The “transcoding” (Manowich) of society along the lines of digital media and computer networks can be considered revolutionary. One of the important consequences of the digital media revolution is the transformation of age-old communication structures. Human society has long been structured by either one-to-one interaction or, as soon as the number of people involved in interaction no longer permits everyone to speak to everyone, by one-to-many, that is, top-down, hierarchical communication. The digital communication revolution may be considered a revolution precisely because asymmetric, one-to-many communication and the hierarchical social structures which for centuries have been a precondition of cooperative action in larger groups is no longer the only means of constructing social order and in many areas is becoming increasingly inefficient. Above the level of face-to-face interaction, that is, on the levels of groups, organizations, institutions, and social systems, communication need no longer be hierarchical. The affordances of digital media modify the spatial and temporal parameters of communication such that it has now become possible for communication to take place in the mode of many-to-many, whereby, as Actor-Network Theory points out, not only human, but also non-human actors participate in communication. This means that social structures must no longer be vertical processes for producing, distributing, and controlling information.
Monthly Archives: August 2014
Where do you want to go today? Space as Interface
Microsoft introduced the Internet to the world in 1994 with the slogan: “Where do you want to go today?” Everyone who booted up Windows 95 was routinely asked this question. Although the Mad Men did not consider this global image advertising campaign a great success, Microsoft’s slogan says something philosophically important about the digital media revolution. Digital media, and above all the Internet, have something to do with space, with where you are and where you are going. The importance of new media for the concept of space has for the most part been formulated in negative terms. Digital media are said to annihilate space, to shrink great distances to the movement of a computer mouse, and create a networked global space – Castells speaks of a “space of flows” – in which everything and everyone are open and available all the time. This is indeed what Microsoft is saying; you can go anywhere; there are no limits to movement, space is no longer a barrier or a hindrance to communication, flows of information, and cooperation. In the Internet space is replaced by cyberspace, a virtual reality, a paradoxical expanse containing the whole world in the dimensionless realm of bits and bytes. Much has been written about the dangers and advantages of cyberspace. In the meantime, so-called virtual reality has become so important for work, shopping, business, education, and all other areas of life that it cannot be thought of as a domain of its own, somehow separated from the “real” world. Physical space and cyberspace have merged to become what could be called a “mixed reality.” But how are we to understand space when it is mixture of contradictory elements. Is the philosophy of space after the advent of digital media doomed to speak of a spaceless space similar to what Castells has called the “timeless time” of the network society?