Neuromancer and Cyberspace

It's been 21 years since William Gibson's Neuromancer came out... cyberspace all grown up now. Who can forget those great quotes:
"sky the color of a television tuned to a dead channel..."
"Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts...A graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding..."

Great metaphors. I can remember reading Neuromancer the year it came out, 1984, a year I moved from the UK to the USA and the year of celebration of George Orwell's novel. It was a great book. Of course it built on earlier work that was equally influential. Especially the work of Philip K. Dick between the 1950s and 1980s, who practically invented the idea of a consensual hallucination in such works as Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, VALIS, and many others.

Don't forget Vernor Vinge's 1981 True Names as well. Less well known to the public this book affected the computer geeks just as much as Gibson (read their comments on the Amazon comments site, there's one guy who read it at Carnegie Mellon, where Hans Moravec's 1983 computer science class was instructed to read it.)

The problem is, is the concept of cyberspace dead? I don't mean the internet, email etc., but the very idea of a shared experience which is a place in the full sense of the word?

Do we share experience--or is our "virtual" experience actually fractured into millions of little groups, tiny blogs, zillions of 1-1 emails, etc? This is the situation today I think. For example this post goes out on my blog that 10-20 people read every day, via Planet Geospatial. (I'm not complaining: that's 10-20 more people I'm talking to if I wasn't doing the blog, although I can't see your faces, and the flow is only 1-way.)

This is why say Peter Morville's concept of ambient findability is interesting, because he addresses the question of how you find anything, and strategies such as tagging that might aid in "navigating" information.

Second, does it really exist as a place, even a virtual place? Perhaps the real question is whether it is useful to treat it as a place or space. I've always been confused by the use of metaphors here. I'm a big believer that the virtual and the material are and always have been integrated. I don't think for example you can understand the dot-com boom and bust without grasping that.

I'm not against metaphors, especially as they seem to indicate an interesting geography of a new domain. But there's the problem, is it really a singular domain... is there an "it"?

Perhaps there is no cyberspace.

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