fran ilich on Mon, 10 May 1999 16:49:50 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> modem

introduccion a modem (cyber-cultura)
fran ilich (

[Spanish orginal after the english translation. Translators always needed.
Please let us know if you have the resources to translate an occasional
nettime post. Best.Felix]

I've been online for a long time now, and I am not going to tell you the
typical old story that in the beginning we were only 6 and we called it
Arpanet. That this group was formed by Captain Wilson who, from his station
in the Antartica, invited us to play chess with him, a nerd from MIT, the
director of the Pentagon intelligence and military CONTRA OFENSIVA, a
physicist from NASA, who never revealed his real name and John Postel. Or
that later, a Russian joined us. Or, that afterwards we started to suspect
that someone got access to our passwords and read our email: the first
hacker had appeared. Or even, about that unforgettable morning in which the
first woman connected to the Internet: a psychologist.

In fact, the first time I was online was in 1993, and that day I discovered
a great deal of the electronic culture that wasn't accessible to many
people, because in those days cyber-culture still wasn't a synonym of
Internet. In those days the rave culture, Mondo 2000 and cyberpunk were
everywhere and therefore I tried to life on the limit of this new edge.

Since then the Future Culture list lost its natives, who emigrated to new
horizons and were replaced by tourists. These tourists were looking for the
future in order to replace it with their own culture; a culture that did
not sustain any relation to it, but that brought with it a new
trans-cultural conception of the Internet. They carried with them a
truckload of experiences that mingled with this New World's information.
The result was the birth of a hybrid, and in the worst case the creation of
spam, noise, trash.

This recurrent pattern slowly changed the relation that all netizens had
with cyberspace. Today, and despite all the trendy talk about the growth of
cyberculture, only a minority visits websites related to this topic,
especially when compared to the number of people who 'live' in sport,
software and even pornography websites. It is possible to argue that
cyberculture made its first home appearance in 1995, when suddenly everyone
knew who Bill Gates was, electronic music became the background of the most
absurd TV commercials, and whomever had access to the Internet could start
their own digital magazine. In the suburbs, kids stopped playing being
Maradona or Jorge Campos, to convert themselves in the world's richest man.
- In whom, you ask? -
- In Bill Gates, the one that invented Windows 95, answer the kids.

At that point it was a common belief that Bill Gates, with his Microsoft
Network, would dominate the Internet. Time has showed that this was a wrong
prediction and it is obvious that if, even, he couldn't do it, then nobody
will. I also remember that the Netscape Navigator was invented by students,
and that Yahoo (which by now is relatively obsolete) started out as a
simple home page catalogue and is still, nowadays, the most well known
search engine. This confirms that Internet is an expanding universe, full
of creative and economic opportunities.

Nevertheless, what is cyberculture? Something like poetry on the www?
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Cyberculture is a dynamic and
unstable model, based on freedom of speech and especially on the search for
artistic and social manifestations inside new electronic media. But, inside
cyberculture we cannot have a violin concert, only in the form of a simple
netcast. Above all cyberculture, like everything that is related to cold
media - as Marshall McLuhan would put it - is always unstable and in
constant development. I.e., it doesn't have a central nucleus, and is
constantly growing.

As cyberculture connects with the different cultures of the World, it
acquires different characteristics. For example, in Eastern Europe it is
very much related to armed conflicts, to radical artistic manifestations
through the use of new media and to the close cultural exchange with other
civilisations. However, in Western Europe, cyberculture tends to be an
extension of the established traditional ideologies of the contemporary
culture of the moribund 20th century. In 1998, the first international
festival of cyberculture was celebrated in Tijuana under the name of
Cinemßtik 1.0. Douglas Rushkoff, author of Cyberia, referred to this event
saying: "Berlin hosts the Love Parade, Austria the Ars Electronica, and now
Mexico houses the Cinemßtik". Many questions were raised during this
Festival. Some dealt with issues related to net natives and immigrants,
others had to do with the issue of how this culture was created by a series
of creative minds, perhaps unfit to society, who were looking - in and
through cyberspace - for keen spirits. Themes like the development of
Internet into a shopping center with millions of chat rooms that don't do
more than filling up the world computers with noise and unnecessary
information; or the future direction that this culture should take, because
despite our efforts it is still underdeveloped and mass reproducing the
model of the multinational enterprises; or of how cyberculture should break
lose from networks and become part of daily life, were touched upon during
the Festival. The issue of the importance of hacktivism, that in Mexico has
become particularly visible since Sub-comandante Marcos made of the Chiapas
conflict a war of media that is majorly fought on the Internet, was also
discussed. The question of the path that electronic media and techno should
take in Latin America was also, and fortunately will continue to be,

