Does “cyberspace” still exist?

A food-for-thought/thinking-in-progress post: does “cyberspace” still exist?

I’ve been thinking about this issue recently in connection with several law review articles I’m writing. My feeling at this point is that our earlier conception of networked communications at the dawn of “cyberspace” in 1996 (see Barlow’s Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace) is quite different from the conception we have today. In an era of social networks, smartphones, apps, and customized services, it may no longer make sense to think of cyberspace as a shared place we visit.

One way of showing this is by examining how Google treats searches for formatives of the word “cyberspace.”


1. Search for “cy”: None of the suggestions include “cyberspace.” Considering the advertising orientation of Google, I’m not surprised that “cyber monday” shows up. But “cyanide and happiness?” Disturbing, much, until I realized that it is a webcomic.



2. Search for “cyb”: Even more “cyber monday” stuff, with “cyberpower” at the end. Cyberpower makes UPS power strips.



3. Search for “cyber”: If anything should show “cyberspace,” this should. But I got the same results as for “cyb.” Maybe people just don’t think about “cyberspace” as a place anymore. I’m not sure that I should, either. (“Professor, you’re sooo 20th century….”)


cybers4. Search for “cybers”: You’d think “cyberspace” would have shown up by now. But it still doesn’t; instead, we see “cybersource” (I had to look it up, it’s a credit card processing company), “cybersquatting” (which I’ve written about), “cyberscholar” (a/k/a, hopefully me), and “cyber security” (a hot topic). But no “cyberspace.” Interesting.



5. Search for “cybersp”: Finally, “cyberspace” is the first hit. The first hit is Wikipedia, and claims that the term is “ubiquitous.” But based on Google’s suggested searches, I’m not so sure.


Beyond the observations above, I’ll not speculate unduly as my thoughts are still forming. But as Dan Hunter wrote in 2003, “Thinking of cyberspace as a place has led judges, legislators, and legal scholars to apply physical assumptions about property in this new, abstract space.” That’s very true: the assumptions we make about things affects how we choose to regulate them.

But I suspect that we’re now moving into a post-cyberspace era, one of networked communications devoid of “place.” Indeed, I don’t think of either Facebook or Twitter–which I call “Super-Intermediaries” in one of my forthcoming pieces–as a place at all, but rather a connectivity tool. Super-Intermediaries are not thought of as metaphorical “places,” but as things that provide ever-shifting and oftentimes highly complex networks that can vary significantly between individuals (Twitter and Facebook) and sometimes between geographical regions (YouTube).

I suspect that this arguable shift away from place-ness may have a significant effect on how we conceive of the internet, how we describe it, how lawmakers try to regulate it, and how human rights are affected. I’ll demur from saying more as my thoughts are still forming, but I plan to discuss some of these themes next month at the upcoming Internet Law Work-in-Progress Conference at Santa Clara Law School.

Cross-posted to Infoglut Tumblr.

“YouTube Slashes Two Billion ‘Fake Views’ Of Music Video Channels”

After an audit of views, Google slashed billions of views from music channels, including Universal Music (a defendant in the notorious “dancing baby” DMCA takedown case). The article says:

Record companies representing stars like Rihanna, Justin Biber and Alicia Keys may not be as popular as they hoped – as YouTube wiped two billion “fake views” from their channels on the site video sharing site.

I wonder whether the companies are involved somehow in the inflated views. For example:

Google slashed the cumulative view counts on YouTube channels belonging to Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG, and RCA Records by more than 2 billion views Tuesday, a drastic winter cleanup that may be aimed at shutting down black hat view count-building techniques employed by a community of rogue view count manipulators on the video-sharing site.

I honestly don’t know whether the companies are involved. But suppose, hypothetically, the companies were involved. Notably, the feds tried to criminally prosecute a woman for making a fake MySpace profile a few years back. Maybe they’d do the same to record companies? . . . . Not!

H/T Pete Fein @wearpants on Twitter.  Cross-posted to my Infoglut Tumblr.

Social networking word-of-the-day: “thinvisibility”

A new word for Facebookers and social networkers who cavalierly post embarrassing information about themselves to the web: thinvisibility:  Here’s a starting definition:

Thinvisibility: n.

  1. Being neither completely visible nor completely invisible.
  2. Being a tiny, shiny needle in a haystack of information overload.
  3. Being invisible to everyone except data aggregators and digital preservationists such as Google, the Wayback Machine, the NSA, and others.
  4. Being invisible to employers, colleges, police, neighbors, friends, exes, stalkers, acquaintances, and others, who are not interested in you, until they are.
  5. Being visible.

Umpire Jim Joyce, a near-perfect game, Twitter spam, and the wisdom of “Tin Cup”

Having read about the blown call that cost Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game on the 27th batter, I became interested in the umpire, Jim Joyce.  After making a bad first-plate safe call that cost Galarraga a perfect game on what should have been the very last out, Joyce acted with grace, apologizing directly and profusely to Galarraga.  As SI notes, Joyce was “crushed.”  Galarraga also acted with class, saying “I give a lot of credit to the guy saying, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you because I really say I’m sorry.'”  Both of them are professionals with class.  After all, it’s when you screw up, or when somebody’s error screws you, that your character really shines (or doesn’t).

Too bad that some of the amateurs on the Web don’t have similar class.  Shortly after the bad call, somebody vandalized Joyce’s Wikipedia page to declare he was dead.  That’s just sick.  Yesterday, I saw that Joyce’s name was a trending Twitter topic, but the results were polluted with Twitter spam.

Such online foolishness illustrates what Andrew Keen derided as the “Cult of the Amateur” in his book by the same name.  Keen says:

We — those of us who want to know more about the world, those of us who are the consumers of mainstream culture — are being seduced by the empty promise of the “democratized” media.  For the real consequence of the Web 2.0 revolution is less culture, less reliable news, and a chaos of useless information.  One chilling reality in this brave new digital epoch is the blurring, obfuscation, and even disappearance of truth.

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