Geography/internet: ethereal alternate dimensions of cyberspace or grounded augmented realities?



Many of the ways in which we discuss, imagine and envision the internet rely on inaccurate and unhelpful spatial metaphors. This paper focuses on the usage of the ‘cyberspace’ metaphor and outlines why the reliance by contemporary policymakers on this inherently geographic metaphor matters. The metaphor constrains, enables and structures very distinct ways of imagining the interactions between people, information, code and machines through digital networks. These distinct imaginations, in turn, have real effects on how we enact politics and bring places into being. The paper broadly traces the history of ‘cyberspace’, explores the scope of its current usage and highlights the discursive power of its distinct way of shaping our spatial imagination of the internet. It then concludes by arguing that geographers should take the lead in employing alternate, nuanced and spatially grounded ways of envisioning the myriad ways in which the internet mediates social, economic and political experiences.