Surfing the Internet can produce answers to highly complicated questions with the simple click of a mouse. Yet cyberspace is distracting people from exploring the vast frontiers of outer space, where more profound questions of origin and being may be answered, according to a forthcoming book by Fordham Communication Professor Paul Levinson, Ph.D. Levinson’s book, RealSpace: Offline and Into the Wild Blue Yonder, On and Off Planet, will explore the limitations of cyberspace and the need for humans to venture into the cosmos.
The book is scheduled to be published in 2002 by Routledge. “In cyberspace, people often get a superficial answer to their questions,” said Levinson. “In a sense, they’re just looking at themselves in mirrors, getting reflected back to them what is already here and what we already know. The age of cyberspace has made us realize the importance of exploring RealSpace.” RealSpace, a term coined by Levinson, is not just galaxies and solar systems. It’s also sandy beaches and other aspects of the physical world that cannot be fully experienced by surfing the Web. Though virtual technology has permitted people to see faraway places that they might never visit, its allure has also acted as a convenient substitute for those who forgo the need to experience the real thing firsthand. According to Levinson, however, his message is not one against technological advancements, but rather one of caution and concern about over-reliance on communications media.
“Mine is not an anti-technology or anti-media perspective,” said Levinson. “I’m just as optimistic now about media and technology as I always was. It’s just a question of looking at the human being, which was always the centerpiece of my view of media, and exploring what aspects require something other than media.” According to Levinson, the space program’s scientific exploration of outer space is falling short of its potential by ignoring the important spiritual dimensions that allow people to more fully understand their origins.
“Science only provides so much information and ultimately we don’t know how we came to be as human beings,” said Levinson. “The most profound questions go beyond science, and really get at the very meaning of life, death, purpose and existence. These are the questions the great philosophers have been dealing with, and going out into space expands the tableau in which these questions can be considered.”
According to Levinson, technology can be a valuable tool in exploring Real-Space. For example, he points out how cell phones have created a form of communication that does not restrict people to one location, allowing them to experience the beauty of a sunrise while closing a business deal in another part of the world. RealSpace will be Levinson’s third book in a trilogy of media critiques, followingThe Soft Edge (Routledge, 1997) and Digital McLuhan (Routledge, 1999). His second science-fiction novel, Borrowed Tides (Tor), was published earlier this year and he is currently working on his next novel, The Consciousness Plague, to be published by Tor in early 2002.