At this point in time, it is easy to admit that we are living in a state of "etherialization." The primary characteristics of this state, as recognized by Arnold Toynbee, were that "cultures that remain static and uncreative in the human sphere often promote ingenious technical adaptations and inventions, whereas more creative cultures transmute their energies into higher and more refined forms […] their technical apparatus becomes progressively dematerialized." 1 The evidence of this is with us, simultaneously everywhere and nowhere, in the form of the internet, and also in the proliferation of increasingly miniaturized multi-purpose devices with a decreasing number of moving parts. From iPods to Oracle Database, internal organization becomes gradually more complex as the external, tangible and even visible becomes more superfluous, more symbolic than purely functional.
The Internet and the concurrent reign of digitalization are, however, just symptoms of etherialization - if particularly infectious ones - and not necessarily the driving engine of this state of affairs. The objectives of modern warfare, for example, are achieved by launching successful "psy-ops" campaigns or "p.r. offensives" which gain the international community's sympathies via successful transmission of images and sounds. Destruction of physical sites and human bodies is as cruelly present as ever, yet non-combatants' parsing of "etherealized" media imagery is no longer a sideshow to the "main" objective of laying waste to enemy infrastructure. Even terrorism, often used as a substitute term for asymmetrical warfare using "low-tech" improvisational means, regains a "symmetrical" standing here by utilizing the most high-tech information relays to accomplish its own aims: tactically, it succeeds not only because of its jolting suddenness, but because terrorists "...[schedule] their bomb blasts on time to catch the evening news…the explosion only exists because it is simultaneously coupled to a multimedia explosion." 2