Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
27 June, 2017
Fecha de publicación original: 10 marzo, 1998
Variety is the spice of life
The deltaic regions of the world are amongst the richest on the planet in terms of their biological production. They are the places where two waters meet, often river and ocean, each contributing something different. These turbulent meeting points generate conditions for a rich, prolific, intense exchange of life forms and the interaction of unique ecosystems, from the climate to the terrestrial and aquatic. For this reason, throughout history, people have settled delta regions despite the fact that so much wild activity has, of course, its disadvantages for it is here that bacteria and insects of all kinds also find fertile breeding grounds not always making things very easy for humans. It was up to them to find means of adapting to the situation –however drastic– and survive under these extreme conditions. There were advantages and the disadvantages, but the balance somehow always tipped towards the former.
A similar environment is beginning to emerge in a most unexpected place: the meeting point between the real and virtual worlds, which is creating its own delta where rivers and oceans of different kinds of information meet and create an area of extraordinary wealth. However, as usual, all that glitters is not gold along its banks and depths. Just like in ancient times, dangers abound and survival is the name of the game. The way I see it, we are submerged up to our necks in this phase, adapting to conditions in this new delta. How long it will last depends on factors beyond our control. And, we haven’t yet started to forge on into the new territory stretching out way out yonder. In order for this to occur, there will have to be sufficient population growth to warrant the search for new horizons.
So, who are these people gathering at this meeting point between the atom and the bit?
On the one hand, there are the information emitters from the real world who belong to a culture based on the vertical structure of information and knowledge and who are, for the moment, promoting work “for and from the Net”. They are:
Traditional information emitters with means of communication of their own (newspapers, radio, TV, general and specialised publications, etc.).
Traditional information emitters without means of communication of their own ( businesses, organisations, telecommunications operators, state and local administrations, NGOs, etc.).
New information emitters with or without means of communication of their own (press or public relations offices, educational systems –from schools and universities to training centres–, professional associations, local community groups –neighbourhood and city–, associations of different kinds, research centres, and organisations of all kinds, etc.).
On the other hand, there are the information emitters from the virtual world, which belong to a culture based on the horizontal structure of information and knowledge by means of their own ability to create information and the integrated use of hypertext links, interaction and a series of technological tools of “broad spectrum”, to disseminate their messages. They are emitters that promote the culture of activity “on the Net”. They are:
Traditional emitters with means of communication of their own in the real world, some of whom are beginning to produce information in accordance with work “on the Net”.
Traditional emitters without means of communication of their own in the real world, but who do have them now in the virtual world and are discovering the potential of activity “on the Net”.
New emitters who, apart from working “on the Net” play an important role as promoters of Net culture.
Where they all come together a new area of activity based on information and knowledge arises. It’s an area, at present, fundamentally of learning and research, called by many the Information Society which, as we will see later, is not solely confined just to this “Virtual Delta”.
The novelty of this region is that roles are not defined in the same way as they were in the previous phase, (or present, if the purists prefer not to jump the gun). This is the case for a number of reasons, all of them typical of deltaic regions. The participation in the biological production of the intersection zone occurs in a number of ways:
Randomly. There is no preconceived way of regulating access to the area besides each individual’s own opportunities for getting into the deltaic whirlpool by their own means.
Continuously. There is no prearranged time for the influx of arrivals at the delta.
Simultaneously. There are no priorities nor programmed sequences.
Multi-localised. It happens in all the points set up in the system.
Multifunctional. Each person comes into the delta region to cohabit in a common ecosystem– which makes for similarities– but to do different things (within the prevalent chaos).
Access is open at all points to the delta, but because it is virtual it does not have the traditional formation of rivers going into the sea at a particular point, instead it exists wherever conditions are favourable for forming part of it. All of which contributes to the increasing turbulence of the system, the multiplication of its rich –and risky– production, and, as a result, tensions typical of any process of adaptation.
Basically, what is happening in the virtual delta region is, to a certain extent, the amplification of what was (or is) happening already outside it: a constant increase in information of individual significance within such a strict context that it fuelled (or fuels) a radical conflict between the real possibilities for absorbing (or voicing) this information and its political significance as a means of expression for vast social sectors.
Nevertheless, there are substantial differences between the way information is produced and managed in the real world and in cyberspace. In the first place, and above all, one of the outstanding features is the participative working process in cyberspace. This means moving from a system of gathering, processing and emitting information in a vertically structured and highly professionalised way (with people trained to do it), to doing the job together with other new collectives of emitters whose preparation and training is adapted to the new environment. In other words, going from saying, here I am and this is my version of things, to saying, I am with these people and in this manner in order to see what vision will emerge as a result. This leap does not come about just by “passing” from the real world into cyberspace, but also even within the latter, a not insignificant difference: it’s the difference between working for the Net and from the Net to working on it. (And here I would like to send out a message which is not remotely subliminal: this is what marks the difference between virtual posters, where each individual sings their own praises, and interactive electronic publications).
Finally (from the point of this editorial, because I will be going back to look at this topic from other perspectives – and you can take that as a threat or a promise), what is happening in the delta regions is not that distinct from what happens in many real communities in our own society. Work “on the Net” (or networking) does not pertain exclusively to cyberspace. Instead it is a form of organisation which goes beyond it, although within it it may express itself more fully. The multiplicity of processes that proliferate in the delta, consequently do not move just in one direction towards the “interior”, towards cyberspace. At the same time, they direct themselves towards the real world and try to impose their logic on the other shore, where another important part of the Information Society is growing. In other words, where they touch sides, the intersection is and will become increasingly wider and reach all its banks. The process of adaptation, seen from this perspective, will not only affect those who forge on in to new territory, but also those who try to figure out what’s happening there “from the outside” (if that is possible) without getting their feet wet.
Translation: Bridget King