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Deconstructing the Sphere

Deconstructing the Sphere

In the spirit of French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida, who died a few months ago, let's indulge ourselves in a little wordplay of our own this month. Don't worry, I haven't read much of Derrida's work, and am hardly qualified to comment on it. The good news is, that thanks to the Internet and World Wide Web, I don't have to be. You can find all the Derridaesque analysis you want through the most basic of yahoo or google searches. As one blog puts it, "we are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future." How could I possibly top that worthy goal?

But mention of the Web and of a blog leads to my own deconstructionist point. The Internet was abstractly thought of as a net (duh!), an interconnected structure through which messages could travel through myriad possible paths to reach its goal. It could simply go from point A to point B, but mostly likely took the scenic route and meandered through point XY and perhaps point 4RQ, which I understand is lovely this time of year.

The Web was abstractly thought of as a...web, that's right, which sounds to me like a more densely-weaved net. Oh, and it is worldwide, in distinction from the Net, which was originally envisioned in the U.S. Never mind that the Net was truly global when the Web was invented, the idea of a "worldwide" web probably sounded very egalitarian to an Englishman living in Switzerland, and it also made for a crackling domain prefix of WWW.

In any case, both of these structures are fundamentally two-dimensional in shape. Now, don't get all pedantic on me and tell me that all physical structures are three-dimensional, even if only a single atom thick, and that therefore the Net and the Web shouldn't be considered part of Flatland. Let me tell the story, kid.

Now, to my point (understated drum roll, please). The great breakthrough in the past few years as been to think of cyberspace in three dimensions. As in WebSphere. As in the blogosphere. As in, well, as in cyberspace. Add the fourth dimension of time, measured in billionths, if not trillionths, of a second, and we can start appreciating what we have wrought. A fully-functioning universe consisting of simple electrons that transmit great thoughts, banal conversations, and perhaps, ultimate truth.

Cyberspace has been thought of as three-dimensional at least since the Neuromancer days envisioned by William Gibson. But until we started naming our products and our concepts in these terms, we were just toodling along in a flat, inefficient grid that was better equipped to send words than images.

With the advent of common usage of the word "sphere" in our conversations, we are equipping ourselves with the abstract concepts that will lead to fruition of our great ideas.

By creating an abstract world metaphysically similar to our own, we can start to bring life of sorts into it. We can now solve all problems, small or large, by a simple application of our new stone tools.

We can even talk of IT ecosystems as living, breathing things. Not things carrying the dystopic message of a malignant intelligence that threatens our existence. Not all living, breathing things have intelligence (and most of us are living, breathing proof of that on a daily basis). But they can be dynamic, responsive to conditions, able to evolve, and capable of spawning new ideas (whether we call them revs, iterations, or paradigms).

By simple use of the word "sphere," we have reconstructed the older way of thinking in terms of a mere Net or Web. We are thinking as grandly as possible so that we can build things as specifically as possible.

Yeah, sure, sometimes these tools make nothing more than viruses or spam or data correlations that enable annoying telemarketing callers to interrupt dinner or the ballgame. But most of you are doing good in this newly conceived sphere of ours, right?

As Jacques Derrida himself wrote, "That the particularity of the example does not interfere with the generality of my argument is a point which I shall occasionally - try not merely to take for granted." Uh, yeah, I couldn't agree more...

More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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