The subject of the chapter is cyberspace in an axiological perspective, which is our new lifeworld. The focus is particularly on the problem of the quality of our life in its specific circumstances. The aim is (on the background of the characteristics of cyberspace as a lifeworld) to solve the problem of values and significance, but also the risks of our so-called cyber experience. In this context, the aim is also to identify various conditions, axiological indicators and the relevant elements of the quality of our life in cyberspace. The authors pursue their goal using the phenomenological-hermeneutic method within the four parts of the chapter. In part 1, cyberspace is interpreted as a life world that is co-constructed in our acts of communication. In part 2, the problem of values, significance and risks of our cyber experience is discussed. The key variable is digital “well-being.” As they point out in part 3, it should be our morally based value “good life,” which is expressed as “ethos” in our life. In part 4, in this perspective, we are faced with the relevant task of the art of living ‘ars vivendi’ with the necessary coherent self-understanding and value-moral claims and the education should also have a “psychological” dimension.
- living world
- good life
- ars vivendi
New digital technologies, or media, have brought us a new phenomenon‑the so-called cyberspace. Once we enter cyberspace and communicate in it, it is not just our communication space that expands, the same happens with our living space.
Though it is obvious that the internet brings also another, alternative form of cyberspace1, it is now most frequently associated specifically with the internet [2, 3]. It is understood to be the most dominant place for (social) communication. As Cappuro points out, individual people are connected with each other through global communication. Cyberspace as such allows various synergies inside and outside our political, ethnical, economical and cultural boundaries or differences .
The aim of the chapter is (on the background of the characteristics of cyberspace as a life world) to solve the problem of values and significance, but also the risks of our so-called cyber experience, in this context, to identify various conditions, axiological indicators and the relevant elements of the quality of our life in cyberspace itself.
In the following chapters by the phenomenological-hermeneutic method, we will be talking about the internet cyberspace as of a new, specific living world, in which we spend a great deal of time to create our identity, and where we live our specific cyber experience. In this context, we will focus especially on its axiological dimension. We will also look at some values and risks that come along. Further, we will examine digital welfare (well-being) and “good life” in the cyberspace of internet in the axiological and ethical aspect. We will also speak of the virtue to live “ars vivendi” and, finally, about education that can help us achieve this goal.
2. Cyberspace of the internet as our living world
The term cyberspace generally describes an interface between computers and people, or a meeting point for digital information and human perception. However, it is also often used to refer to interaction between people using computers, especially through the internet . We define the internet and other computer networks as collective usage of virtual entities . Thanks to its new ways, the internet and other computer networks have introduced a change in the nature of social interaction, or communication, new possibilities and routines. Its net-like nature and structure have contributed to expansion of mutual space and, as Nanni points out, this form of media is able to start interaction between masses and wipe out territories .2
We can state here that the internet cyberspace is for people who are not solely its passive users simply because these people actually co-create it. They define and shape its character and actively create its content through the way they use it. This is the reason why people are the most important component, the highest level . Cyberspace thus represents a kind of socially constructed world or dimension, an electronic Agora‑a central public space. It is a “cyber-café” . Also Hakken, as Macek points out, understands cyberspace as a social arena, place for social interaction between those who use advanced communication and information technology. This definition covers any and every possible lifestyle that is bound up with cultural existence mediated by this advanced technology .
It is possible to state that the internet cyberspace as such has become our new living world in which we communicate, learn, do business or get entertained. It is a specific place that reflects a vast part of our personal life, so in this context, we can perhaps mention that it becomes a place in which we like to spend some time‑and feel almost at home. Cocking explains that computer technology offers a range of dimensions that we can use to express and develop our personal identity and various kinds of relationships. We can for example use the text-based email and chat-room, forums or web-site and web-cam technology to present ourselves, start professional, but also personal relationships and participate in any possible communities (based on hobby, interests and so on) .
Reflecting the fact that the internet cyberspace represents a great means for self-expression and communication in the present society  and, as Cocking points out, that we today present ourselves extensively when we conduct a great deal of activities and relationships with the help of computer technology, together with the author of this paper, we can ask what kind of online identity and relationship it is actually possible to create .
