Cyberpower: The Culture and Politics of Cyberspace and the Internet

By Tim Jordan | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

The virtual individual

The information highway is a tool of the individual.

Bill Gates (Gates, 1995:166-7)


Key concepts

Avatar

An avatar is a stable identity that someone using Barlovian cyberspace has created. The existence of an avatar means someone has used some of cyberspace’s resources in ways that result in other avatars recognising a stable online personality. Someone’s avatar may be constructed from the style of their online writing, from the repeated use of a name or self-description, or from any of a number of other virtual possibilities. More than one avatar can be created and the relationship between these identities and someone’s offline life is complicated.


Virtual hierarchies

Hierarchies in cyberspace are constructed on different bases than in non-virtual space and tend to undermine offline hierarchies. Online hierarchies must be constructed from the peculiarities of online life, such as the style of someone’s writing in a newsgroup or the power of their software coding in a MUD. Offline hierarchies can be undermined by virtual lives because cyberspace spreads information more broadly and allows more inclusive decision making, though this requires offline hierarchies to allow full access to cyberspace.


Informational space

Cyberspace is constructed out of information; it is an informational space. This is true at two levels. First, the exchange of information in the form of software code largely creates cyberspace. Second, virtual lives are created through the exchange of information by avatars, both information about objects and about how to use cyberspace.

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Cyberpower: The Culture and Politics of Cyberspace and the Internet
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Chapter 1 - Power and Cyberspace 1
  • Chapter 2 - Cyberspace and the Matrix 20
  • Chapter 3 - The Virtual Individual 59
  • Chapter 5 - The Virtual Social II 142
  • Chapter 6 - The Virtual Imaginary 179
  • Chapter 7 - Cyberpower 208
  • Notes 219
  • Glossary 229
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 248
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