#WEB206 – Reading: ‘The Phenomenology of Space in Writing Online’

Just wanted to mention that I am interested in the notion of cyberspace in this reading. The authors mention Bruce Sterling’s referral to cyberspace as “the place between”. They also ask the question, “When we connect to the Internet, are we in some space, cyberspace?” (Van Manen & Adams, 2009, p.14).

I remember a time when I used to ask this question of cyberspace and what it referred to. But, reading this piece in 2015, I no longer concur with the notion that cyberspace is the place between. It’s everywhere, it’s in our pockets, at work, anywhere we want it to be…

I also remember connecting to the internet, using a 14.4, 28.8, 56k modem, listening to the buzzing and whirring as my phoneline tried to connect me to cyberspace. I remember how much I freaked out when the line I was connected to for hours dropped me out. Now, I no longer have such fears… the mere suggestion of such a thing happening is almost anathema to me. Yet still, my desire for increased connectivity persists. I want it in my person – I guess I recognise that I want to be part of the machine, so to speak.

If anyone else has such thoughts, or would like to offer further comments, I’d be fascinated to hear of others’ perspectives on this notion of cyberspace. I am older than some of you… I’d also be interested in hearing thoughts from those who don’t even remember what I have described. It’s always been a part of your lives. What does “cyberspace” mean for you?

REFERENCE

Van Manen, M., & Adams, C. (2009). The Phenomenology of Space in Writing Online. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 41(1), 10-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2008.00480.x

A FELLOW STUDENT’S RESPONSE:

I found the reading quite difficult to understand, and I’m not sure how much I took from it. But, I find the idea of cyberspace interesting too. I haven’t reached a conclusion on what I think about a space created when we enter the Internet though, I think space is an odd word to use but I think there is no other real way to describe it. I definetly identify that there is a different psychological place that I go to when I’m on the Internet or when I’m reading a book, and even when I write, because when people call me it feels like I’m coming back from a place far away. Oddly though, I don’t get the same feeling from other media such as tv or movies.

Your idea of cyberspace being all around us is interesting. Certainly there are connections everywhere you go, mostly, but when you get out of the city it’s harder to understand that sort of idea because the connection becomes more tenuous, and certainly there are places in the world where there is no connection at all.

I also think that culturally the concept of cyberspace is different as well, for example, in a wealthy western country where the connection is perpetual and becoming more and more unnoticed, it has become a part of our culture and how we live, and thus is everywhere. However, in other cultures, even cultures within Australia where the Internet is either unaffordable, or the actual physical connections haven’t reached, or as a culture the Internet is of no interest at all, it could be considered quite alien, and therefore a very conspicous space.

Certainly a lot to think about.

J.

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MY RESPONSE TO J. (16/09/2015)

Hi J,

Yes, this reading is quite dense – I found myself reading a few passages twice to fully grasp some concepts.

Your comments are thought-provoking also. You said “when people call me it feels like I’m coming back from a place far away” – does that mean that you feel that entering cyberspace is separate from the space you physically inhabit? (Since you mentioned other media like TV and movies.)

Also, when people “call you” – is that on an internet-enabled phone, or people that call you from another room…?

I felt so narcissistic when I read your post! I’m embarrassed that I didn’t even pause to consider those who access the internet from rural areas in my post… I have heard that the connection can be quite unreliable in some places. However, my saving grace was that I was speaking from Australian contexts, not 3rd world nations who experience high poverty levels and access to the internet is a privilege. There’s that digital divide between the haves and the have-nots again! Can’t avoid it, unfortunately…  *sigh*

Thanks for your comments! Good fodder for further contemplation.

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TUTOR’S COMMENT:

Great stuff guys,

Remember though that there are still places in Australia where connectivity is tough. I just read one of my other student’s papers recounting stories of indigenous people in remote communities climbing up to the highest hill and pointing their phones towards the local mine to try and get reception.

But even though we do not physically enter another space – kinda like the Matrix – do we shift consciousness to an in between space? where we are both present and absent?

Lovely discussion guys.

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MY RESPONSE TO TUTOR’S COMMENT:

Yes, indeed. I think J gave me the impression that “coming back from a place far away” was a way of expressing precisely that – a shift of consciousness, as you said.

I know that when I’m using the internet to work, study, research, etc. – I’m in the zone… present in cyberspace, thinking, focusing, moving around it… whilst being absent from my physical surroundings.

If others feel that, it certainly goes some way to explain how 24/7 mobile phone users don’t always see where they’re going and bump into things… or worse.

Not quite related, but this absence and presence you speak of reminds me of how motorcyclists try to explain the act of riding. Riding “in the zone” means that you’re present, in the moment, performing the act of riding, completely conscious of your immediate environment, anticipating hazards, etc. – but, you are, in a way, absent too… not being distracted by things that could put you in a spot of bother. It might sound like a tenuous connection to some, but for me, it comes closer to what you refer to as that shift of consciousness to an in-between space.

Your mention about indigenous people having to climb to higher areas to get their mobiles to work also reminds me of when I first rode across the Nullarbor in 2005, from Melbourne to Perth and back. Mobile coverage? Hahaha… no way! The second time I did it in 2010, I was a little older and wiser and took a SatNav with me in case I ran into trouble. I wonder if our new PM will rectify those coverage issues we can experience in this wide, brown land?

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J’s 2nd RESPONSE:

I doubt it, it’s never been high on his priority list.

When I talk about being called I’m mostly referring to people in my physical presence, and I find I’m most distant reading a book. I can spend time on the net either fully immersed or just skimming the surface, I prefer water style analogies 🙂

I guess what I mean is the depth can vary, maybe we can be both physically present, and mentally absent depending on our focus and interest. I don’t think it’s necessarily a new concept though, thinking on the multiple dimension theories, and some cultures consider there to be a spiritual plane, would you consider those to be separate spaces? and are they physical or mental places?

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TUTOR’S FINAL COMMENT:

Great work guys.

We phase through presences constantly as we shift our attention. The presence of the internet and the web perhaps means there is more opportunity to move through these presences during the day (and night). This has consequences for how we understand our movement through physical spaces.

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About Maha @ Uni

Studying online, and want to keep a record of my progress and experiences...
This entry was posted in #WEB206, Cyberspace, Digital Divide, In-Between Spaces, Online Writing, Phenomenology of Space, Present & Absent, Shift of Consciousness, Time and Space, Web Publishing, Writing for the Web and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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