サイバー文化時代における戦略

Cyberculture in the Age of Dotcom.mania/A Vista over Internet Strategies


Geert Lovinkがデジタル文化にインターネットというコミュニケーション手段が導入され、デジタル・コミュニケーションが生み出すサイバー文化に対する対応について、小論文をnettimeで公開した。nettimeは営利目的でない場合は転載自由ということであるから、ここに全文を掲載する。ただし、データベース管理上問題になる文字は近い文字に変換し、URLはリンクするように設定した。経済産業省は2002年9月19日に、新しい業績報告書に関する調査研究−米・英主要企業のアニュ アルレポートの開示状況とインタビュー調査−を公開した。詳細情報はURL(http://www.meti.go.jp/kohosys/press/0003158/)で知ることができる。
デジタル文化の保存のために必要な資金確保モデルについて、Andrew W. Mellon Foundationがスポンサーになって調査した結果報告「Exploring Charging Models for Digital Cultural Heritage」が2002年6月に公開された、詳細情報はURL(http://heds.herts.ac.uk/mellon/charging_models.html)で知ることができる。
WIPO(World Intellectual Property Organization)が2002年12月16日に、知的財産権に則ったデジタル経済についてのレポート「INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ON THE INTERNET」を公開した。詳細情報はURL(http://ecommerce.wipo.int/survey/)で知ることができる。インターネット上には社会安全の歴史をReal Playerで紹介している「Social Security Online History Page」もある。詳細情報はURL(http://www.ssa.gov/history/)で知ることができる。イギリスの大衆新聞「The Sun」は2004年7月22日に、Napster UKと提携して5万ポンド 相当の音楽関連賞品が当たる懸賞を紙上で発表し、1000万人にのぼる読者に対し、土曜版に掲載されたコードを入力することで、Napster サイトにある75万曲の中から好きな音楽をダウンロードできるサービスを2004年7月24日から8回にわたって開始した。詳細情報はURL(http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2004341274,00.html)で知ることができる。イギリスの大衆新聞「The Sun」ではSun Online Shopで、バイクやMP3プレイヤー、旅行代理店、庭道具、健康道具、Tシャツから下着、おもちゃなどあらゆるモノを通販で販売を開始している。新聞はあらゆる情報を提供していることから、日本でも広告だけではなく、オンライン・ショップの入り口としての代行業や直販ショップは十分ビジネスになる。今まで新聞社や出版社が、このような情報内容と商品販売を連携した徹底的にビジネス展開してこなかったことの方が不思議といえる。Sun Online Shopでは「iPod」も販売している。詳細情報はURL(http://www.edirectory.co.uk/thesun/pages/index.asp?cid=1214&afid=91214)で知ることができる。
テクノロジー・レビュ(Technology Review)誌の主催で、2004年9月29日〜30日にマサチューセッツ工科大学(MIT)で開催された「未来技術会議(The Emerging Technologies Conference Showcase)」で、ティム・バーナーズ=リー(Tim Berners-Lee)は2004年9月29日に基調講演を行い、コンピュータがさらに多様なデータをより容易に検索・加工できるようにするための発展的なプロセスである「セマンティック・ウェブ」について語り、同時にウェブ開発の前進を妨げる障害には、技術的な側面と、社会的な側面もある。コンピュータ業界は、使用料を要求することで重要な技術を囲い込みたいという衝動を排除しなければならないと、語った。つまり、金の亡者や社会的権力願望者の横暴な行為は、排除すべきということになる。詳細情報はURL(http://www.tretc.com/agenda.htm)で知ることができる。
米国のGAO(General Accounting Office/米国連邦会計監査院)は2005年1月25日に、ハイリスクに関する情報をアップデートした「High-Risk Series: An Update. GAO-05-207」を公開した。詳細情報はURL(http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-207)で知ることができる。
米国のGAOは2005年11月21日に、子供の保護と教育に関して、教育情報へのアクセスしやすさの改善と先生資格取得要求実行支援のレポート「No Child Left Behind Act: Improvements Needed in Education's Process for Tracking States' Implementation of Key Provisions. GAO-04-734」を公開した。詳細情報はURL(http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-04-734)で知ることができる。
