Cyberspace: Utopia or dystopia?

It is undeniable that communication amongst society is essential. With the advance of technology and information, the Internet was ‘born’. This, in turn, leads to the proliferation of global information networks, where individuals can interact with each other online. Cyberspace is believed to make libertarian utopia possible by providing a place where everyone can communicate happily and securely, with the freedom of information and the end of authority since information becomes infrastructure neutral and each user can take over the control. But is that actually true?

Take a flashback at the day when World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee. His idea was to create a free-flow-of-academic-information environment for everyone and encourage people to work together. However, nowadays the notion of cyberspace has been mistaken. We assume that cyberspace is more a distributed network, where we can broadcast to the entire network and freely share information. However, it acts more like a centralized network due to the intervention of governments. Barlow (1996, para. 2) states “the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us”. Indeed, the governments are directly controlling the Internet, obstructing the free flow of information. Taking China’s Government as an example, they censor every piece of news in the country and bombard their people with fake news; or the fact that North Korea localize the flow of information so that their citizens cannot keep up-to-date with news from the outside world.

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What about social media? Manuel (2004, p. 223) declares “The media, in the broadest sense, are the public space of our time: the space in which, and by which, societies exist as social forms of shared experience”. Essentially, it is true that Facebook promotes a free flow of information amongst its users, but all this information eventually flows back to itself – the company, where user’s privacy is exploited for economic purpose.

In fact, the powers of technology and the Internet are all neutral; it is how something is used that determines whether it is utopian or dystopian. At the end of the day, we all need to know that: information is not knowledge (Albert Einstein).

 

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Bibliography:

Barlow, JP 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, 8 February, Davos, Switzerland.

Castells, M 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’. In Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world? (p. 223).

Todd, E 2014, Cyberspace as Utopia or Dystopia?, Prezi slide, 24 April, viewed 11 August 2017, <https://prezi.com/ujxifxvbhgcb/cyberspace-as-utopia-or-dystopia/>

 

 

 

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