It reveals that cyberspace can be understood as a dimension that constitutes almost limitless possibilities for new forms of identity and behaviour . Here we can develop, change or multiply our identity. Also Deuze mentions that in the world of media, we have an opportunity to create various versions of not only ourselves but also other people, and we are free to form and shape these versions at will. We can project, co-construct and bring to life one or various versions of ourselves in media. We can cooperate with other people to construct self-presentations and share them . In this context, cyberspace is a sort of “screen” to show our dreams, desires and ideas. It is a form of extension for our creativity that helps us present ourselves. Similarly, Turkle  points out that computer acts as our new mirror that brings some influence, in it we consequently turn ourselves into objects and thus create our second nature.3
Discussions about our social interactions often emphasise difference between online and offline interactions, with cyberspace understood to be the distinctive place for such interactions . However, shaping our identity here is not very different to shaping it in the “real” world. In fact, there are two mutual problems . In cyberspace too, we deal with relations “world-person”. It is interactions with other people that define what persons we become here; our identity is partially defined by what physical relations we have with other people. Relevant for cyberspace are consequences of our online interactions that, however, are influenced by our physical world. The physical nature is distinguishable in our online interactions and acts as a distinguishing factor for who we are, or what we mean for other people . We can also notice that in cyberspace, our new living world, we can indeed have a multitude of partial identities, even simultaneously, but these are not independent from our subjective situation or social and cultural environment in “real” living world .
When a person is submerged in cyberspace, his or her experience is mediated; this person thus becomes a part of specific experience‑the so called cyber experience. It appears that modern people like to spend time in this new living world and that cyber experience as such is very attractive. As a next step, we will explore potential of values and risks that come with internet communication.
3. Cyber experience in the internet dimension, values and risks that come along
In the cyberspace living world, we cooperate with others, communicate and create (virtual) societies. Here, we are, as Deuze notices, more that ever interconnected medially with other people and we cannot overlook and disregard other people’s lives . We become part of a specific social cyber experience as intersubjectively communicating individuals. This cyber experience that becomes both individual and collective at the same time seems to be rather attractive for us. However, in what way does it become really valuable?
General good, a value hidden in humane communication, can generally be found when communication meets its mission, in other words, where it contributes to closeness, reciprocity and understanding between people, where it helps individuals manifest their feelings, intentions, where people look for mutual understanding, which is, as E. Višňovský points out, the nature of humane communication . We can say that communication that favours intersubjectivity based on our own understanding of what is valuable and meaningful means general good for us. Such communication constitutes society that is based on mutual closeness and shared experience. As Rankov points out, communication on the internet brings satisfaction, positive feelings triggered by content that we communicate, but also by sharing other people’s experience and communication as such . Joy, happiness, pleasure and meaningful communication that the cyber experience of communication offers are a few of the qualities that we associate with “good life”. However, is there a place for real mutual understanding, or its importance?
Višňovský notices that starting an interaction through the internet and finding mutual understanding and fellowship are two different things .4 Also Bauman and Lyon warn in this context, when they say that rather than fellowship, we often find just the net itself. However, this net does not interpret true human community, because it does not look after us and is unreliable .5 In this perspective, communicating community cannot win over offline non-network communication, and it seems that its cyber experience cannot compare to real human understanding that is relevant for healthy social bounds or society.
However, we can use also another approach to virtual communities, network communication and values that come with it. For example, Deuze explains that here social bounds are not based on mutual experiences or history, but chiefly on information exchange and talking about life. Here, sociability means lively and fleeting interactive social relationships, ephemeral but intense communication sessions. It is a specific kind of network sociability that seeks for contact and interaction, but also sensitive passionate and emotional communication and conversation. Offering emotional intimacy and credit, it is not meaningless. Deuze believes that societies that use virtual dimension to communicate may constitute more fragile communities, but these are still meaningful and offer rather coherent understanding of the individual ME that should not be underestimated . It is obvious that collectives of people who communicate in the internet cyberspace really constitute a totally new kind of society .
