Something old, but something new
When you hear the word “Cyber”, what do you imagine? A community space like Twitter, or Facebook? Something related to security or war? Or an “upgraded” space alien from the planet Mondas? Nowadays, we hear things with “Cyber” all the time, along with other high-tech terminology.
For someone who is currently in their early twenties, Cyberspace is something you grew up with, and based on my (limited) experience, I’d like to share what Cyberspace means to me and how it became part of my life.
When I was a little kid living in Japan, I recall watching my father use the computer as a tool for his work. Although he sometimes let me play with it, he only allowed me to do so on a limited basis. So, when he was away, I’d often jump onto his computer to make up for his “stinginess”.
At that time, I didn’t understand the concepts of Internet or Cyberspace, but thanks to the phone and annoying email notifications announcing, “You’ve got mail”, I probably recognized it as a “mysterious machine” which could send and receive information.
About 5 to 10 years later, people started to actively use apps like Skype and YouTube, with only YouTube remaining popular until this day. There was a famous video streamer on YouTube (now referred to as YouTubers): Chinese Backstreet Boys (aka The Back Dorm Boys). The YouTube videos that launched their fame were performance videos with them lip-synching to the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” as well as the cover version of “Da Da Da”, which was later used as promotion for Pepsi during the 2006 World Cup.
Their videos went viral around the world, and Japan was no exception. One famous Japanese TV show, featuring well-known Japanese idol “V6”, invented a new term for lip-syncing, “Air-Vo(エアボ)” , short for “Air Vocal (エアーボーカル)”, and solicited lip-syncing videos from their television audience and fanbase. Although I never sent videos to the show, I was one of many Japanese influenced by them, and ended up making a few “Air-Vo” performances of my own at the time. I should also note that this was all before the debut of the iPhone, and people were still using flip phones.
In the early 2010s, my friends at school started to use smartphones and Social Network Services (SNS) such as Twitter and LINE. Back then, you could even access the Internet from game consoles such as Sony’s PlayStation Vita, Nintendo’s 3DS, and Wii. Some kids used it to tweet, to play online games, or to watch some “artistic” images. By that time, I had come to more fully understand the concepts of Cyberspace and Internet... with how we used the Internet virtually the same as how we use it today.
These days, we see some digital content on Instagram and TikTok featuring beautiful scenic views as well as music performances. The interesting fact is that the fundamental content itself has never really changed, basically repeating the same things that people did in the early 2000s. But we are not just rehashing the past, we are improving on it by changing the platform or sometimes the user interface. In other words, from my point of view, cyberspace or the Internet is something old, but something new.