Microsoft社は2006年6月15日にビル・ゲイツ(William H.Gates通称Bill Gates)会長が最高ソフトウェア開発責任者の役職を退くと発表し、後継には最高技術責任者(CTO)のRay Ozzieが就任、2008年7月以降、日常の職務から離れる予定で、その後は慈善財団「Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation」で、地球環境や教育問題への取り組みにより多くの時間を費やすと報告した。ただし、2008年7月以降も、会長および開発プロジェクト顧問としてMicrosoft社にとどまる。詳細情報はURL(http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/jun06/06-15CorpNewsPR.mspx)または、URL(http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/jun06/06-15CorpNewsMA.mspx)または、URL(http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/leadership/default.mspx)または、URL(http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=205005)で知ることができる。
PaidContent.orgは2006年7月5日に、Cisco社がLinksys社、Scientific-Atlanta社、Kiss Technology社を買収したことから、現在デジタル・ホームに対する焦点の当て方の戦略を大きく変更してきていると報告した。Cisco社は、ホーム・ネットワーク戦略を実現させるために、コンテンツと著作権映画かゲームを保護するセキュリティ技術へのアクセスを必要としていると分析し、パートナーシップと投資で目標を達成することが良い方法と考えはじめている。KissネットワークでつながれたDVDプレーヤーに関するAkimbo社、DRMのためのWidevine社、TerraPlay社、IndiaGames社、Exent社、Emergent.Related社などを含んだ投資の第3ラウンドとして、US%1550万をCisco社、AT&T社、Blueprint Ventures社による新しい投資が始まると報告している。この投資は最初がUS$425万、第2が1200万と膨らみ、合計でUS$3275万になっている。詳細情報はURL(http://www.paidcontent.org/akimbo-closes-155-million-third-round-cisco-att-blueprint-ventures-are-new-investors)で知ることができる。
UNCTAD(United Nations Conference on Trade and Development/国連貿易開発会議)は2006年11月16日に公開したレポート2006年度版「情報経済報告(Information Economy Report 2006)」で、広帯域インターネットアクセスがビジネスにはとても必要になっているので、それを水や電気に匹敵する新しいユーティリティ(new utility/必要不可欠なモノ)と考えていると報告した。UNCTADは、高速インターネットアクセスが増加していることの重要性は同時に、広帯域アクセスが不十分である開発途上地域の「不穏なニュース」で、技術がグローバル企業傾向へ、より大きい影響を及ぼすことであるので警告しました。レポートにはまた、発展途上国がしばしば手頃な値段でサービスを提供する必要なインフラストラクチャを欠くと書かれている。まさに、貧乏人、田舎ほどブロードバンドが必要であり、金持ちの都会人は高速インターネットアクセス環境を入手し、デジタル・デバイドはさらに拡大している。また、UNCTADは2006年度版「情報経済報告」で、中国のインターネット利用者が2005年に1億人を超えたことを報告した。詳細情報はURL(http://www.unctad.org/Templates/webflyer.asp?docid=7576&intItemID=3991&lang=1&mode=highlights)で知ることができる。
Media Guardianは2007年2月8日に、世界最大の経済新聞社「フィナンシャル・タイムズ紙(Financial Times)」は時代に逆行するようにスタッフの職務を3つのカテゴリーに分類することを計画していると報告した。イギリスのFinancial Timesが提案した新しい人的資源イニシアチブ(new human resources initiative staff)は、業績考査の上で「上級パフォーマー(over performer)」「標準のパフォーマー(standard performer)」「下級パフォーマー(under performer)」に分類される。Financial Times編集のライオネル・バーバー(Lionel Barber)は、先週、すべてのFT部ではなく、イニシアチブについて議論するためにセクション・ヘッドとミーティングをし、そして、チームはそれに関して話合いをすために会合を持った。しかし、評価の期間まで新しいカテゴリが実行されるようには設定されていない状態で、まだ来月まで始まる予定ない。この分類は、新しい人的資源ディレクターのサラ・ホプキン(Sarah Hopkins)の考えで、理解されている。イニシアチブは何人かのスタッフで困惑に会い、また、イギリス新聞協同組合(National Union)のJournalistsチャペルは応じていない。いよいよ新聞社の人材アウトソーシング時代が現実化してきた。新聞社は、つぎに才能のないジャーナリストを雇い続けるほど、余裕は無くなったとも言え、人種差別団体が、これにどう対抗するか?新聞社の経営にも大きく影響してくることから、注目する必要がある。もし、Financial Timesがこの計画で成功すると、新聞社の人材アウトソーシングに向けた大改革が世界中で始まることだろう。詳細情報はURL(http://media.guardian.co.uk/presspublishing/story/0,,2007851,00.html)で知ることができる。
Yahoo!は2008年7月20日から、ブログをはじめとする情報サイトの運営者が自分のサイト内に、仮想商店街「Yahoo!Shopping」の商品を扱うインターネット通販コーナーを開設できるようにし、サイト経由で商品が売れた場合には一定の手数料を運営者に支払うシステムを導入する。
また、販売する約1500万品目のデータベースや、ネット通販の技術仕様をネット経由で無償で公開する。
当初は商品検索やカテゴリーごとのランキング表示機能、2008年8月以降は外部ブログに書かれた文章などを自動解析して、その内容に沿った商品だけを表示できる機能も提供することを計画している。

Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 16:25:55 +1000
From: geert lovink (geert@xs4all.nl)
To: Nettime (nettime-l@bbs.thing.net)
Subject: (nettime) Cyberculture in the Age of Dotcom.mania
Sender: owner-nettime-l@bbs.thing.net

Cyberculture in the Age of Dotcom.mania
A Vista over Internet Strategies

By Geert Lovink

The early, mythological phase of digital culture is now rapidly running out of its utopian energies. There are hardly any signs left of cyberspace as an autonomous, supra-national, trans-gender sphere. According to the British science fiction writer Gwyneth Jones, there are no indications of a rise of the cyborg and its apparent ability to overcome patriarchal structures. Internet has proven incapable of creating its own consciousness. Instead law and order are taking command over the last pockets of digital wilderness. Logging onto the Net will soon be as fascinating and meaningful as picking up the phone, so Jones in her essay collection ''Deconstructing the Starships.''

The taming of the cyberculture by ''click 'n mortal'' businesses and their willing government executors took only a few years. The Net has been a successful financial gain for some and left behind a scattered scene of small enterprises, stagnating networks and dead links for most of the early participants. The time of institutionalization, mega mergers and security paranoia has arrived. These new conditions, driven by the current hyper growth, has a yet invisible effect on the cultural new media sector (arts, design, education), which had perceived itself for so long as ''ahead of the wave''. Whereas start-ups with youngsters are speeding up towards their IPO (Initial Public Offering) epiphany and eventual sell-out or bankrupcy, the cultural sector of the new media branch is in panic. The accumulated cultural capital now has to be safeguarded. Where to go with all these experimental interfaces, artistic interactive installations, 3D worlds, techno samples, rich alternative content, packed in databases, stored on CD-ROMs and web sites, not designed for the market in the first place? Now is the time to cash in, but the promised high value of so-called ''cultural content'' will be not rewarded any time soon, so it seems. Most money is still made with software, infrastructure and access, not with content. The interest of venture capitalists in cultural content is next to zero, with little or no cash returns or profit in sight. How to cash in when there is little or no interest in avant-garde quality concepts, with mainstream non-design and instant content proven so popular and financially successful? Back to charity? The danger of marginalization is immediate. A way back into state funded projects, museums, galleries and academia seems to be only left option for the once so mighty cultural arm of the virtual class.

The paradoxical position of web design can prove as an example here. Just as designers have the technology to create interactive web pages packed with sound and movement such as flash/shockwave, the future seems somewhat monochrome, as Fiona Buffini characterizes the state of web design in the Australian Financial Review (April 8, 2000). The small screens of mobile phones is forcing design to again dramatically reduce expectations concerning color, fonts and download speed. Similar limitations are the case for interactive television. Two steps forward, one step back? Or is it one step forward, two steps back? Web design no longer has the pioneer role to convince a cultural savvy audience about the high performance ''interactive'' capabilities of the Web.

