“Intersections between real and virtual world: some fears in Internet.”
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The birth of Internet has led to a new virtual dimension running in a parallel line with the real and touchable world; this virtual aspect is not tangible, although it is part of our daily lives.
My intention is to outline some of the most common fears which the human being has to face when entering the virtual world in Internet.
These worries are not new as they are related to some ancient and ancestral human terrors.
· The fear of open and unlimited spaces.
Anxiety towards loss of control and the immensity of the web leads human beings to feel hunted and in need of escaping from the outside world in order to feel safe.
As Kafka wrote in “The Hole” with an allegory of a beast who needs to build a refuge from the world and digs deep tunnels in order to find protection from external aggressions, the technological human being has created a sort of hole (for himself), through a process of connection and disconnection with Internet, with the aim of stopping the untouchable when feeling threatened in the web.
· The fear of missing territorial borders.
The virtual dimension lacks well-defined frontiers and this confuses those who are used to thinking in terms of well-established territorial borders.
Humans tend to feel comfortable when acting inside a well-defined vital space providing distance between their ego and others.
In Internet people’s borders overlap because the net is used by everybody and such interaction with hidden and unknown identities could cause friction and consequently generate fear.
· The awareness of hidden identities.
It is quite impossible to determine how trustworthy the people we meet in Internet are or to understand if the information we get is correct or made-up. In fact, identities in Internet are often false and hide behind a kind of alter ego, or a nickname, to protect their real self from other people or reasons, legal or not.
· The anxiety of space-time distortion.
Virtual space and time do not behave like in the real world. In the web, space and the time seem to be distorted and expanded because they play a different role and this can provide people with a feeling of disorientation and a sense of fear.
For example, if one enters in Internet with the purpose of going from Berlin to Rome, one can reach the destination in a very short time. The elements of space and time do not depend on the distance covered or on the time employed in this process because they depend on other factors like connection speed, the net traffic, etc.
· The fear of contact with other cultures.
All people of different nationalities, cultures and social groups have the same opportunity to enter this new virtual world, however the skill of being present in the net is a discriminatory filter itself. The success of this interaction depends on a mixture of events: computer systems knowledge, personal attitudes, technology owned by people as well as financial resources and social grade of development of a community.
Therefore, it might be reasonable to assert that in the net discriminations still exist because not everybody has the ability to use these resources.
· The apprehension of being substituted by a machine.
Nowadays, most enterprises employ more and more technology with the aim of producing automation in business and reducing human work support.
Human intervention in managing with customers orders, on-line purchases and repetitive daily work is less and less requested; the practice of e-mail and the Intranet systems have automated these duties and anything that can be processed by a computer today does not request manual work.
This fact discourages some people by making them feel uncomfortable with this new form of discrimination.
· The fear of being overwhelmed by technology.
This fear is concerned with the ancient inquietude of human beings towards things that cannot be controlled at all, the unknown, the fear of being swept away by progress. Evidence of this inquietude can be found in 19th and 20th century Anglo-Saxon literature, for example in Huxley, Orwell and Asimov who have found these elements interesting and stimulating for their literary works.
Finally, it is worth saying that humanistic disciplines concerning language and communication, as well as computer systems and artificial intelligence studies, through the analysis of human fears and the study of the different points of view, could meet aspects in common useful for an interdisciplinary exchange and for the proposal of new solutions to fill the gap between the real world and the virtual world.
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