Subsuming the Heterogeneity of the Internet Seminar Paper

Pages: 13 (5532 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Education - Computers

¶ … Subsuming the heterogeneity of the Internet to a homogenous whole is a reductive move. Furthermore, it risks making the unsupportable conflation of the Internet user with their textual output." (Bassett, et al., 2002, p. 234)

The digital age -- the online era -- has been evolving for over twenty years now but keeping tabs on the technologies and cultures related to this brave new electronic world requires thorough and innovative research. The emphasis in this paper will be on the "cities" and the people who live and work with digital technologies in those "cities" -- albeit the technologies that bring the information age to the cities will also be a pivotal part of this research. The research covers a wide swath of theories and strategies in terms of developing digital communication that links seamlessly with myriad lifestyles and business needs. Mobile phone cultures, the pervasiveness of online services and information, the mobility and instant communication that is a product of the digital age -- these issues and more will be approached. Also reviewed will be scholarly studies of ethics in cyberspace, the dangers of cyber attacks, and the future of Cybercities.

The Academic Literature

Christine Boyer -- truly a cybercity pathfinder -- and her book Cybercities.

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It is very difficult to conduct any research about Cybercities without coming across the name Christine Boyer. She was a pioneer, so to speak, in describing and analyzing Cybercities and the social, psychological, and practical realities of this new emerging city that has no clogged auto traffic, no drive by shooters, and no skid row drunks spewing forth obscenities to innocent passers by. Indeed, urban historian and noted scholar Christine Boyer writes in her book Cybercities that computing is not so much about computers any longer; computing is about living (Boyer, 1996 p. 5). This is a book that was published fourteen years ago, and yet the research and intelligent narrative seems nearly as fresh as though it was written just a couple years ago.

TOPIC: Seminar Paper on Subsuming the Heterogeneity of the Internet to Assignment

In her book she writes eloquently about the profound impact that digital technologies have on the search for knowledge, information, and solutions to real world problems. There is also a danger, Boyer warns, of withdrawing from the world because of the powerful grasp that cyberspace has on individuals, especially those with investigative, curious minds.

The deeper one gets into the world of cyberspace the more reality becomes "immaterial"; and Boyer insists that when users become transfixed in front of their computer screens, they risk "becoming incapable of action in a real city plagued by crime, hatred, disease, unemployment, and under-education" (Boyer, inside flap of her book).

Boyer, as any scholar delving into a complicated, technical subject would do, begins her book of essays at the beginning, the early launch of the genesis of cyberspace. It was the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that lit the match that later started the fire of what we know today to be cyberspace. As for the machines that came along, it started with an idea, a project, and then a mainframe; later personal computers (PCs) arrived and after PCs developers put laptops in the hands of millions. Indeed Boyer's book is something of a ground floor resource, given that it was written 14 years ago, albeit Boyer introduces essays that have foresight, insight, and a sense of the dramatic power that the information age is bringing through constantly advancing, evolving technologies that are creating this virtual and stunning Cybercities.

Boyer quotes from Walter Benjamin, who recalled that the newspaper, the periodical, the magazine, they all offered good information but they do not today provide a "contemplative reception of information" (Boyer, 1996, p. 7). Those information sources required that the reader develop a "new set of interpretative processes for selecting, connecting subordinating, and comparing items taken from a set of fragmented data" (Boyer, p. 8). In other words, the mind was given the task of filtering, sorting, prioritizing and even managing the media. Today those tasks are handled by a MacBook, an iBook, a HP or DELL. Today computers are challenging users to develop "new modes of perception" in order to receive, criticize, evaluate, absorb and "produce new combinations of information" (Boyer, p. 9).

Boyer draws an analogy between the computer's matrix of data management and the city. There are spaces of "disjunction" between the columns and the rows of various data entries. Those entries represent the "forgotten spaces, the disavowed places, and the bits eradicated because of the noise and redundancy they generate" (Boyer, p. 9). But the precise form of the matrix brings to the city an order, a systemic order, that can conceal the "heterogeneous nature" of the city and the "disjunctive positions we hold within" the city. Boyer's point is that there is indeed an analogy between the matrix of the computer -- virtual reality -- and the space of the city.

