This is an interesting story from the latest installment of On the Media. It’s about cyberwar, uses of computers as means of warfare as opposed to traditional combat. The most interesting part for me was this:
Throughout all of history, war was just a matter of hurling mass and energy at your opponents. Now that the actual wars that are fought can be waged with far less casualties, I think the possibility of using cyber attack to cripple the military command and control of two countries getting ready to go at it with each other, were it done under some kind of international control, such as the Blue Helmets of the UN clicking for the cause, that also is pretty cool to, to think about.
This quote might set off a few alarms for some, people who see the UN as some sort of international conspiracy to take away every American gun, but there is something romantic about the idea of an international committee with the power to flip a switch and shut down the weapons of two countries about to go to war.
It’s like something out of a Vonnegut novel.
The thing I like about discussing cyberwar is that it forces us to think about media in material terms, to move away from immaterial conceptualizations. We seem to forget that, as Vili Lehdonvirta argues, ”virtual spaces are not incorporeal dream worlds, but real artefacts that are experienced though the senses.”
Lehdonvirta argues that immaterial cultural experiences online still have material real-world consequences in terms of, for example, inequality and exclusion. Cyberwar reminds us of this when we realize that something immaterial, such as computer code, can have physical consequences, such as causing a malfunction at a power plant.
Cyberspace may seem like a virtual space, but it has physical, bodily effects.
ASIDE: I recommend reading this article by Lehdonvirta from Media Culture & Society. It is brief and interesting.