DIGC202: Global networking chapter 3 The Network Society – Narratives of Global Networking.

Date: 11 July 2012

DIGC202: Global networking chapter 3 The Network Society – Narratives of Global Networking.

Hello, my name is Ram Peow Loong Naidu and this is my University assessment blog.  In the fourth-week of class, the class was introduced to the second chapter of the Global Networking Subject entitled, The Network Society – Narratives of Global Networking and Cyberspace.

According to Scientific America 1880, “The Time is close at hand, when the scattered members of civilized communities will be as closely united, so far as instant   telephonic communication is concerned, as the various members of the body now are by the nervous system.” (Mitew, 2012)

In today’s lecture, we were introduced to the topic of Network Society.  We learnt that global communication networking works like a global nervous system. The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village (Mitew, 2012).  Mitew likens it to the “obliteration of borders and the homogenization of space and time”.  

Welcome to the world of cyberspace.  Cyberspace is a “A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators ….. A graphic representation of data extracted from banks of every computer in human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.” (Mitew, 2012)

We also learnt about the birth of World Wide Web which was started on the premise that academic information should be freely available to anyone within internationally dispersed teams.  Kevin Kelly likened the silicon chips that are inked to high-band width channels to “the neurons of our new culture which enabled the explosion of entities built on relationship and technology.” (Mitew, 2012)

Further readings related to the topic of cyberspace were encouraged.   The article by Dyson et al entitled:  Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age, was very illuminating. In the article, Dyson et all (1994) opines that knowledge or ‘the powers of mind’ is more important than wealth – in the form of physical resources.  They coined the term ‘actionable knowledge’ which “encompasses data, information, images, symbols, culture, ideology, and values” a point which is just as valid today.

The realm of cyberspace is virtually universal; residing where there are telephone wires, coaxial cables, fiber-optic lines or electromagnetic waves. Despite being a colossal (2.2 million computers) global (135 nations), fast growing (10 -15% per month) network, the Internet is merely a fraction of cyberspace. (Dyson et al, 1994) Cyberspace is brimmed with knowledge, true or false, in electronic form.  It is linked to the physical environment via portals which enable users to peer within, to add knowledge, alter it, or to retrieve knowledge.  These portals could be one-way ((e.g. television receivers and television transmitters); others are two-way (e.g. telephones, computer modems). While most knowledge in cyberspace is transient (for e.g. our voice on the telephone), many cyberspatial “warehouses” of data, knowledge, information and misinformation in digital form, are continuously being created.  These storehouses take a a physical form (discs, tapes, CD-ROMs) – the contents of which are only accessible to those with the right kind of portal and the right kind of key – or rather the software.

Dyson et. al (1994) suggested that “cyberspace can be one of the main forms of glue holding together an increasingly free and diverse society”. This notion still holds true today as social media and various apps in smartphones allow us to stay connected with our friends and family. The establishment of “electronic neighbourhoods” (Dyson et al, 1994) brought together people who are bonded not by geography but by shared interests; a situation which prevails two decades from the time of Dyson’s writing (1994). Thus, online gamers connect with many people globally through a common interest in online games. Miraculously, cyberspace is able to bring together people of diverse cultures and different nations; what the United Nations have failed to do for decades. 

 As in the past, humans continue to expand the realm of cyberspace by creating and defining it.  Coupled with faster computers, cheaper means of electronic storage, improved software and more capable communications channels (satellites, fiber-optic lines), the expansion of cyberspace has exploded at a yet mysterious but phenomenal rate. Dyson et al calls it the bioelectronics frontier, comparing it to the works of olden-day mariners and man’s exploration of outer space.  They claim that exploration of cyberspace offer both greater opportunity, yet more difficult challenges, than any previous human endeavours. (Dyson et al, 1994)   

New information technologies continue to plunge the cost of communication, creating the potential for greater human freedom. This view was supported by John Perry Barlow (1996) who asserted that cyberspace is naturally independent of the tyrannies of governments. However, countries like China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, have and continued to erect barriers in   Cyberspace. Barrow (1996) predicted that this may be temporary as cyberspace today is “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.” (Dyson et al, 1994)  He asserted that cyberspace is also a world “where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.” While we continue to move towards Dyson’s total freedom, this aspiration remains elusive today. What is required to give the people of the world a collective “voice”? (Dyson et al, 1994)  Duane Elgin (2012) explained that this is only achievable if communication is “nearly instantaneous and global in scope”. She emphasized that “A genuine “Earth Voice” must reach the vast majority of the people of the Earth, and virtually simultaneously, and they must be able to provide their feedback about crucial issues to be part of this movement. (Elgin, 2012)  In fact, it could prove to be apocalyptic.  To quote Dyson et al: “However desirable as an ideal, individual freedom often seemed impractical. The mass institutions of the Second Wave required us to give up freedom in order for the system to “work”.  Thus total freedom remains utopic.  There would be chaos if everyone were to rise against democratically elected governments at the same time; all made possible by a perfect network of cyberspace. (Dyson et al, 1994) It is on this basis that I think there should be some control by the governments of the day to prevent this mayhem. However, I strongly believe that it would be extremely challenging for governments in future to stand in the way of freedom – the freedom to self-expression.  I call this the right to democratic opinion.   Dyson et al says it well: “power resides with the people”.  Yet, two decades on, we are bounded by the same dreams, and our freedom shackled by the same encumbrances.  

