BY SHARON A. ANGLEMAN
ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY, JONESBORO, DECEMBER 2000
A Project Presented to Dr. O Dr. O. Amienyi, Professor of Radio/TV, and the ASU College of Communications in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of Theory of Mass Communications, November 2000
Where is Cyberspace?
Get connected and get in touch
All that we need…
A Global Village
At the tone the time will be…
And the people are empowered…
In his book, The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality (1993), Michael Hiem asks the question, "How much can humans change and still remain human as they enter the Cyberspace of computerized realities?" Changes are inevitable, but whether those changes will be a loss of human element in society or an increase in human understanding remains to be seen.
The 1990s brought tremendous changes to society and how its members interact. New technologies have created a new digital dimension for communication. This phenomenon has affected everything from personal relationships, socialization, courtships and leisure activities to advertising, journalism, banking, research and education. Just what is this dimension, and why are consumers, students, business-owners, medical patients, activists, poets and lovers turning to this medium to meet their needs? This paper will explore the dynamics and metaphysical elements of the Internet to better understand motivations to use this medium. It will also consider possible effects on perceptions, cognition and behaviors of users.
The technology driving the Internet has created a "spatial expansion of communities" and a "temporal intensity of social life" (Rammert, 1999). The process of understanding by use of logic can no longer ignore the technological matrix of "new media" technology. It is nearly impossible today to imagine any communication that is not mediated by some sort of technical data processing. The concept of language has been "contrasted to the literal and formal spheres of logic and mathematics" (Rammert, 1999).
In Cyberspace the traditional constraints of linear communications cease to apply (Newhagen, 1996). The user is no longer a passive consumer, but a participating member of the exchange of messages and transfer of material. It is important to understand how the nonlinear content and the method of processing content affect the user and his/her perceptions and interpretations of the message.
Heim (1993) claims that when individuals use the Internet, associations are made with solitude and isolation, as with a monastic community. He writes that there may also be an image perception of an "omniscient system-monad, with power to remove information, relocate it or disconnect…." There is less bureaucracy and formality in this format. Eye contact is physically eliminated, but may be replaced with virtual representations or mental impressions created by the site designer and/or the user. Heim discusses the possible effects by writing, "Without direct contact with human faces the moral aspect of being human may easily disappear behind the interface." Heim wrote (1993) to the degree that the on-line culture grows, the feeling of community diminishes.
If this is true, then what might explain the almost erotic attraction to the Internet? And what happens when we are out there? Many explanations have been provided, ranging from convenience, to control, to a novel way to pass time. But few theories of effect have been formally proposed. Some researchers claim the Internet has the potential to addict. Others claim it enhances productivity in the workplace. What factors and variables determine effect, and what elements of the Internet influence these effects?