Masters Research

What follows is the Abstract to my Masters degree dissertation.

An End to Cyberspace? Metaphor, Affect and Socio-Technical Relations

Despite twenty-five years of the personal computer and a wealth of literature on all things ‘cyber-‘ the discussion of computer-mediated communication largely remains pre-figured by (misguided) binaries, such as ‘material’-‘electronic’ and ‘real’-‘virtual’. This dissertation (re)examines the metaphorical concepts enfolded in constituting computer-mediated place(s). Given the upsurge of social networking websites, this inquiry attends to the place(s) of contemporary phenomenon MySpace.com. After Doreen Massey and Nigel Thrift I utilise prominent theories of relationality, namely Actor-Network Theory. This is situated in an understanding, through the work of philosopher Gilles Deleuze and geographers such as J-D Dewsbury and Nigel Thrift, of a ceaselessly taking-place or becoming world, significantly motivated by the affectual. Following influential work on metaphor by Lakoff and Johnson and work on socio-technical relations, by geographers such as Nick Bingham and Stephen Graham, I chart a typology of transcendental, co-evolutionary and recombinatory metaphors for the Internet, with examples from a cross-section of literature. Evaluating how these metaphors are enrolled in the conception of place(s) is achieved through a dual methodology of interviews, with expert technological commentators and practitioners, and experimental Internet-based participant observation, using MySpace.com. I discuss the manner in which socio-technical assemblages such as MySpace can be considered place(s) through empirical evidence, arguing that a relational approach reveals a finer granularity and nuance to the production and performance of place. Interwoven through my analysis is an attention to the role of the pre-cognitive and impersonal motivations of affect. I move on to evaluate how our normative spatial metaphors orientate or map computer-mediated place(s) framed by the aforementioned typology of metaphor. This dissertation proposes an end to over-simplistic and technologically determinate notions of ‘cyberspace’ by offering a beginning – a conceptualisation of place as an intensity of socio-technical relations, which are an increasingly significant part of the intermeshing skein of networks that makes up the social world.

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