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Remote Locutions:
Mediation, Alienation, and Superfluity in Cyberspace Ideology

Mary Anne Franks

“if we had the internet when hitler was here, he would have lived and died a housepainter.”
-- chatter in Yahoo!'s Jewish Room


On February 8, 1996, John Perry Barlow published an on-line manuscript entitled “Cyberspace Declaration of Independence.” In this document, Barlow aggressively draws political, quasi-geographical, and metaphysical lines of battle between “cyberspace” and the “real world.” His highly polemical declaration clearly marks the “us” and the “themî”of the ideological conflict with these dramatic opening words: “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind.” According to Barlow, cyberspace is the only realm in which human integrity and creativity can be genuinely preserved and produced, the only realm which is not prey to the “tyrannies” of the “industrial world.” The declaration does not balk at describing cyberspace as a hyper-utopia, a place not only where all ideas of humanity exist peacefully and without restraint but as the only place where humanity can truly exist. Barlow also makes clear the complex paradox on which this interpretation of humanity hinges ñ precisely in the freeing of the concept of humanity from corporeality. It is of vital importance that cyberspace is “a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but . . . not where bodies live.” Barlow’s stirring endorsement of cyberspace abounds with broad idealism and the most abstract of metaphysical claims:

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. . . . Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge. . . . The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. . . . In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversion of bits.

If this paper were being delivered in cyberspace, the next line of the text would be a hyperlink to Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism. In the chapter entitled “The Classless Society,” Arendt outlines and explicates some of the characteristics that make a society vulnerable to totalitarian control. She writes,

Totalitarian movements are possible wherever there are masses for one reason or another have acquired the appetite for political organization. Masses are not held together by a consciousness of common interest and they lack that specific class articulateness which is expressed in determined, limited, and obtainable goals (311).

Later in the chapter, Arendt describes the paradoxical link between the massification and the atomization of individuals within a classless society. “The truth is that the masses grew out of the fragments of a highly atomized society whose competitive structure and concomitant loneliness of the individual had been held in check only through membership in a class” (317). Masses replace classes when individuals no longer attempt to mitigate against their feelings of isolation through connection to discrete cultural or social identities, but instead seek undifferentiated, unfiltered, and unmediated identification with social abstractions.
If Arendt is correct in drawing a direct link from the formation of a classless society to the possibility of a totalitarian regime, and if it is true that in the case of a society where classes still exist the totalitarian ruler must effect their obliteration, then Barlow’s effusive enthusiasm for abstractions of humanity and his disdain for distinctions of class, sex, and gender sound uncomfortably familiar. The formation of and participation in cyberspace is overlaid with claims of its innovative and authentic possibilities for humanity. Barlow’s “Cyberspace Declaration of Independence” is only one example of how inextricably tied the proponents of cyberspace are to grand assertions of revolution and reform. Cyberspace is undeniably political. Therefore both its champions and its detractors must confront the fact that cyberspace is in fact very much a part of the history and sociology of the “real” world. Its complex impulses and manifestations must be read in sociopolitical terms.

Cyberspace’s claims to immediacy, authenticity, accessibility, and genuine humanity are severely compromised by its parallels to the Arendtian model of the classless society, as well as by the contradictions and discontinuity of its quasi-metaphysical narrative, made apparent not only in its self-conscious, self-affirming ideology, but also in visible and statistical sociological effects. The proponents of cyberspace exhibit an alarming lack of social foresight and reflection, adopting an uncritical stance to the most generalized and indiscriminate forms of idealism. The heady affirmation of virtual reality belies a pseudo-social, pseudo-humanitarian project which employs and deploys reckless monadological logic, resulting in a crisis of superfluity and absolute classlessness.

I. The Consensual Hallucination: Terms of Mediated Immediacy

In an essay titled “Remediation,” Jay David Butler and Richard Grusin propose that the popularity and ubiquity of cyberspace is due to users’ paradoxical desire for immediacy. They write, “Our culture wants both to multiply the media and to erase all traces of mediation: it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying it” (312). People want “real” experiences from their media -- that is, experiences not complicated by the artificiality of the medium providing the experience. The success of computer games and virtual reality devices lies in how sophisticated they are in simulation and immersiveness: how well they can provide the user with the sense that he/she is “really” in a dungeon or a meadow, and how well they can make the user forget that he or she is really crouched before a monitor clutching a joystick or encased by heavy and uncomfortable plastic headgear. Butler and Grusin write that the user wants to “no longer be aware of confronting a medium, but instead stand in an immediate relationship to the contents of the medium” (318).

