Title

A Hermeneutical Ontology of Cyberspace

Date of Award

2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

American Culture Studies/Popular Culture

First Advisor

Rekha Mirchandani (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Donald McQuarie (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Ellen Berry (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lubomir Popov (Committee Member)

Abstract

In this study I build a hermeneutical ontology of cyberspace. In particular I interpret the conditions underlying existence in this virtual space that has been created by interacting communication machines, or what we have come to know as the World Wide Web. My argument is that there is a specific existence associated with this phenomenon and my aim is to frame and follow an inquiry upon its being. Ultimately, the “digital experience” is the end result of Modern Western cultural thought and therefore one of the privileged spaces for understanding Western culture.

My approach is hermeneutical although I associate hermeneutics with ontology in a manner similar to that of Gianni Vattimo. Vattimo argues that any ontology at the end of metaphysics has to be hermeneutical. Therefore we are dealing with an “ontology of decline,” an inquiry into a declension of being, and thus realized along lines of intellectual genealogies.

In this dissertation, I explore four major themes. First, we have the idea of cyberspace as a privileged ground for investigating Modernity. Second, is the idea of hermeneutics as a koiné of our times, thus an appropriate approach for this investigation. Third, I argue for the impossibility of separating the digital from the human, meaning that there is a general digital human experience which we can unearth by digging through cyberspace. The fourth theme, which appears towards the end, is the idea of an intimate connection between cyberspace, Modernity, and a democratic mindset understood in an ontological rather than political way.

Dialogue and consensus, these essential characteristics of democracy, will reveal themselves essentially subverting the violent metaphysical categories through their cyber interplay. It is a glimpse of a feature of our times occasioned by this inquiry into the being of cyberspace. It may also be an open door that this study would offer, towards a different rewriting of Modernity.