We should not overlook that it is the already mentioned sociability that makes new forms of media, especially the internet, attractive  and that it is also virtual communities that serve now as engine for flourishing and surprising life in this universal dimension that was born of contact . However, this does not detract from the fact that the very cellular detachedness of individuals presents a risk for cyber experience within the network-based internet communication. Kováč and Gyén state that the internet, as a social technology used primarily for communication, can ignite social isolation in individual people, bring feelings of loneliness and depression and destroy their well-being . Brožík notices that we witness people who become loners, people sitting in front of computer screens, losing grasp of their own life because their virtual partner actually drags them further and further from the real world . Furthermore, let us notice for example anonymity, a specific determinant of communication in the internet cyberspace. As Rankov notices, along with neutralisation of social status, anonymity also triggers disinhibition, or unrestrained behaviour. We can on the one hand see that there is probably a connection with growing bravery to express ideas. We are more open, more sociable and capable of expressing what we think. We are less stiff and more inclined to joke and dare to be unique. On the other hand, however, feeling protected by anonymity, we are prone to breaking the norms, telling lies and being aggressive and vulgar when we deal with others . Disinhibition in the context of relative anonymity and physical safety can hurt our self-confidence and favour intimacy that may open the gate for anger and hatred and thus make us aggressive and violent . We can therefore state that anonymity and disinhibition pose individual and social risk in our cyber experience on the internet, which influences the whole value that it brings.
We should also notice the cyber experience of construction of ME, or our identity, online. As we have already mentioned, together with Deuze, we routinely create a vast variety of versions of ME on the internet. We project and develop one or a number of versions of ME, but to be more precise, we do this in cooperation with others when we constantly share these versions and self-presentations of ME . We thus offer our self-image for others, even though not completely. We all, yet each of us individually, show what it means to be a human, what values are important to us, how we distinguish what is good and what is evil and what it actually means for us to be alive. We share our ideas and visions when we co-create and present our identity. We can say that whether intentionally or non-intentionally, this way we declare our meaning of life.
Obviously, our image on the internet depends on how we (intersubjectively, or publicly) self-project our position . In the light of this, the internet, or communication using the internet, can surely also deconstruct our subjective identity, as, for example, Kuzior  notes. Bystřický warns that media reality as relation reality on the one hand brings a new paradigm into development stages of the extension of ME, but on the other hand, it also brings a risk of copying someone else’s attitudes and ways of constructing a social, mental and aesthetic pattern. Relation-based character of media-presented reality may imply states of multiphrenia, individuals splitting to non-homogeneous segments, or multiply our own and private investments into empty and useless forms of self-presentations, false expression of hypothetical possibilities of one’s own development . In the context of cyber experience, we then face a risk of losing identity and depersonalisation, and this introduces a relevant question of interiority of the subject in cyberspace, or his or her coherence in time, which is necessary.
Who we became or are becoming in the internet cyberspace does make a difference. The way we deal with “life in media”, using Deuze’s words ‑what we can and what we actually do invest in our relation to the others, is important. By our self-projection, self-construction and self-presentation in cyberspace, we become a part of collective process of “learning to live”, in which intersubjectivity is bound to our understanding of what is relevant and valuable. In this perspective, our attitude is similar to that of Deuze ‑we understand that it is reasonable to see self-expression of individuals today as more and more important in the cyberspace of internet.
According to Baeva, analysis of the nature of change of values in modern man reveals that rise of e-culture has led to construction of new values (electronic communication, e-spare time, e-creativity and so on) . However, it is necessary to point out that cyber experience also brings certain risks presented by influence of the very technology, yet these risks cannot be specified in the reflection of cyber experience because they influence its value. We should not forget that also M. McLuhan speaks of self-amputation in connection with technological extension of man . Similarly, also Bystřický points out that it seems we will pay for technological development by reducing one of the dimensions of our living world. Each new discovery in technology influences our personal living world and social system and imprints its own perspective onto the map of our individual and collective perception .
Therefore, to get the maximum advantage of cyber experience, it is important to be able to cope with various effects. Here, authors such as Gui et al.  define the so-called digital well-being.
