Cyberpoet's Guide to Virtual Culture

A multipart guide to the electronic frontier. (039414)


To Contents

-=- 01.Introduction

Beyond the hype, behind the glamour, underneath the sea of buzzwords, icons and flames a new subculture is spreading in this petri dish known as the Internet. Here science and art - media and mind - combine in a cyborg frenzy to create this replicant cousin to cyberpunk and hacking. It is a subculture with no name, few labels, but thousands of common attractors, which link together before our eyes like digital DNA to create, in the helix of the autologue, a new frontier for participants in these wide virtual spaces to explore.

Any document that attempts to cover an emerging culture is doomed to be incomplete. Even more so if the culture has no overt identity (at least none outside virtual space). But the other side of that coin presents us with the oportunity to document the ebb and flow, the moments of growth and defeat, the development of this young culture.

Although young, there is rich history and varied philosophies for this group to draw on. From cyberpunk, the quest for access to information and a vision of the future (the cyber) has been exorcised from the distopic and 'punk'ish views of the monster the media has made of cyberpunk. From the Hacker ethic, we get the rally cry that "infomation wants to be free." From the workings of the Internet, we see the desire for universal access and the pursuit of Jeffersonian Democracy (kapor) that is manifested itself partially through the anarchy inherent in the system and partially through the efforts of many net.users.

This document, although significantly different, attempts to pick up where the FutureCulture FAQ (by andy hawks) left off. It should act as a starting point for those new to the net, as one avenue to reach a level of net.literacy, and as a handy reference point for those already comfortable in this pocket of the net.

It is a road map to the interesting viewpoints, hot dog stands, museums, flora and fauna that dots this constantly changing landscape of virtual space. Explore these sites. Dig in the cyborganic gardens. Report back your findings, so that others may follow. And they will.


[Cyberpoet] Cyber-, having to do with information flow, human and computer use/combinations, computer mediated communication. - Poet, one who makes art with words, an artist, a renaissance trait. A cyberpoet is one who strives to be artful in their use of virtual space. Someone who makes frequent trips to the edge of technology/culture/society and then reports back to anyone who will listen. The avant-guard of virtual culture. Someone who, like a renaissance man, has their eye on the future and their nose in its knowledge, technologies and politics.


-=- 01.2.Contents

  1. Introduction

  2. Cultural Signposts

  3. Virtual Hangouts

  4. Resources & References

  5. Offline Interests

  6. Final Words

***and our newest feature***

KIBBLE: The CGVC Journal

C O N T E N T S !
  1. Editorial - Welcome to Kibble the zine
  2. Guest FAQ - Clipper News & action.
  3. Ongoing projects - Interpedia - Internet Encyclopedia
  4. Upcoming conferences - DEFCON ][ - July 22, 23, 24 - 1994
  5. Letters to the editor
  6. Editorial Policy

-=- 01.3.Stuph

Legalese, copyright notice, some parting words.

The contents contained herein are not to be construed as legal advice, nor is the author/publisher responsible for any damage that might result from the use of any information or software gathered from using this document. The author/publisher will make every effort to see that the information is up to date, but cannot warranty that it is.

This document, it's format, theme and articles are copyright 1993,1994 John Frost [frost@netcom.com], except where the copyright is retained by the original author. The rights to distribute and reproduce this document are granted in accord with the Agitprop guidelines founded by Bruce Sterling. A copy of those guidelines may be found via ftp at ftp.eff.org ftp/pub/Publications/Bruce_Sterling/README or at EFF's gopher site. Other uses and non-electronic reproduction of this document must first be cleared, in writing, with John Frost. Under no circumstance may money/script/funds be charged for access to this document, beyond the money charged for general access to the system it is found on. The guide may not be distributed on any disk/tape/device with a capacity of more then 80 megs.

To add information to, or suggest changes in, this document please email frost@netcom.com with the word CYBERPOET in the subject.

As far as I know this list is archived at mindvox and

http://128.230.38.86/cgvc/cgvc1.htm

ftp//ftp.eff.org//pub/net_info/cyberpoet.gvc

ftp//etext.archive.umich.edu//pub/Zines/Cyberpoet

ftp//vela.oakland.edu//pub/tribe/publications

USENET//alt.cyberspace, alt.cyberpunk, alt.virtual.culture

Please inform me of any other archival so that I may make mention of it here.

