Peculiarities of Cyberspace

A Stateless Society?

The rumour goes that the internet is an ‘anarchistic bunch’ where everybody just does what he or she wants to do. Supposedly it is an ‘unorganized mess’ in which only chaos rules. Many qualifications and disqualifications have been considered to define the kind of society in this new virtual world. From the perspective of an cultural-anthropologist, the internet looks like a kind of tribal society without a state.

The self-organizing virtual communities have much in common with traditional tribes. These virtual tribes communities constitute a new kind of socal reality that has no physical bounderies, no territory that is controlled and defended by the force and laws of a single nation-state, and no single or world government to regulate these new social relations, networks, and communities.

“Given that the world’s technological societies are all characterised by a state structure [Service 1971], and that the net society embodies a high level of technology, it is a matter of some surprise to find that its political organisation has more in common with that of simple hunter-gatherer societies than it does with the state.

It may be that all this technology has enabled us to travel ‘full circle’ in a sense. The simple egalitarianism of band-tribal structures may be a more natural condition for us than our impersonal cities and nation-states. There is a certain elegance to the notion that the net, one of the crowning achievements of our techno-industrial Western societies, may be instrumental in enabling us to return to a simpler, more egalitarian and more socially interactive way of life”
Tim North [1994] The Internet and Usenet Global Computer Networks - An investigation of their culture and its effects on new users.

Simple Questions

Some anthropologists know how to put the questions for a cyberanthropology:

  • Why at this apex point in human history, according to our various socioevolutionary theories, are we rushing once more to embrace the cast-off ‘primitive’?
  • Why are ‘modern primitives’ once again reinventing ways to mark, inscribe, and incise the body?
  • Why is it that the fastest-growing areas in cyberspace are MUDs (multi-user dungeons) where people can become wizards and fight dragons?
  • Why is it that some of the heaviest users of the Matrix are neo-pagans, Wiccans, Magickians, and other occultists?
  • Why are ‘raves’ bringing us back to Levy-Bruhl’s earliest phase of human consciousness - the participation mystique?
  • How is the net helping to create a new oral culture of folklore?

[Steve Mizrach, What is Cyberanthropology].


Anthropological resources on the Internet (SocioSite)