Decentralized Space

Jeff Pack '99, Brown University (English 112, 1996)

Cyberspace and Literary Theory

We found ourselves rapidly approaching a condition in which every last bit of computer memory in the world would be electronically linked to every other. And those links will last forever. Because its electronic underpinnings are so modular, geographically dispersed, and redundant, cyberspace is essentially indestructible. You can't demolish it by cutting links with backhoes or sending commandos to blow up electronic installations, and you can't even nuke it. (The original ARPANET was, in fact, explicitly designed to withstand nuclear attack.) If big chunks of the network were to be wiped out, messages would automatically reroute themselves around the damaged parts. If some memory or processing power were to be lost, it could quickly be replaced. Since copies of digital data are absolutely exact replicas of the originals, it doesn't matter if the originals get lost or destroyed. And since multiple copies of files and programs can be stored at widely scattered locations, eliminating them all with certainty is as hard as lopping hydra heads.

--William J. Mitchell, City of Bits

The Internet has no command center, no central hub, no lynchpin. Every "space" is defined by its relation to other spaces in the network; a space linked to no other has no useful existence, and thus to those within other spaces it does not exist. In contrast, a space with many links to and from it conveys a more "open" space (a public agora rather than a private cloister).


Cyberspace Web Digital Redefinitions Places