Back to Contents


-=- 01.4The Lexicon of Virtual Culture

-=- 01.4.1. The dictionary
Virtual Culture -- >>From A to Z

ADSL (Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Loop) -
The transmission method likely to be used to send movies, tv shows and sports - at the viewers request - over existing telephone lines right to your television. Look for this to be available and affordable in the next two years. This is the main contender to ISDN, the winner will provide the link between 50 channels and 500 channels, 50,000 channels or (hopefully) more.
Agrippa: A Book of the Dead -
A collaboration between author William Gibson, publisher Kevin Begos Jr., and artist Dennis Ashbaugh. This art-work contains engravings by Ashbaugh which appear or disappear in light and an on-disk semi-autobiographical poem by William Gibson which is unreadable after having been read once. Agrippa is notable because in many respects it blurs the lines concerning what art is, and adds fuel to the fire on issues of property rights and intellectual property. A highlight of 1992 was the release of Gibson's poem on to the net.
Artificial Life -
man-made systems that exhibit characteristics associated with the concept of "life".
Artificial Reality -
similar to virtual reality, but more interactive, with the participant being part of, not just experiencing, the artificial environment.
Barlow, John Perry -
A drummer for the Grateful Dead and co- founder of the EFF. Now a net.denizen who speaks often on virtual culture and cyberspace sociology and technology.
BBSes -
electronic Bulletin Board Systems. Begun in the late 70's, a form of virtual community existing in cyberspace where participants (usually using aliases) may send and receive public and private messages to each other on any topic imaginable, transfer software (copyrighted and/or public domain), play on-line games, etc. There is the "over-ground" BBS world where aliases are less common and illegal activities are avoided in discussion, and the computer underground where illegal activities and discussions are very common, members use aliases, and illegal information and/or software is exchanged.
Boxing -
A variety of electronic devices used to aid in phreaking. The original was the blue box, used from the mid 60's to the mid 80's, which allowed long distance phone calls to be made for free. A variety of other similar instruments accomplishing different tasks have been developed, some purely comical, some quite practical.
Chaos -
Chaos is a state that garners a lot of respect in cyberculture, to the point of being a techno-pagan religion. Many people are self- described Chaoticians.
Chaos Theory -
A field of science revolving around simplistic equations involving a large number of variables. Gave rise to fractals, a form of cyberdelic art. For further info on the subject, James Gleick's "Chaos: Making a New Science" is suggested.
C0dez Doodz -
Essentially a phreaker's version of pirates. People who seek out telco codes to be used to gain long distance (ld) telephone calls without paying for them. Scourge of the computer underground.
Communitek -
an informational technology that provides the potential for a community to develop in cyberspace. For example, within the net, IRC and elists are two communiteks.
Computer Underground -
"A group organized in secrecy, hidden behind aliases, to promote the free exchange of information regarding anything and everything including, but not limited to: computers, telephones, radios, chemicals, and ideas." (Thanx to The Butler for this definition) The mainstay of communication for the computer underground is cyberspace, more specifically BBSes. The computer underground is composed of hackers, phreakers, pirates, anarchists, and other cyberpunks.
Cyber- -
A prefix taken from cybernetics generally used in popular culture to mean anything that is technologically oriented.
Cyberculture -
Often used in the media to denote aspects of "life as a cyberpunk." Yet if we are to follow strict meaning, cyberculture is more accurately defined as an information-based culture.
Cyberdeck -
Term originated by William Gibson to refer to a computer used by deck cowboys that can connect to the matrix.
Cyberdelic -
"Cyber-art". Examples include fractals, computer-generated pictures and/or music, virtual worlds, etc. (sidebar - fractal pict)
Cybernetics -
The study of communication systems in living organisms and machines, the mathematical analysis of the flow of information.
Cyberpunk -
