The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Western science made a radical leap in thinking about the wider cosmological scheme in which humans are embedded. From seeing humanity at the center of an angel-filled cosmos with everything connected to God, we shifted to seeing ourselves as the inhabitants of a small planet orbiting around a star that was itself an insignificant individual in a potentially infinite voice. From there, our understanding of space evolved from a Newtonian to an Einsteinian conception, and then to a Kaluza-Klein model of space as a 10- or 11-dimensional construct in which, ultimately, even matter is enfolded. In this ground-breaking book Margaret Wertheim traces the history of Western concepts of space from Dante to the Internet. Here she argues that concepts of space and concepts of self are inextricably entwined and that how we see our selves is intimately bound up with the question of how we understand where we are in space. In the final section of the book, Wertheim turns her gaze to cyberspace and asks how this new development reflects on our understanding of personhood. Can cyberspace be, as some theorists have argued, a new realm for the soul?

W.W. Norton paperback (USA, 1999)
ISBN: 0-393-32053-7
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“A masterly exploration of the geography of space, a subtly argued remonstration against the totalizing ways of science that is lent essential authority by Wertheim’s effortless command of vastly difficult subjects.” – New York Times Book Review

“An eloquent, powerful, startling and original book.” – Oliver Sacks