The fall of cyberspace and the rise of data

Authored by: Martin Hand

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter traces the life of cyberspace as a metaphor for conceptualizing the relations between digital media technologies and culture in its broadest sense. It focuses on the ways in which the term “cyberspace” has morphed over time, as digitization has now affected all dimensions of culture and its conceptual and empirical analysis. The chapter begins by discussing how notions of cyberspace have often been uncritically replaced by those of the “cloud” and “social media platforms.” It then reviews the scholarship on cyberspace through three largely heuristic variants, each of which has been periodically dominant: cyberspace as an immaterial cultural autonomy, as a central myth of Western culture, and as material, data-centric everyday practices. The chapter argues that the spatial qualities of the cyberspace metaphor are inadequate for understanding the mediatization and datafication of everyday life. These processes raise considerable challenges for how we understand the materiality of digital traces and memory, the visibility and transparency of ordinary practices, and the contested classifications of individuals, populations, and cultures through digital means.

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