I post this essay here with some trepidation since it is the first academic piece of mine ever published, and it's rather awkward in tone. But I can't miss the chance to celebrate the first Tron, released in 1982. In the early 1990s I was working on my first novel, Correspondence, about a woman who turns herself into a machine. I was fascinated by what I called 'the experience of machine-ness' and I watched Tron over and over again. When I was invited to write a chapter of a book on women and science fiction I knew I wanted to write about Tron, although to be honest I was much more interested in the machine than in the female side of things (ditto the other film I discuss there, Short Circuit).
This academic year I'm focusing on researching and writing my upcoming book for Bloomsbury Academic Nature and Cyberspace: The Wild Surmise.
An offshoot article was recently published in an e-book produced for the 10th anniversary of the Center for Digital Discourse and Culture at Virginia Tech, Putting Knowledge to Work and Letting Information Play: The Center for Digital Discourse and Culture edited by Timothy W. Luke and Jeremy W. Hunsinger. It's an honour to have been invited to contribute to this collection and I was delighted that my piece was included. It's called "From gunny sacks to mattress vine: notes on Douglas Engelbart, Tim O'Reilly, and the natural world" and it considers some surprising synergies between these two well-known figures. My conclusion might be a bit of a stretch, but it's an interesting stretch, and I enjoyed putting it together.
I've also written an essay for something completely different - a collection about various aspects of the body. That's being edited now and should be out next year.
I've had enquiries asking when this article will be available. It will be published in the February 2009 issue of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies but unfortunately you have to subscribe to get access. It's the first full piece I've written for this project, and it examines the evolution of nature metaphors in computing and cyberspace via some examples of the influence of Californian outdoor life on computer culture in Silicon Valley and beyond.
First Monday, Volume 12 Number 12 - 3 December 2007
First Monday has published an article by the PART team at De Montfort University. Transliteracy: Crossing Divides lays out our current thinking about the concept and invites response and comment. Notable as the first peer-reviewed article on the concept, it was written collectively by Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Mills, Simon Perril, and Kate Pullinger - a supreme effort of collaboration!
Transliteracy might provide a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty-first century. It is not a new behavior but has only been identified as a working concept since the Internet generated new ways of thinking about human communication. This article defines transliteracy as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” and opens the debate with examples from history, orality, philosophy, literature, and ethnography.
Read the full paper here.
This article reports on Web 2.0, the end of cyberspace, and the internet of things. It proposes that these concepts have synergies both with the current fashion for modifying physical objects with the features of virtual objects, as evidenced in O'Reilly's MAKE magazine and similar projects, and with the potential technologies for collective intelligence described by Bruce Sterling, Adam Greenfield, Julian Bleecker and others. It considers Alex Pang's research on the end of cyberspace and asks whether the 'new' of new media writing will have any meaning in a world that is updated by the microsecond every time there is fresh activity in the system.
This paper examines text-based interactions found on the Internet - that is, stories contributors have told about themselves and their everyday lives, specifically The Noon Quilt, Lost, and Home, as well as Migrating Memories, The Dawn Quilt, and The Road Quilt. All of these sites were developed and managed by the trAce Online Writing Centre between 1998 and 2005.
Presented at Altered States, University of Plymouth, August 2005
Most visualisations of the internet are created from router nodes and there are many maps showing this flow of data in numerous variations. But what lies between these nodes? Does virtual space have some kind of atmospheric materiality that is, perhaps, something like air? According to transfer protocol, the data doesn't 'leave' node 1 until after it has 'arrived' at node 2 so in a sense it is not going anywhere at all. Another interpretation is that since data travels at the speed of light, any time taken occurs not during the journey itself but is added in by the routers and modems which process them. But then, in a further contradictory complication, it could be said that the data is indeed travelling, only not in a physical sense, but inside an 'internet cloud'. Shunryu Suzuki says 'When we inhale, the air comes into the inner world. When we exhale, the air goes out to the outer world. The inner world is limitless, and the outer world is also limitless. The air comes in and goes out like someone passing through a swinging door.' To paraphrase Suzuki, perhaps what we call 'I' is just a swinging door which moves when we write or read into the virtual space of the internet. There is no doubt that the 'internet cloud' is the most intensely compelling environment of the contemporary world. Is virtuality, like air, simply a property of the encompassing world in which humans - like all other beings - participate?