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May 29, 2012 11:40 AM   Subscribe

"when i went into cyberspace i went into it thinking that it was a place like any other place and that it would be a human interaction like any other human interaction. i was wrong when i thought that. it was a terrible mistake." Pandora's Vox: On Community in Cyberspace

In the spirit of recent early web nostalgia it may be worth revisiting a classic essay by a star of the early web community known as The WELL: humdog, AKA Carmen Hermosillo, who died in 2008.

The link above the fold (duplicates here and here) discusses a wide range of ideas associated with the techno-utopianism of the early web, including anonymity, the construction of identities online, government surveillance, and the commodification of user data.
posted by codacorolla (25 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
This reads like a mess half-digested, skimmed theory, and is too short on actual detail to make her attempt to apply it to THE WELL compelling. For anybody who was there - am I missing something?
posted by ryanshepard at 11:50 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The "Carmen Hermosillo" link gives context to her career online, including a description of the atmosphere of The WELL at the time of the essay and how her own opinions ran contrary to it.
posted by codacorolla at 11:55 AM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


i was wrong when i thought that. it was a terrible mistake.

Seriously, cyberspace is so much better. Asynchronous communication means you can walk away from idiots and malafactors any time you want! Ask embarassing questions anonymously! Have unliked opinions safely!

I'll never understand the people who use the Internet merely as a way to exchange phone numbers and addresses.
posted by DU at 11:58 AM on May 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


It feels much like a semi-fluid mingling of an undergraduate social sciences assignment and the wonder that is timecube. It felt like a semi-random collection of a dozen interesting concepts that were alluded to, barely touched upon, and then left floundering in the near-distance as the author's gaze passed them by. I kept wanting to grab the essay and shake it, to make it spend more than half a paragraph on a single idea. There were so many fascinating ways it could have been developed, and yet the author stubbornly refuses to examine any one of them.
posted by talitha_kumi at 12:07 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


She was certainly right about cyberspace being a black hole that absorbs energy.
posted by keptwench at 12:14 PM on May 29, 2012


MetaFilter: The semi-fluid mingling of an undergraduate social sciences assignment and the wonder that is TimeCube.
posted by verb at 12:15 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: i went into it thinking that it was a place like any other place and that it would be a human interaction like any other human interaction. i was wrong when i thought that. it was a terrible mistake.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:24 PM on May 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


In all seriousness, that "undergrad social science meets timecube" summary can apply to a pretty large swath of the Internet. talitha_kumi, you've just coined my new favorite phrase.
posted by verb at 12:27 PM on May 29, 2012


timecube

When I scrolled down as far as the picture of this guy wearing that cap and shirt, I can only be thankful that I didn't have to sell that cap and shirt to him. And yes, I'm fairly sure it was an order of two pieces.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:29 PM on May 29, 2012


To read Wired's reportage roughly around the same time, you'd think all online communities were about furry sex.
posted by mkultra at 12:33 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


> To read Wired's reportage roughly around the same time, you'd think all online communities were about furry sex.

I used to live with one of the people in that infamous article. She's a programmer at Second Life now.
posted by egypturnash at 12:46 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Before web2.0 came about, that was certainly the most interesting things about online communities.
posted by Theta States at 12:48 PM on May 29, 2012


When I first went into cyberspace I thought I would view a little porn, maybe get some pirated songs or videos and then one day I woke up naked under an overpass with a bath salts hangover and half my face chewed off.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:48 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, what an amazing post. The "Remembering Carmen Hermosillo" article is very important to read, i think, to learn more about who the author was. I will definitely be going through it later and learning more.
posted by rebent at 1:08 PM on May 29, 2012


And I just wanted to add that this is only "half-digested, skimmed theory" if you only half digest it and skim the article, instead of actually reading it.
posted by rebent at 1:11 PM on May 29, 2012


MetaFilter: the amusement never ends, as peter gabriel wrote. maybe sometime i will rant again if something interesting comes up.
posted by not_on_display at 1:31 PM on May 29, 2012


Seriously, cyberspace is so much better. Asynchronous communication means you can walk away from idiots and malafactors any time you want!

I'm torn. I find that it is harder to walk away from conflict and disagreement -- that after a spasm of it online, I am torn up a bit, thinking way too much about it. I think this is mostly because it is a lot easier to find common ground, to talk around misunderstandings, to bring things like tone and body language into play, when you're face to face with someone, or voice to voice at least. The paucity of bandwidth -- in terms of content of communication -- is so narrow with text, that it is very hard indeed to come back from misunderstanding, because once someone begins to read a hostile tone into your text, it's hard for them to stop, and hard for you to get them to do so.

That results in a couple of things -- people who want to interact in good faith try a little harder, in places like this, to be clear, and to say things in ways that don't come off as being aggressive. That's a good thing. But there are always those who aren't good enough with words, or don't care, or aren't bright, or are genuinely malevolent or trolling for lulz, that can collapse that down into hurrr-space almost instantly.

Like many people who enjoy (even prefer) hanging out on the internet with friends, I find social interactions can be a little exhausting, at least without a bit of booze smoothing things down. I'm not bad at them, particularly, I don't think -- hell, part of my job is being in front of people talking to and with them -- but I do find it tiring to chat aimlessly with people. So in that way, the asynchronous, on-demand, intermittent nature of conversation is a boon.

But I've also always been (and tried in recent decades to be less so) of an over-explainer. I'm verbose. I talk around things, try to get at them from various angles, consider and reconsider, mostly because I've always had a horror of misunderstanding, or more, of being misunderstood. That's immensely hard to do, time consuming, and ultimately even more boring when it's done in text.

So, yeah. For me, not exactly better. Better in some ways, not as good in others, but certainly different, and those differences do make interaction-via-text a profoundly different kind of interaction.

Some folks sound the alarm these days about the death of text, how we are becoming so much more visual with the advent of friction-free, zero-cost image and video production with our smart phones and youtubes and facebooks and stuff. I don't think text as we conceive of it is becoming so much obsolete as it is transforming, from something that is static (the book model) into something that is alive and interactive (websites like this one and texting and twitter and all the rest).

Which is probably a facile thing to say, and has probably been said better, but I'm on my first-coffee parabola, so I thought I'd say it. Heh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:35 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, that "Remembering..." link is heavy with jargon & references to people & events I have no clue about. Makes it all but unreadable, to me anyway. At least I got my suspicion confirmed that the Well really was just full of assholes of one sort or another & makes me regret turning down that free account back in the day a lot less.
posted by scalefree at 6:40 PM on May 29, 2012


This is really good and is definitely something I can sympathize with. I like how she writes.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:26 PM on May 29, 2012


Just in case the all-no-caps style irritates you, here's a sentence case version.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:13 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


also it is baudrillard, not beaudrililliard, long ago lower-case lady
posted by Sebmojo at 8:14 PM on May 29, 2012


You have to admit that 'beaudrililliard' rolls off the tongue in a pleasingly-lilting way, though.

Also, I finally R'ed TFA, and, yeah, no.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:08 PM on May 29, 2012


Aah, the Well, overrated hideout of silicon snake oil hustlers and third rate sf writers, which finally died as the internet routed around it and everybody could get online, a bbs by any other name only made famous through misguided Wired editorials.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:45 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look people.

If it doesn't involve cubes and geometric shapes projected directly into your visual cortex.

Then it isn't cyberspace.
posted by delmoi at 5:40 AM on May 30, 2012


The irony of Metafilter members looking down on Well members for being wannabes and hucksters is pretty stupefying.
posted by mkultra at 7:09 AM on May 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


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