Begun as a literary movement in the 80's, an off- shoot of normal science fiction. Unique in that it generally occurs in the present or not so distant future, the characters are often considered "punks" (social deviants) and technology, (the cyber aspect), is prominent. "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, published in 1984, is considered by most to be the "bible" of cyberpunk. Another prominent author is Bruce Sterling, editor of another worthy cyberpunk collection, "Mirrorshades". Other examples of cyberpunk include Max Headroom (TV show) and BladeRunner (movie). Cyberpunk is special in that it has evolved from a purely literary movement to a realistic subculture. Many "techno-punks" (i.e., hackers) are considered cyberpunks. Other contributing factors to the cyberpunk subculture include: virtual reality, hallucinogenic and nootropic drugs, and industrial and punk music. For an in-depth, detailed look at cyberpunk fiction and cyberpunk culture, "Storming the Reality Studio," ed. by Larry McCaffery is suggested.
Cyberspace -
"The electronic frontier." A completely virtual environment: the sum of all BBSes, computer networks, and other virtual communities. Unique in that it is constantly being changed, exists only virtually, can be practically infinite in "size", communication occurs instantaneously world-wide - physical location is completely irrelevant most of the time. Some include video and telephone transmissions as part of cyberspace.
Cypherpunks -
net.folks who have evolved from hacking to encryption and concern with creating multiple anonymous identities.
Deck Cowboys -
Futuristic, some say fantasy, version of a computer hacker or a modern-day cyberpunk.
Electronic Frontier Foundation - (EFF).
Organization founded by Mitch Kapor (of Lotus fame) and John Perry Barlow (writer and Grateful Dead songwriter) to establish laws for cyberspace and apply the constitution to virtual communities. The EFF has recently morphed into a strong lobbying force in Washington D.C..
Elist (email-lists) -
An electronic discussion group that anyone with an email address can subscribe to. Email addresses for the elist members are stored on a single computer. When you send email to that machine, it will automatically bounce your letter to every other subscriber. Thousands of these elists, covering almost every topic, exist on the Internet for your reading pleasure and more are materializing weekly.
Ezine -
An net version of the small press magazine (known as a zine) culture. Usually ezines exist only on the net, but more and more paper-zines are distributing an electronic version as well. (sidebar, some zines to watch for)
F2F -
face to face meeting (also FTF)
Flame -
Disagreement (hell, full fledged war sometimes) occurring in cyberspace. Common on Usenet.
Fleshmeet -
a F2F meeting. Often a party of some sort where people who have met previously on the net get together.
Fractals -
Images created using chaos theory. A mish-mash of colors presented in a pattern that repeats itself many times over. A popular type of fractal image is one created using the "Mandlebrot set". Fractals are considered cyberdelic art.
Gibson, William -
Considered by most to be the "father" of cyberpunk, along with Bruce Sterling. His works include the infamous "Neuromancer", "Count Zero", "Mona Lisa Overdrive" (these 3 works are known as the sprawl series), "The Difference Engine" with which he was co-author with Bruce Sterling, and "Burning Chrome" a collection of short stories. A recent work of his is a poem in "Agrippa: A Book of the Dead". Gibson says he will no longer be writing the "classic" cyberpunk novels he is famous for. His latest work is entitled "Virtual Light" is futuristic fiction was released in August.
Global Village -
Famous term coined by Marshall McLuhan, exemplified by the net.
Gopher -
A menu driven service useful for grep'ing info off the net. You forgot your friend's email address, look here. Need to read the latest issue of "Voices from the net" (An electronic text based zine or ezine), look here. Searching for a file to read or software to download, use Gopher. Over 1200 individual gopher sites exist and the number is growing weekly.
Grep -
search, or scan.
Grok -
Word with roots in Shamanism that is akin to gnow. and implies a thorough and complete holistic understanding. Popularized in Robert A. Heinlein's _Stranger in a Strange Land_.
Hacker -
60's (1st) generation (orig. MIT): one who tinkers with software, electronics, computer hardware, etc. 80's (2nd) WarGames generation: one who enters computer systems without permission with either malicious or non-malicious intent, to gain, alter, or destroy information (labeled as crackers by the 60's generation). 90's (3rd) generation: often called cyberpunks, mostly non-malicious crackers interested in information for the sake of information, and not hacking for the sake of the hack - sometimes calling themselves "information liberators", they have re-adopted more of the original hacker ethic of the 60's that mainly states "all information should be free", "access to computers should be unlimited and total" and "promote decentralization". This new, 3rd generation is commonly associated with the computer underground, despite its mostly non-malicious intent.