4. Digital well-being and “good” life in the cyberspace of internet
The concept of digital well-being seen in Gui et al. is emerging right now, with communication stimuli overflow becoming hard to deal with . Seeing how the internet is used now and how important it is for our communication and living world in the axiological context, we take this concept as undoubtedly relevant. These authors define and understand digital well-being as a state in which our subjective digital comfort is maintained by surplus of digital communication. In this state of well-being, individuals are able to use digital media to ensure their subjective comfort, safety, happiness and satisfaction. Such digital well-being secures general well-being of the subject in both hedonic and eudemonic perspective. It does not concentrate just on satisfaction and minimization of side effects of using digital media (hedonic dimension) but also on the ability to use this technology to present a meaningful help to one’s own potential in life (eudemonic perspective) .
The way we handle digital media is, we believe, a key element for quality life. Theoretical approaches and empiric findings clearly identify a number of ways how media contents and media usage influence our everyday happiness, satisfaction with life, our effort to develop our personality and understand meaning of life, as Reinecke and Oliver point out . They also argue that the way we use digital media and the internet is influenced by our skills, by competence and also by primary factors, such as self-control, media literacy, parent/child intervention, etc. . All these are determined by social and cultural context that we experience . Gui et al. point out that digital media, or technology, systematically shape our behaviour regardless of our features, and they also warn that in order to maintain digital well-being or quality of life in cyberspace, we need to introduce and form new aspects of digital skills .
As these authors explain, features that make digital technology or media useful (reliability, mobility, user-friendly approach and fast processing) can endanger our productivity and innovations but also our well-being as the stimuli patterns and patterns of individual reactions that are bound here are rather complex and specific. Combination of characteristics in this type of technology makes this cognitive and emotional dimension unprecedented and not neutral in relation to our opportunity to take part in a satisfactory communication practice. It seems to lead to a rapid and nonlinear use of information and communication. The authors warn that also those who are creative and have good social skills can constantly suffer from overcommunication , which, in our opinion, may be regarded as a risk that comes with our technically mediated internet-based interaction and communication in regards to quality of our life and digital well-being in the cyberspace of internet.
Self-control in using digital technology is simply not enough for us to cope with side effects of information overload, Gui et al. explain; complexity of modern media world wins this fight because self-control has always depended on moral values of the subject more than on any other competences. Therefore, we need to control digital stimuli and filter them so that they can serve our personal aims and well-being. We need to develop a new set of strategic resources, cognitive and metacognitive approaches and operational skills that influence our attention. These will lead to strategic approach in dealing with side effects of digital overcommunication. Such strategies should then serve as a prevention of stress caused by excessive information flow and also as a means to minimise wasting of time and attention on irrelevant activities in our everyday life .
Forming of these new aspects of digital skills is certainly a positive sign; however, we believe that quality life cannot entirely depend just on them, even though they, no doubt, contribute to digital well-being. If then we really aim for “good life”, meaning more in axiological and ethical than psychological context, we must go even beyond.
We would argue that if we want to achieve “good life” in the internet cyberspace, based on high standards of morals and values, then the aspect of moral and humanly acceptable life, behaviour and actions, or good manners and positive principles, is relevant. We believe this is the condition for “ars vivendi”. This is also the reason why we should use and improve elements that form it. We will be speaking about these elements in the following chapter.
5. “Ars vivendi” in the cyberspace of internet and education
As the specific living world of the cyberspace of internet shows, each person that is involved deals with aspects of life that are, to a great extent, given. We believe that we, creative beings, have a duty to “give our life a meaning and ensure it is coherent with our experience”  also in the context of our living world. In this world, our individual interests and social roles should create a coherent, even though not complete, life story .
Deuze suggests that this life should mean a piece of art, and it should be our life with ethic and aesthetic potential .6 Our attitude is similar, and we think that in the context of using digital media, or with our life in the digital universe of internet cyberspace, our life should follow the idea of “ars vivendi”‑“good life” that is expressed by ethos‑the way we live and deal with the others . It is a way of life that becomes a prerequisite for us‑intersubjectively communicative moral beings, a condition for every humane “learning to live” a humane life among other people.
