Distinct features of cyberspace challenge tradition in knowledge building for international relations. More specifically:

  • Temporality – reducing social temporality and enabling instantaneity
  • Scope – expanding scale and scope of communication and participation
  • Space – transcending the limitations of distance and the constraints of space
  • Permeation – obscuring the delineation of boundaries, functional and physical
  • Ubiquity – diffusing effects of cyber access worldwide
  • Participation – providing new venues for political expression and mobilization
  • Attribution – obscuring source of action; decoupling action and identity; distancing source and 

Individually these features are daunting in their own right. Jointly they create a context that does not conform to traditional understandings of international reality. Already we recognize new patterns of conflict and contention, and a new vocabulary with concepts such as “cyberwar” and “cyber blood” are in circulation. While there is some evidence of emergent cooperation, the record is in still the making.

The authoritative distribution of values—in terms of who gets what, when, how—is especially uncertain in the cyber domain. Moreover, the challenges at hand are increasingly global rather than just international, the national or other levels of analysis. they span the social order, the natural system, and the cyber domain. (See Lateral Pressure). 

At this point, the global system spans all actors and entities -- notably sovereign states, the non-state entities, as well as all individuals and societies—in both their natural and social environments. And now the global system also encompasses cyberspace, an environment created by human ingenuity and driven by human activities. While each of these elements can be viewed on a “stand-alone” basis, they are all part of the overarching global system for the 21st century realities.