Although it is acknowledged that cyberculture explores the intersection
between culture and technology, this doesn't necessarily mean that this
encounter happens inside computers. The online life is no longer a separate
part of the individual's life, and in many cases, it is the central part.
Nevertheless, we still try to distinguish between our real and virtual
life. Why do we do it? If we are the same both in and outside cyberspace,
and even the most remote cyberspace is as real as the physical world.

It's a fast world, but we can still take some time to answer these and
other questions. That is, if, of course, our cellular phone and email give
us a moment for ourselves. Because after all this is nothing but a happy
world. At least for now.

[Translated by Ana Viseu <>]

Ya hace mucho tiempo que entr╚ por primera vez a internet y no les voy a
contar la t╠pica historia de que ╚ramos 6 y lo llamĚbamos Arpanet: el
capitĚn Wilson que todas las tardes nos invitaba partidas de ajedrez desde
la Estaci█n AntĚrtica, un nerd de MIT, el director de inteligencia y
contra-ofensiva militar desde la base de datos del PentĚgono, un f╠sico de
la NASA que nunca nos quiso dar su nombre real y John Postel. O que despu╚s
entr█ un ruso. O cuando comenzamos a sospechar que alguien nos alteraba los
passwords y le╠a nuestros correos: el primer hacker hab╠a aparecido. O de
aquella inolvidable maĎana en que se conect█ a internet la primera mujer:
una psic█loga.

De hecho no, la primera vez fue una tarde de 1993 y con eso descubr╠ una
parte muy importante de la cultura electr█nica que no era accesible a muchas
personas, porque en aquel entonces cyber-cultura no era equivalente a
internet. Por esas fechas Mondo 2000, la cultura rave y el cyberpunk hac╠an
de las suyas a todo lo que daba, y por tanto yo me daba la tarea de vivir al
mĚximo el new edge.

De entonces a la fecha, la lista Future Culture perdi█ a sus pobladores
iniciales, quienes emigraron a nuevos horizontes y fueron reemplazados por
turistas que buscaban el futuro y ven╠an a reemplazarlo con su cultura que
no manten╠a relaci█n alguna con ╚l, que s╠ con una nueva concepci█n
transcultural de internet. Tra╠an consigo su baggage y lo mezclaban con la
informaci█n de este nuevo mundo: un h╠brido nac╠a,y en el peor de los casos:
Spam. Ruido. Basura.

Este mismo patr█n se repet╠a con todos los nuevos pobladores que llegaban a
la red, detalle que fue cambiando la relaci█n que los netizens ten╠amos con
este cyber-espacio. Hoy en d╠a con todo y que la cyber-cultura estĚ en su
╚tapa de crecimiento, es una minor╠a quienes visitan websites relacionado
con esto, a comparaci█n de quienes viven en sitios de deportes, software y
hasta pornograf╠a. Puede decirse que la cyber-cultura hizo su primer
aparici█n en los hogares del mundo en 1995. De repente todos sab╠an qui╚n
era Bill Gates, y la mÖsica electr█nica aparec╠a de fondo en los comerciales
de tv mĚs absurdos y cualquiera que tuviera acceso a internet pod╠a iniciar
una revista digital por medio de los servicios gratuitos que ya exist╠an. Y
en la suburbia los niĎos dejaban de jugar a ser Maradona o Jorge Campos,
para convertirse en el hombre mĚs rico del mundo.
-°En qui╚n?-
-En Bill Gates,- contestaban los niĎos, -El que invent█ Windows 95.-

Entonces se cre╠a que Bill Gates dominar╠a internet desde los desktops de
Windows con su MicroSoft Network, pero si esto ╚l no pudo lograrlo, es
evidente que nadie puede. Pero entonces recuerdo que el Netscape Navigator
lo inventaron unos estudiantes y lo llamaron Mosaic y que Yahoo (que es
practicamente obsoleto) empez█ como un simple catĚlogo de homepages y es
hasta la fecha el buscador mĚs importante. Esto nos demuestra que InterNet
es un universo en expansi█n lleno de posibilidades creativas y econ█micas.