Also Baeva points out that we, as human beings, still remain moral subjects even in the digital world of internet cyberspace, despite our virtual way or life that we lead here; we still keep our individual decision-making processes but, in addition, we also have new forms of freedom of moral choice. Values that media culture offers (freedom, personality orientation, pragmatism and others) become a new moral challenge for our behaviour, while ethical, axiological and value pluralism impose on us even bigger personal responsibility for our own moral and value choices .7 What is important here, Deuze explains, is our ability to lead “our life in media” responsibly and safely in the internet cyberspace‑in other words‑make it safe, authentic and ethical. Deuze points out that this is our lifelong moral responsibility, even duty .
We agree with Deuze that we have individual responsibility to understand what we do in the internet cyberspace. However, there is a question that we need to ask here: who are we in this cyberspace? Deuze also points out that we should not lose oneself in the multitude of our own self-images and identities. We should use the internet, or digital media, in a way that both secures our independency and allows us to learn about ourselves at the same time. Deuze continues and explains that it can be difficult to find out who we really are in cyberspace, just as much as it is difficult to find out who we are in real life. This requires more emphasis on our own individual experience and understanding of the world. It is therefore necessary for us to contemplate our own life and existence .8 This represents a path that leads to the required coherent self-understanding in our “ars vivendi” within the context of the internet cyberspace. In fact, we believe that it is indispensable.
According to Varanini, we need to prepare for life in the digital cyberspace . The question is how a modern man can get prepared for life that should represent “good life” and “ars vivendi” in the digital universe of internet. If, for example, education is one of the social and cultural mechanisms that prepares individuals for life roles, then teaching us cope with everyday life becomes an actual task and challenge for education. Also Kačinová argues that the general goal of education, especially media education, is to prepare a student for life in the world of media  obviously also in the context of the internet cyberspace. The developing concept of media literacy, or digital literacy, meets this objective.9
Despite undergoing various changes in the past, it seems that understanding of digital literacy needs to be revised once again. Its concept needs to be refreshed. As far as we speak of digital well-being in the internet cyberspace, it is necessary to say that we are confronted with certain limits that (media) education should, or even must, deal with. We therefore believe that digital literacy should cover the new aspects of digital skills that are beneficial for our life in the context of the internet cyberspace and digital well-being. Education that provides relevant digital literacy applicable for our living world should include forming of the aspects that we mention above‑skills, cognitive attitude and strategies that also Gui et al. speak about .
On the other hand, Deuze correctly points out that for quality life in the context of digital media, or good life with values and moral attitude, we need to avoid over-estimating of media literacy for life in digital cyberspace and putting it above other skills. He continues, along with R. Rorty, that our culture employs instrumental rationality that favours knowing, expertise and professionalism, which prevent internal instability and increase immunity against romantic enthusiasm. This causes lack of inspiration, beauty and hope in our answers to challenges brought by “life in media” and therefore there is not enough inspiration, beauty and hope in the cyberspace of internet. According to Deuze, we should not be restricted by normative principles; in fact, we should use playful principles (tools and abilities) and also the virtue to feel astonished .
We believe that the above-mentioned attitude means that (media) education, which intends to prepare us for “good life” and corresponding values and moral attitudes in the internet cyberspace, should include also psychagogy.10 This way it could prepare the ground for our self-reflexion and self-projection and also assist to improve our morality and self-control as something that is relevant for our “ars vivendi” in the internet cyberspace. We think that this education should lead us towards healthy scepticism in what we think is obvious and indisputable, and we should then be more active in our quest for the true, good and beautiful. However, it could also let us express our hopes, dreams and ambitions, and we should be free to wonder, appreciate and feel astonished. There could also be an opportunity for human modes such as slow speed, waiting, silence, boredom and emptiness11, as well as for keeping one’s distance or askesis in relation to digital media. We believe these are methods and elements that, when incorporated into the process of building digital literacy, can help us approach digital media and understand both ourselves and our living world in the internet cyberspace in a way that our “ars vivendi” requires.
