Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cyberspace Our Relationships and Gentrification

In the first piece of the book Gary Grumpert and Susan Drucker look at the electronic highway that is cyberspace and analyze the properties and duality it gives the human social relationship. In the piece of the connecting power of cyberspace (primarily through the Internet) is reinforced by its tendency to cut across time and space and its seemingly un-biased treatment of people based on interests and personality not race or creed. But along with the beauty of Internet friends holding online eulogies Grumpert and Drucker discusses the perils that exist and are yet to be determined. "Progress and technological developments can be terribly exciting...but it is much more difficult to forecast the impact of such developments" (33).

One of the most powerful parts of the piece was the analogy made using the construction of the traditional interstate highway in the United States and its effects to that of the digital information highway. The interstate highway, which among other things was used to propel commerce and facilitate social communication spawned mixed results as it lead to a partitioning of urban and rural community. This separation, which the authors claimed has lead to the increased violence and lack of safety in urban areas has lead people to secure safety in most aspects of their lives, an element they believe can be satisfied by the sociability of cyberspace. While I believe the authors have perhaps exaggerated the ideas of violence and dis-trust with the physical realm I do agree with their view that people have a perception that the Internet is a place of relative safety and anonymity.

Transitioning on this belief Grumpert and Drucker then question this notion with concerns about privacy and other rights in the realm of cyberspace, where the difficulty of transferring traditionally real world laws to the Internet has proved confusing and far from successful. It is the still expanding and relatively new nature of cyberspace which has allowed for laws and rules to manipulated by the anonymity of instability. This is cited best by the authors' examples of employee privacy with e-mail in the work place, and while internet protection and privacy acts are applied their real world basis often inhibits their capacity to properly protect.

The larger question of this piece, which deals with over-reaching notion of quality of life is what makes it particularly interesting. Grumpert and Drucker are not simply analyzing digital socialization but rather looking at human socialization in general. The digital mode of communication inherently serves the same purpose as the actual version but will its existence change the reality of things? I believe the importance lies in understanding the scope of what we have come to know, anticipating what is to come and combining the two carefully while being aware of threats and problems both new and old.

1 comment:

Lance Strate said...

As a general statement, your conclusion sounds great, but can you be more specific? I'd also be interested in seeing more exploration of the concept of gentrification in cyberspace.