References

Dyson, E, Gilder, G, Keyworth, G & Toffler, A 1994, Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age, accessed 29/8/2012,

http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/futureinsights/fi1.2magnacarta.html

Elgin, D 2012, A New Superpower — An ‘Earth Voice’ Movement, weblog, accessed: 1/9/2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/duane-elgin/a-new-superpoweran-earth-_b_1675081.html.

Mitew, T 2012, DIGC202 The Network Society-Narratives of global communication, accessed: 1/9/2012, http://prezi.com/eusqmz4sm614/digc202-the-network-society/.

Nafis, F. 2012 A Global Nervous System. August 13 [lecture] Selangor: University of Wollongong.

DIGC202: Global networking chapter 2 Global Nervous System – From the telegraph to cyberspace 1850 – 2012 and the Internet

Date: 11 July 2012

Hello, my name is Ram Peow Loong Naidu and this is my University assessment blog.  In the second and third-week of class, the class was introduced to the first chapter of the Global Networking Subject entitled, Global Nervous System – From the telegraph to cyberspace 1850 – 2012 and the Internet.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, the famous American novelist and short story writer, said: “…by means of electricity, the world of matter has become a great verve, vibrating thousands of miles in a breathless point of time… the round globe is a vast head, a brain, instinct with intelligence! Or, shall we say, it is itself a thought, nothing but thought, and no longer the substance which we deemed it!”   (Mitew, 2012) These sayings form the basis of today’s lecture which also introduced us to the history of global networking.  We learnt that global networking was a product of “Thought”, in the “Thought, nothing but thought”, being the brainchild of creative and imaginative people.

The telegraph was the first long-distance communication device. Hence, it can be said to be the pioneer of global networking.  It was the first of many to come.  The first commercial electric telegraph made its debut in 1837.  Then, in 1838 Samuel Morse demonstrated long distance transmission using the dot – dash code.  The first undersea cable was laid across the English Channel in 1851. In 1858, the first trans-Atlantic cable enabled communication over an even longer distance, albeit at a whopping $100 for a message of ten words. The first radio – telegraph was born in 1895.  The telegraph rocked the world causing a cardinal shift in people’s perception.  The New York Tribute screamed: “A network of nerves of iron wire, strung with lightning, will ramify from the brain, New York to, the distance limbs and members.”  “Suddenly, the world is a body and iron wires serve as its network of nerves.” (Mitew, 2012)  Suddenly, people took an interest in far-flung destinations, witnessing happenings in real time.  The weather report came about and never left. Then, the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company emerged, further cutting distance and duration of delivering messages.  Another milestone was achieved with the standardization of time and the introduction of time zones. Mitew comments that: ‘It requires no intellectual effort to realize that this is a fact that now is and not one that has been.’ (Mitew, 2012)

Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, in 1876, revolutionized communication even further via audio and direct contact. Television made its first transmission in 1924. Then, Sputnik, the first satellite was launched in 1957. Employing a carrier rocket designed for nuclear warheads, satellites continue to play a vital role in transmitting data today, and in global networking. 

Perhaps, the most notable event in the history of communication and global networking is the invention of the computer and the “Analytical Engine” a precursor of the Internet – The nervous System of the world today. In “A Short History of the Internet”, Bruce Sterling discusses the Internet, an electronic wonder that continues to fascinate and revolutionize people from everywhere and all walks of lives.

Born in the United States, the Internet began as a project for the United States military command.  Known then as the ARPANET (Advance Research Projects Agency Network), it grew out of a need to assist researchers in sharing information and more importantly to ensure that the US military command would not be crippled if its main command centre was disabled or worse, annihilated.  In 1969, the RAND Corporation, America’s foremost Cold War think-tank, was concerned with the strategic communication problem in the event of a nuclear attack which would render any conceivable network useless. Hence, the Internet was conceived and today, over 100 countries are interconnected by way of exchanging data, news and opinions.  Wepopedia.com opines that the Internet is more of a concept rather than an actual tangible entity. It enables anyone around the globe to communicate with one another.  It is a borderless space flowing with information that can be altered, shared and read by users anywhere in the world.  In other words, it is a borderless village. 

Internet world stats (2011) reveal 2.2 billion users worldwide, implying 1/3 of the global populations use the Internet. The number of subscribers to the Internet continues to grow exponentially.  From the Information Age of the 1990s to the Networking Age of today, the Internet continues to amaze us with its ability to link mere mortals from one corner of the earth to the extreme end of the globe.  Its influence is far and wide.  The Internet has come a long way since its inception in the sixties. Advanced telecommunication technologies and much reduced cost of computers as well as more user friendly programs enabled many to join the Internet easily for the first time.  No one in their wildest dream could imagine that it would blossom to what it is today.  And no one could fathom the versatile virtual experiences we can derive from the net; some even mind-blowing.  I, for one, feel blessed to live in this age, where information is just a click away.

 References

Sterling, B. (1993) ‘A Short History of the Internet’, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction URL: http://sodacity.net/system/files/Bruce_Sterling_A_Short_History_of_the_Internet.pdf.

Nafis, F. 2012 A Global Nervous System. August 13 [lecture] Selangor: University of Wollongong.

Sterling, B, 1993 ‘A Short History of the Internet’, pp.1-6, accessed 19/8/2012, https://vista.uow.edu.au/webct/urw/tp0.lc20663/cobaltMainFrame.dowebct.

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