Identity Hacking -
The use of pseudo-anonymity or false accounts to put ones self off as another person on the Internet. Not nice.
Infonomics -
The idea of an economy based on information, which obviously holds many different properties from our current state of the world.
Internet -
A large and very popular world-wide computer network begun by the Department of Defense in the 60's that connects educational institutions, corporations, organizations, and military and government installations around the globe. Some organizations exist that offer Internet access to the general public for an hourly,monthly or yearly fee. Suggested are places like the WELL, MindVox, Nyx (which is free of cost), Netcom, etc. Many Internet users partake in reading and contributing to Usenet, playing MUDs, FTPing text files and programs free of charge at the various FTP sites, and 'telnet'ing to other Internet sites. Because of its accessibility at a relatively low cost, size (the largest computer network in the world), connectivity, and infinite amounts of information, many network users prefer the Internet to such services as CompuServe (often called Compu$erve on the Internet) or Prodigy (which is more restricting in its content). The Internet has something to offer for everyone. There are many helpful books published about how to use the Internet, some are available right on-line. Once you gain access to the Internet, it is suggested that you read the 'news.announce.newusers' and 'news.newusers.questions' and 'news.answers' newsgroups on Usenet.
IRC -
Internet Relay Chat. Realtime communication forums between Internet users all over the world.
ISDN -
Integrated Services Digital Network. A communitek hopefully coming soon to a house near you, basically it will greatly expand the potential for information coming into your house, such as having 700 cable TV channels, interactive realtime video-phones, and far off in the future possible even realtime networked interactive 3d virtual reality.
Kapor, Mitch -
One of EFF's founders (along with John Perry Barlow). He started the Lotus software company and built it into one of the top 5 software companies in the world, then left to start the EFF. In addition to working at the top of EFF ladder, he frequently writes stories for magazines and newspapers, interviews on the TV and is often called to testify before congressional hearings.
Knowbot -
provides a uniform user interface to heterogeneous remote information services. A predecesor to the Intelligent Agent.
Legion of Doom - (LoD).
A legendary group of hackers from the computer underground. When they disbanded, some members went on to form a computer security firm (ComSec), Loyd Blankenship wrote GURPS Cyberpunk for Steve Jackson Games and some ended up in jail from Operation Sundevil.
Matrix -
Term coined by William Gibson that refers to the consensual hallucination of cyberspace.
Meme -
An "agent of communicative resonance," or more simply, "an information virus." Memetics is the study and theories behind the root structures of information itself.
MindVox -
A virtual community in cyberspace, also a BBS connected to the Internet. A nexus of the computer underground and cyberpunk and virtual reality began by Phantom Access Technologies, former members of the Legion of Doom. See also the WELL.
Mirrorshades -
A very important collection of cyberpunk fiction by various authors, most of whom are labeled as the mirrorshades group. This book is edited by Bruce Sterling and should be available in most bookstores.
Mirrorshades Group -
Original collection of cyberpunk authors which includes William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Tom Maddox, Lewis Shiner, John Shirley, SF Eye magazine editor Steve Brown, Rudy Rucker, Pat Cadigan, and others.
Mondo 2000 -
Very popular cyberpunk and new edge magazine. Recently challenged by a new magazine, WIRED.
MUD -
Multi-User Domain, Multi-User Dungeon, or Multi-User Dimension. MUDs are multi-user role-playing-games of sorts that exist on the Internet for entertainment purposes. MUDs are essentially text-based virtual worlds which players (participants) may explore, change, or add on to. In most cases, the MUD is actually a "game" with scores, player attributes, levels, etc., but some MUDs are with more social goals in mind. MUDs tend to be based around different science fiction genres such as fantasy, space, or even cyberpunk. More recently MUDs have developed new uses. Research, conferencing, and more academic MUDs are popping up like wildflowers these days and indicate a possible trend in the Internet, that being integration of services.

