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In Michael Heim’s essay “The Cyber Space Dialectic”, he discusses how our culture is going through an ontological shift fashioned by the Internet. Heim articulates his theory of what dialectic is and how this ontological shift is creating a new dialectic. The Internet is the main place today where people from all over the world exchange and communicate their ideas and feelings. The Internet is a new community in itself. The ontological shift into the cyberspace times will change the way we think, and the way we act; it will change our overall sense of being. These change that Heim calls an “ontological shift” has brought on questions about changing society. These are similar to the questions that Peter Drucker and Benjamin Barber brought up when they discussed about creating a new society. Will society benefit from this new society in which its central being is cyberspace? This is a serious question since we are living in the phase that is changing into the cyber world now. How will this change affect this new technologically inclined society?
We have all used the Internet to talk to other people, either using chat or emails. We converse with people with different backgrounds and cultures. When interacting with different types of people, it means that we are working in groups and collaborating. This is what the Internet is all about. Interacting with each other in new ways, and learning how to open yourself to other points of views and new ideas. In his essay Heim states,
“Computer networks foster virtual communities that cut across geography time zones. Virtual community seems a cure-all for isolated people who complain about their isolation. Locked in metal boxes on urban freeways, a population enjoys socializing with fellow humans through computer networks”(Heim 374).
As Heim explains in his essay, the Internet can bring together communities that are
isolated from the rest of the world. It helps communities and different types of people communicate with each other. It creates the idea of group work through computer networks. This was also one theme in Barbers essay; Group work is what makes ideas carry through and productive. In Barber’s “Making Civil Society Real” he states,
“Civic responsibility, being a partnership between government, civil society, and the private market necessarily depends on the active collaboration of political leaders, citizens and business people”(Barber 106).
Our responsibility as a society is to collaborate our selves with all the groups that make this society function.
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Of course there are always people who oppose to t new ideas and just believe that they are unpractical. In Heim’s essay he talks about naïve realists. These were people who say that computers will deny our perspective of the real world. Heim states
“Many naïve realists take reality to be that which can be immediately experienced, and then align computer systems with the corporate polluters who dump on the terrain of unmediated experience. The elaborate data systems we are developing still exist outside our primary sensory world. The systems do not belong to reality but constitute instead, in the eyes of the naïve realist, a suppression of reality”(Heim 371).
When these naïve realists say that this blocks us from seeing reality, they are forgetting that we are thinking for ourselves, and it is based upon our own mind what is reality and what is not. Reality is what a community says it is. The community is what makes us base our decisions and it is the community who makes us have a sense of being. In Peter Drucker’s essay he discusses the knowledge society that we live in right now. He states,
“But the essence of a knowledge society is mobility in term of where one lives, mobility in terms of what one does, and mobility in terms of affiliation”(Drucker 239).
The way we think and the way we act is all based upon where we live and who we live around. Our dialectic is a product of where we live and what we do. The reality of society is based upon the decisions what we make and what me believe in society. It’s not the Internet that skews our view. Computers do not tell us what to see and perceive. Benjamin Barber has a similar take on this. In his essay he states,
“The World Wide Web was, in its conception and compared to traditional broadcast media, a remarkably promising means for point-to-point lateral communication among citizens and for genuine interactivity (users not merely passively receiving information, but participating in retrieving and creating it)”(Barber 97).
When the World Wide Web first came into play, it was one of the biggest innovations in information resources. Since so many people started using this resource, companies, advertisers and corporations recognized this and have taken advantage of the amount of people on the Internet. Granted the Internet isn’t only used for information anymore, but for advertising and business, the reality of the Internet is based on the persons who use it. The information superhighway is a theoretical term. It’s not really there; it just exits on a computer hard drive and can be retrieved anytime. Today computers are everywhere and it is something that is giving us a new sense of being, a new way that we see things, and a new perspective on the world; we have to deal with it and make it apart of our everyday lives.
With this ontological shift going, there will be a fine line between reality and Internet reality. The Internet should be used as a tool for learning and collaboration. As Heim states
“We might learn to balance the idealist’s enthusiasm for computerized life with the need to ground our selves more deeply in the felt earth that the realists affirms to be our primary reality”(Heim 378-379).
Heim explains that neither the idealists or the realists are right in their ideas of the internet in society today, but combining there ideas and balancing them out would make this a primary advantage. In other words, the Internet should not be used too much and should not be taken advantage of is wrong ways. There are always going to be people who will be taking information in the wrong way. Information is knowledge, and knowledge is education. This society has become a society based on education. It is our job, not the government nor private sectors, to decide what type of knowledge we need and what type of information we want. This is a central coming with this ontological shift. Drucker sees the same problem; he states in his essay,
“What knowledge must everybody have? What is “quality” in learning and teaching? These will of necessity become central concerns of the knowledge society, and central political issues”(Drucker 232).
The quality of learning is based on the information that we wish to receive. As the emerging knowledge society comes to full blown, there must be some types of regulations to help society out on what type of information can be accessed. To be realistic, not everyone is going to take what he or she finds on the Internet seriously, but there are always going to be people who will take the wrong type of information the wrong way. Similarly Barber sees this problem with commercialization and the Internet. The Internet has become a place to brain wash people into the advertising industry and there presence has become a nuisance in our ability to gather information. Barber states
“The government cannot and need not control them directly, but it has a fundamental responsibility to assure the Americans public and its civil society institutions free and equal access and usage”(Barber 98).
The government is the one who made free speech and media legal. It is also their responsibility to control it. If the government can’t take part in this then this new piece of technology will end up becoming like the radio or TV; the basis of commercialization and advertising. The need of group work is sought to make this ontological shift happen. The collaboration of the government, social, and private sectors have the power to make these questions answered in a most efficient way.
All three authors want a change in modern society. They want to change society to be compatible with the demanding needs of society today. The Internet has become a common foreground for most people in America and it has created a new dialect. This new dialect is here to stay in the 21st Century because all the new technologies being developed are being based on high-speed information access. We have to accept this change because computers will not go away, and it has become part of our lives. Once cyberspace is accepted into society we will see the wonders of communication, partnership, and alliance form a superior educated, moral, and economic world.