The City in Cyberspace -- The Metaverse
Cyberspace as a place has nothing to do with physical reality -- at least that's my opinion on the matter. Neal Stephenson seems to think differently however. 

Following on from the patterns set by humans in the past, he creates what might be described as an electronic city. It is not made out of matter, but exists as a complex amalgamation of software, pixels, bits, sound and imagination. It"s funny that we need to model our electronic world on the city. It"s a great metaphor for hypertext, but that"s only the beginning. We know that the city is about communication. We know that the city deals with people interacting on a high level. Stephenson suggests with his Metaverse that it is possible to create a city entirely distant from the haptic, based entirely on the concept of ideas, information and communication.  

So why do we strive to emulate physical reality in cyberspace? The Metaverse in Snow Crash comes so close to reality that it almost lies atop of it, just like the life size map of the Empire in the Borges Fable [see Baudrillard, Simulacra & Simulation]. Avatars, designed to mimic the physical bodies of real people walk streets which look like real streets. Inhabitants within the Metaverse, check in at the office, they locate documents in folders in filing cabinets, they find information in libraries. How antiquated can you get? 

Whatever, you might find in our physical world down here on earth, you are sure to find in the Metaverse. Except of course it's not quite as good, because there are gaps in the software: no skies, no pavements.  

    The only difference is that since the street does not really exist -- it"s just a piece of computer-graphics protocol written down on a piece of paper somewhere-none of these things is being physically built. They are rather, pieces of software, made available to the public over the world-wide fiber-optics network [Snow Crash, p. 25]. 
Stephenson thus admits himself that the Metaverse is not reality as we know it. It is a simulated reality. And in order to make ourselves feel more at home within our parallel universe we fill it with stuff that we feel comfortable with. 
Return to City Home Page