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

by Margaret Wertheim

ISBN 039304694X / 9780393046946 / 0-393-04694-X
Publisher W. W. Norton & Company
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

In Pythagoras' Trousers, science writer and feminist Margaret Wertheim took an astute look at the social and cultural history of physics. She explored how the development of physics became intertwined with the rising power of institutionalized religion, and how both of these predominantly masculine pursuits have influenced women's ability to join the physics community. Now she has turned her attention to virtual reality, looking at similarities between how we view it today and how art and religion was viewed in medieval times. Her assertion is that rather than carrying us forward into new and fabulous other worlds, virtual reality is actually carrying us backwards--to essentially medieval dreams. Beginning with the medieval view, with its definition of the world as spiritual space, Wertheim traces the emergence of modern physics' emphasis on physical space. She then presents her thesis: that cyberspace, which is an outgrowth of modern science, posits the existence of a genuine yet immaterial world in which people are invited to commune in a nonbodily fashion, just as medieval theology brought intangible souls together in heaven. The perfect realm awaits, we are told, not behind the pearly gates but the electronic gateways labeled .com and .net. How did we get from seeing ourselves in soul space (the world of Dante and the late medievals) to seeing ourselves as purely in body space (the world of Newton and Einstein)? This crucial transition and the new shift propelled by the Internet are convincingly described in this challenging book. [via]