Meaningless Spaces

Today, I want to draft a proposition that questions:

Meatspace: the physical world as opposed to virtual

When did we start needing to define different versions of reality? Is it going to be code vs. meat next?

As a former vegetarian I see a lot of problems with defining us this way. Additionally, if the physical world is where meat is, then what about Chris Hadfield in space? What happens when meatspace (Chris) goes to space and goes onto virtual space to post his Space Oddity rendition? TOO MUCH SPACE.

Okay humerous rant over. I recently encountered this new word ‘meatspace’ and was quite baffled by its etymology, as this word has been used as far back as 2000 in Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi novel Cryptonomicon, with “meatspace coordinates”. Meatspace, is the ‘real’ world, and this world is highly engaged with the virtual. Take for example crowdsourcing, where meatspace coordinates are irrelevant, you only need IP addresses and can connect with numerous amount of people to achieve a common purpose. Wilson, Saunders and Bruns (2008) discuss the growth of online space to incorporate a ‘networked environment’ and ‘collaborative relationships’ which all happen within virtual space. Because of this active participation by users, there is a changing landscape of cultural production that, according to Wilson et al. needs to be recognised going forward, especially user-generated content.


In meatspace, people and things have always moved, but now new media moves with them, and the ability to be engaged whilst mobile has forced mediums to move with them. There is a new media dynamics in virtual space as meatspace becomes integrated into always being switched on, even ‘on the go’. Goggin (2013) argues that mobiles posses their own dynamics and have become their own medium and have affected the online space to become ‘richer and recursive’. With mobility, users are connecting their meatspace emotion, energy, creativity, professions and capital into the online space, in real time. We are continuously ‘switched on’ and need to be responsive in real time, either to the latest video with friends on social media, or in checking emails for work, or in updating yourself with current events. There are numerous apps and services willing to make this overwhelming stream of information more convenient and bite-size, but the information keeps growing and the need to keep up increases. New acronyms such as FONK (fear of not knowing) and FOMO (fear of missing out) have developed to explain our need to be continuously switched on in real time, but these are more used by marketers to target consumers and engage with them in relation to their digital social fears.

Take this spoken word film that is anti-social media and encourages people to find a balance away from the screen, and tune into meatspace:

It highlights an important point that the next generation has been born into this ‘switched on’ space, and are digital natives by birth. Stark (2012) talks about how this can cause mental health issues amongst young people with this amount of pressure to be engaged with an abundance of information has ripple concerns. For Baudrillard, we have entered an age of hyper-reality, where virtual space is a simulation of meatspace, which has formed the ‘hyper-real’ and each simulation is a combination of signs and signifiers that get us further away from reality, which loses all meaning, as all simulations become meaningless. As we get further into a hyper-connected world, information becomes rendered meaningless.

So if now we have a separate term to differentiate between the ‘real world’ and the virtual world, then information and reality is becoming meaningless online and offline. Where we have meatspace vs codespace competing for influence on each other, that it’s not certain which is a simulation of what, then are we back out with Chris Hadfield in space, not knowing which space is which anymore?