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The End of Cyberspace

Another data-point (from the Guardian) on how the decline of cyberspace encourages digital information to migrate from screens to streets, from planning and research phases of activities to decision-making, and from formality and permanence to informality and immediacy.

Spotted by Locals is a network of city bloggers providing up-to-the-minute local information — from a cosy London hideaway to Madrid’s best kept museum secret.

Like many great ideas, Spotted by Locals was conceived after a few beers. Dutch couple Sanne and Bart van Poll were on a city break to Brussels in 2007, and abandoned their customary guidebook in favour of tips gleaned from a Belgian blogger whose jib they like the sound of. «We went to the bars and restaurants he frequents, and walked around in the hidden local neighbourhood that was certainly not in our paper guide,» says Bart. And in one of said bars, they came up with the idea that would imminently lead to both of them quitting their day jobs.

Spotted by Locals is a network of European city blogs written by over 80 local bloggers who Sanne and Bart have met personally since coming up with the idea. Each city blog is manned by a number of enthusiastic local «spotters», ranging from 18-year old Czech medicine students to 60-year old Belgian retirees. As the bloggers are all writing in second (or third) languages, the prose can occasionally be a little clunky, but therein lies its beauty: authentically local, on-the-ground advice. And, like all good blog content, the focus is on keeping up. «All tips are always up-to-date. Our Spotters only write about places they visit regularly, and update the information in the article frequently.»

You could also do this in a more fluid fashion, if you mined Technorati for city names plus certain other terms, like vacation, travel, or a word that a service looks for.

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The End of Cyberspace

The Wired article, «»Cyberspace» Is Dead,» is online!

However, I encourage you to go buy a copy of the magazine— the printed version looks cooler. And this month’s cover is outstanding. (Though the article isn’t mentioned in the table of contents, and shares a page with Jargon Watch and a pie chart with the results of a survey asking «In the future, would you put money into an Internet startup?» It’s on page 39. Find the DataPipe.com ad and turn right.)

Despite its low place on the magazine’s totem— I’m convinced the Lego guys on the front are looking so cocksure because they’re thinking, «Ha! We are mere Danish toys, and we rate higher that you!»— I must confess I’ve never waited longer for an issue of Wired in my entire life. And I’ve been subscribing since roughly issue 1.02.

I would be remiss if I didn’t explain that while I’ve been thinking about this general issue for a while, it was really my co-author David Pescovitz who came up with the idea for this article: ask a bunch of smart people what word they think best describes the mobile, always-on, social- and wireless- network-saturated world we seem to be building. And of course, the fact that a lot of people responded with great suggestions made the whole thing possible.

Here, by the way, is the question we sent out:

Cyberspace is doomed. Well, the word anyway. Twenty years after William Gibson coined the term, cyberspace as a metaphor for a place we «visit» to interact with information is not only played out but on the verge of irrelevance. The wireless Web, sensor networks, pervasive computing, RFID, context-aware environments, and the «Internet of things» promise to transform our experience of creating, accessing, and interacting with data. Digital information won’t feel like it exists in an alternate world that we «go to» but rather as a layer atop our entire everyday reality. «The Network» will finally become intertwined with the fabric of our lives. So when cyberspace loses its relevance, we’ll need a new word to replace it.

What is that word or phrase?

The article features suggestions from William Gibson, Steve Jurvetson, Vint Cerf, and others. Over the next few days, I’ll post other suggestions from people like Edinburgh University professor Andy Clark, Berkeley smart dust pioneer Kris Pister, former Xerox PARC head John Seely Brown, and cyberlaw professor James Boyle, that we couldn’t fit in the article. (And two people have already posted comments with their own suggestions. I’d love to hear more.)

And, just because I’m going to be obsessed about tracking the article and might as well admit it, a link to a Technorati search of blog posts linking to the article. Of course, there aren’t any yet….

[To the tune of Bee Gees, «Love So Right,» from the album «The Bee Gees — Their Greatest Hits: The Record».]

Technorati Tags: cyberspace, language, pervasive computing, ubicomp

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The End of Cyberspace

Ross Mayfield is the founder and CEO of Socialtext, an enterprise social software company based in Palo Alto, and a member of what I’ve come to think of as the Many-To-Many conspiracy. As background for the Wired article, we asked him what term should replace «cyberspace.» He sent back two suggestions:

On When kids use the Net, they are either On, using it as a conduit for social interaction, or Off, a way of not being present. We need to retain Off as a right.

Catalink

This is my shot at branding it, but all the good names are taken. Cata implies both action and memory. Linking is a social act.One that contributes to the structure of the web that we all contribute to, a vote for attention that could be ranks, but also an anchor through text or tag that provides context and meaning. As you link, you are connected, anywhere, anytime with anyone you so choose. This choice is important as we need to retain the right to de-link. When you link enough people, it is a catalyst for wonderful things.

Update. Personally, what I like best about Ross’ suggestions is the implication of the need for the continued existence of an alternate state: off and unlinked. I’m afraid that the idea of «Off as a right» may, if we’re not careful, one day disappear, without our really being aware of it. Already, you can stumble into bad relationships with partners who get suspicious if your cell phone’s not on, and employers who want you always to be reachable. A government that treats your turning the GPS in your car or cell phone off as proof that you’re Up To Something is, alas, a bit easier to imagine these days.

Technorati Tags: cyberspace, future, language

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The End of Cyberspace

From UC-Irvine professor Mark Warschauer, «The Death of Cyberspace and the Rebirth of CALL:»

The notion of «cyberspace» suggests that there exists a virtual, online world that is distinct from our real world. «Cyberspace» is a type of fantasyland, where we take on cyber-identities and engage in virtual reality. But then, when we leave cyberspace, we come back to the «real world».

I would contend, in contrast, that the significance of online communication lies not in its separation from the real world, but rather in how it is impacting nearly every single aspect of the real world. Just like there is no such thing as «speechspace» or «writingspace» or «printspace,» so there is no cyberspace. The notion of cyberspace is thus not helpful for understanding the very real impact of online networking on our lives, and indeed the concept of cyberspace is slowly dying out.

Technorati Tags: cyberspace, end of cyberspace