Before graphics and avatars there were Sherry Turkle's plain text MUDs. Entire worlds created with text. Words. We created these worlds and also the characters in them. We are the Word. We are God.
When the Egyptian god Toth approached King Thamus with the gift of writing, Thamus politely declined the offer. He felt his society would be better of without the powers of the new technology. He understood that, "it is extremely tough to figure out where writing stops and the mind itself starts."4 Thamus's concern was not that writing would create alternate dimensions but that writing would destroy memory. He feared it would erode the oral context of education allowing knowledge to pass into the hands of the unprepared.5
How prepared are we to deal with the consequences of our writings? Are we ready to be God? Like us, our cyberliknesses will know nothing of their creation. I doubt we'll their consciousness until long after it's happened. But, one day there *it* will be and all these people will know is a vague sense that they came from text.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female created he them. 6
So, how will these cyberlikenesses achieve consciousness? When will they eat the forbidden fruit? As I have said, I have no idea. I do think that as our processors become faster and our monitors handle higher and higher resolutions, the day approaches. In the beginning was the Word, but we have not remained words. We are flesh and blood; molecules and atoms. Like us, our cyberlikenesses are evolving. They have gone from being words to having avatars visual representations of their identities.
All matter is made up of energy. We are, essentially, tiny dots held together by some cosmic glue. We are little dots called molecules; science has taught us this. Even the Bible acknowledges this. What did God use to create Adam? Sand 7 a bunch of tiny dots. Those who wrote these biblical myths knew nothing of our modern science. They didn't know we are made up of molecules and that those molecules are made up of atoms. An atom is just a tinier dot made up of much smaller dots. Protons, electrons, neutrons; quarks, antiprotons, and neutrinos tiny dots making up slightly larger dots that eventually become so compact that we become solid matter. The biblical authors knew nothing of this but in stating that we are made of sand they acknowledge that our physical makeup is nothing more than little dots.
What is a pixel? The computer knows a pixel as a 1 or a 0. 1 and the pixel appears on the screen, 0 and it doesn't. On the screen, however, a pixel is a representation of a tiny dot of energy. The more pixels that are used to make up an image, the more realistic the image appears. So what happens when our processors generate more pixels than our monitors can show? My theory? A third dimension will exist in cyberspace. A high enough resolution will create matter. It will no longer be pixels per inch, but pixels per square inch. This third dimension will not "pop out" into our reality. Rather it will give substance to the alternate dimension. I use the phrase "alternate dimension" on purpose. I believe that this 3D cyberspace will exist alongside, parallel to, our reality in such a way that it will never be fully accessible to us.
Is this the great divide between God's world and ours of which my Sunday School teachers spoke?
The physical space of cyberspace is still reliant on us. It needs our imaginations to exist. Text alone cannot create a dimension. But images can. The characters in text-based MUDs cannot see themselves or their surroundings. They are reliant on us and our descriptions for their existence. However the images we upload are lasting. The image does not cease to be simply because we are no longer thinking about it. The avatars for our characters remain and so they continue to exist. When will they eat the forbidden fruit? When the fruit can be picked.
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust on the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." 8I wonder if God knows how he breathed into us life? I wonder how it will happen for our cyberlikenesses.
So, assuming we are God and we are creating a distinct existence in cyberspace, what kind of world are we creating? "A twenty-one-year-old college senior defends his violent characters as 'something in me' but quite frankly I'd rather rape on MUDs where no harm is done."9
The sociological debate surrounding cyber-violence is centered on how it affects us in our reality and what it says about our society.
The often violent nature of many of the sexual "fantasies" played out in these interactive chat rooms raises important questions about the dark side of human sexuality and the way in which the Internet permits its free and unquestioned expression in easily accessible public spaces. . . If "words are deeds" . . . then what exactly are the deeds being carried out in these spaces? Do they belong merely to the realm of fantasy role-play or do they transform the sexual psyches of the participants? . . . [S]omething as yet unnamed is doing on in chat rooms where an erotic scenario can shift to a gang bang with a few keystrokes from an observing male who jumps in with "Let's skull-fuck the bitch."10
Feminists worry that allowing degradation of women online will perpetuate degradation of women in our society. Others argue that cyber-rape has no consequences in our world because the victim/user can just log off. While this debate is an interesting one the have, the effect of cyber-violence on our reality is not the issue here.
The issue that concerns me is the creation of identities for the people of cyberspace. Our online actions may be without consequence in our reality but they are not without consequence in to our budding alternate dimension. With what type of people do we wish to populate this new reality?
