[-empyre-] II

Jonathan Marshall Jonathan.Marshall at uts.edu.au
Tue Oct 9 12:07:19 EST 2012


I began living online with a thesis in mind, sometime in 1994. I had read much of what was then available as analysis. This is ‘ancient history’ and the amount of writing was small enough. But what was then available, struck me as fundamentally misguided. Firstly people tended to write about things which were not as if they were present day activities. They wrote about being online as if it was Gibson’s cyberspace with immersive reality, with translocation and working teledildonics amongst other things. They wrote about being online as if it were one domain, which conquered or transcended space, place, bodies and gender. They wrote about being online as if we were enmeshed in the wires or as if becoming cyborg was somehow radical or liberating. They said that nobody knew if you were a dog, and that free speech rained and fertilised everything, so we would have worldwide democracy and mutual understanding. They wrote that capitalism was now perfect, or that socialism was natural.  They wrote we were free of the chains of matter.  They claimed we would download our souls into the ether. They claimed that we lived in an electronic frontier. They claimed that we lived in an information or knowledge society, and that knowledge would arise by compounding our opinions and research, and that networks gave superior social morphologies. They claimed that people engaged in immaterial, or virtual, labour. We even had virtual classes. Knowledge workers were central.

The less triumphalist said that the internet would corrupt thought, would corrupt presence, would corrupt relationships, would alienate people from reality and responsibility, and was full of deceit. It was Heideggerianly inauthentic or fake; a forgetting of being.

In either case the virtual world was remote, ‘virtualised’, different and disembodied.

Sometimes it seems that such statements are still made today, and I wonder if we have gone beyond thinking the myths that we brought to online life, before we had even had any such life….


Some formal writings gathered at

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