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New Left Review I/211, May-June 1995


Julian Stallabrass

Empowering Technology: The Exploration of Cyberspace

The face of Thomas Paine, rendered in yellow and pink, graces the cover of the first British edition of Wired, [1] Wired (London), vol. 1, no. 1, 1995. a successful magazine from the United States devoted to proselytizing the benefits of computer networking. [*] The present article is an edited version of a chapter from the author’s forthcoming Verso book Gargantua. For the technophile devotees of this subject, it is far more than a tool; rather it will usher in a complete transformation of every facet of our lives, no less than a mental and eventually a material revolution. On the cover, too, appear the words, ‘We have it in our power to begin the world over again’, the recast ‘digital revolutionary’ being summoned up to defend the global Net from threats of restriction, governmental and commercial. Yet networking alone is an insufficient peg on which to hang a visionary future in which all human relations are forever changed. The environment in which all digitized media promise to combine and be exchanged has been called cyberspace. It is a curious subject for discussion, because as yet it hardly exists, but this has not hindered previews of its concepts and ideals being constantly played out in theory and fiction. These writings, which look to an unbridled technology to fulfil their wishes, visions and nightmares, can tell us much about attitudes to information, identity and the future.

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