The problems with this logic seem glaringly apparent, and the question arises as to why so many people do not appear to ponder it at all. With as many users of cyberspace and virtual reality as there are, one might expect more reflection on the psychological impulses behind this seemingly insatiable desire for “immediacy” through media. As a social phenomenon, the logic of mediated immediacy becomes even more arresting: why do individuals seek artificial media to heighten their “real” lives? How is the contradiction between the desire for immediacy and the proliferation of media towards that end so easily dispensed with? What does it suggest about the beliefs and assumptions that users must hold regarding reality and value?

The answer, according to Butler and Grusin, is that individuals today, more than ever before, are held in thrall by Cartesian idealism. The writers point to the dominant Western cultural perspective that allowed, as they put it, “the Cartesian subject to dominate and control space from a single vantage point” (319). The fundamental belief that mathematics serves as the foundation of order and value is more rigidly in place now than in Descartes’ own time. The ubiquity of computing and computer-centered communication is achieved by multiple mathematical applications. In Descartes, the tension between the theoretical and pre-theoretical worlds (i. e., the world of logic/mathematics and the world of sense) is resolved ultimately through the elevation of the theoretical to the status of the metaphysical. The belief that media can simultaneously provide reality, erase itself as the provider of that reality, and guarantee the reality of the reality, is a belief in the metaphysical power of mathematics.

We have in cyberspace, as we had in Descartes, the erasure of the human agent and the reaffirmation of the concept, the logic, and the mathematical. If my senses continually tell me that the tree I am touching is not real, then I have not fully understood the power of the medium I am using and hence I am bogged down by mere empiricism. Ironically, however, it is my empiricism which I will validate if I do come to believe in the realness of the tree on the screen. As a user, I must simultaneously value and devalue my empirical capacity and accept the metaphysical power of mathematics to resolve that contradiction and to assure me that my experience is, in fact, immediate.

This logic of mediated immediacy can only then be understood in terms of belief and desire, not in so-called “common sense.” Cyberspace survives primarily, although paradoxically, on a belief in essentialism. Such a belief awards cyberspace, as the new mathematical essentialism, the position of authenticity, of truth-giving.

III. The Great Links of Being: Immediacy and Authenticity

The connection between immediacy and authenticity is made nowhere more apparent than in chat rooms. The chat room employs a combination of mediating techniques. To log on, a user must first obtain a “name” and a password, and after a series of clicking through the listings of different rooms, may then enter one. Once there, the screen provides the user with many options: he or she may “speak,” that is, type his/her comments to the room in general; “pm,” or “personal message,” for someone in the room (this allows the user to send a private message); or “emote,” which offers the user a list of “emotions” that he or she can click and immediately communicate to the room (e. g., bow, cry, whisper, yell).

The number of specialized chat rooms is overwhelming, ranging from “Asian-American Chat” to the “Rape Me Room.” The following is a short exchange that took place in Yahoo!’s “Jewish Room.”

You are in the Jewish Room. Shalom! This room is for Jews

clockscream: so what’s real information and where can I get some?

drns-_in_dc: I think browsing the web today we know for the most part what’s real and what’s not. I think when someone anywhere in the world can download a Reuters newsfeed reel has got ‘real’ information.

clockscream: but do you really think that the newspapers in germany during the holocaust were giving “real” information?

drns-_in_dc: Look, all I can say is that I believe that the world did not WANT to believe that the holocaust was happening. And the papers printed what the world wanted to believe. That’s not the way it works anymore. Not in Bosnia, not in Rwanda, not in Malaysia. People get the facts direct. Unfiltered.

What is apparent from just this (very typical) conversation is that users wholeheartedly affirm the belief that the Internet, because "anyone can use it, anywhere and anytime," necessarily provides authentic knowledge. The link between accessibility of information (which is of courselinked to the immediacy of information) and the authenticity of that information is considered a given. Of all the users who responded to the question, "Is the Internet the most reliable source of information that has ever existed?" in three different chat rooms, one hundred percent said yes. When questioned about the possibility of propaganda or deceit on the Net, one user responded, "Propaganda was possible because Hitler controlled the newspapers. Communication [provided by the Internet] makes that impossible."