SIDEBAR - MU*'s have a somewhat unfortunate of being addicting. I attribute this to the strong feeling of community one gets from mudding. Students have been known to drop out of school just to MUD. Others have fallen in love over a mu* only to later realize the other player doesn't feel the same. I recommend going cold turkey as the only solution to the MUDding addiction. =)

Nanotechnology -
the science of "micro-machines". Small gears or other machines seen only by a microscope, that can be used in areas such as medicine and health, art, and other technologies.
Net -
A computer network. Often used to mean the Internet when referred to as "the net".
Netrip -
Many similarities exist in some people's minds between psychedelic drugs and the net, and a netrip is the state of literally getting "high" off the net, accompanied by distortions in space and time, a gnowledge of the net itself, an intense desire to communicate your subconscious to the rest of the net, etc.
New Edge -
Fringe culture and fringe science, mostly techno- oriented, and very popular in Southern California. Mondo 2000 is a magazine devoted to the new edge.
Nexus -
The dictionary defines a "nexus" as a "a connection, tie, or link between individuals of a group, members of a series, etc." When applied to virtual cultures and the networked humans which comprise them, a NEXUS is basically a domicile/workspace/cultural-center formed in real-life by people who have met and established relationships over the Net. They purchase and secure group Internet access, and thus control their own node, living in close proximity, since creativity blossoms in people when surrounded with creativity; since similar approaches to work and life can re-inforce each other. We have seen this happen on the Net; the NEXUS community intends to manifest it in reality, to integrate it into our lifestyle.
Nootropics -
A new science revolving around drugs used to increase intelligence, aid in memory, enhance brain activity, etc. Touted as a fad by some, others claim that use of nootropics actually work. See also SmartDrinks.
Operation Sundevil -
Secret Service operation begun in 1990 intended to destroy the computer underground by confiscating BBSes and detaining hackers.
Paste Bomb -
Sometimes a litteral core dump. Via the Mac's Cut and Paste capability, take random bits of data from one's hard drive and paste it into an online conversation, email, mud, whatever. Eris Lives. Sci-fi author Bruce Sterling is a notorious paste bomber. Get in the habit
Phrack -
An important magazine existing only in cyberspace, of interest to the computer underground. It's founder, Craig Neidorf, now works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Phreaker -
Hacking the phone system. Usually meaning to get phone calls for free, whether by boxing or calling card fraud. Individual phreakers are called phreaks.
Pirate -
One who copies software illegally. Commonly associated with the computer underground. Although commonplace, pirates are looked down upon as with codez d00dz . (sidebar SPA and the big corporation pirates)
Post-industrial -
The state of the world, including megacorp zaibatsus, an evolving infonomics, etc.
Post-modern -
Literary, artistic, cultural, and philosophical movement revolving around the post-industrial world in which we live, and the unique aspects of the trends of modern society.
Raves -
A 'dying' subculture revolving around all-night dance parties. Typically, the parties are generally illegal and thus a complex process is involved to find out where they are located. Rave music is generally techno or house , the parties usually include 1 or more DJs. Also present in many cases are "chill out rooms" which feature more ambient music. Lasers, blaring music, cyberdelic images, SmartDrinks and drugs most often MDMA {X, XTC, Ecstasy, E}, LSD {acid}, ketamine, or nootropics) are all general contributors to the rave experience. Raves are usually held in warehouses, and last until the next morning. Another large part of rave culture is the flyers - used to find out where your next party will be. Raves are meant to be very happy events, everyone ideally should be open and free, laying aggressions and inhibitions aside for the night. Some have likened the rave experience to "a weekly roving techno-woodstock for the 90's." Rave fashion includes over-sized baggy t-shirts and pants, hooded sweat-shirts, ski caps, and usually bright colors, as well as accessories such as whistles, Cat In The Hat hats, "doctor" masks, VapoRub, etc. Many factors have led to an often heard questions these days, "where have all the ravers gone?" (one answer is... they've gone Retro)
RTFM -
Read The Fucking Manual. An abbreviation used when clueless questions are asked about subjects that are answered in the manual or FAQ.
