I’m happy to report that a commentary paper that I wrote for The Geographical Journal has just been accepted for publication. The paper, titled “Geography / Internet: Ethereal Alternate Dimensions of Cyberspace or Grounded Augmented Realities?” argues that we too frequently employ unhelpful spatial metaphors to describe the internet. These metaphors matter because they shape how we enact policies and bring places into being.
Please download the paper and let me know if you have any comments or critiques. A short outline is included below:
The internet has fundamentally transformed everyday life for over two billion people around the world. Geographers have had much to say about these changes, and there have been many productive debates about the relationships between geography and the internet. However, it remains that geographers have had relatively little influence on broader debates about the internet in academia, government, and the private sector.
In this commentary, I argue that many of the ways in which we discuss, imagine, and envision the internet rely on inaccurate and unhelpful spatial metaphors. In particular, the paper focuses on the usage of the ‘cyberspace’ metaphor and outlines why the reliance by contemporary policy makers on this inherently geographic metaphor matters. The metaphor constrains, enables, and structures very distinct ways of imagining the interactions between people, information, code, and machines through digital networks. These distinct imaginations, in turn, have real effects on how we enact politics and bring places into being.
The commentary traces the history of ‘cyberspace,’ explores the scope of its current usage, and highlights the discursive power of its distinct way of shaping our spatial imagination of the internet. It then concludes by arguing that Geographers should take the lead in employing alternate, nuanced, and spatially grounded ways of envisioning the myriad ways in which the internet mediates social, economic and political experiences.