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Introduction: Welcome to Cyber Psychology
This is a report that I, Takeshi Hiraoka, has composed as an assignment for a class (PSY 409a) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The ideas expressed are of my own in their entirety, unless otherwise specified, and do not express the ideas and/or opinions of the school nor the professor (Dr. Leon James). I reviewed the documents at hand, namely Dr. James' homapage, reports done by Generation 4a of the generational curriculum, and other resources on the net. My own personal background consists of about 2 and a half years of net surfing half of which I experimented with creating my own pages. These are the results.
What the Instructor Says: Dr. Leon James on Cyber Psychology
Dr. Leon James brings up some interesting point in his page about Cyber Psychology. Some topics which piqued my interest was Cyberspace and Mind, Virtual Reality, and Spirituality and Cyberspace. In the section entitled "Cyberspace and Mind", interaction through the computer is not an isolated, introverted activity reserved to a "lone individual enslaved by the machine". Instead, he states that the computer is a "convinient and powerful extention of the human mind" and that "when we use computers we are having an exchange with other humans, through the machine, not with the machine". Dr. James feels that it is our "eagerness to communicate and the desire to be heard by another that activate those fingers [to click and type away on the Web]". It is exactly this interaction that sustains and creates the virtual reality we call cyberspace.
Cyberspace is indeed a virtual realilty and Dr. James explains it, "like [the] mind, is not in physical space, without extension, distance or mass". He states that by actively contributing to the internet, by posting in newsgroups, surfing the net, putting up homepages, downloading files, and e-mailing people, cyberspace is created. He goes on to state the benefits of this medium as compared to more traditional media such as snail mail, newspapers, and magazines. According to Dr. James the "depth" and "frequency of exchange" is increased. Something posted on the web has the potential of reaching millions of people immediately after it has been posted. This in turn gives it the potential to illicit an immediate reaction from its readers, something print media would never be able to do. This is true in the case of mail as well. One can send e-mail and recieve a response in as little time as a few minutes. One can do this over and over in a course of one day. Something like this would be totally impossible if one were to use snail mail. Dr. James also states that "populular sites become whirlpools of information exchange with thousands of people examining the same set up simulatneously". It is this exchange of information which is the essence of cyberspace.
Another topic in Dr. James' page that interested me was Spirituality and Cyberspace. Dr. James states, in his lectures, that the definition of spirituality is simply the mind and that it is a popular misconception that it has anything to do with religion. He also states that "when we choose to click on a hypertext link we are performing a spiritual act". By clicking, or actively choosing which links we wish to pursue, it "creates virtual reality, shapes it, makes it more dense, more visible, more accessible to self and others". This sharing of information is a spiritual act "transcending demographic and ethnic identities". It is a "ethical, economic, and psychological act".
These ideas are important because it reflect the depth which some precieve the internet to be. Some of us see the internet as a source of information and information exchange. Some see it as a source of economic opportunity. And some see it as ethical, moral, and spiritual. It is important to compare and contrast your own views with those of others' to gain new ideas or to affirm the old. It is with this open minded attitude one must approach the internet.
What Generation 4 Says: Carbon Copy
In this section I examined all of the reports in the generation which came before us (G4) and picked three that was particularly interesting to me.
The frustrating part of my review of the reports done by G4 was that all the reports seem to be saying the same thing, over and over and over.... Well, you get the idea. They all pointed to the same links, contained the same ideas and principles, and some even used the same strategies in explaining them (for example "let's break this word down into its components to REALLY find out what it means"). It was interesting to see that there was absolutely no one that disagreed with anything that was said in Dr. James' page. Can that be? Not even one question was raised taking a different prespective or viewpoint (with the possible exeption of one report). Can it be true that everyone in that particular class thought exactly as Dr. James does. I highly doubt it.
Another aspect that bothered me was the incredible amount of erronious information which these reports were distributing freely. They give false definitions and lead illogical conclusions. This is based on what I've read on Dr. James' homepage as well as the discussions we have in his classes. I realize these are rather harsh accusations but if you think it's not true, go take a look (all of these are report four of generation 4a). I know that the internet is a free medium, and that anyone and everyone has the right to speak their mind. Afterall, that is one the best qualities about the internet. But if erroneous information is distributed as a research report for a class with a professor claiming to be an authority on the subject, this adds some importance and weight to the document and the ideas within. I am not saying that any idea that opposes the authoriy which is associated should be altered to conform into the thoughts and views of the authority. Absolutely not. What I am saying is blatantly erroneous information, whether it be intentional or otherwise, should be monitored for and corrected.
