"Most people know me from cyberspace and assume that I live there. I do spend many hours a day online, but what they don't know is that my body is sitting outside, with my bare feet in contact with the earth. I don't know that I could live in any other way." (Howard Rheingold)
- The 'outdoors', meaning the physical world, including all living things (this definition excludes the features or products of civilisation and human will), or
- The physical universe and all its properties (this definition includes the products of human action and intention)
The internet is, of course, a product of of human action and intention, as in 2. But could the experience of cyberspace be altering our sense of the physical world, as in 1? I'm curious about the synergies between the virtual and the natural, especially in relation to the 'natural' physical.
I've been working with computers and in cyberspace ever since I bought my first machine, an Amstrad 6128, in 1987. Right from the start I was struck by what felt like very intuitive connections between computers and what we think of as the natural world, but unravelling those synergies has been a slow two-decade process of gradual revelations and occasional surprises. Over the years I've written two books directly exploring them - first, a novel, Correspondence (1992) and then twelve years later a memoir / travelogue Hello World: travels in virtuality (2004). Now I'm writing a third - The Wild Surmise.
The earlier books were drawn from my own personal experience but The Wild Surmise. will look at the wider cyberspace community (i.e. you, dear reader) and your own relationship with the physical world.
I've drafted five simple questions. They've already been answered by quite a number of individuals working with technology including Mark Amerika, Martin Dodge, Steve Grand, N. Katherine Hayles, Brenda Laurel, Marjorie Luesebrink, Ted Nelson, Jane Prophet, Kate Pullinger, Howard Rheingold, Alan Sondheim, Brett Stallbaum, Bob Stein, Bruce Sterling, Nancy White, Kathryn Yusoff and others. I'll be making these responses available as the research progresses. Read the response from N. Katherine Hayles.
I keep thinking I'm done with this subject, and then it starts nagging at me again. Am I alone in obsessing about it? Surely not!
Visit The Wild Surmise and read / respond to the Questions.