Seductive buttons and surprising multi-layered content, linked in such ways to make surfing an exciting journey through the yet unexplored hyperspaces, has been brutally cut short to lucid functionality. ''Coolness as the single one criterion for a website's success has been dumped in favor of ''the higher plain of simplicity'' as main portals strive to increase speed'', so Buffini. Sites such as Yahoo!, Excite, Amazon, search engines such as Google, and virtually all news organizations, which together take a majority of the click rates represent the new breed in screen design. With no graphic art or technical experiments, all space is used to maximize the amount of text-based information on the front-page. Buffini: ''Usability, it seems, has become the major task of web designers with big commercial clients.'' With millions of clicks a day, high ratings on the stock exchange and high, risky venture capital investment, the leading web companies cannot afford their customers to crash on some plug-in. Buffini quotes media analyst Ian Webster: ''Yahoo! and Amazon deliver because they're designed to the last pixel. You can be a design snob but these sites are amongst the most sophisticated. With Internet population growing you have to design something that will work for 50 million people.'' In order to get this level, designers have to become neutral and provide users with ''mass customization.''

Interaction design seems to have lost its battle against interface stupidity. The office metaphor of the previous decade has been exchanged for an adaptation of the newspaper front-page outlook as the dominant information architecture. In this regressive move, back to the old mass media of print, references to space or navigation are no longer needed. What is presented here as a step forward, from the adult-like ''grooviness'' to ''usability'', is (again) light years away from the Bauhaus imperatives in which sophisticated design was not seen in conflict with mass production. Telephone books, dictionaries, paper money have all had decent typography and graphic design. So why not the world's most visited websites? Is it perhaps the unholy alliance between geekness and money which has pushed the HTML designers of the first hour off their thrown? The profession of interaction design has to adjust itself to the new circumstance, leaving behind only a niche of still interesting sites. Will the design branch rebel against this set back and push forward with a new visual language of esthetic functionality, embedded in a broader set of social, cultural and political a- priori? Or will it adjust and except the growing division between high and low culture within cyberspace?

This is the age of implementation, not innovation. With governments withdrawing from the cultural sector and the IT-sector, and a fast growing Internet business being solely interested in mainstream content generated by old media such as the printing industry, film and television, the cyber avant-garde threatens to be left alone with empty hands. All we deal with here are the attempts to write and claim history, filled with fading images and nostalgic stories and an amazing amount of iron goodwill towards business and the public sector to at least safe some of original intentions and visions. We are not speaking about the usual tragic cycles of appropriation here. Unlike pop cultures such as rock, punk or rap, cyberculture born in the late eighties has refrained of any gesture of resistance towards the establishment. This makes its rise and fall different, less predictable, and to certain extend softer, and perhaps even the more spectacular. The ruling market ideology generates the sweet illusion that there is enough place under the sun for all of the players. Cyberculture at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer position itself in a utopian void of seamless possibilities. Collective dreams of out-of-body experiences, digital forms of consciousness and virtual gender ending have been rapidly overturned by mainstream market forces and government efforts to regulate the new media industry. No more crossing of borders, with drugs, technology, fooling around with identities. Playtime for the early colonizers is over. Now it is the turn of the civilization teams and marketers to mark territories and set rules for just behavior so that the painful struggle for profit will not be undermined by some weirdo's who pretend that their Internet is an extension the Wild West. Economy has invaded the Net, and the Net itself has turned into an economy. At least, that's the idea and the Big Picture we are confronted with in the numerous dotcom advertisements and their accompanying reporting in the old media. In order to get there, key premises such as free communication and anonymity have to given up. The wild and free floating user has to be turned in a civilized, liable and accountable cyber citizen, who, like any other citizen will shop, vote and pay taxes.

Internet has a history by now, going back to the 1960s. As computers its history reaches back into the thirties and forties. Its genealogy as technical media can be traced back even further, centuries ago, via Leibniz back to Raymond Lullus. The history of the roaring nineties is now being written by both business journalists and art historians. But how about its immediate future? Which strategies are available now for its further development? Fundamental research and the development of new programming languages and protocols seem to have come to a hold. A crisis in informatics as an educational program is becoming visible as professors and their students change job for well paid positions in the IT-sector. Graduate students even drop out of elite business schools, lured by dotcoms' fast money. Why study four years, or more, if you can earn a fortune as a programmer or even have your own start-up? Why do research if the overall situation will change overnight? Only large corporations have enough funds and a long term view to embark for a yet unknown destination and courageous enough to set billions of dollars in the sand if the application turns out to be a failure and is not accepted by industry or consumers. ''The Internet craze has been accompanied by far too much short-term thinking. It's time to get back to thinking in ten-year increments'' says Phil Agre in one his postings to his Red Rock Eater News Service of April 8, 2000. Time for the Open Source community to reveal its first Five Years Plan? Is the graphic interface killer app version of Linux already on the radar screens, or would that be over ambitious?

