Visionaries and Notions of Cyberspace

Cyberspace: ‘A term introduced by the novelist William Gibson in 1984 to describe an abstract virtual space created in part by networks of interconnecting computers and in part by the human imagination.’ (Oxford Dictionary of Communication and Media, 2011)

The contemporary concern of cyberspace and virtual reality is something that William Gibson regards as a consensual hallucination. We have categorically labeled demographics, aiming to represent and stereotype behaviours associated with technology and the Internet. However, this assumption of generational difference regarding media consumption is somewhat inaccurate. Generation X and Generation Y are simply measured by the way they have adapted through mass transitions of technology and media forms. Generation Z (“The Google Generation”) may have only ever been surrounded by a digital environment, but this does not necessarily mean they are more or less dependent on technology or that their media consumption is higher.

The way I see it, all demographics are in the same boat, with a different view over the edge. Generation X has had the privilege to grow through decades of technological convergence, and whether they choose to keep up-to-date and participate, ultimately comes down to personal choice. Vannevar Bush examines past inventions in his article “As We May Think”,  reflecting that even back in 1945, scientific developments have benefitted humanity in ways never thought possible. The stereotype that Gen X is inadequate with relation to new technologies perhaps evolved from the majority being comfortable in their already non-technologically dependent lifestyles. They lived for so long without tech-savvy gadgets, and may not see the need or convenience. Gen Y have been familiarised with new technologies at an imperative time of mental growth, presumably connecting them more dependently to new forms of media, in particular social networking. The emergence of selfies is an example of Gen Y’s obsession with self-representation and the need for constant validation. Behaviours of Gen Y on networking platforms typically surround issues regarding attention-worthy online and offline identities.

GOOGLE_chappattImage source

This paves a way for Generation Z. The concern here is that without knowledge of life with no online profile, social identities are being completely constructed on social media platforms. Furthermore, educational concerns are at an all time high, as The Google Generation’s  general attitude toward online content is the infinite ability of having ‘facts at their fingertips’. The immense amount of information being scanned through immobilizes a creative and independent thought process. With Gen Z deeming search engines such as Google as an Internet brand,2014 being the fourth year in a row it has topped the most trusted Internet Brand List. Research libraries have no option but to adjust to the enormous transformation in the way that scholarly information is being sought and used electronically. Social media platforms have conditioned the young to expect dynamic and personalised content experiences, which research libraries are struggling to compete with. The shift from the library as a physical space to a virtual environment has immeasurable implications. With high demand for around-the-clock accessibility and immediate answers, librarians are anxious and threatened by having to match these services provided by Google. The materialization of social media is altering the nature and fabric of the World Wide Web. We have strayed from an Internet constructed by certain authorities to one where content is being generated by millions. This notion is of specific interest to librarians and publishers as it blurs the line between information producers and information consumers, by users having the ability to create and share their own content.

‘In a real sense, we are all Google generation now: the demographics of Internet and media consumption are rapidly eroding this presumed generational difference.’ (Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future: A Ciber Briefing Paper, 2008, p21)

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