October 09, 2010

Definition of Cyberspace

‘Cyberspace’ is a complex term to define; indeed, its definition can be refracted through our three story-telling tropes to give us different (though often overlapping) definitions. We can define cyberspace in terms of hardware, for example – as a global network of computers, linked through communications infrastructures, that facilitate forms of interaction between remote actors. Cyberspace is here the sum of all those nodes and networks (‘what it is’). Alternatively, a definition based partly on the ‘symbolic’ trope could define cyberspace as an imagined space between computers in which people might build new selves and new worlds (‘what it means’). In fact, cyberspace is all this and more; it is hardware and software, and it is images and ideas – the two are inseparable. Moreover, the ways we experience cyberspace represent a negotiation of material and symbolic elements, each given different weight depending on the kind of experience (‘what it does’).

Modelling Social Architecture, Network Topologies and The City

It is important, then, to disaggregate the social make-up of cities, so that we can begin to trace the positions of different groups within the emerging urban social architecture of cyberspace (see Castells 1996b: 371). Three broad groups, we would argue, are likely to emerge here. First, elite groups seem likely to be the ‘information users’ (Dordick et al. 1988) experiencing the full benefits of global, interactive telematics systems like the Internet. There is substantial evidence that a new ‘transnational corporate class’ is emerging which is the primary agent of operating the global economy, and which relies on intense mobility and access to interactive global computer networks on a continuous basis to ‘command space’ (Sklair 1991:62–71). Friedmann (1995) argues that the emergence of such groups in western cities needs to be seen as an integral element within a worldwide shift towards the emergence of global spaces of capital accumulation, dominated by transnational corporations (TNCs) and their associated social elites. This transnational elite group consists of