In the official version of the Internet success story small companies have been portrayed as the motors behind the development of the medium. But this may turn out to be a myth, despite Yahoo! and Netscape (which is anyway no longer an independent player, after having been incorporated into the AOL/TimeWarner empire). At the end of story, the New Economy may as well be characterized as a process of transformation and adaptation of the Old Economy to information technology and the internet (TCP/IP) standard in particular in all layers of capitalist production, distribution and services, including the communication patterns on the user-turned-consumer side. Chances of Davids turning over Golliaths are diminishing. The idea that the information age would stand for principles such as networking, customization, niche production and high-risk innovation already sounds like overdue vaporware. Instead, we witness cycles of short innovation cycles building upon even shorter periods of creativity, set in small labs (or cultural scenes), followed by a desperate period of finding seed capital, possibly ending in a take over by big players such as media giants of the print, television and film industry, telcos, cable companies or old software firms from the eighties. The result for the Internet standard is, relatively speaking, regression, not progress. Micro-improvements on applications are, for good or bad reasons, classified as multi-billion dollars ideas. Because of the immense financial implications of a possible research outcome, media lab culture in many places has turned in a closed, competitive, even paranoid environment. Fights over patents and intellectual property have all but diminished the innovative culture of the early nineties, so naively documented in Tim Berners-Lee's book ''Weaving the Web''. His call for ''intercreativity'' could be too late.

Apparantly even this diplomatic gentleman, now working from MIT Lab, has recently changed his mind and starts to see the dangers of a corporate takeover of the Internet. In Ellen Ullman's report for URL(http://www.salonmag.com) (April 13, 2000) of 10th Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference, a annual meeting that brings together an unlikely combination of programmers, activists and government officials, she writes: ''Tim Berner-Lee spoke about what has happened to the Web since he dreamed it up: e-commerce, big corporations, money. ''Libertarians are used to fighting the government,'' he says, ''and not corporations ...'' This must be very difficult for him to say. For the libertarians in the audience to hear that business and free markets may not be the bringers of unalloyed good ... To imagine that a business is something to be fought, not respected ... No. But it seems he has recognized a changed world, where neither he nor some other programmer can do it alone. ''We have to make sure that when people go to the Internet, they get the Internet,'' he says, meaning the real Net, the true one, the original -- whatever that might mean to him, or us. Somehow, even if it means laws and and rules and governments, we must find our way back to this idyll. We must route around the new bad corporate Net, or create a superset of it, or an alternative. Or something.''

Berner Lee's World Wide Web Consortium URL(http://www.w3.org/) is just a tiny goodwill organization, trying to maintain its image as a neutral ground for negotiating standards. He and others in these gremiums which still pretend that rules for Internet can be set outside of the realms of governments, must have recently felt a tremendous pressure. They know that those who will be strong enough to define the standards for data casting and e-commerce will eventually own the Net, thereby taking out the exciting dynamics of Internet development, which was until recently embedded in competitive, but still constructive environment. Step by step we are approaching the final battle of the ''War on Standards''. With the age of web pioneers, geeks and visionaries declared history, and the Net going trough its phase of massification and speculation, we are rapidly approaching a next stage of codification with a few corporations and governments left final players. The flip side of this development being the unleashing ''info wars'', hackers turning against their former playground - a platform they once considered their own.

