Times of the Technoculture: From the Information Society to the Virtual Life

By Kevin Robins; Frank Webster | Go to book overview
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10

PROSPECTS A OF VIRTUAL CULTURE

In this final part of the book, we want to shift to a consideration of the new virtual culture that has been taking shape through the 1990s. Our perspective remains a critical one, putting forward the argument that the virtual society is a pacified and managed space. In this chapter, we consider three aspects of virtual culture: first, we examine the claims that virtual technologies have created a new and dynamic knowledge space; then we look at the claims that are being made about the enhancement of communication and community, and about the possibilities of virtual politics; and, finally, we discuss critically what we regard as the technological colonisation of the future. In Chapter 11 we shall take the argument forward through a geographically-oriented analysis of the implications of new, virtual technologies for spaces and places.


A NEW KNOWLEDGE SPACE?

Virtual technologies have implications for knowledge, and consequently for the contemporary élites who live by knowledge. In the following discussion, we want to suggest that these profound implications are not-or are not straightforwardly-those that are most commonly accepted. Where the prevailing rhetoric-associated with the idea of an information revolution-envisages a new condition of cognitive transcendence, we will be concerned, rather, with what we regard as the problem with modern knowledge.

Let us begin with what we consider to be the prevalent approach to new media, through a reflection on Pierre Lévy's recent book, Cyberculture,1 which provides one of the most coherent and persuasive expressions of the contemporary technocultural vision. Lévy's concern is with the potential inherent, he believes, in new information and communications technologies to both expand and enhance human cognition. And what he argues in Cyberculture is that there has been a quantitative technological revolution in human knowledge which, at the same time, has conspired to produce a 'new relation to knowledge'. For Lévy, what is new about new media is precisely the creation of this new and more complex relation to knowledge (regarded

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