Informal Publications


Exploring CyberSpace - W. Hugh Chatfield I.S.P.

Lets take a look at what this thing called cyberspace is, what it might become, and how it applies to microBusiness.

Yes, the word "cyberspace" was coined by a Vancouver Science Fiction writer, William Gibson, but there are numerous non-fiction writers which uses this term seriously.

Let me refer you to the following text: "CyberSpace - First Steps" - edited by Michael Benedikt The MIT Press: Cambridge Mass., London, England ISBN 0-262-52177-6. Michael Benedikt is a professor in the school of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. He has taught at the graduate school of design at Harvard and is CEO of Mental Technologies Inc.

What is CyberSpace?

let me quote from some of the papers in Benedikt's book. From "Liquid architectures in CyberSpace"- Marcos Novak

"CyberSpace is a completely spatialize visualization of all information in global information processing systems, along pathways provided by present and future communications networks, enabling full co-presence and interaction of multiple users, allowing input and output from and to the full human sensorium, permitting simulations of real and virtual realities, remote data collection and control through telepresence, and total integration and inter-communication with a full range of intelligent products and environments in real space"

From "CyberSpace - Some proposals" - Michael Bendikt

"CyberSpace is a globally networked, computer-sustained, computer accessed, and computer-generated, multidimensional, artificial, or "virtual" reality. In this reality, to which every computer is window, seen or heard objects are neither physical nor, necessarily, representations of physical objects but are, rather, in form, character and action, made up of data, of pure information. This information derives in part from the operations of the natural, physical world, but for the most part it derives from the immense traffic of information that constitute human enterprise in science, art, business, and culture"

Objects made of information?? Is this real? Surely you can't suggest that pure information has any reality in the sense that real object exist.

Consider this for a moment. I attended a monthly meeting of the Canadian Information Processing Society some time ago, where the talk was from Air Canada on their Disaster Recovery Planning. One fact stuck in my mind.

"A recent study by the University of Minnesota claimed that 93% of businesses that lost the use of their computers for ten days filed for bankruptcy within a year; half filed immediately."

Here is a clear demonstration that many modern companies have pure information as an integral part of their existence. Drain the blood, the animal dies.

lets get back to Benedikt again...

"The dimensions, axes, and coordinates of cyberspace are thus not necessarily the familiar ones of our natural gravitational environment: though mirroring our expectations of natural spaces and places, they have dimensions impressed with informational value appropriate for optimal orientation and navigation in the data accessed"

If you think about it... why should a space we create be limited in any dimension whatsoever? Take a look at the Nov 95 Byte Magazine in the article "Hyper-G Organizes the Web". The inventors of Hyper-G are using the term "Information Visualization". A product called harmony can lay out information as a landscape with collections appearing as blocks; sub-collections appearing as blocks connected to collections; documents on top of the blocks with colour representing document type, and height indicating size. Multi view ports give more details as you navigate the landscape.

"In cyberspace, information-intensive institutions and businesses have a form, identity, and working reality - in a word and quite literally, an architecture - that is counterpart and different to the form, identity, and working reality they have in the physical world. The ordinary physical reality of these institutions, businesses, etc. are seen as surface phenomena, as husks, their true energy coursing in architectures unseen except in cyberspace."

And why couldn't this architecture exist even if the business had no instantiation in the physical world?

And now to the part I think is relevant to microBusiness....

"So too with individuals. Egos and multiple egos, roles and functions, have a new existence in cyberspace. Here no individual is appreciated by virtue only, if at all, of their physical appearance, location, or circumstances. New, liquid, and multiple associations between people are possible, for both economic and non-economic reasons, and new modes and levels of truly interpersonal communications come into being. Cyberspace has a geography, a physics, a nature, and a rule of human law. In cyberspace the common man and the information worker - cowboy or infocrat - can search, manipulate, create or control information directly; he can be entertained or trained, seek solitude or company, win or lose power... indeed, can "live" or "die" as he will."

This is the essence of what I am trying to explore in these essays...

liquid associations between people...for both economic and non-economic reasons....searching for new methods and levels of interpersonal communication.

Now.... if Internet is the zeroth version of such a cyberspace, what would the first and second 'release versions' look like? What would the hundred or the thousandth 'release version' look like? The above reference to the Nov 95 Byte Magazine in the article "Hyper-G Organizes the Web" lists some ideas why the current WWW is insufficient.

  1. No full text search [and since HTML doesn't implement context tags - searching within tags isn't practical either]

  2. Lack of authorization features - hence servers are implemented as isolated islands

  3. HTTP protocol has difficulties with changes to URL's - new URL is not accessible

  4. Can't follow links backwards - hence can't detect who points to you.

What tools, features, data, access, technology would have to be added to Internet in order for the above to happen easily, seamlessly,.. so that we could practically do these things...

... and perhaps more importantly, how do we keep the cost of the infrastructure down to an affordable level. It would be ironic if the infrastructure was priced so that only large enterprises could afford it.

It is interesting to note that the first conference on Society and the Future of Computing was held in June 95 in Durango, Colorado. They put out what is called the Durango Declaration which highlights societal problems linked to information technology and suggests directions for making changes, and offers a research agenda. Accessible technology and creation of new industries and jobs are among the directions suggested.