None of the chatters in the rooms surveyed seemed to find the intensely mediated structure of the chat room at all in conflict with the belief in the authenticity of the experience. The question, “What does it mean to be a Jew on-line?” was met with confusion and responses which did not appear to be responses to the question. “We are free to be what we want here.” “We can have real discussions on-line that we caní’ have in real life, with all the emotions and things.” “We all decided to be here of our own free will.” But when asked if being Jewish on-line was as simple as typing the words, one chatter responded, “No. Only a Jew can be a Jew on-line. If you’re lying you’re not a Jew.” The question was then rephrased: “What is there about being a Jew that makes a 'real' Jew different from someone who just types that he or she is a Jew and 'really' isn’t?” The answers remained steadfastly contradictory: “You can be thin, fat, any race, any color, on-line.” “Being Jewish means having Jewish culture and performing Jewish rituals.” “Who would lie in a chat room?”

Again, the virtue of the chat room always came down to a freedom of communication, and the question of deceit or falsehood was summarily dismissed. Chatters indicated that they had it both ways; they could be whatever they wanted to be, and yet when questioned, they returned to cultural distinctions as points of reference. The underlying authenticity of mediated immediacy was once again neither questioned nor doubted. Again, as in Cartesianism, there always remains one aspect of the system that cannot be called into doubt -- and, in the case of virtual reality, it is the medium itself, and that uncritical stance is obtained through the medium’s virtual disappearance.

III. “This Room is for Jews”: Accessibility, Interchangeability, and Identity

In her essay, “Tinysex is Safe Sex,” Claire Benedikt writes that in cyberspace one can “be any Body, with any kink or lack thereof, and feel only freedom to explore.” Meredith Bricken echoes that sentiment in her article “No Interface to Design”: “you can be the mad hatter or you can be the teapot; you can move back and forth to the rhythm of a song. You can be a tiny droplet in the rain or in the river.” Undoubtedly, cyberspace enthusiasts never tire of extolling the possibilities of freedom one is given in virtual reality. The exhilaration of interacting with other humans without worrying about one’s physical appearance is in itself a powerful force. To be able then to say what one thinks without considering the effects it will have on one’s daily life is also a potent feeling. An on-line “community” is much less charged with potential risk and embarrassment than a real-life community. J. Coate writes,

An on-line community is one of the easiest ways to meet new people. Certainly it is very low-risk. I think this is mainly due to the essential informality of on-line conversation. Rather than being required to sustain a single conversation with one or more people, relationships usually form out of numerous, often short exchanges. In a way, this reminds me of commuters who take the bus or ferry. They see each other frequently but each encounter is of fairly short duration. In situations like this the pressure is minimal. If youíd rather read the paper than chat you just do it and don’t worry about it. But, over time, many people form enduring relationships this way. In the on-line environment, the basic currency is human attention. In the public forums, you communicate with groups that may have as many as several hundred people involved (92).

According to this passage, on-line communities share something of the paradoxical massification/atomization tendencies of Arendt’s classless society. Instead of sustained one-on-one conversation, on-line identities can speak to groups of any size, without the high stakes involved in physical scrutiny. What Coate does not point out is that participating in an on-line community is an essentially solitary activity; the practice of logging on from one’s computer is usually done without the presence of other individuals. Hence, even though an individual gains greater access to larger numbers of people, which can be seen as an extension or expansion of human communication, he or she does so by isolating his or herself from a “real” community. It is of particular importance that Coate indicates that one-on-one personal conversations are limiting and laborious. He seems to feel, as do many proponents of cyberspace, that the wider the scope of communication, the better. This belief is often accompanied by a derogation of or condescension towards more restricted, though perhaps more intimate, interactions among fewer people. The peculiar asceticism of cyberspace is combined with peculiar indulgence: on the one hand, the bodilessness and isolation involved in cybercommunication is praised; on the other, access to as great a number of people of possible is applauded.

In The Mode of Information, Mark Poster takes up the issue of bodiless communication and examines the position in which acorporeality puts the subject in terms of his or her possibilities for identity formation. He writes,

For the first time individuals engage in telecommunication with other individuals, often on an enduring basis, without considerations that derive from the presence to the partner of their body, their voice, their sex, many of the markings of their personal history. Conversationalists are in the position of fiction writers who compose themselves as characters in the process of writing, inventing themselves from their feelings, their needs, their ideas, their desires, their social position, their political views, their economic circumstances, their family situation -- their entire humanity. The traces of their embeddedness in culture are restricted to the fact that they are competent to write in a particular language, writing perhaps at the infinite degree.
Through the mediation of the computer and the message service, written language is extracted from social communication to a point that identity is imaginary (117, emphasis added).

