The more time I spend working online the more I become aware of the formation of a new disembodied subjectivity within cyberspace. This subjectivity is being constructed from being plugged into our computers with their wired and wireless telecommunication networks. Nicholas Negroponte, of the MIT Media Laboratory, calls these existential modes "being digital", whilst Timothy Luke prefers the notion of "cybernetic subjectivity." These terms suggest that human beings are experiencing new forms of consciousness and agency through the online channels provided by computerized calculations, communications and codes.
The telecommuter, the hacker, the web surfer, the newbie, the weblogger, the hot chatterer or the on-line child pornographer all constitute new locations in/of existence for people to represent (or mispresent) themselves and others as cybersubjects. These locations of individual agency and identity provide new social roles to invent an online presence as a cyberagent engaged in cultural activity----exemplified in the public masks of many Oz webloggers.
The bandwidth constraining most network communications now more or less dictates that digital beings represent themselves and interact with others through a textual interface; though this will change as more visuals and video become ever more prevalent as people buy increasing bandwidth.
The current understanding of digital being veers back and forth between states of existence defined either by serious work roles or fantastic play roles. On the one hand, we have symbolic analysts in government offices or corporate firms working more on-line. Is the work future being marked by the highly mobile, symbolic-analyst tech workers, with their laptops and modems linked into their physical workplaces, performing new types of free, self-guided, pleasant labor at home, the beach, by the marina or in the mountains?What is increasingly clear is that 'digital being' is being sold---by the Wired Magazine crowd---as a liberated subjectivity that is able to go anywhere anytime and still stay within productive, efficient work relations.
On the other hand, the formation of cybersexual subjectivity can be thoroughly fantastic and playful. It goes beyond casual sex through Internet dating to hook up to a body to release their sexual desires as efficiently as possible, or an easy going familiarity with porn in a techo-world. Cybersexual subjectivity is a disembodied subjectivity, because physical bodies often do not appear in the online interface, digital sexual beings can choose to be male, female, young, old, heterosexual, homosexual, transsexual, etc. even if they are not. They can be whatever they want to be. Virtual identity varies widely in cybersex, allowing anyone to do anything anytime with anyone or anything.
Some cybernetic theorists take this cybersubjectivity to an extreme conclusion of a digital human life beyond the body. Hans Moravec at Carnegie-Mellon University asks: why not transfer all of a living human being's memories, intelligence, agency, knowledge, and experience as sophisticated computer code onto chips or into software. In such a case, does a living human being become another kind of PDA--a personified digital data---a postbionic agent, or a disembodied humanoid digital being. The death of the human body is sublated by a new "brain life" in cyberspace as a cyberbiota.
The new forms of cybersubjectivity often take distorted forms. A recent example is pedophilia asociated with the child pornographer linked into child porn websites, such as Candyman or Landslide.
It is the practice of weblogging that takes me further into a cybersubjectivity, as I increasingly turn my innercity home into an electronic space and become a part of the information city. The publicity of the information revolutionists ----the computer makers, telecom providers, software writers, and network servers--- says that they are producing a better world out of the new social movements of technology. This is what sits behind the hard market sell of promoting "the information society", through selling personal computers, digital telephony, packaged software or network time. A better world? I'm not sure. What the information revolution is doing is creating the infrastructure for "cities of cyber-bits" with their own "virtual geographies."
But we are changing by becoming plugged into these technologies. Their revolutionary effects are changing individuals and institutions in unanticipated ways. The first signs of this from weblogging is the waay we behave differently: we spend more and more time online, less time with family and friends; we live strange hours, with not enough sleep; web turn more and more to being affirmed by the hits on the weblog and emails from our weblog readers, than the face-to face encountersof the past. Intimacy goes, friction develops, and those who remain on the outside of the cyberworld see it as a junk life they do not want to share. Conflict arises.
Increasingly, I find myself moving more and more of my current-day material, synchronous, co-located face-to-face interactions into cyberspace; increasingly I am moving towards using high-speed, large bandwidth networks so that I can engage ever more extensively in cyber-real, disembodied and dislocated screen-to-screen interactions.
These desires cost money, and I am now paying ever more amounts of money to phone companies and internet service providers to be free, civic or social. And I am will to shift my innercity home to the info-business districts so that I can accss more data flows in the information superhighways and participate more fully in the info-city. Increasingly, I turn my back on the urban spaces where the informationally-incompetent reside, and leave the cybernetically-obsolete in the dust.
I'm not sure that I like what is happening or what I am becoming.
Through weblogging about public things we are become cybercitizens who inhabit a communalized virtual space in their "info-city." Is this claim more than another public relations ploy by the digiterati seduced by high tech? Well, we new digital beings living in cybercities need to consider thoroughly the nature of this civic project. Is their a civic project?
Weblogging on public things that matter means that the info-city is not simply a shorthand for reinforcing the powers of an info-market or info-bureaucracy. We do have cybercitizens particularly amongst the young. Many of the older generation are withdrawing from public life to the family, coastal holidays and looking after the roses.
But what is not forming is a new social architecture to plan and develop a cyber-real estate for cybercitizens, or to facilitate the development of a new info-civics that organizes and criticizes the quality of info-civilized life in cybercitie. Despite the existence of cybercitizens the digital civics project is barely off the ground.
Though we may have a cybersubjectivity and extensive information network systems. we do not have a digital democracy.