Shaman -
An overused word that in ancient and modern cultures implies one who is a wise medicine man or healer, with a keen understanding of the ways of things. Used increasingly in modern culture, especially in conjunction with techno-paganism.
Slipstream -
Term used to denote cyberpunk fiction, particularly pre-1984 fictional works that have been influential to the mirrorshades group or that closely resemble cyberpunk, but are sometimes outside of the sf genre. An example would be William S. Burroughs.
SmartDrugs -
nootropics.
SmartDrinks -
Similar to SmartDrugs, or nootropics, the intent of these substances, loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other healthy substances, is to aid in brain functioning. Smart Drinks are most often consumed at raves, thus, the purpose of some smart drinks is to "energize" the drinker, not to make them smarter.
Sprawl -
Word used by William Gibson to mean large mega- cities, and places where different cities collide. Southern California and New York City might be early examples of the sprawl. This word is used often in modern times as "urban sprawl".
Steve Jackson Games -
RPG manufacturers that have played a key role in the evolution of cyberpunk and the computer underground. Operators of the Illuminati BBS and makers of GURPS Cyberpunk, an RPG guide written by Loyd Blankenship, a member of the Legion of Doom.
Sterling, Bruce -
considered by most to be the "co-founder" of cyberpunk along with William Gibson. He is the editor of "Mirrorshades: A cyberpunk anthology," which is considered the quintessential collection of cyberpunk works by the mirrorshades group. Some of his other works include "Islands in the Net", "Schismatrix", "Involution Ocean", "The Artificial Kid", "The Difference Engine" which he co-authored with Gibson and "The Hacker Crackdown" a non-fiction account of the computer underground and Operation Sundevil, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Phrack, the Legion of Doom, Steve Jackson Games, etc. Sterling has also been a vocal member of the net. Keep your eyes open, you never know where he will surface next.
Social Engineering -
Technique by which hackers or crackers acquire information, such as names and passwords. Essentially a modern-day con, often conducted via phone conversations, such as portraying oneself as a telco employee.
TBT -
Talking by Typing.
Techno- -
prefix similar to cyber-, referring to anything which has its roots in current or futuristic technology.
Techno -
type of music made almost entirely with the help of computers, revolving around a fast-paced drum beat (as high as 160 BPM), sampling, and synthesizers.
Technoculture -
The idea of a culture with a strong foundation rooted in technology. Often used loosely in association with cyberculture and new edge.
Techno-paganism -
Literally the worshipping of technology. Many people *believe* that, for example, the net has some magic or is a sentient entity in itself, or that technology can be an agent of evolution. (sidebar Aleph spew)
Teledildonics -
Virtual sex in a virtual environment. Term often used by the new edge community. (sidebar: from new CD to magazine to etc)
Toasternet -
Putting together a LAN, WAN or Internet hook up with the cheapest of technology. Read up on Toasternets on the Wells Gopher.
Usenet -
A collection of "newsgroups" on the Internet, in which Internet users may post or read messages on almost any subject imaginable. The topics of discussion are divided up into the individual newsgroups, which total about 2000 on average. Usenet is divided into various large sections, including the 'alt'ernative newsgroups, the 'comp'uter newsgroups, the 'sci'ence newsgroups and the 'talk' newsgroups, among others. Some groups are moderated, while most remain completely uncensored. Usenet is often referred to as Abusenet for its all-too familiar flames and appearance of perpetual chaos.
Virtual Community -
any group or gathering that exists in cyberspace. This could be a BBS, a hacking group, a net, or even a zaibatsu.
Virtual Culture -
the collection of virtual communities, and the cultural aspects unique to those communities.
Virtual Reality -
a consentual hallucination of a world existing only in cyberspace. Modern day virtual reality uses helmets, gloves, and body suits to create such a world, which is first created on a computer and connected to the vr devices. A goal of some virtual reality researchers is to generate a completely alternate reality. Research in vr includes networking people, so spatial limitations are meaningless. The possibilities of vr-generated environments are as limitless as the imagination.
On to Cultural Signposts, Back to Contents