Day by day cyberspace is becoming a more intricate part of our society. As it does, we rely on it more to manage finances, research, and to communicate. Communication in cyberspace has developed a new community for people around the world. The ability to freely communicate with people around the world through a computer has raised many questions about the reality of cyberspace. Since it is a tool of communication that millions of people use every day to converse with friends, family, and business associates it must be considered a dwelling of reality.
Although it seems like an abstract point, cyberspace is a destination millions of people visit every day to transfer real ideas and real thoughts from one real person to another, for this it must be a real place. It can be considered as an extension of many other devices, such as the telephone. These devices have been used throughout history to communicate and none have been considered to defy reality. Also, many things we consider an integral part of our lives, which define our reality, like crime and terrorism take place in cyberspace. On a more abstract thought, but still very real, cyberspace is a home to our dreams. Many people?s realities revolve around being something or someone else. Cyberspace gives these people a home for real dreams and needs they don?t get in physically. Because it is new and uncharted by many people it seems too abstract to be real, but it is an extension of many aspects of our lives and must be considered reality.
Since the invention of the telegraph we have been using machines to communicate across states or even across the world. As technology has grown so have our means of communication. The difference with cyberspace is that it is such a huge technological advance that many people cannot grasp the fundamental idea behind it. With the telegraph, telephone or fax, there was always a physical input and a physical response whether it was Morse code, voices, or a print copy. Cyberspace is translated through a computer and the only physicality is typing. The idea of a machine talking, sending, and returning a message is fundamentally the same as a telephone taking our voice, converting it, sending it, converting it back, and playing the message. But there are no arguments that a message being sent through telephone wires is not a form of reality. One way to look at it is that real information such as national secrets or death threats are sent over cyberspace. If this place was not real these secrets that could destroy governments or people would be no danger, but they are because they come from a very real place. China is one place that understands this:
?China?s no-nonsense-named State Bureau of Secrecy has issued a list of proscriptions to Internet users aimed at protecting the government?s control over the flow of information and its monopoly and power. Internet users, including those sending e-mail or participating in chat rooms are banned from sending or discussing ?state secrets? ?(Parks 6).
China realizes that there could be a very real danger with cyberspace if people use it to give up national secrets or plans. To control this the government is using screening methods that are much like phone taps. Cyberspace is just another tool, but much more sophisticated, we have developed to communicate with others. Given time to settle and for people to grasp the fundamentals cyberspace will, like the telephone, be considered reality.
In our society one way to define reality is through happiness and through pain. Pain is often caused by crime, which is definitely infecting cyberspace. Every day there is another story about a new virus or how a hacker crashed another computer system. This is how people use cyberspace to inflict pain on others. Since cyberspace has become such an important part of our culture it has become our government?s job to protect us from these intrusions. The same government whose job it is to protect us from intruding countries or threats on our country. ?At the biggest hackers? convention in the world, the cowboys, gangsters and pioneers of computing world gathered to try out their new weaponry?(Booth). These ?cowboys? are the Iraq of the computing world. ?The proposal is the first government wide strategy for high-tech attacks on critical systems by international radicals or home-grown hackers?(Drogin).
?E-pranks and e-terrorism are the price paid for the Internet?s surging popularity. Hackers will continue to probe and more often than not compromise computer systems. That leaves police taking on the massive job of cyberspace stakeouts and computer users struggling to erect new firewalls, filters and electronic early warning systems on their networks?(Editorial 32A).
Now it is the government?s job and our tax money that goes to fight for our security over cyberspace. In this day and age many people live through computers, physically and professionally, and these hackers inflicting pain on systems in turn inflicts pain on lives and jobs. Some form of pain can be experienced in cyberspace, but it is the pain people experience from the outside world that often drives them to cyberspace.
Cyberspace gives these people a place to get away from their lives in the outside world. In cyberspace people are allowed to change their figure, appearance, and even gender if they like. Although this may not seem like much of a reality, it is in their minds. Reality cannot be defined as one simple thing such as only things we can touch, see, or smell. It must be different for every individual. And for many this alteration of themselves in cyberspace is very real.
?I was delighted. I felt I had found the new locale of human community?-never mind that the whole thing was being conducted in mere words by minds from whom the bodies had been amputated. Never mind that all these people were deaf, dumb, and blind as paramecia or that their town had neither seasons nor sunsets nor smells?(Barlow 165)
This new community Barlow speaks of is the same community millions of other people have become addicted to. Perhaps it is because everyone is faceless, and you are only dealing with someone?s mind. But there is a definite tie between anonymity in cyberspace and other people?s curiosity.
?The anonymity of the Internet allows users to become anyone or anything they want to become and deceive other users with their assumed identities. One female user says that she can not be taken seriously as a woman on the more technically-minded user groups so she sets up a male account in order to communicate better. Some users assume new identities in order to get the attention that they do not get in their lives?(Tamosaitis 145(3)).
In some instances, like Tamosaitis shows, the anonymity allows you to be more effective in some fields of conversation where normally you would not be taken seriously. This new world in cyberspace is exactly what millions of people need and want as shown by the millions of faithful users in cyberspace.
Although cyberspace may seem like a very abstract idea to many, fundamentally it is as concrete as a line of communication gets. It follows the same principles as the telephone, the fax, or the ancient telegraph. The problem is that cyberspace is so new and so advanced that even those who use it may not understand it. It allows people to create their own reality if they please or feast of other people?s realities. As long as these thoughts are real to the designer they must be considered a part of, at least their own, reality. Cyberspace also has its bad points, crime and terrorism. Reality would not be complete without someone trying to destroy or sabotage what others use to survive in that world. No matter what is said, cyberspace is a destination for millions each day. It holds the real thoughts, real beliefs, and real values from one real person to another.