Cyberspace and the Social Reality

It is man and human groups – as producers and shapers of languages and the social reality – that should be at the heart of the study of language. Without humans and their groups, there is no language or social reality. Language is never an agent or actor in matters linguistic, but only its creators and users are, that is, humans and their groups.

Social reality

Prior to the emergence of cyberspace, human groups’ social reality (or realities) solely depended on individuals for activating (generating) such a social reality and participating in it. When asleep, the individual was freed of this hard task (of which most are blissfully unaware). But with cyberspace continuously on, social realities can exist and are generated without their original human producers’ and users’ participation. Cyberspace detaches social realities from their producers and users, like once the technology of writing alienated speech from the speaker, the interlocutor, and the message conveyed. Before writing all the three elements (the speaker, interlocutor, message) had to be present at the same time in the same place within earshot for a successful act of communication to occur. In the case of the novel add-on of cyberspace, the human group and its social reality are disconnected, the latter made increasingly available to the former at a time and in a location requested by a given individual. Even there where a given social reality does not normally pop up in daily life, as for instance Czech-language mass media in Indonesia. But this service comes at a fee paid to IT companies that built and run cyberspace as a platform for hosting social realities.

Cyberspace produced a radically new form of all-human social reality that is world-wide in its extent (penetration), norms and conventions. Even more importantly, cyberspace’s structure (and less so its content) are not dependent on human groups and their members, but on IT companies. In this manner, such companies – by offering an enhanced cyberspace ‘add-on’ to the extant social realities as delimited by ‘their’ languages and state borders – gradually monetize these social realities. However, it is all too rarely remarked, that the IT companies did not produce or own such social realities. Hence, the situation looks like a novel version of seizing and dividing the commons among the rich few. Original producers and users (that is, also rightful owners and copyright holders) of the social realities are urged to keep producing contents for these social realities for free, and continue ‘enjoying’ the cyberspace add-ons, increasingly for a fee.

Zagreb, April 2017