Mitchell's City of Bits: Commentary and Discussion

Mobilization of Information, Netspace, Identity, The Cyborg -- Thoughts on Mitchell's "City of Bits"

Joshua Conterio

Mobilization of Information

To coin a term, we have become digital nomads. We have the ability to navigate multiple information systems, moving from location to location and continueing on when we have gleaned what was needed. Information is easier to access due to improved, portable technology. We have reached an era (the Information Age?) where we can simultaneously avoid going to work physically (by telecommuting) yet may also take work with us whereever we go (via cellular phones and modems, laptop computers, and even pagers). We have both gained and lost our freedom. Today many people try to avoid this predicament by leaving these devices behind. An odd paradox, perhaps.


The Net/Web/Whatever can be seen as another spacial dimension. Like the 4th spatial dimension or some sort of astral plane, it can be reached through 3d space, yet is not attached to that coordinate. Well, that's an unclear way of putting it. Perhaps it is a higher plane which brings us closer to new evolutional heights (I'm only semi-serious on this point). Netspace is, physically, all the space in between nodes, it is a web of interconnected lines, a cyclic graph. If two people communicate via a line, their presence is at each end, yet also exists along that cable or airwave. But conceptually they are in limbo. The space, however, is infinite, much like our own universe. Space is linked by it's stars; add more stars, extend space (this is my very simplified understanding of it, forgive me if I'm wrong). The same with cyberspace.


Has the Net become a great equalizer? We become polymorphic in identity when we enter the internet. We have "virtual" personas. They are a reflection of ourselves (even a constructed self), and someone can see them as real, but they are only a psychic projection, if you will. Through small AI programs, we can further extend ourselves. It makes me think of the novel "Aristoi" by the great cyberpunk writer Walter Williams -- multiple personalities which allow multitasking.Should we see this as a threat. Another novel which I recently read, "Stations of the Tide" by Michael Swanwich, depicts autonomous copies of individuals, which in certain cases may live on after the original has died. They attain personal identity. So when does the individual break down?

The Cyborg

I have problems with the definition of "cyborg." I've always thought of it as a directly connected piece of hardware, not something like a walkman. Certainly the extention of the senses, of organs and limbs sounds viable, but when I think of cyborg I thing of the "Terminator" or some such nonesense. I do like the idea of a body network, however. Like LANs and WAN (local/wide area networks) how about PANs (personal area networks). Our brain is the hub, it all works in parallel.