Computer Mediated Communication and the Connection between Virtual Utopias and Actual Realities

Richards, Cameron (1998) Computer Mediated Communication and the Connection between Virtual Utopias and Actual Realities. In: Proceedings Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology ’98. University of Sydney, Sydney, pp. 173-184.


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People have generally been very ambivalent about the potential future roles of new technologies (and the internet specifically) and their possible effects on human society. Indeed, there has been a tendency for polarization between attitudes or perceptions of naive enthusiasm and cynical resistance towards the use of computers and computer networks, and for such related concepts as ‘the information superhighway’ and ‘cyberspace’. The projection of such ambivalent perceptions into naively utopian (or even ironically dystopian) images and narratives might be seen as the latest and uniquely global permutation of a basic function of human culture - that is, to imagine ‘a better future’ or represent ‘an ideal past’. This paper will consider the extent to which the kinds of virtual utopias made possible by computer-mediated communications are ‘connected’ to the actual individual and social realities of human participants. In other words, how important might it be to recognise a distinction between the use of virtual utopias (and utopian representations in any culture) as merely escapist, self-indulgent fantasy on one hand, and as a useful, transformative media for reinventing the human condition on the other? Whether we live in a Panoptic or democratic Net ten years from now depends, in no small measure, on what you and I know and do now. Howard Rheingold, Afterword to The Virtual Community (1994, p. 310)

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Cultural Attitudes Towards Communication and Technology, Proceedings > CATaC Conference 1998
Depositing User: Sissi Kemp
Date Deposited: 26 Aug 2012 17:50
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2012 11:32

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