°Pero qu╚ es la cyber-cultura? °Algo parecido a poes╠a en www? Por supuesto
que nada puede estar mĚs alejado de la realidad. La cyber-cultura es un
modelo dinĚmico e inestable que se basa en la libertad de expresi█n y sobre
todo en buscar la expresi█n art╠stica o social dentro de nuevos medios
electr█nicos. Pero dentro de la cyber-cultura no puede entrar un concierto
de viol╠n, a menos de que estos hagan una innovaci█n o alguna aportaci█n que
vaya mĚs allĚ de un simple netcast. Y sobre todo la cyber-cultura como todo
lo que se relaciona con los medios que Marshall McLuhan llamara fr╠os e
internet, siempre es inestable y estĚ en constante desarrollo: no posee un
nucleo centralizado y se reproduce desmedidamente.

La cyber-cultura comienza a relacionarse con las diferentes culturas del
planeta tomando distintas caracter╠sticas, por ejemplo en Europa del este
estĚ muy relacionada con los conflictos armados, la expresi█n art╠stica
radical mediante nuevos medios y un estrecho intercambio cultural con otros
pueblos. Mientras que en Europa occidental estĚ tiende a continuar con las
vertientes ya mĚs definidas de la cultura contemporanea del moribundo siglo
XX. En 1998 se llev█ a cabo en Tijuana, el primer festival internacional de
cyber-cultura en Latino-Am╚rica bajo el nombre de CinemĚtik 1.0, Douglas
Rushkoff,  autor de Cyberia, al referirse a este dijo: "Berlin tiene el Love
Parade, Austria tiene Ars Electronica y ahora M╚xico tiene al festival
CinemĚtik." En este festival se plantearon muchas cuestiones, algunas de
ellas tratan de los nativos de la red y sus emigrantes, de c█mo esta cultura
fue creada por una serie de mentes creativas en el peor de los casos
inadaptadas a la sociedad, que buscaban en el globo, por medio del
ciber-espacio mentes afines, y de c█mo internet parece convertirse en un
enorme centro comercial con millones de chat rooms que no hacen mĚs que
llenar de ruido e informaci█n innecesaria las computadoras del mundo, otras
hablan del camino que esta cultura debe tomar en una sociedad que pese a
nuestro esfuerzo mĚs grande continÖa sub-desarrollada y sobretodo
reproduciendo en masa, los moldes de las empresas trasnacionales; de c█mo la
cyber-cultura (que en un principio naci█ fuera de la red) debe salir de las
computadoras y formar parte de la vida diaria. Tambi╚n surgi█ el tema del
hacktivismo que en nuestro pa╠s toma un importante sentido desde el momento
mismo en que el sub-comandante Marcos hace del conflicto chiapaneco una
guerra de medios que se pelea principalmente por internet; sobre el sonido
electr█nico que debe tomar el techno en Latino-Am╚rica y otros tantos que
iremos discutiendo con el paso del tiempo.

Es un hecho que la cyber-cultura explora la intersecci█n entre la cultura y
la tecnolog╠a, y que esta no es necesariamente dentro de las computadoras.
La vida en-linea no es ya una parte separada de la vida del individuo, y en
muchos casos llega a ser su parte central. °Pero por qu╚ todav╠a intentamos
dividir nuestra vida en real y virtual? Si somos los mismos dentro y fuera
del net, porque los ciberespacios por mĚs fisicamente intangibles e
infinitesimales son tan reales como el mundo f╠sico.

Es un mundo rĚpido, pero todav╠a podemos tomar un respiro para responder
esta y otras preguntas, eso si nuestro tel╚fono celular y nuestro correo
electr█nico nos lo permiten por unos instantes. Porque despu╚s de todo, esto
no es otra cosa que un mundo feliz. Por ahora.

fran ilich.

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