Theories and Metaphors of Cyberspace- Abstracts


The distorted outside/inside antinomy

By Alberto Cecchi

  • albercec@mbox.vol.it
  • Abstract:

    In articles for conferences as well as in Internet publications Hypertexts and in general Digital Texts are usually defined as fluid, malleable, flexible, mutilinear, etc... Among the metaphors related to these concepts and adopted by the technical language the "navigation" is without any doubt the most used: the "surfer" "navigates" in the cyberspace choosing his own's "course" among millions of possibilities... Theorists and designers of this field maintain that hypertexts must be designed to be written and read in an intuitive and fast way, allowing immediate referential jumps that simulate the procedure of human thinking. According to the opinion shared by most of the hypertexts experts the hypertext structure and operation are similar to those of the human mind, i.e.: a person who is reading a book about Vienna finds the name of Mozart and immediately look for more details about Mozart's life or a piece of his music. If these pieces of information are not present in his mind, he can get them in an immediate way through the hypertext links. There is no more need to go first to a library and then to a recordstore, thanks to the hypermedia a simple click with a mouse is enough. Hypertexts users can take notes of their thoughts in a simultaneous way without need of reorganizing them in a linear way. The reader, or even better the "wreader", of hypertexts reads, thinks & connects going without distinction from the outside to the inside (and vice versa) of his own mind. The same tendency can be observed in the VR. VR creates an (external) ambient that corresponds to men (internal) desires and that can be controlled in all its variables (the inside wants to directly control the outside, in a nearly mathematic way). The infringement of the inside/outside barrier is evident also in another phenomenon that characterizes the actual scientific research: the body invasion by technology. Nanotechnology, biotechnology and microelectronics are producing instruments and systems to colonize the human body. Prosthesis, steroids, bypass, Prozac, plastic surgery are the proof of this trend. The inside/outside barrier tends to weaken (or at least to change) both from a metaphoric/cognitive and material point of view.

    Starting from these ideas I would like to consider several new paradigms that are penetrating society and human life. Does the hypertext make visible the human thought from the outside? If yes, does it make the human thought controllable as well? Can Internet assume the shape and function of the Panopticon? What is really involved in the substitution of the geographical journey with the telematic navigation and therefore in the abandonment of body?

    I will reflect upon these questions using specific sociological and philosophical references, such as: Jacques Derrida's deconstructionism Michel Foucault's Panopticon, visibility, relationship with the body Paul Virilio's velocity, movement Deleuze & Guattari's rizhome and philosophic nomadism

    As far as the hypertextual considerations are concerned I'll refer to the proceedings of the last most important conferences about hypertexts: ECHT '92, ECHT '94, Hypertext '93.

    From this basis I will draw my personal conclusions.