Interactive Realism

Interactive Realism: The Poetics of Cyberspace

DANIEL DOWNES
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt801zn
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Interactive Realism
    Book Description:

    Distinguishing between the Internet, a communication system, and cyberspace, an environment for human exchange, the author provides a framework for exploring the metaphors and images used in cyberspace to represent and model social reality. He clarifies how these symbolic interactions are linked to the technologies used to create, store, and transmit them and to their social context.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7260-7
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Inventio Fortunata
    (pp. xi-2)

    TheInventio Fortunata,a fourteenth-century account of unknown lands, documented the travels of the Franciscan monk Nicholas of Lynne.¹ This apocryphal tale, which was presented to King Edward III upon Lynne’s return to England, became something of an authoritative guide to travels into the unknown, despite its dubious authenticity. Columbus reportedly (and unsuccessfully) tried to obtain a copy to help guide his own explorations.

    Intellectual explorers of the last decade of the twentieth century described fantastic terrains similar to the imaginary landscapes of Lynne. And like Columbus, these new explorers had few resources to guide them. The uncharted territory was...

  5. 1 The Dual Specificity of Cyberspace
    (pp. 3-16)

    The purpose of this chapter is to clarify some terms and to situate the method of interactive realism in the broader tradition of social constructivism. In the first part I distinguish between the Internet (a technological infrastructure built to facilitate digitized communication) and cyberspace (a particular kind of communicative environment). In the second part I present the elements of interactive realism as a method for analyzing the relationships between technology, metaphor, and social construction.

    One image that has had a lasting impact on the way we both imagine and use cyberspace appeared in William Gibson’s 1984 novelNeuromancer,where he...

  6. 2 The Magic Mirror: Technology and the Transformative Turn
    (pp. 17-36)

    This chapter will explore the first facet of the poetics of cyberspace: the transformative turn, by which is meant the common assumption that technology dramatically restructures people and societies. Perhaps the most appropriate way to introduce the transformative view of technology in the process of social construction is with a story that is not related to cyberspace at all. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” can be read as a story about the unintended and unanticipated consequences of technological development. It also illustrates the common assumption that technology is both the cause of and the solution to social...

  7. 3 Media Ecology, the Prosthetic Other, and the Artifactual Self
    (pp. 37-69)

    If we are, as the media transformationists argue, at the dawn of a new stage in cultural evolution, how will the computer change our understanding of the psyche? To think metaphorically of the machine as human or to think of the human as machine is one way our culture attempts to come to terms with the computer as the predominant tool with which we both communicate and construct social reality. As machines become like us, so too do we become like machines, according to this line of reasoning.

    Two metaphors are particularly useful in exploring the relationship between the human...

  8. 4 Virtuality and the Bit Republic
    (pp. 70-100)

    Recall the image of Feud’s prosthetic god; the modern human’s technological extensions sometimes gave them trouble. Implicit in this image is the assumption of a range of selfhood challenged by the technological ability to reach beyond human capabilities. Technological extensions challenge our sense of self in a variety of ways. A sense of self requires a poetic assemblage of experience. One experiences oneself not as an entity but as having a place from which one perceives and acts and where one is perceived and related to. As argued in the last chapter, the self is ecological, artifactual, and enacted. One...

  9. 5 The Iconic Landscapes of Cyberspace
    (pp. 101-121)

    The topic of this chapter is the poetics of place in relation to the constructed environments within which communicative interactions take place – the character of the places we occupy when we inhabit cyberspace. From the transformative perspective cyberspace embodies Utopian hopes and dystopian disappointments. The Utopian realm of global communication emphasizes the realm of digital communication as a rationally organized environment, contrasted with the disorderly interactions of human bodies. Cyberspace is often assumed to be adigitopianconstruction; it is a working model of the dualist separation of mind and body that provides an example of the importance of actualizing...

  10. 6 From Public Image to Public Memory: Building Heterotopia
    (pp. 122-138)

    In this chapter a third approach to building the iconic landscapes of cyberspace will be presented in the heterotopic attitude (in which multiple places of interaction coexist without being necessarily reducible to one another). This last attitude toward spatial organization might best characterize environments that would allow for social experiment and creativity. Spatial constructions can be self-consciously manufactured and can allow for metaphoric playfulness, although constructed spaces are also influenced and constrained by underlying assumptions about technology, space, and social organization.

    Using the method of interactive realism, we can look at constructions that take the body into account and that...

  11. CONCLUSION: The Fortunes of Invention
    (pp. 139-144)

    Returning to our original metaphor, we come full circle in this examination of cyberspace. Looking at the process of invention (or construction) underlying the stories of cyberspace, we see that an evolutionary view of media ecology misses something of the rich interactions involved in social construction. Themes and images persist, are transformed, and raise broad questions about the relationship between communication, mediation, and reality. I want here, in this brief conclusion, to reclaim the idea of theinventio fortunata, in order to show what we learn from interactive realism and how we might use the method in media and cultural...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 145-166)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-188)
  14. Index
    (pp. 189-192)