"A Rape in Cyberspace" is about an incident that occurred in the LambdaMOO in early 1993. A character, Mr. Bungle, used a command set known as a "voodoo-doll" to commit non-consensual sex act with and to other members of LambdaMOO. This type of cyber-rape is different from the sexually violent chat room that Michals discusses. Her article focuses mostly on chat room interaction where communities can be formed but aren't necessary. A MUD, or MOO in this case, however, is dependant on a community involvement from its users. Yes, the users could log off their characters, but that was their only option. The voodoo-doll command gives another user control over your character. You cannot command your character to leave the room or even to shout, "NO!" You are helpless in the MUD. Also, because this rape happened in a public room of LambdaMOO the affected users cannot hide what happened to them from the rest of the community. In a chat room one can change their username easily. In a MUD one has often spent considerable effort in developing their character. Like in our reality, the rape will affect the rest of that character's life. To switch characters would mean starting all over in the game. And it would mean death for the violated character.
The fact that this command set exists in LambdaMOO and other MUDs I'm sure means that our cyberlikenesses will have the ability in the conscious cyberspace to dominate one another. The fact that we play rapists and murderers online means that deviant personalities will exist in the cyberworld. Who hasn't wondered why pedophiles exist. Why are there people in this world who seem inherently bad? What if God was just curious? What if he was just playing around one day and wanted to see what evil was like?
Perhaps the real life creators of these violent cyberlikenesses are good people who created bad identities. On this same note, perhaps bad people can create good identities. Take "The Strange Case of the Electronic Lover," for example. Joan was the cyberlikeness of a 50-ish New York psychiatrist named Alex. In this early incarnation of cyberspace (this story happened in 1982/83), no one expected an online persona to be an "imposter." When Joan was finally revealed as Alex, many people were extremely hurt. The phrase "mind rape" was used. 11 However, before the "deception" was discovered, everyone thought highly of Joan. That is, perhaps, why some people were hurt when they found out Joan's online and real life personas were highly incongruent.
I wish to focus on Joan's, not Alex's, identity. "Joan was quite a feminist. It was she who suggested the formation of a women's issues group within CompuServe. . . Several women had relationships with Joan in which they referred to each other as "sister." 12 Joan was a good person. She did good things. She was loved. Many of the users in CompuServe's CB channel that Joan frequented credit her for having helped them through serious, rough times. "Joan was extraordinarily generous. . . When Laura mentioned that no one had ever sent her roses, Joan had two dozen delivered." 13
In cyberspace Joan was the ideal person; a strong woman, a loving friend. Alex's cyberlikeness was probably a better person than most of us. The fact that he and Joan were so different is only a problem in our world. Our cyberlikenesses are the people in cyberspace. It doesn't matter who created them.
We have to be careful of what kind of identities we create in cyberspace. We are God. We are creating an existence. We are creating the people who will exist in this world. Our actions online are not without consequence.
If you were God, what kind of a world would you create?
After all, this is only supposition.
1. Sherry Turkle. Life on the Screen. NY, New York: Touchstone, 1995: 181.
2. The New Scofield Reference Bible: Authorized King James Version: John 1:1
3. From Scofield's notes on John 1:1
4. Erik Davis. Techgnosis. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998: 23
5. Davis 23.
6. Genesis 1:26-27.
7. Genesis 2:7 in the King James Version of the Bible uses the word "dust". Other translations have used sand or dirt.
8. Genesis 2:7.
9. Turkle 185.
10. Debra Michals. "Cyber-Rape: How Virtual Is It?" Ms. Magazine March/April 1997: 69.
11. Lindsay van Gelder. "The Strange Case of the Electronic Lover" reprinted from Ms. Magazine, October 1985: 365.
This article was given to me as a handout in a class. I do not know what book I was reading my copy from so my page references will be of little use
12. Gelder 367.
13. Gelder 369.
Davis, Erik. Techgnosis. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998.
Dibbell, Julian. "A Rape in Cyberspace." The Village Voice 21 December, 1983: 36-42.
Michals, Debra. "Cyber-Rape: How Virtual Is It?" Ms. Magazine March/April 1997: 68-72.
The New Scofield Reference Bible: Authorized King James Version. Ed. C.I. Scofield. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen. NY, New York: Touchstone, 1995.
Van Gelder, Lindsay. "The Strange Case of the Electronic Lover" reprinted from Ms. Magazine, October 1985.
