January 14th, 2014
The word cyberspace is ubiquitous. I don’t think I know of an adult that does not know or use the word. Cyberspace is most often used when talking about all that exists on the Internet, the space/time area of computer interactions. It is a word that has settled into use and understanding around the world. In addition, the first part of the word, cyber, is now a prefix as in Cyber Monday and Cyber Attack.
It is generally agreed that the great science fiction writer William Gibson is the one who is most responsible for the creation of the word, first in a short story and then in his popular and very influential 1984 [ironic!] novel “Neuromancer”. Below are two quotes from Wikipedia from him on the word, the first from this novel
“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”
Sixteen years later Gibson evidently distanced himself from the word:
“All I knew about the word “cyberspace” when I coined it, was that it seemed like an effective buzzword. It seemed evocative and essentially meaningless. It was suggestive of something, but had no real semantic meaning, even for me, as I saw it emerge on the page.”
Well it obviously was an “effective buzzword”, one of the most successful buzzwords of the past few decades. Over the last 30 years, with ever-greater usage, it has become an integral part of late 20th and early 21st century language used to describe the connected screen reality of the Shift Age. It is so widely used to describe almost anything Internet related that while it is now ubiquitous, it’s meaning is diluted. As we move ever more rapidly into the screen reality and are ever more living in this non-physical world we need to develop words that have more specific meanings under the umbrella of the word cyberspace. I would like to offer up the new term of digispace.
Digispace is the space that allows the storing and sharing of digital content, the space where all digital information is accessed and utilized. The near universal conversion of analog content to digital content and from physical content to digital content created this new digispace.
This word came to me when writing my recent eBook on Privacy. The reason is that privacy as it has been defined for centuries, has been greatly eviscerated since the conversion of analog to digital and physical to digital content during the last 25 years. This loss of privacy of course greatly accelerated in the past five years with ubiquitous high-speed wireless connectivity and the sharing of digital content that results. A file drawer of physical records is now a digital file attachment to an email or text.
Digispace is the place where an infinite amount of data can be stored and accessed. This was impossible with physical records. A football field sized warehouse of records can now be stored on a pocket-sized hard drive. Everything can now be easily stored in digispace. Nothing needs to be thrown away due to space constraints.
We may or may not have “fifteen minutes of fame” in the physical world so presciently predicted by Andy Warhol, but most of the rest of our lives will be recorded. If it is being stored, someone is storing it, directly or indirectly. Our lives are being kept in digital storage for posterity.
Digispace of course is a subset of Cyberspace, as smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers and mainframe computers are subsets of the word computer. Digispace is on storage devices and in the cloud. As we evermore live in the two realities of the Shift Age, the physical reality and the screen reality we live in a dual world. We are on-line or off-line. We are in screen or physical reality. We are in physical space or digispace.
We live in digispace more today than we did 10 years ago. We will live much more in digispace in 10 years than we do today.