their friends and collaborate on ideas in a publicly viewable forum that may affect millions.... then enjoy living the history you clearly have not read or lived.

*in the voice of RED from the 70's show* DUMBASS

Re:Cyberspace (1)

eyenot (102141) | about a year ago | (#42877665)

I think you're exemplifying both what is great and audacious about the first internet generation, as well as what is grossly retarded about the first internet generation.

You acknowledge that the internet is "about" freedom of information, but you fail to realize just how marketed and reified that concept is.

okay, okAY, fine, Fine, FINE! FINEFINEFINE! OKAY! (1)

eyenot (102141) | about a year ago | (#42877621)

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

lol wut? (2)

fazey (2806709) | about a year ago | (#42877623)

"....how and when the governments could or should intervene to regulate the Internet" -- dumbest concept I see.

Is the concept of 'Michael Lind' is stupid ? (1)

bug1 (96678) | about a year ago | (#42877681)

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.

God, not this again. (1)

jd (1658) | about a year ago | (#42877697)

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 laws in cyberspace.

However, and this is the incredibly annoying part, the assumption by the original article was that you couldn't have cyberlaws AND laws within nations. The cables have a physical location AND a logical location, and therefore must be subject to laws in both.

All this shows... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877771)

Is that Lind, along with an entire generation fails to understand the term space and even more so, cyberspace. Cyberspace does not denote a space anymore than Hilbert Space, or Zeitgeist denotes ghosts. I recommend that Lind pick up a damn book and learn a thing or two before posting another idiotc, poorly researched and politically motivated rant.

It's a matter of usage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42877795)

The author's point seems to be that we cannot treat cyberspace as a proprietary system, such as the rain forest or a (somehow) newly discovered piece of land, which is valid. However, to suggest that cyberspace and faxspace are the same thing is no less absurd than claiming it's the same as the rain forest. Cyberspace has many meanings and usages, but in terms of laws, cyberspace is a very real place. Fundamentally different types of communication, trade, and crime occur over the internet, ones which do not have analogues in the physical world and are best handled as separate systems. The best analogue I can think of, international waters, is still a poor comparison since no one owns them yet everyone (or at least a lot of people) own cyberspace. Lastly, a matter which few people who write opinion pieces (on either side of any issue) like to point out is that everything is relative and the best solution is typically somewhere in the middle. A completely unregulated, unsupervised cyberspace with no aid from any formal body is the goal of (nearly) no one. Similarly, I've not heard anyone propose a system that has more layers of red tape than a North Korean Department of Motor Vehicles.

Technically, No (1)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about a year ago | (#42877857)

Technically -- this is /. right? -- the answer is no for the same reason that we can measure the "weight of the internet." [discovermagazine.com] 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 government as a park, owned by a corporation, or owned by a citizen of your country. Even parts of outer space itself are owned. You can't orbit your satellite in the same space as other countries' satellite at the same time as their satellite, else they'll probably send you a declaration of war after you crash their GPS/TV/radio/surveillance/etc. In the future, I'm sure dark matter, black holes, and even whole galaxies will be "owned."
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