Real Virtuality

Real Virtuality

The reasons for cyberspace. Computers are often criticized for being too virtual, having too little to do with the real world. There’s some substance to these criticisms. The virtual world doesn’t automatically have anything to redeem it. Yet it’s useful to understand how the worlds we are building came to be, and what kinds of virtuality are possible. The Essence of the Virtual Let’s look at some examples of how virtual, imaginary, and constructed worlds have entered our culture. Language itself is possibly the first abstract space. Through language, humans become able to apprehend abstraction and to conceptualize experience. The world of words is intoxicating to discover–witness any two-year-old learning to talk. Humans are amazingly good at language. One of the first thought spaces was probably Plato’s concept of the Realm of the Ideal. Plato postulated another realm, of perfect concepts whose pale shadows we see embodied around us in the natural world. And Plato believed all thought occurred in this realm of perfect form. Ideas have a life of their own. Beyond this, any pretend world, any stage drama or performance, is an artificial space of a kind. The ability to assume and shed roles is a deep part of human life. The exhilarating thing about the Web is that it is a new manifestation of these “virtual” qualities. It is a world of words, where distance is measured by how similar two ideas are, or how closely aligned two groups of people are. The shape of cyberspace is influenced more by the connections people choose to make (and are interested in making) than by where in the...
Pondering the Web

Pondering the Web

In a lot of different ways! The Web is an invention in its infancy. The ideas behind it have been around for decades, but only recently has the technology existed to support its explosion. There are many angles from which to think about it, and there are a million directions it needs to go. Here are a few: I described Unreal Enterprises as “Another ‘place’ where the real and the virtual meet.” What did I mean? Some thoughts on real virtuality. Links as they exist in the Web today are only half there. You can go from a link to a new page… but can you go from a page to all the links aimed at that page? There are ways. It’s called Backward Linking. The biggest potential of the Web is its ability to give everyone a voice. Expressing yourself is one of the best ways to use the Web. That doesn’t mean it’s easy! The Web needs more original home pages. The Web does the most for me when it connects me with people or groups that I get involved with in real life, or when it teaches me something that’s NOT about the Web. Real communities online, not solely-online communities. It’s already being...
Cyber Rights Now!

Cyber Rights Now!

Some Good Organizations – Electronic Frontier Foundation – The flagship organization working towards civil liberties in cyberspace. CCRI – Cyber Civil Rights Initiative is a non-profit organization providing support, advice, counseling, and legal services to victims of online harassment and revenge porn. HotScams.com – Informational website on popular and common Internet scams and fraud. LegitOrScam.org – Reviews of online gaming sites for consumer...
Create Your Audience

Create Your Audience

The pros and cons of Web writing. Anyone who ever wanted a public soapbox knows that the Web is a huge temptation. But with the appeal of a (potentially) global audience comes the anxiety… am I interesting enough? Because on the Web, if no one browses you, you barely exist. The most interesting and compelling home pages have some original, creative work of some kind–a slice of life from the writer’s world. But pages like that aren’t easy! Hurdles First off is the technical aspects. How do I write my pages? Do I need colored buttons? I have to count how many people have read my page, right? You can spend an infinite amount of time learning how to tweak your pages, but none of that knowledge will help you actually get something original up. If you are an HTML whiz, that’s cool, but what else do you do well or care about? Next is the old cold-feet syndrome. What if I write it and everyone laughs? Or no one comes at all? Well, then, the hell with them. If what you are creating isn’t satisfying for its own sake, then you are risking big depression if you have a small audience. Let the authoring be the reward, not the fan mail. And besides, if you put something of yourself up there, people will notice… it’s still not that common on the Web. Then there’s discretion. What if someone sees my page who I don’t want to see it? There are two kinds of someones: people who don’t want to see any of that sort of material (use disclaimer...
Backlinks

Backlinks

The road not yet taken on the Web. Backward Links Links on World Wide Web pages contain a destination address; when clicked, the target page is loaded. These are “forward” links; they provide passage from the current page to some other page on the Web. There is no converse way to find pages which have links pointing to the current page. The Web has no “backward” links. Forward links are so handy that backward links are often forgotten. Yet there are several reasons they’re useful: To track how many people have links pointing to your site (a key demographic indicator on the Web), you want to count backward links. Anyone who is linking to your site must think you are interesting in some way, either good or bad. Backward links allow you more-or-less direct contact with whoever is publicizing your site. If you’ve got something to say about someone else’s site, whether it be a sales brochure, political platform, or research paper, you can link to it from your comment. It doesn’t do much good, though, as no one on that site can find that link. Backward links would allow others to hear you say your piece. Possible Implementations There are a few ways to do backward linking. Thanks to many Web folks for illuminating me on this topic. One method is to extend HTTP servers to store information about backwards links. This way, when you make a link to a page, you also inform that page’s server of your link, and it makes a note of it. This permits very rapid search over the available links. Unfortunately, it...
The Truth is Out There

The Truth is Out There

Applied websurfing 101 Here are the most useful web resources I’ve found: www.hotbot.com, the first search engine I turn to. No news, but really good relevance ranking and lots of sites indexed. www.infoseek.com, the first engine I really liked. It still does great ranking. Remember, when working on any piece of web writing, search for relevant links! There’s almost always something, and the more spidery your pages become, the happier the surfers will be. Not much else to say just yet. Here’s an example of what idle websurfing can turn up for...
A Guide to 1995 Cyberspaces

A Guide to 1995 Cyberspaces

What’s out there? And which will win? “Cyberspace” is a key concept for the future of the computer industry. Yet cyberspaces are already all around us. This survey analyzes many already-working (and some vaporware) systems, and suggests which ones will be most successful. First things first: I define a “cyberspace” as “a simulated computer world.” This is an intentionally broad definition. The Qualities of Modern Cyberspaces Current cyberspace environments can be characterized in several ways: Dimensionality. Is the world 2D or 3D? Or is it, even, no-D? (For example, is it text-based or Web-based?) Amount of plot. Is the world set up in terms of a particular task, or a particular game? Or is the world open-ended, allowing the user to do whatever they like? World activity. Do things keep happening in the virtual world while the player is inactive? Or is the player more or less the only thing moving? Personal expression. Can people (human players) send messages to each other? Talk to each other? Interaction speed. How fast does the world move? How fast do you need to move to deal with it? Persistence. How long does the world last? Can you change part of the world and come back much later (days? weeks?) and find the place as you left it? Realism. Is the world anything like the real world? Production values. Are the elements of the world hastily contrived, or thoughtfully assembled? Fun. Is the place fun? Some Well-Known Cyberspaces Doom is the seminal game that started the flood of 3D network games. After Doom, any game without network play seems lacking. Many other games...