From Cyberspace: First Steps edited by Michael Benedikt. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. And London. 1991.

Introduction by Michael Benedikt

Old Rituals for New Space by David Tomas

Mind is a Leaking Rainbow by Nicole Stenger

The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace by Michael Heim

Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?: Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures by Allucquere Rosanne Stone

The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat by Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer

Collaborative Engines for Multiparticipant Cyberspaces by Carl Tollander




Introduction by Michael Benedikt

Cyberspace's inherent immateriality and malleability of content provides the most tempting stage for the acting out of mythic realities. (6)

The history of media technology as such, that is, the history of the technical means by which absent and/or abstract entities -- events, experiences, ideas -- become symbolically represented, "fixed" into an accepting material, and thus conserved through time as well as space. (7)

[Before mass-production] Every designed and every made thing was also the story of its use and its ownership, of its making and its maker. [then, with mass-production] these 'records' came to be easily duplicable, transportable, and broadcastable. Life would never be the same. (8)

Wo-called post-industrial societies stand ready for a yet deeper voyage into the 'permanently ephemeral' (by which I mean, as the reader is well aware, cyberspace). (11)

Novak discusses the idea of cyberspace as a poetic medium that... creates a 'liquid architecture,' an architechture of information... a prelude as to how we might evolve legible forms in the context of a user-driven and self-organizing cyberspace system. (18)


Old Rituals for New Space by David Tomas

Gibsonian cyberspace is... digitallly and socially Durkheimian in the sense that it is both profane (a metropolis of data) and sacred (a cybernetic godhead). (36 - Gibson 1988: 192)

Rites of passage are ideally distinguished by three successive phases in ritual or nonsecular space and time that function to engineer the transposition and transformation of an initiand (or initiands in the case of a social group) from one socioenvironmental, sociobiological, social position or stage to another.... Turner has described it as 'betwixt and between' neither one nor the other -- a state of nonbeing, death, or nothingness. He has argued, moreover, that 'the liminal phase is the essential, antisecular component in true ritual, whether it be labelled "religious" or "magical."' (37-38, Turner 1980: 161)

There are a number of similarities between the overall structure of rites of passages and cyberspace that suggest that the latter might be closely related to the former in a functional sense. (40)


Mind is a Leaking Rainbow by Nicole Stenger

As Noam Chomsky believes of language, is there a universal grammar, with a finite number of parametes for 3-D shapes, brilliance, transparency, texture, motion, rhythm, and so on? Are archetypes inherited condensations of meaning? Do they serve as raw models for the constructions of imagination? What are the characteristics of the idealization process? of 'realism'? A change in the 'resolution,' in the 'lighting'? Are there sexual differences? Do they reflect what we already know of the differences in the sensory apparatus: perception of sounds, sensitivity to light, vision of colors, pheromonal organization? (50)

The computer is also home to 'real time,' 30 frames per second, a time that fits exactly Eliade's definition of sacred time. 'Religious man lives in two kinds of time, of which, the more important, sacred time, appears under the paradoxical aspect of a circular time, reversible and recoverable, a sort of eternal present that is periodically reintegrated by means of rites.' (55)


The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace by Michael Heim

Rightly perceived, the atmosphere of cyberspace carries the scent that once surrounded Wisdom. The world rendered as pure information not only fascinates our eyes and minds, it captures our hearts. We feel augmented and empowered. Our hearts beat in the machines. This is Eros. (61)

[describing Gibson's descriptions of a character's relationship with 'cyberspace'] The sixteenth-century Spanish mystics, John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, used a similar point of reference. Seeking words to connote the taste of spiritual divinity, they reached for the language of sexual ecstasy. (62)

[Leibniz's electric language] is an ideographic system of signs that can be manipulated to produce logical deductions without recourse to natural language. The signs represent primitive ideas gleaned from prior analysis. Once broken down into primitives and represented by stipulated signs, the component ideas can be paired and recombined to fashion novel configurations. In this way, Leibniz sought to mechanize the production of new ideas.... The royal academies Leibniz promoted were the group nodes for an international republic of letters, a universal network for problem solving. (68)

The temporal simultaneity, the all-at-once-ness of God's knowledge serves as a model for human knowledge in the modern world as projected by the work of Leibniz. Hat better way, then, to emulate God's knowledge that to generate a virtual world constituted by bits of information? Over such a cyber world human beings could enjoy a God-like instance access. [Babel?] But if knowledge be power, who would handle the controls that govern every single particle of existence? (69)

Because access need not be linear, cyberspace does not in principle require a jump from one location to another. Science fiction writers have often imagined what it would be like to experience traveling at the speed of light, and one write, Isaac Asimov, describes such travel as a 'jump through hyperspace.'... In both hyperspace and hypertext, linear perception loses track of the series of discernible movements. Hypertext reading and writing supports the intuitive leap over the traditional [created by print] step-by-step logical chain. (70)

Being a body constitutes the principal behind our separateness from one another and behind our personal presence. Our bodily existence stands at the forefront of personal identity and individuality. Both law and morality recognize the physical body as something of a fence, an absolute boundary, establishing and protecting our privacy. Now, the computer network simply brackets the physical presence of the participants, either by omitting or by simulating corporeal immediacy. In one sense this frees us from the restrictions imposed by our physical identity. We are more equal on the net because we can either ignore or create the body that appears in cyberspace. But, in another sense, the quality of the human encounter narrows. The secondary or stand-in body reveals only as much of our selves as we mentally wish to reveal. (74)

[on hackers] When we speak of a global village, we should keep in mind that every village makes villians, and when civilization reaches a certain degree of density, the barbaric tribes return, from within. (77)

The computer God's-eye view robs you of your freedom to be fully human. Knowing that the computer God already knows every nook and cranny deprives you of your freedom to search and discover. (78)

Beneath the artificial harmony lies the possibility of surveillance by the all-knowing Central System Monad. The absolute sysop wields invisible power over all members of the network. The infinite CSM holds the key for monitoring, censoring, or rerouting any piece of information or any phenomenal presence on the network.... Those who hold the keys to the system, technically and economically, have access to anything on the system. (79)


Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?: Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures by Allucquere Rosanne Stone

The idea of shareware, as enunciated by the many programmers who wrote shareware programs, was that the computer was a passage point for circulating concepts of community. (88)


The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat by Chip Morningstar and F. Randall Farmer

[the lessons:]

The idea of a many-user environment is central to cyberspace.

Communications bandwidth is a scarce resource.

An object-oriented data representation is essential.

The implementation platform is relatively unimportant.

Data communications standards are vital.

Detailed central planning is impossible; don't even try.

You can't trust anyone.

Work within the system. (279-294)



Collaborative Engines for Multiparticipant Cyberspaces by Carl Tollander

Rather than having 'users,' cyberspaces have participants, each of which can be a human agent or a computer program. (303)

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