Tue, Nov 3, 2009
Permanent link
Taxonomy of Digitally-Exclusive Spaces
Project: Polytopia

1. Tor hidden services

The concept of Tor is simple: complete anonymity on the Internet. Tor users can surf the Web, chat, and shop knowing that their identity is hidden behind 7 Tor servers obscuring their path. Tor hidden services takes this concept from the person (avatar) and applies it to a permanent location (space). People can visit these spaces, linger, shop, and talk, but no one (including the authorities) can know where the space is. It is space without a place, without a location, without a boundary or a context.

At the moment Tor hidden services specialize in selling things you can find nowhere else: everything that is illegal in the Western world. There are of course stores to buy child pornography, drugs, prostitutes and even sex slaves. Even more extreme are markets frequented by hit-men, where auctions are held to find the cheapest price for a murder. Detached from a face, humanity shows itself quite shockingly.

2. Forums, IRC

Internet forms and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) both are unique in the temporal record they keep of all the actions that take place in a space. "Being" in a conversation doesn't apply in the temporal sense, as anyone can join in or drop off in an entirely fluid process. Indeed, the sense of a singular, collective moment looses meaning. It's hard to say "I was there for this" on a forum.

3. Second Life Fringe

While Second Life has become both tamed and irrelevant since its creation, several years ago there was a robust fringe in Second Life, devoted to pushing the experience of Digital Space to its furthest. The Patriotic Negras, 4 Chan, and Woodberry groups would push all cultural, racial, sexual, and technological barriers of the space, creating many enemies within the community and the Linden Lab Corporation. My first experience visiting their outpost was seeing a house, shaped like a swastika, made entirely of penises; it was raining Marios. Around me flew flocks of penises and robots. The ground was animated with a gif of Bill Cosby. Periodically, the Marios would replicate beyond control, and the space would start glitching out. This would cause physics engine to malfunction, and gravity would stop working.

As I talked to more people there, I soon learned that the best thing to do when you weren't contributing the general mayhem of the space was to fight with other people. Being injured, let alone dying, were completely meaningless in a place like this, so I soon figured out, as many others had, that the way to fight was with code. Projectiles embedded with code could, presumably through some bug, activate themselves on the object that they collided with. You could soon see weapons that would cause a person's avatar to glitch out, fly to the other side of the Second Life Universe, or just disappear all together.

This fringe scene was eventually forced out of Second Life, though its members will surly return in whatever VR program comes next. This fringe hinted distinctly at a future sense of space, one based on nothing more than the values of a community and its ability to warp the very medium they inhabit.

Tue, Nov 3, 2009  Permanent link

Sent to project: Polytopia
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