The point of this research is to flush out scholarship on the subject of cyberspace and the cities that are evolving within the virtual structures that technologies have created. In Boyer's frame of mind, the machine is to modernism "what the computer is to postmodernism." In a postmodern world of crowded, polluted, noisy and violent cities, the computer's binary logic of various command protocols, "scanning techniques, information stacks, and data interfaces," allows the alert user to provide a pathway to a new world model -- and guide the way in which users "form or pattern the city" (Boyer, p. 10).

James Castiglione (Cyberspace Addiction): What Boyer doesn't discuss in her book is the temptation that cyberspace presents, and the inherent danger therein, of obsessive dependence on cyberspace and on various cybercity venues as places of refuge and comfort. The fact is that the inappropriate use of the Internet can lead to "adverse educational outcomes" (Castiglione, 2007, p. 358). It is fair to believe that the concerns of 2007 -- as pointed to by James Castiglione, professor of Chemistry and Physics at Kean University in New Jersey -- could not have been expected to be viewed in 1996, even by a visionary such as Boyer. That said, Castiglione refers to the "growing concern" among educators, administrators, librarians and healthcare professionals that high school and college students in particular are become so "Internet dependent" that there is increasing evidence of "academic impairment" (Castiglione, p. 359).

The cybercities venues that are visited by millions of college students in their daily lives offer "online role-playing games" (ORPGs), interesting Web sites, email, legitimate research assignments, word processing, chat rooms, entertainment resources, gaming, and more. The problem, Castiglione writes, is that there are "distinct possibilities" for "potential negative outcomes" such as: "craving or compulsion"; "loss of control"; and "persistence in the behavior despite accruing adverse consequences" (Castiglione, p. 362).

"Repetitive motion injuries"; "social isolation"; "interference with appropriate eating habits" and nutrition; and "decreased physical activity leading to obesity" (Castiglione, p. 361). But just what is "Internet addiction"? Castiglione insists that the concept of Internet addiction requires careful review and in fact the Internet itself in not something users can be addicted to. But the Internet can be an "enabler" of addictive behavior "and not the direct cause" (p. 361).

Certainly it is unfair to lump frequent users of cyberspace into a group known as "addicted" or "obsessed"; however, a study (Kubey et al. 2001) referenced by Castiglione involving 572 college students -- in which the students indicated "heavy recreational use of the Internet" -- showed "social isolation" and "sleep disturbances" along with a "decline in academic performance" (Castiglione, p. 362). One issue that keeps coming into focus for those concerned with college students' overuse of cyberspace is that everywhere one goes on many of today's universities and colleges the wireless Internet is available. The library, dorms, classrooms, study areas, labs -- even sitting outside of a wired building a student can log on. The widely dispersed availability of online resources makes college campuses cybercities in their own right.

Meantime, Boyer writes that in cyberspace no longer does an individual simply observe an image; the individual peers into the computer screen and is "immersed in these representations" Boyer writes (p. 46). The human eyes penetrate the boundaries of virtual images, and while "moving around inside of them" the eyes become "intimately involved in their dislocating powers" (p. 46). The challenge that the alert person, the scholar, the learner, the savant in 7th grade and the senior citizen face is to "understand both the nature of these new media experiences and the composite reality they create" (Boyer, p. 46).

The Cybercities Reader -- Stephen Graham

The Cybercities Reader brings together a remarkable collection of thinking and commentating on what a cybercity might be, or is, depending on how deeply the reader is involved in Graham's favorite topic. The book ends up to be "less an analysis of the particularities of the cybercity," writes critic Jonathan Rutherford, than a "highlighting of the many ways in which technologically mediated dynamics have been and are… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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