Poster reads the seemingly endless possibilities that acorporeal communication provides not so much in terms of freedom, but rather in terms of fiction. The ability of a user to become anything or anyone he or she wants may in fact make certain kinds of communication more accessible to a greater number of people, but at the same time it erodes the value of that communication. Being able to “pick” one’s identity, culture, or historical situation ultimately undermines the significance of any identity, culture, or historical situation. Identity does in fact become a practice in fiction, complete with sometimes arbitrary arrangements and value judgments. Poster warns that such a looseness of identity is not freedom, but in fact a newly evolved form of restriction:

The computer conversationalist is not ‘free’ at all but bounded in many ways: first, to the new, computerized system of positioning subjects in symbolic exchanges; second, by the prior constituting of the self, typically the experience that self as restricting, evoking the sense of transgression when that self may be concealed or suspended; finally, to the language used in the conversation, with all its semantic, ideological and cultural specificity, a specificity which does not diminish when converted into ASCII codes . . . a reconfiguration of the self- constitution process, one with a new set of constraints and possibilities, is in the making (118).

Poster is highly critical of the idealism rampant in cyberspace ideology; he finds untenable the idea that cyberspace is a new world, free of physical restraints and prejudices. If a different kind of subjectivity is in fact accomplished through cyberspace, that does not in any way grant assurance of its potential for freedom or even of its innovation. Unlike Coate, Poster underlines the isolation of the individual necessary to obtain on-line communities or communications. He focuses on the problems that the individual must now face in terms of a different self-reliance, an evolved form of solitude which forces the individual to effect more creative manifestations of him or herself. One may infer from Poster’s remarks on the constraint of the computer conversationalist that on-line communication is not synonymous with a heightened sense of social interaction or interchange, but is in fact more closely tied to a private and self-enclosed project of role-playing.

The following anonymous email post reveals that Poster is not alone in his skepticism.

The utility of the activity has to be called into question when you are looking at an intensely repeated behavior. In the case of frequent and continual use of the Internet, what I see most frequently in my practice (I am a psychiatrist in general private practice) is that the Internet becomes a way of avoiding intimate social contact. The hook however is that it looks like contact given the freedom that people take to communicate their most intimate thoughts and so it has the appearance of intimacy while in fact the communication is just with a computer screen and words on a line. There is a self-delusion of real depth and emotion when it allows for the most complete masquerade (I will only show what I want) and the most complete control (I will only interact when I want) and no one truly knows who I am.

This anonymous writer unambiguously denies that on-line communication yields more freedom of social interaction. In his or her opinion, it not only does not provide a greater possibility for social exchange, but also, in some cases, seriously detracts from it.

But cyberspace enthusiasts do not stop at chat rooms or e-mail. Now cybernauts can “pick” a detailed personality for themselves, complete with graphics, and immerse themselves in a “world” with other such computer-generated personalities. The worlds are called “three-dimensional multi-user on-line virtual environments,” and they were created so that users could interact with each other in real time in realistic settings.

The “identity” that a user chooses (or has custom-made, in some cases) is known as an avatar, which is the Sanskrit word for the human manifestation of a god. As Marguerite Walter explains in “If Reality is the Best Metaphor, It Must be Virtual,”

The human user in this analogy becomes a godlike, incorporeal being. The incorporeal electronic avatar, paradoxically corresponding to the god’s physical embodiment as a human, is understood as a technical construct under the god’s control. The human user, rewritten as ‘human spirit,’ is then ‘freed’ to rove at will through the universe. The old nineteenth/twentieth-century (Euro- American) body, with its vestigial sensorium and markers of race, gender, mortality, and other ‘constraints’ of identity and situation, is replaced by one or a series of new navigating entities, now obediently and flexibly allied with, rather than opposed to, spirit/mind (4).

Walter also mentions that Franz Buchenberger, president of Black Sun Interactive, “insists that within a few years all technical barriers to this vision will have disappeared and ‘everybody will walk around cyberspace as an avatar’” (4).

