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“With Its Strong IT Infrastructure, Korea Will Become an Exclusive Internet Power”

“With Its Strong IT Infrastructure, Korea Will Become an Exclusive Internet Power”

Posted May. 27, 2005 03:40,   


Professor Pierre Lévy of the University of Ottawa, Canada is called “the philosopher of cyberspace.” He sees the changes in life resulting from the Internet as the birth of a new civilization. He explains it with the concepts of “collective knowledge” and “noosphere.”

He contends that human beings have created this so-called supernatural space of communication, integrating and communicating various information and knowledge, thereby acquiring “collective knowledge.” This in turn led individual mentalities to come together in a single sphere, a new level of “space for spiritual exchange,” or “noosphere.”

He made a presentation on the significance of the Internet information revolution in terms of anthropology and the history of civilizations under the title of “Economy of Information” at the Korea University’s centennial conference. Professor of Linguistics Kim Sung-do met him for an interview on the afternoon of May 25 at Woodang-gwan on the Korea University campus.

Professor Kim: You said at Korea University’s centennial conference that humankind is entering a new civilization, and categorized this new civilization as the “Economy of Information.”

Professor Lévy: The terms “economy,” and “ecology” both have Greek roots meaning “house,” or “living together.” In this respect, information economy is not restricted to a narrow concept like the marketing and consumption of information, but refers to the ecology of all species of human thought. There emerged an eco-system on the global scale, in which the civilization of globalization and all human thoughts and ideas like technology, religion, and politics interact with one another. This is analogous to the New Stone Age revolution, when humankind cultivated crops, raised livestock, and began exercising control over ecological life. Bu now they have come to control symbolic life and cultural life.

Kim: In the lecture, you predicted that Korea would take up a privileged position in this new civilization. What are your grounds for that assessment?

Lévy: Compared to other nations, Korea boasts a significantly larger population that uses the new information technology, and it is highly equipped with information infrastructures along with the super-speed Internet network. Korea’s cultural openness is noteworthy, too. Korea has accepted a broad range of Western culture, with an open mind, across the fields of science, technology and religion. Not only that, it has preserved the cultural traditions and roots of the East, maintaining an excellent sense of balance between the Eastern and the Western cultures. In a nutshell, I would suggest Koreans’ exposure to two different cultures and openness toward knowledge as evidence.

Kim: Is the concept of texts, the core concept in the humanities, destroyed in cyberspace? More specifically speaking, what would be the fate of books?

Lévy: There should be a clear distinction between books and texts. Books would not totally disappear as a medium and form of texts, but they would lose their influence. The role of print would weaken, but texts cannot disappear. The civilization of texts has just arrived. They can move beyond time and space, opening up “the domain of contexts,” allowing people to resonate with one another.

Kim: You said the web is completing the transformation of communication for humankind, meaning all contents are virtually interconnected and all of humankind’s signs have acquired the ability to interact. If so, would it be the ultimate stage of human language?

Lévy: That’s not so. Digitalization is not over yet. Most of the written materials existing offline have not yet been digitalized, as we have just entered the infant stage. At the beginning of the agricultural process, it was not known which crops—rice, wheat, and corn—grew better given certain kinds of soil. Similarly, the web does not know its potential yet.

Kim: Your often use the expression “ecosystem of ideas” in reference to the cyberspace and the web. However, I don’t think the web and the Internet are so “ecologically friendly.” Some youths are too addicted to online games to the extent of losing their societal and emotional identity.

Lévy: The ecosystem I refer to does not carry a value judgment. Even in the U.S. and Europe, there are more and more children who don’t want to have meals with their family because they are so into video games. But there are many simulation games that allow simultaneous play for multiple players. They require a somewhat complicated strategy and knowledge of the concepts of learning and labor, as well as having their own brand of aestheticism. In these games, I witness the possibility of creating a new public space and a new process of socialization.

Chae-Hyun Kwon confetti@donga.com