I was leafing through Margaret Wertheim's The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet this evening, and was struck by her argument about the degree to which cyberspace became a technological expression of Christian desires for transcendence.
Here's a thought. Wertheim was right about cyberspace. But we're moving into a new relationship binding information to the world, and our metaphors for describing that world are more social than spiritual.
Put another way, cyberspace expresses a desire to transcend the world; Web 2.0 is about engaging with it. The early inhabitants of cyberspace were like the early Church monastics, who sought to serve God by going into the desert (Susan Bratton has written some pretty brilliant stuff on early Christianity and its attitudes towards nature and spirituality) and escaping the temptations and distractions of the world and the flesh. The vision of Web 2.0, in contrast, is more Franciscan: one of engagement with and improvement of the world, not escape from it.
Not a perfect metaphor, of course, but maybe there's something there.
[To the tune of Seal, "Krazy (Non-Album Track)," from the album "Crazy".]
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