The freedom so celebrated by cyberspace enthusiasts apparently culminates in the creation and perfection of these avatars and their corresponding universes. No longer are on-line identities restricted to typing conversation to each other; now they can walk, “touch,” and interact with graphical representations of other on-line users. They may experience a castle or a rice field not as an image moving across a screen, but through the perspective of actually walking through the castle or rice field. They can “whisper” to other avatars; they can plot another avatar’s “death.” They can have romantic encounters, heated arguments and moments of commiseration with their fellow travelers. It seems as though users can comfortably exist in at least two different worlds.

So what of the skepticism already exhibited by Poster and others regarding cybercommunication? What becomes of identity in the face of avatars? One answer is that the isolation of the individual user is multiplied, that fixed connections to oneís culture or history are radically displaced, if not obliterated altogether. The construction of a reality around the projections and fantasies of individual users problematizes the idea of identity, as well as the relationship between a virtual life and a “real” life. If one’s identity in real life is a loving father and husband, and one’s virtual identity is a twenty-six year old dominatrix with a penchant for whips, to what extent is the individual’s sense of himself and his social responsibilities compromised or distorted? Do the two simply co-exist along parallel lines, never touching or implicating the other? Can one in fact maintain two (or more) identities without any detrimental effects on one or the other? The answer would seem to be "no," according to recent studies and reports on Internet addiction.

IV. Virtually a Crime: Superfluity, Alienation, and Violence

Arendt maintains that a necessary step in the creation of the mass man is the cultivation of his feeling of superfluity. If individuals become intoxicated enough by the abstract ideals of totalitarianism, they will learn to view their own position within that grand scheme as insignificant and unnecessary. And if by that point they have unlearned their connections to class and personal history, then their only surviving commitment would be to that which is larger and hence more significant than themselves: the masses. The ideology of the masses is the abstract ideology of atomized individuals. Arendt writes that the masses are characterized by a “radical loss of self-interest . . . the passionate inclination toward the most abstract notions as guides for life” (316).

The energy which has been channeled into the creation of increasingly sophisticated methods of identity exchange belies a fundamental dissatisfaction with and devaluation of cultural, historical, and individuated identity. The proliferation and arbitrariness of identity formation cannot help but generate a pervasive sense of superfluity in its participants. What is one identity among the infinite possibilities of identities, what is the value of a differentiated and specific personality, character, or situation? How boring, restrictive, and inhibited must “real” life seem beside the world of virtual possibilities!

Storm A. King, author of “Is the Internet Addictive, or are Addicts Using the Internet?” provides a detailed account of a condition known as Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). He writes,

A critical factor in understanding how text-based interpersonal relationships can lead some people to experience pathological consequences is the dis- inhibiting effect in on-line interactivity. The improbability of any local, real life repercussions for on-line social activity produces a new and poorly understood psychological phenomena; people feel free to express themselves in an unrestrained manner . . . Judgments of others in this virtual social setting, made without the normal sensual clues, can consist of distorted, emotionally laden projections and can be communicated without the normal constraints imposed by the need to maintain social order (1).

The crossover of virtual reality into real life is rarely made without problematic remainders. The idealistic belief that cyberspace can remain a separate realm, rigidly separate from one’s daily routine, is refuted by both psychologists and social scientists. King continues,

Dr. [Kimberly] Young felt that the ability to assume different roles, to develop intimate relationships and to be unconcerned about any possible repercussions were the most important factors of Internet interconnectivity that were most likely to contribute to the potential for IAD. The contrast between new, exciting, and projection-filled relationships and oneís real life may make existing associations seem dull in comparison (2).

It seems, then, that perhaps the superfluity which accompanies cyberspace may fall most heavily into the “real life” from which it is an escape. As James Sempsey writes, “There have been . . . reports of Internet related deaths, such as cardiac arrests resulting from sleep-deprivation and lack of personal maintenance or suicides due to Net-related stress” (King, 3). And this is to say nothing of the numerous reports of divorces, runaway children, and broken homes caused by Internet relationships.

The combination of alienation and superfluity fueling the expansion of cyberspace often results in violence both virtual and real. The rush to embrace the “freedom” of identity afforded by cyberspace is rarely held in check by sociological consequences. Ideologically speaking, cyberspace promises an infinite production and reproduction of identities without the contagion of actual physical interaction. The ascetic/indulgent impetus produces a mentality of rampant interchangeability, free of the implications and responsibilities of the real world.

