Cyberspace: the Safe Harbour

Cyberspace has become a safe harbour; a welcoming place for most, where the possibility of  anonymity facilitates the expression of desires, needs or actions which are too hard to express or simply prohibited by society or law in real life. This ‘safety’ can cause problems for lawmakers and gatekeepers, whose traditional view of networks and their regulation still bases themselves upon the communications networks which came before computers; telegraphy, telephony, television, and radio.   The Internet, the bare bones supporting cyberspace, is a space that is incredibly difficult to police, due to its intentionally scattered, decentralized nature, born from a need for a network which would ‘…operate while in tatters’ (Sterling 1993). The net, and its nodes and connections, has evolved so far from its original conception as a military precaution during the Cold War, that virtually all human interaction has grown to rely on digital information networks, at least in the Western World (Stalder 2005).

This is jokingly, but profoundly, realized by a recent site which has been created by Australian graduate Alex Haigh, The site is a commentary on the tendency of modern society in the age of digital convergence to be constantly attached to their smartphones. Our tendency to ‘snub’ those that we our with physically, while on a date, at a party, in a restaurant etc, by being absorbed in what is happening in cyberspace on our net-integrated smartphones has led to a decline in one-to-one interaction, as demonstrated by the website. The site uses comedic infographics and statistics, voting and gallery widgets, an ‘intervention’ submission form to send to known ‘phubbers’ (phone snubbers), and downloadable content, to demonstrate how people may be using social media more but being ‘social’ less.  Seward Hamilton, Associate Professor of Psychology at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, says he finds his students disconnecting from real life “because they cannot build relationships among their immediate peers”. Jessica Scott, editor at The Collegian of Houston Baptist University, claims that

‘modern technology has defaced the art of communication.”

The Internet promotes the flow of information, the strengthening of coordination and the freeing of information from matter (Mitew 2013). Before the Internet, knowledge and the spreading of news and ideas was bogged down in the possibilities of the technology at hand; even during the advent of the telegraph, all messages had to be relayed to the receiver by paper note, and newspapers, big and bulky, were one of the only ways to get consistent news from outside your suburb or town.

Telephony and the Internet has “freed information from matter” (Mitew 2013). We can communicate news in seconds, faster than ever before, broadcasting our own information, as well as the information of others, to help each other, discuss issues, report news, and share updates on our lives (Williams 2009).  Tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and Google Hangouts, are just a few of the networking platforms which have extended our ability to connect with individuals and groups across the world. As a current Australian election candidate for the Senate, Julian Assange is using these tools, and others, to conduct an election campaign remotely from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, his own ‘safe harbour’, by speaking to his party, his followers, the media and voters via video conference and social media, demonstrating the power of the Internet (Miller 2013).

So what will happen next in the story of cyberspace? Direct message tweets from brain to brain? Video conferences between the Curiosity Mars Rover and Kevin Rudd in space? We’ll see.


Stalder, F. 2005, ‘Information Ecology’. In Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks, pp. 62-66,

Sterling, B. 1993, ‘A Short History of the Internet’, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February, Yale Divinity Library


8 thoughts on “Cyberspace: the Safe Harbour

  1. seannyy says:

    The Stop Phubbing Site is super interesting and hilarious! I like how you have shown both positives and negatives of cyber culture, as it can be a ‘safety’ issue for lawmakers and take away from ‘Real Life’ experience, but also the technological advances we have made allow us to share information so much more efficiently – it gave me a clearer picture of it all in such an easy-to-read summary.


  2. lorenvettoretto says:

    Your last remark made me laugh, reminded me of a Simpsons episode where they skip to the future and can send “b-mails” (brain mail) to each other. it’s so bazaar to think about it now but I bet nobody predicted we could be able to send e-mails. it’s also interesting to see influential public and political figures using Twitter to spread their news. I think it’s so much more efficient than tradition media/news broadcasting as they’re able to instantaneously interact with their audience/followers.


  3. chjvu says:

    I love how you have reminded us that the Internet is not only just facilitating humans’ communication but actually hindering it to the roots. Humans have become so heavily reliant on the Internet to communicate or voice themselves, they have forgotten their own true voices. Well done, Gemma!


  4. bjayh says:

    I really liked this post for a number of reasons, but most of all I liked how you looked at both sides of the coin in regards to the issues that surround Web2.0. That said I’m left without any indication of your own feelings on the matter. It is one thing to state facts and draw conclusions which you have quite masterfully, so much so you put some people to shame in comparison, but I feel that your own weight would give that little bit more to what is actually a very well rounded post.


  5. mattbernard1 says:

    Hi, good post! I like your balanced arguments in favour and against the issue. I myself am guilty of all the negatives in this article. However, oddly enough I don’t view them as negatives; I don’t know where I’d be without them! Being a fairly introverted person myself I find hiding behind my phone a great tool. Same goes for less social interaction, I’m a bit of a shut-in myself and tend to ironically spend a lot of my time talking to, and making friends online, and I would argue that the majority of the friendships that I consider valuable have been made through this method, but hey, that’s just me.


  6. paulieecic92 says:

    Its a really interesting point you make about human tendencies to ‘snub’ those with we are with physically, for content, people and information that exists within Cyberspace.

    A similar chain of thought is how humans will turn to their mobile devices, particularly mobile phones, to avoid awkward social situations. Techland Time quoted that in 2011, “13% of Americans apparently use their devices to avoid “unwanted personal interactions,” or rather, pretend to use their phones to dodge having to talk to people in real life.”

    Its funny how many times I can remember myself doing this, attempting to shelter from any awkward social stigmas. Funny how if anything, appearing occupied by your mobile, only adds to an awkward situation.

    Read more:


  7. slbracken says:

    Such a great post, a really great commentary on content for this week. I am a massive phone snubber, much to my own dismay and disapproval. I am have become so reliant on being constantly connected to the exorbitant amount of platforms my online persona exists on that to be away from a News Feed makes me anxious.. I’m not even participating that much, just remaining connected to cyberspace. Also, great use of the Assange example, love it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s