¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 “Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation… a graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data.” [Gibson 1986: 86]
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Since William Gibson first described it, the notion of ‘cyberspace’ has become a common theme in descriptions of an emergent age of digital technology. Sci-fi visionaries see a future in which computers, and the worlds they give us access to, have become ubiquitous. However, while there can be no doubt that ‘Information technology’ is increasingly influential, the grand imaginings of science fiction and futurology have only begun the process of understanding the impact of these technologies on social life.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Escobar’s call for enquiry – Welcome to Cyberia – suggests that “anthropologists might be particularly well prepared to understand these processes if they were to open up to the idea that science and technology are crucial arenas for the creation of culture in today’s world.” [Escobar 1994: 211] Though notions of ‘culture’ and ‘community’ have always been problematic, they become even more so in the abstract “technoscape” [Escobar 1994: 214] of the Internet.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The perception of computers has changed enormously in their short, turbulent history. Initially thought of as the calculating machines, they soon developed beyond the field of mathematics. Douglas Adams, co-founder of The Digital Village, described the transition:
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 “We all thought it was an adding machine, but after a while, because we were able to manipulate these numbers with increasing speed and sophistication, we began to think what else these numbers could stand for – maybe they can stand for the letters of the alphabet… how lacking in imagination we were to think that this is just an adding machine – what it is, is a typewriter. We developed it for a while as a typewriter and then began to think what else we could use these numbers for, like the elements of a graphic display – the pixels – and we began to think of it as a television, with a typewriter stuck in front of it.” [Adams 1997]
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 The computer had changed from being considered a tool to being thought of as information technology. The social meanings of digital technology were largely sought in their relationship to human groups, as the rise of consumption studies in anthropology demonstrate. But the changes did not stop there; it has become increasingly popular to conduct persistent human relationships through computers. This has happened with astonishing rapidity as individual computers are linked through the telephone system. “Information technology increasingly has to do with managing relationships. As in those among people, like on the Internet; or among companies, like on an electronic data interchange network; or among nations, like when banks use clearing and settlement networks. Most of what is called information technology today has already outgrown the name and is now relationship technology.” [Schwartz 1996: 79] The clearest sign of the shift to this “relationship technology” is the rapid growth of Internet.