In his essay “Boundaries: Mathematics, Alienation, and the Metaphysics of Cyberspace,” Robert Markley challenges Michael Benediktís claim that cyberspace is “a new stage, a new and irresistible development in the elaboration of human culture and business under the sign of technology” (485). He asserts that cyberspace in fact “represents a contested and irrevocably political terrain that is unlikely to determine the future ‘elaboration of human culture’” (485). Markley’s position takes cyberspace ideology to task for its quasi-metaphysical claims and its foundation in Leibnizian monadological logic. He writes,

"We know of no system," [Michel Serres] maintains, "that functions perfectly, that is to say, without losses, flights, wear and tear, errors, accidents, opacity -- a system whose return is one for one, where the yield is maximal . . . This distance from equality, from perfect agreement, is history." Cyberspace, the latest incarnation of the eternal present of the monadology, is an attempt to deny or repress the interpenetrating histories of labor, economic investment, technological development, and the ecological wear and tear that results from a society still dependent on nonrenewable resources for its sources of energy and economic and political power.

According to Markley, what is fundamentally wrong with cyberspace ideology is its effacement of human struggle and difference. He addresses the inherent contradictions of virtual technologies, their impulses and their claims. Markley critiques the radical decontextualization which he sees at work in cyberspace ideology:

The claims made for cyberspace -- that it reveals an ‘essential’ harmony within the ecology of the self, that it transcends the mind-body split; that it moves beyond representation to an erotics of self-presence; and that it provides for a shared and objective imagination -- seek to body forth a latter-day Leibnizian monadology which, to be at all convincing, must attempt to decontextualize the technologies that bring cyberspace into being (489).

Markley identifies the alienation at work in cyberspace ideology as the primary catalyst for the desire for mediated immediacy, the very ground on which the elaborate constructs of virtual reality are built. This alienation is not separate from the devaluation of the body; it is in fact the idealized solution to the crisis of the physical.

Bodies are, at once, nonmonadological because they are open systems, yet hopelessly solipsistic, rooted to a single proprioceptive existence. Virtual Reality naturalized this alienation from one’s environment and from one’s self as the primary condition of existence, the ‘origin’ and ‘essence’ of a technologically unmediated subjectivity . . . [A]lienation projected onto already- existing languages and identities, is the enabling condition of cyberspace as a philosophical -- and ideological -- construct (501).

Cyberspace ideology isolates the individual as paradoxical potential. He or she must simultaneously affirm and deny his/her connections to social reality, must absent him/herself from the real world while becoming present in the virtual one, and must accept the proliferation of mediation as a necessary element of immediacy. Such complicated practices must then be subsumed under the heading of greater humanity, as it is subsumed in Barlowís Declaration, for while cyberspace is a brave new world, it must still maintain its revolutionary status in terms of idealistic, real-life ethics. The atomization of the individual is effected by the solitary procedures needed to truly “immerse” oneself in virtual reality, and the massification of the individual is accomplished through the erasure of fixed identities and human agents.

The world which cyberspace creates depletes the existing world of its differentiation, contextualization, and individuation. It replaces those resources with generalized abstractions of humanity and ethics, multiplication of artificial media, and elision of all differences in the name of an unspecified and ambiguous freedom. Cyberspace ideology does away with all remainders; it erases all traces of intervention, intermediation, and physicality. Its population is mass and superfluous; its concerns are theoretically broad and yet provincial; it obliterates all signs of individuality; it holds itself aloof from the existing world and stakes its flag in the invisible and imaginary terrain of pure mind. The only question is: for what purpose has the cyberspace population voluntarily de-classed itself, for whom – or what – is it making itself ready for – a tyrant, a revolution, or its own extinction?


Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism. Harcourt Brace, 1972.

Barlow, John Perry. ‘Cyberspace Declaration of Independence.” World Wide Web, Error! Reference source not found.

Butler, Jay David and Richard Grusin. “Remediation.” Configurations, 4.3 (1996) 318-358.

Coate, J. (1992) Cyberspace Innkeeping: Building Online Community. email; Error! Reference source not found. World Wide Web.

King, Storm A. “Is the Internet Addictive or are Addicts Using the Internet?” World Wide Web, http://rdz.stjohns.edu/~storm/iad.html

Markley, Robert. “Boundaries: Mathematics, Alienation, and the Metaphysics of Cyberspace.” Configurations 2.3 (1994) 485-507.

Poster, Mark. The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context. University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1990.

Walter, Marguerite R. “If ‘Reality is the Best Metaphor,’ It Must Be Virtual.” Diacritics, 27.3 (1997) 90-104.