Anyway, here are the three students I chose to focus on for this report. Ginger Andrews, Mary Rose Isnec, and Kai Hansjuergens.
What I Am Saying: My Take on the Whole Thing
After careful review of the documents mentioned, I came to the conclusion that the mind is indeed very much like cyberspace. This I agree with. It organizes things much in the same way, virtually has no known limits, and contains a vast variety of information. What I don't agree with is that taking it a step further and to state that our activities in cyberspace is somehow spiritual. I believe that the act of clicking is driving by curiosity and interest, not morality and ethics. The word moral is defined as follows: 1. relating to, dealing with, or capable of making the distinction between, right and wrong in conduct. 2. relating to the principles of right and wrong. 3. good or right in conduct of character. (Webster's New World Dictionary, Second Edition, 1984). I don't believe that clicking has anything to do with the "principles of right and wrong". One navigates to a particular point in cyberspace because that person is interested in obtaining more knowledge about a particular topic or, drivien by that curiosity and interest, seeks out images, sound files, and applications that are relative to that topic. Dr. James uses the broader sense of the word moral or moral choice. Dr. James states that any choice one makes is a moral one whether or not it is thought of as so. I encourage Dr. James to include this fact, though it may be a minor fact, in his page to completely explain this concept. I'm sure I am not the only person who did not think of the broader definition of the word and simply discount this idea because they may feel that clicking is in no way a moral decision.
Another idea I was bothered with while I was reading throught the documents was why the field of cyber psychology seemed to be almost exclusively a cyberspace phenomenon. In all of the materials I read, no one explained principles of technophobia, malicious acts having to do with computers (hacking, computer virus), and other such topics. If cyber psychology is really what these people explain them to be (cyber = computer, psychology = study of the mind) then it should encompass all of these topics. If it doesn't, it should be labeled as such to avoid any misunderstanding or misconception. For example, Dr. John Suler's page is entitled "Human Becomes Electric: The Basic Psychological Features of Cyberspace". Many of the documents I read simply stated it as a homepage on cyber psychology. Are these two things really the same?
Virtual Reality. Is this also exclusively a cyberspace phenomenon? Well if we go by the numerous definitions given by the G4 students, no I don't think so. VIRTUAL = nearly. REALITY = the quality or state of being real. So I can interpret this combination of words to mean "nearly real". Cyberspace does certainly fit into this category but so does many other things. Dreams (day and night) and alternate states of consciousness induced by meditation, drugs, and/or mental disorders all would be a type of VIRTUAL REALITY, don't you think? I realize that this is a cyberpsychology course, and therefore discuss matters relevant to computers and technology, but I believe that if people are going to talk about virtual reality, they should at least discuss the term in its entirety before specializing in a particular area, cyberspace in this case. I also feel that Dr. James should try to fix, or have the author of the document fix, erronious statements such as, "Virtual Reality only exist in the computer world" (taken from Carol Ohta's "FAQ about Cyber-Psychology" ).
What Others are Saying: Links for Futher Study
I used a search engine called MetaCrawler Searching. It is a search engine that pools the resources of the major search engines available at this time (such as Lycos, Yahoo, Magellan, etc.) and comes up with a list of links. Much more efficient then going to each search engine, doing a search and coming up with few or no links at all. I searched under the terms "cyber psychology", "psychology", "psychology of cyberspace", and "technophobia". As far as newsgroups go, I had very little luck turning up anything useful. Most of the matches were about psychology in general and not cyber psychology. When I ran searches for web sites, I had better luck. Though I had to sift through all of the sites about general psychology and cyber psychology reports of past generations, I did come up with a couple of links which none of the other reports had included in their reports. If I'm going to critisize for having generic links I better have some unique ones don't you think? Interestingly, many of the links I found were sociological links. Here they are.
Final Considerations: My Conclusions
So my hypothesis is that the mind and cyberspace is indeed related. Cyberspace has the similar organization and the similar vitruality. I also agree with the fact that cyberspace reflects the interests and curiosities of the collective as well as the individual. What I don't agree with is the idea that Cyber Psychology and virtual reality is strictly a cyberspace phenomenon. What I don't agree with is the manner in which this body of information is being presented. If people are going to discuss the psychology of cyberspace, they should state that. If people are going to discuss the virtual reality within cyberspace, specification is vital. If we are to push this topic of discussion to the next level, we cannot continue to misdefine terms and pass them off as truth. In other words, in other for constructive discussion to take place, we cannot all have our own operational definitions.
Dr. James' Homepage . My Cyber Psychology Class Homepage . My Cyber Psychology Homepage . Tigger's Homepage
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