On the Vicissitudes of Cyberspace as Potential-Space

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Human Relations, Volume 52, Issue 4, p.485 - 506 (1999)




This paper examines some issues which emerge from the use of cyberspace within organizations,focusing on the extent to which cyberspace facilitates and/or interferes with individual and organizational growth. It is argued that the Internet has come to facilitate a form of interaction which may appear largely social and related, while remaining relatively isolated, asocial or at best partially social, self-protective, and removed. This is a form of interaction which is often characterized by partial relationships as well as confusion or ambiguity between what is happening and what is imagined. In much of our relational life, we maintain a tension and dynamic interplay between our experience of ourselves and of the world as structured and ordered and our experience of ourselves and of the world as disordered and chaotic. In the organizational Internet interactions explored in this paper, this tension is often suspended, or at times obliterated. However, it is proposed here that, as profoundly ambiguous and disturbing as these Internet interactions maybe, they may at times serve the function of a potential space in which growth is facilitated. In other instances, however, they serve to inhibit or even destroy potential. The theoretical basis for these findings is built on the contributions of Klein, Winnicott, and Matte-Blanco and is illustrated by clinical examples from organizations.