Cyberculting

A blog about Cyberculture and ICTs.

Posts Tagged ‘society’

Reinventing the wheel to run myself over

Posted by candacewhitehead on April 24, 2008

I was browsing the net between classes, and came across this website. I didn’t have time to read the whole thing, unfortunately (though I do have it bookmarked on delicious) but there was one phrase that stuck with me.

Silver states that a group of writers, investors and politicans claimed that cyberspace was “a new frontier of civilization, a digital domain that could and would bring down big business, foster democratic participation, and end economic and social inequities”.

Now this sounds very much what the Pilgrims said when landing in America in 1620, when Robert Mugabe came to power in Zimbabwe in 1980, and what the African National Congress reckoned was a given when they took over in 1994 in South Africa.

My point is that this idea is not a new one. When mankind discovers another land to inhabit, be it physical or digital, there is the hope that this time, this place will be the Utopia we’ve been searching for.

So far, this idealised notion hasn’t been realised. While cyberspace and cyberculture comes with a whole new set of rules, the same problems that society faces arise, albeit in new ways.

Julian Dibbell, a journalist, wrote an article called “A rape in cyberspace: how an evil clown, a Haitian trickster spirit, two wizards and a cast of dozens turned a database into a society” . In it, he describes the case of one Dr Bungle, a LambdaMOO user who, through the use of voodoo doll – a program which allows one user to control the actions of another – forced certain LambdaMOO users to rape or violently attack other users, or even to violate themselves.

We could argue for hours whether or not this actually is rape or assault. That is not my point. The point is that as soon as a new society came into existence, old society’s problems flowed straight into it.

Instead of a Utopian society, cyberspace provides greater anonymity for people to play out their fantasies and desires. As I mentioned in my first post, the advent of the internet allowed people to operate under aliases, and to experiment with things they normally would never have.

While the Internet has allowed greater freedom as a society, it is clear that with this come greater threats – those problems of society which are heightened by the freedom that the Internet allows us.

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