Global protests against the invasion of Gaza raged furiously during this, the second week, of the Israeli war. Over 100,000 people marched in France, 70,000 in Brussels, 100,000 in Madrid, 100,000 in London and protests continue to appear in cities across Europe including Athens, Berlin, Budapest, Oslo, Sarajevo and Stockholm. However, unlike the antiwar protests of the past, what is remarkable now is the widespread militancy of protesters. In each city, riot police were called in and violent clashes ensued. London protesters smashed the windows of Starbucks, in Brussels they vandalized car windows and in Yemen police opened fire on protesters, wounding five. For a complete summary of the global protests, visit The Raw Story or The Daily Mail.
BOYCOTT ISRAEL CAMPAIGN
MENTAL DETOX WEEK
The idea is simple: take your TV, your DVD player, your video iPod, your XBOX 360, your laptop, your PSP, and say goodbye to them all for seven days. Simple, but not at all easy. Like millions of others before you, you'll be shocked at just how difficult - yet also how life-changing - a week spent unplugged can really be.
Sacrificing Gaza to revive Israel's Labor party
Smadar Lavie, The Electronic Intifada, 19 January 2009
Oooo More "Cut and Paste!" And we all know who just hates that! Bite me (You know who you are.)!
I was stumbling about the net netrunning as is my habit and came across the above articulo at a site that I'd quite forgotten about in all the urgingness towards the new, really old, web 2.0, social networking megaglormingness. So netrunning is good for something other than it's purported Hackingness. I added a few other items of interest so that you could all see that my heart is really where it should be and so I could rub the 'Cut and Paste' vulgerness of me into that old hide's soul knowing full well that he/she/ it has banned him/her/it's self from my blogginess thus...
I hope that someone reads Paranoid Delusions for I'm always getting accused of it by certain people whose names I shan't utter here so as not to be accused of muffingness. Enjoy and Boycott Israel and Starbucks if you care to. If not go outside and look at the moon. I did just about an hour ago and was treated to a beautiful crescent moon rising low off the Eastern Hillocks. The background sky was awesome. A deep, dark, purple and translucent as all hell!
Now I'm off to do what I do best and maybe see ya later, eh?
19 Jan 2009 @ 11:09 by susannahbe : The article...
I found interesting.
Here is something on similar lines I wrote a few years ago...
I am a god in cyberspace
I create with pixels
I move mountains with my mouse
If I do not like that wall just there
I do not scratch my head and stare
I can "drag and drop" it wherever I choose
It's like we are standing in gods shoes
Is this how our universe came about
one day the gods were heard to shout
I've animated this spinning ball
Could this have been the start of it all?
Pixels and atoms
are they all the same
Just called by another name
Do we have to "believe" its true
Could this be our "on stage" cue
Is it time we took our place
Alongside the gods
and Mental detox - that is a very good idea too.
19 Jan 2009 @ 18:26 by : Nice!
I love your writing so much susanna. Very inspiring and deeply stimulating. Thankyou so much for sharing that with me.
"Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws." - John Adams
19 Jan 2009 @ 21:41 by : Chuang Tzu...
Cyberspace as Dream World
The great Zen master Chuang Tzu dreamt that he was a butterfly. When he awoke, he asked himself, "Am I a man who just dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I a butterfly who now dreams about being a man?"
The Psychology of Cyberspace
The Bad Boys of Cyberspace
19 Jan 2009 @ 22:16 by susannahbe : Cyberspace as Dream World
thanks for the link, I have just read the first page and will explore further, I find it very interesting.
4 Feb 2009 @ 18:30 by a-d : Ohhh, gosh...
it's been painful to be without you! Soooo glad you're back on track! : )
4 Feb 2009 @ 18:35 by : STRAC
on back." As they used to say in the Strategic Air Command. ;) Ah, wait...did you mean me or susanna? Silly question, I know. Susanna is always on track but me? Waaaaaaal... ;)
4 Feb 2009 @ 21:39 by a-d : heheheh
Det e DU som e på dom Rätta Spåren... och inte "Damen" i fråga!Tack Gode Gud för det!-Puss & Kram från Din Bästa Väninna :)
5 Feb 2009 @ 00:12 by : Fy va ...
illa jag stavade men det går nog att läsa,,,puss på er där ute! ...... Nån som minns dom? TOMHETEN e ju helt klart Tanternas bästa..BRA!
5 Feb 2009 @ 00:25 by : Ahem...
really good that old ladies can't really think. Heh! You're a doll A-d. Thanks for every little thingen. ;) BBL
5 Feb 2009 @ 01:05 by a-d : Verkligen
SKIT BRA!!!heheheh.... ; )..... Förresten, du stavade lika bra som jag! så de så!... Så skönt att du e här igen!
5 Feb 2009 @ 06:11 by : Hahaha!
Glad to know my spelling is so good. ;) I love to cast 'spells' as you well know. Glad you're comfortable with me being here again... ;)