An Infinite Regression

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Week 4 – Cyberspace

Coined by Will Gibson in 1982, the word ‘Cyberspace’ was used in his novel Burning Chrome to describe a way in which users could physically immerse themselves in an electronic medium. The idea of cyberspace has been one of the main driving points behind the science fiction genre. A great example of this is The Matrix. However Gibson himself has said that cyberspace is is actually “evocative and meaningless” and was more of a buzzword than anything else. However the term has changed since the 80’s and now cyberspace is more actively used as a way of describing the global network of information infrastructure. It has more or less become a more conventional way of describing any activity that takes place in or is associated to the internet and its culture. Since it’s inception in the early 80’s, cyberspace has gone from a buzzword with next to no actual meaning to being an all-encompassing, collective definition for anything that occurs on the internet.


 (Thill, 2009, March 19, 1948: William Gibson, Father of Cyberspace, Wired.)


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Internet Relay Chat (or IRC)

IRC was at, one point, one of that largest and most used ‘parts’ of the internet, mainly during the 90’s. Simply defined, IRC is  chatroom; a very primitive one at that. Basically you would type messages and send them into the main chatroom, or ‘channel’, and communicate with others.

In the early days of IRC you would have to download an IRC client in order to access an IRC channel. However now days, at least in Google Chrome, the browser has a client built into it making a third party client largely redundant. Anybody with access to the internet could hop onto one of these IRC channels and talk to anyone of the people connected to it. This allowed people from across the globe to communicate with one another without ever actually meeting.

Although IRC was initially invented in 1988 it never really exploded until 1991 when users were suing the IRC channels to get up-to-date information about the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. The IRC channel that was linked into the country stayed active up to a week after the television and radio broadcast networks were taken down. An archived copy of the IRC chat can be found here.

Now days IRC is not used as much anymore due to the rise of other, more user friendly, instant messaging services; most notably MSN Messenger (now known as Windows Live messenger), Yahoo Messenger and AOL Messenger. IRC now is mostly seen as a low tech way of communicating but is still widely used in some online communities.

One notable mention should be the use of IRC by hacker groups as well as the hacktivist group, Anonymous. IRC channels are widely favoured by these groups for their ability to handle large groups of people as well as giving the users the option to appear anonymously. Anonymous especially used IRC channels to organise wide spread DDOS attacks in 2010.

IRC channels lead the way for modern instant messaging programs. It could be argued that without the existence of IRC channels; MSN, Yahoo, AOL Messenger and the like would not have come to fruition. IRC allowed the sharing of information in real time to people all over the world.



Internet relay chat (IRC) history 1996, viewed 6 August 2012

Stenberg, D 2011. History of IRC (Internet relay chat), viewed 6 August 2012

Correll, S 2010. ‘Tis the season of DDOS – wikileaks edition, viewed 6 August 2012

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How I communicate with the outside world via technology (or Tutorial task 2)

So this weeks tutorial task got us to look at how we communicate online with others, whether it be friends or family.

To me, I do a lot of my socialising online through Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter and Tumblr, as well as through Skype. Before Facebook we used MySpace, and before that Bebo, and before that we actually spoke to one another. Not to say that I don’t actually speak to anybody anymore, I’m more saying that now that most of the people I know use these online social networking sites I find it easier to communicate with them. These social mediums have essentially cut out the need to actually speak to someone face to face. Gone are the days of leaving school and not seeing your friends until the next day. Nowadays when you go home your friends come home with you as well.

So to answer our first pre-determined question; I’ve been using online social networking tools for around 5 years, longer if you count the days of talking to my friends via the chat function of whatever popular online game we were playing in Primary School.  As for what influenced me to start using them? I’d have to say simply because my friends did. If I wanted to stay up-to-date with how my friends were talking with one another I would have to use whatever social tool they were using at the time (which explains my use of Bebo and MySpace *shudder*).

My concerns for my own privacy on these online networking sites are pretty low. I’ve read a lot on how Facebook tracks your browsing data and saves your personal information and have come to terms with how it is. I’ve accepted the fact that Facebook does this and it doesn’t bother me THAT much. You can control fairly easily the information that you share on Facebook so it’s simple to control what is and isn’t shared with the outside world. And if you’re extremely privacy conscious then you simply don’t have to sign up. Simply put; Facebook tracking and sharing your information is going to happen, you just have to accept it and not put anything on there that you wouldn’t want shared with the outside world.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Facebook (and Google) is in the right here. I do think that it is a breach of privacy for these websites to be able to track you across the web. Any website you visit that has a “Like on Facebook” or “Share this on Facebook” button is stored on the Facebook database as a site you have visited. Your entire browsing history saved without your control. Granted that only happens if you leave your Facebook signed in permanently like I do, because I’m lazy. However we sign away our privacy rights as soon as we accept the Terms & Conditions of Facebook.

As for people that I solely know via the internet, I actually have quite a few. Many of which I’ve known for years and talk to quite regularly. Most of them I know on varying different levels. I’ve got a friend who in Canada who I email every now and then who runs a potato farm, a friend in Singapore who is midway through his conscripted military service in the police, an aspiring entrepreneur from Holland, an art student from New York as well as various others from all walks of life. I find that I talk to some of these people less than I do my normal friends, but when I do we have far more meaningful conversations, somewhat like old friends catching up. We might exchange photos of our families or a recent holiday that we went on, that sort of stuff. I find that my conversations with them are richer in quality but lacking in quantity.