Like Tim-Berner Lee, taking us back to the romantic period of the early nineties on a technical level, so does the Margret Wertheim in her book ''the Pearly Gates of Cyberspace'' when it comes to the spiritual dimension. This Australian science writer, now living in Los Angeles, though not a visionary herself, can be viewed as a post mortem apologetic of the ''Californian Ideology'', as described in the classic 1995 essay of Barbrook and Cameron. ''The Internet may seem an unlikely gateway for the soul'', as the book cover states -- and so it turned out to be, I would say. A tiny faction of mainly US-American transhuman science fiction enthusiasts are suddenly leveled onto the mainstream and portrayed as chief architects of the Internet. Instead of positioning the spiritual take on cyberspace as one amongst many metaphors, existing parallel to others, fighting over the hegemony of this new medium, an ''immense spiritual yearning amongst many people'' is seen motor behind immaterialization. VRML guru Marc Pesce and futurist science sect of the Extropians have taken positions of corporate for let's say, Nicholas Negroponte or Ester Dyson. What should be described in terms of experimental subcultures, dealing with the exploration of consciousness, positioned at the crossroads of religion, drugs and technology, en passant paving the way for business to take-over of the Internet, is mistakenly seen as the essence of the whole undertaken. This makes Margaret Wertheim to ask ''what is it about our time and our society that is reflected in the ''heavenly'' appeal of cyberspace? In short, what does all this cyber-religious dreaming tell us about the state of America today?'' My answer would be: that it still is a deeply religious 18th Century society, full of secret societies, rivaling schools and tribes, with little or no public intellectuals and debates, in short, a public space, which would perhaps be better equipped to analyze the superstition a la Moravec and Minsky, and at least distinguish it from the no nonsense business agenda of the New Economy generation. The dotcom gold diggers may perhaps not openly criticize the cyber spiritualists for their mumbo jumbo, they certainly would not risk to include such concepts in their business plan. The formulas of the previous visionaries is no longer part of the public dotcom vocabulary. Actually, surprising little of it has remained. Libertarians with their harsh New Age agendas have all but disappeared into invisible think-tanks, company boards and closed discussion forums. Their role has been taken over by strategic management consultants.

What does make Wertheim's book interesting is her historical genealogy of space, the leading metaphor of Internet's transitional stage from myth to accessible medium in the early-mid nineties. Having presupposed the dominant position of the School of Consciousness, if I may calls these cyber believers as such, Wertheim states that ''this new digital domain is an attempt to realize a technological substitute for the Christian space of Heaven.'' Similar to the early Christians, to whom Heaven was a realm in which their souls ''would be freed from the frailties and failings of the flesh, so today's champions of cyberspace hail their realm as a place where we will be freed from the limitations and embarrassments of physical embodiment.'' And like Heaven, ''cyberspace too is potentially open to everyone,'' a crucial political statement of libertarian factions against state policies intending to bridge the ''digital divide'' (because it is the market which will eventually bring equality). The main drive behind the spiritual desire onto digitized space ''is coming from people not content with a strictly materialist view.'' This discontent, according to Wertheim, derives from the Western scientific world picture, which entirely monistic, ''admitting the reality of the physical world alone and rebels against the ''pointless physical void.'' Using David Noble's ''Religion of Technology'' Wertheim states that the cyber-utopianism is making a full circle, going back to late mediaeval utopias of a man-made New Jerusalem - a fictious city in which technology is playing a vital role, as Noble proves. What it would mean if the Internet would drop us back into the Twelfth Century and its totalitarian utopias, is not being discussed.

Wertheim clearly had more fun in analyzing Dante's Divine Comedy as a soul space and Giotto's Arena Chapel in Padua (''physical space'') leading into Einstein's relativistic space and the multi-dimensional spaces, then she had to understand new media. It is indeed tempting to draw parallels between the nineties cyber-gnosis school and Hermeticism or the Pythagoreans who were interested in the numerical forms that inhered in the material world. Wertheims's reading of the cyberculture canon does not go beyond the obligatory such as classics, William Gibson's Neuromancer (1984) and Michael Bendedikt famous ''Cyberspace'' anthology from 1990. Some of the obvious reference texts are quoted (Turkle, Davis, Rheingold, etc.) but her passion obviously lacks to really dive into the issues. Perhaps because the current cyberspace is so surprisingly secular and down to earth when it comes to its aims. The emphasis on cyberspace, notably in the book title, may as well have been a promotion trick of the publisher. The main message is a Gnostic one: Internet is there to leave the dirty world of physics.

