Sunday, March 28, 2010

Cyber What Now?

Interesting rant from Ryan Singer on on the use of the term "cyber" in current mainstream media. I think I most commonly use this term to refer to the subgenre of scifi/fantasy, "cyberpunk," but it's currency in mainstream media and in political dialogue marches on.

How can you tell the difference between a real report about online vulnerabilities and someone who is trying to scare you about the security of the internet because they have an agenda, such as landing lucrative, secret contracts from the government?

Here’s a simple test: Count the number of times they use the adjective “cyber.” Nobody uses the word “cyber” anymore, except people trying to scare you and trying to make the internet seem scary or foreign. (Think, for instance, of the term “cyberbullying,” which is somehow much more crazy and new and in need of legislation than “online bullying.”)

When was the last time you said, “I saw this really cool video in cyberspace” or “My cyber connection is really slow today”? Of course, no one speaks like that anymore. The internet is no longer distant or foreign (though it thankfully remains beautifully weird). It’s familiar and daily. It’s the internet. It’s so ordinary, stopped capitalizing it more than five years ago.

Need an adjective to describe something that is internet-based? Try “online.”

But when it comes to scaring senators, presidents and the nation’s citizens into believing the Chinese, the Russians or Al Qaeda are stealing all our secrets or bringing down the power grid, the internet somehow morphs back into “cyberspace.”

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