It appears that we are reaching another milestone in our development and becoming “homo digitalis”, moving to Cyberia, a cyberland . As “homo digitalis,” “we in fact become “homo cyberneticus”, but also “homo medialis”, “homo informaticus” and also “homo interneticus” or “homo smartphonus” dwelling in a specific world of the internet cyberspace. As this cyberspace is a virtual place, we can say that we become virtualised bio-socio-electronic subjects , and in this virtual space, we, human beings, think and act, behave certain way, project and express our ambitions, hopes, motives and goals. We simply live and take advantage of media technology. This way we are part of specific cyber experience, individual and collective at the same time. This comes with many positives, but also certain risks that in the long term may negatively influence its value.
If our experience in the communication-based living world of the internet is to bring us maximal value and enriching element, it has to offer the so-called digital well-being, which is one of the conditions and indicators of its quality. Along with this, we believe, in the axiological and ethical point of view, that life in cyberspace should also mean moral-value based “good life”, which means appropriate values, behaviour and conduct, doing good‑in other words, employ positive humane values and principles. This constitutes the “ethos”, our style of life and actions visible for the others .
To conclude, who we are and how we live in the internet cyberspace is important. It is quite a significant issue as this way we intersubjectively define our life and values and share this definition with others. In fact, we inevitably take part in an intersubjective and collective process of “learning how to live”. In this perspective, we are all confronted with the relevant “ars vivendi” with necessary coherent self-understanding and moral-value attitude. We believe that education that could really be beneficial should also include psychagogy. This could be a complementary aspect in building digital literacy and thus help us use digital media correctly and develop our self-understanding and understanding of the living world of the internet cyberspace by identifying values and morals that constitute our “ars vivendi”.
- We should keep in mind that the internet is not the only network, as even before the internet there was a lengthy development of networks that actually qualified as domains of cyberspace . On the other hand, similar to the past, also now different forms of cyberspace develop parallelly in different ways (e.g., Clark mentions various connections between the four levels of cyberspace). However, we can say that their structures and structural implications are not very different .
- As a form of media, the internet can enable access, contact, exchange and discussion in an enhanced connection with every corner of the world, where a terminal is connected to the network. It seems it can support pluralism as well as unification; digital culture is destructuralised and decentralised. The internet world breaks institutional forms and disregards race hierarchy, gender and ethnicity. It subverts rational and logocentric forms of political authority .
- As Cocking states also in this perspective, many theoretical approaches reveal cyberspace identity as much more fluid and variable. Cyberspace thus approaches this unstable, fractured and inconsistent "ME" and sees it as multiple identity. This "ME" is freed from physical world . People can construct and shape this "ME" as something that is subject of numerous online versions of "ME", where for example gender does not play a role. We need to state here that these approaches mean, in fact, a denaturalised process of shaping the subject .
- According to Višňovský, one often looks for community, or communication, because it is needed but not found. In day-to-day life, we only find interaction, contact. The possibilities of virtual communication with the whole world are, Višňovský believes, utterly inadequate for us .
- Bauman and Lyon believe that the real, trusty community in sociological sense is reliable, our position here is more stable as we are confronted with duties and restrictions; we are watched and punished when community thinks it is necessary. Network, on the other side, lets us disconnect any time we want, so we are much freer to do what we like. Plus, and this is very important, network offers entertainment .
- We share his idea‑he believes, following Z. Bauman, M. Foucault or F. Nietzsche, that our life can be a piece of art in which we all are actors, willingly or unwillingly, whether we realise it or not, and regardless of whether we enjoy it or not .
- Since simulated virtual reality is, by nature, reversible, temporary and never definitive and therefore always possible reality, it is necessary to be aware of our responsibility for our actions in cyberspace .
- Also Deuze points out that life in media inevitably brings multiple versions of "ME". So, who do we look for in media when we ask who we really are? Are all these versions that live in media equal? Are we able to distinguish between us and other individuals in media, or do we need to scrutinise bits and pieces? .
- Together with J. Suoranta and T. Vadén, we believe we can understand it as various processes of using digital information and communication technology to achieve the common good .
- More on psychagogical dimension [31, 32].
- These are "counter measures" of virtual, or media reality .