The one techno feature Wertheim is getting excited about is 3D role playing games such as ActiveWorlds where she finds evidence that indeed ''cyberspace is another space'', referring to its nonphysical nature. The fact that Internet is actually moving away from William Gibson's cyberspace vision, back into the hands of the media industry and their newspaper and shopping mall models. There is no money to be made with these 3D immersive environments as long as they not incorporate into PlayStation type of computer games. A commonly made parallel between cyberspace and the urban space hardly gets mentioned and clearly does not fit into the spiritual, anti-monistic agenda of Wertheim, because that would only lead into social, political and economic issues of infrastructure, globalization and other earthly matters.

For those allergic to US-American corporatism, the above sketched reduction of Internet to a money machine might be depressing. Time to withdraw and resign? Ignore the overall image and continue to work on what needs to be done? Sitting on top of the hill, watching the state-monopoly capitalist destruction of the Net passing by? Is any utopian vision of an equal (re-)distribution of knowledge, resources and power not in immediate danger to be incorporated by the same forces, this time with a Third Way label on it? We may not wish to fall back into anti-American luddite positions, nor sell cheap, outworn solutions which may, or may not, appealed to the early adopters, the so-called post 89 Generation X, five or ten years ago.

According to Hannah Ahrendt, this conflict, the one between utopia and negativism, cannot and should not be solved. To paraphrase Ahrendt's reading of Plato's Republic, we could say that we should not seek the immediate beauty of new media concepts. The Internet must be chaste and moderate if one is to sublimate his or her erotic drive and profit from it. If we follow the analogy further, cyberspace should supplement its knowledge of Ideas with knowledge of the shadow of the realm of the Digital. If the Internet is to illuminate the darkness, not add to it, it must begin by taming its own utopian promises. The (self)containment of cyberspace should be rooted in a call for responsibility, not in passively delegating power to the state or the market. One could call this strategy the ''civic hedging'' of cyberspace, ''das Aufhalten des Netzes'' in German. In times of hyper growth, the proposal to hold up the development of a technology may sound conservative, and is done into protect it from being reduced to one single quality, one idea (shopping mall, money machine, just work or just entertainment environment). This first of all means upholding the childish dreams, with its seamless possibilities of space after space, thrilling experiences, and fortunes to be made. Upholding technology is always be one of the available options. The aim here is to prevent Internet of turning into a nightmare (from which it then has to awake). In order to achieve this, neither the utopian vision has to be eliminated, nor do we need to withdraw onto the apocalyptic pole, which states that the world and its network will collapse anyhow -- with or without our interference. The conflict between utopia and negativism Hannah Ahrendt is aiming at, needs to be played out. The deeper we are drawn into the Virtual, the more there is a need to stage its inherent paradoxes and contradictions. A willing suspension of belief.

In the pragmatist view, principles are ''abbreviations of past practices'' (Richard Rorty). The same can be said of the Internet dictum of open architecture, decentralized structure, copyleft etc. These features, formulated under the spell of post-68, Vietman and the Cold War, need to be historically framed, in order not to be turned into a crusty, moral belief system. It would be naive to hope for a computer network ''which cannot be used by the political right, one which will lend itself only good causes''. I am following here what Rorty is writing in his book ''Philosophy and Social Hope'' about the leftist exceptions towards philosophy. Pragmatists, according to Rorty, do not believe there is a way things really are. This also counts for the ''nature'' of the Internet, which is either good, balanced by market forces or evil, that is, dominated by monopoly corporations, in close alliance with government bureaucracies. Rorty here distinguishes merely between descriptions (of the Internet) ''which are less useful and those which are more useful.'' We can think about the question of the metaphor, some of them being useful and productive for a while, whereas in other contexts they may become meaningless and boring. We can think of the city metaphor, references to the (virtual) body or Internet as a safe haven for the Self and other spiritual motives. The future according to Rorty should not conform to a plan. John Dewey, in his context of philosophy, formulates ''growth'' as the only moral end. Pragmatists reject any teleology and hope that the future (of the Internet) ''will astonish and exhilarate. The vista not the endpoint matters.'' If we do not impose absolute values upon the directions new media might take, more realms of possibilities might reveal themselves. It is the role of theory to draw these images, not to impose them on reality.

Tim Brenner-Lee (in collaboration with Mark Fishnet), Weaving the Web, London, 1999 Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope, London, 1999 Margaret Wertheim, The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, Sydney, 1999

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