The structure and consequences of cybercultures has become a major theme in recent academic literature. 1 The expansion of the Internet and the development of virtual places is viewed as heralding a major transformation in our understanding of the central categories of everyday life. To date, most of the speculation in this field has focused on the body and the information highway. For example, Haraway’s (1991) work on cyborgs points to the incorporation of mechanical technologies into the skin, blood and fiber of the human body. Already, the installation of a pacemaker is regarded as a routine operation.
The merging of organism and microchip technology is evident in other areas as well. According to Wilson (1995), prosthetic technology and replacement surgery is undergoing a massive expansion. Within twenty-five years, it is predicted, the replacement of malfunctioning body parts with computerized microchip technologies and body parts from donors, to say nothing of cosmetic surgical improvements to the appearance of the body, will be standard medical practice, thus altering our current conceptions of aging and the life-cycle.
As for the effect of the information highway on local culture, Poster (1995) contends that the new technology will enrich consumer culture and expand choice. Rheingold (1994) speaks of the growth of “virtual communities” which are already emerging in cyberspace and which correct the decay of the public fora for democracy in the outside world. Plant (1993) combines the interest in body and space by arguing that cyberspace is compatible with swapping identities and liberating elements within us that are repressed in face-to-face interaction.
Not everyone has presented the new communications technology in meliorist terms. For example, Robins (1995) and McGuigan (1996:182-4) have each poured cold water on the optimistic slant of much of the cyberculture literature. They acknowledge that cyberspace offers new potentials for human interaction and cultural formation. However, they stress that this potential also opens up the opportunity for the development of new types of