Caitlin Martin

Subject: Re: spaces and MOOs and such

Yes, a major part of MOOspace for me is the people I know there, the conversation, the political debate on mailing lists, but there's a lot more to it than that. While I'm not a major programmer, I was able to do simple programming in the space in a matter of hours through the tutorial on MediaMOO (which I highly recommend to anyone interested in MOO programming). Even more important to me is the ability to write in the space. I can write on myriad bodies, wear them as the mood/desire suits me. I can build entire universes that exist in my head and w/the use of good generics I can make them live and breathe. And then there are the multiple toys one can make. I made a bullwhip for a friend on Dhalgren built out of a generic scripted object that gives the user a number of lines from Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson.

As a member of the ARB on Lambda I've seen some crap. Lots of it. But I've also seen some amazing building - a sex room (soon to be a generic room for other purposes) w/multiple stages and assorted interfaces for performance and participation on various user-chosen levels, generic juggling balls, a Shakespearian garden w/details that give the user Shakespearian quotes coded to each kind of flower in the garden, a gorgeously written RPG puzzle complete w/a kingfisher who sits on the initiate's shoulder.

Then there are the places I found on my own: Yib's Formal Gardens on Lambda - the best built space IVR (imho) which changes throughout the seasons and from which you can pick a bouquet of flowers which you can smell and water to live. And Mat's FO built from the Garden which allows you to give people flowers randomly selected from the Garden. There's the Interzone on Dhalgren - strange and wonderful and reeking of Burroughs. There's my Roof Garden and Water Lily on Dhalgren - fantastical places from my head. I've ridden in hot air balloons and played in beaches and visited Sunken Islandia (again on Dhalgren) recreated from the database of the original MUD. A vr lover once took me for a ride on the beach on his Harley and the same boy made me a unicorn that I could ride where I chose. There are the MOOvies on MediaMOO-lovely, lovely complex toys to build and play w/ if you so desire.

MOOs work because they are living, breathing, vibrant communities w/a rich sense of text and its myriad possibilities. They work because anyone can build there and program there and create there. They work because of the mailing lists and the argumentation and flames and stories people share. They work because of the stories people build there and because of the relationships that happen w/in those stories. And yes, there is lots of spam and fart bonkers and cruelty, but there's also a richness of life and a wealth of creativity and imagination and caring that is often beautifully and richly expressed.

MOOs are a lot about talking, but they're about an awful lot more than that and I'd truly miss being able to make a universe to share.

Tara Calishain

Subject: It's not just a genre anymore...

Sometimes I feel cheated, you know? I'll probably never have an AVA-interface wireless jack implanted or bio-grown in my skull. I'll never have cybernetically-augmented senses or adamantium claws surgically implanted in the backs of my hands. Nobody will ever glance at the pad of faux-skin on my shoulder and realize it contains a stimsim outlet. I'll never spend years loving a stranger by hologram and hating an enemy the same way. It's just not fair.

I'm a biker with no ride, a rocker with no axe, a cyberpunk-fueling a nonexistent stereotype with books and speculation - with no hack. As I sit down to type this missive on my hulking PC XT (using a B&W TV and a VCR as a composite signal processor because my monitor crapped out) I feel like Chuck Yeager forced to drive a Model T.

Where's the touchscreen and light pen? Where's the sub-vocal interface? Where's the 3D visual representation with the MIDI wraparound sound? If I get really tired of typing the word "teh" for the 100th time, I grow nostalgic in anticipation of a pair of gloves, glasses, and a brainsocket so I could just think the words and they'd appear before me with superVGA internal-optic nerve resolution.

When I see those sub-zero arctic mittens, goggles, and room-size machines that pass for virtual reality interfaces now, I feel a little embarrassed, like when I remember how excited I was when "Pong" first came out.

I don't want to have to climb into rigging for my kicks. I want to have a cool name like "Backslash" and hunch down in an alley in Seattle somewhere, using a cellular modem to break into BemmerBeamer Limited's computers and reassign their resources to old women who mispronounce the word "Denny's." I want to light a cigarette and watch it glow in the faint flickering from my superplasma XGA monitor. I want to have the kind of battles that involve mind against mind, rivalries that you know are free from -isms of all sorts because you have never met your opponent - they are faceless, and yet they have powers. I wanna meld, I wanna fly, I wanna breathe stop bits.

Of course, any of you that are in the generation-naught cyberpunk culture that exists now (computer bulletin boards and services) know how unlikely this is. What's more likely is that people use the excuse of anonymity, a hallmark of the cyberculture, to indulge in vicious but petty mischief. Why?

Bulletin boards seem like the perfect environment-words only, no faces, no faces, no surface veneer to distort perceptions of the "true person within." It should be a great place to meet, discuss, think, grow. And yet it's not.

Cyberzeroes (the number that comes before one) fabricate veneers to make snap judgements by, such as another cyb's spelling, choice of name, or reputation. The ensuing flame wars are vicious and seem to last forever, lingering in the timewarping environment of instant message access and reply. And there's no passion in it. Just the anonymous satisfaction of some anonymous person that he/she/it won't get caught.

If that's how it's going to be now, I don't want to think about later. And it's a shame, too, because the potential of computer hardware and software is incredible. We need to lock in and try to understand it, apply some morality to it, or we need to give it up, because once the power becomes accessible to the general public there's going to be more to the lure than anonymity, and more to the consequences than gossip or mild slander.

Maybe we shouldn't have these powers. Maybe I should be happy with this XT. On the other hand, maybe the discipline that could teach us to reveal ourselves without attacking each other could be the best thing that ever happened to humanity.