Even though it’s now 9 years old (and what a long 9 years, given the changes in technology since), Julian Dibbell’s VLS article, The Writer a la Modem, is still a terrific, lucid articulation of what it means to be online. And, I would argue, it’s a point that many of us have forgotten about since then. When the ‘Net became commercialized (only a year or so after this article), the fascination was all about the Web and e-commerce. But now that all that stuff has blown over, what we’re left with is the fundamental issue of “cyberspace” — a term that I’m starting to think needs to come back into vogue. More on this later, but for now I’ll just say that I’m realizing that my own assumptions and beliefs and theories about what Information Architecture is “really” about are informed by my earlier experiences with multi-user dimensions and such. Anyway, Dibbell (who wrote “My Tiny Life” and the infamous article for the Village Voice, A Rape in Cyberspace”), puts things pretty well in this article — here’s an especially good paragraph:
Cyberspace is a place all right, but it is an insistently textual one–insistently and in fact traditionally, for cyberspace’s grand illusion of alternate dimensionality represents not a departure from the nature of writing but a refinement of it. Writing, since its invention, has been a technology of virtual presence, simulating the here-and-nowness of both the writing subject and of whatever conceptual or sensual objects that subject cares to conjure. The technology of cyberspace may dazzle with its newness, but it really only extends the capabilities of an artificial-reality machine older than the Pyramids.