The ViRtUaL world

The Internet (or is it ‘internet’ with a small ‘i’) has become a monster. So much so that there are now two official worlds and realities: the virtual and the real.

How can you describe the virtual? How can you picture the imaginary? The answer lies, of course, buried deep in the Internet internet itself: within the structures that describe the workings of online communities, documents that outline the technical specifications of networks (within companies, school, apartment blocks etc), in descriptions of the architecture of wiki sites and how folksonomies are created.

We have created a beast in a very real sense even though it is as intangible as fog. “Monsters from the id” is the superb quote that comes to mind – do we really know what we have created? Or what we are capable of creating? The internet is most definitely an organic creature that grows like any other organism, but it doesn’t breathe and it probably cannot be destroyed (too many Sci-Fi films watched in my childhood have put me in a permanent state of technophobia).

I think it was Heidegger that said humans are in danger of creating systems that then take on a life of their own and become independent of us. We endlessly search for ever-increasing complexity in life. The internet is most certainly a system of sorts and is both independent and theoretically infinitely complex (as mentioned above – too many Sci-Fi films).

An interesting example of the increasing reality of the virtual world is a map of online communities prepared by xkcd.

ViRtUaLiTy (Click on map)

The site itself is a wonderful comical dig at the modern world, but this map sums up how we are able to picture what cannot be touched or felt. A map of the internet! What next?


4 thoughts on “The ViRtUaL world

  1. Some of us think that that’s how the whole ‘God’ meme kicked off; enough people bought into the idea, and now it’s become something which has escaped the control of the entire human race. See the Douglas Adams essay/speech ‘Is there an artificial God?’ for more details. And of course that idea forms the basis of ‘The long dark teatime of the soul’ by the same genius. 🙂

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