Given my interest in theology and The New Media Frontier I try to learn as much as I can about theology and the cyberworld to see how the two relate and interact with one another.
So I have just run across an online book that looks to be very helpful in understanding cyberspace. It's called "The Psychology of Cyberspace" by Dr. John Suler of Rider University. I'm very late to the party here as Dr. Suler has been working on this project for 10 years now, but hey, better late than never. Dr. Suler also has a blog companion to the book which is in my rss reader.
I'm going to try to work my way through the book and I thought I would mention it as I am sure there are many who are interested in the subject - hopefully it will be of help.
Here is a kind of intro to the book which is on Dr. Suler's "Overview and Guided Tour" page:
The Basic Psychological Qualities of Cyberspace
Cyberspace is psychological space. Its social climate partly is shaped by its demographics. As a world structured by machines rather than the physical environment, it also is a space with some rather unique psychological features - such as reduced or altered sensory experience, the opportunity for identity flexibility and anonymity, the equalization of social status, the transcending of spatial boundaries, the stretching and condensation of time, the ability to access numerous relationships, the capacity to record permanent records of one's experiences, and the "disinhibition effect".... to name a few. It is a world with its own language. As a virtual reality, it stretches across a wide range from the simulated true-to-life experiences of webcams to the highly imaginative environments of avatar communities. In this reality we gain new insights into the meaning of "presence."
Cyberspace may even be an altered state of consciousness, a dreamlike world, that addresses a basic human need to experience oneself and reality from a different perspective. It is psychological space that becomes an extension of one's conscious and unconscious mind . We could even imagine the global network that comprises the whole internet as a larger transcending mind or "self" which reflects the evolution of human consciousness. The first conscious machine maybe not come as a stand-alone HAL 9000, but as the internet-mind. A grandiose, but conceivable thought!
But let's not be fooled into thinking that everything about the internet is grand. Cyberspace is not always benign. It also has the power to inflict frustration, apprehension, and stupidity, as revealed in our jokes about computers and the internet. Sometimes, it even fails at its fundamental duty to be interactive, to respond to our needs, resulting in a black hole experience that can draw out the underlying anxieties of those who fall into it. As the population in cyberspace booms - as large chunks of the internet take shape as market place, soapbox, and mischievous, even hostile playground - we also must learn how to cope with the unwanted junk called "spam" that threatens to clog our attempts to communicate.
From this you can see that he's not a novice nor a fanboy, it looks like he has done some deep reflection on the topic and I, for one am looking forward to getting into it.
Also, many thanks to Dr. Suler for making this available on the internet.