Holding Hands in Cyberspace
Thursday, February 8, 1996 by Dave Winer.
I love reading "Amy Tan"'s books. When the power was out last month, I read her latest, "The Hundred Secret Senses". Her most famous book is the Joy Luck Club, which was also a great movie.
Almost all I know about Chinese culture comes from Tan's books. They are spiritual and friendly. She's personal. She lives in San Francisco, so I know some of the neighborhoods she writes about. I like that!
Her characters are reincarnated. She's an optimist! I like that too.
She writes at the interface between two cultures -- California and China. Those are my favorite parts of her books. When I see a Chinese person in California I can't help but imagine that they're a character in one of her books.
I pick up the flavor of Chinese talking. It's a culture built on humility and good cooking. You must criticize your own cooking, and you must always praise your Auntie's.
Chinese is a culture of many metaphor. Short sentence. Drop plural consonant.
Chinese writing is about cooking. Many flavor. Highest quality.
DaveNet is about highest quality writing.
With many flavor.
The very best I can do.
Hmmm. Sometimes too salty!
Dig we must!
Like Amy Tan, I write about the intersection of two cultures -- the online world and humanity. It's a recursive thing because DaveNet is an online entity, and of course, I am a human being.
"Rick Smolan", firstname.lastname@example.org, asked me to explain DaveNet for his new project, "24 Hours In Cyberspace".
I liked the idea, so I decided to go for it.
Rick has been a friend since 1983. That's thirteen years! Man that's a long time. I remember when I first met him, he was an accomplished photographer for Time, Life and National Geographic. He was exploring computers as a way of linking together large numbers of photographers. His friends travel the globe the way I move around the web today. They needed technology to connect them together.
Over the years I did more software and Rick used software to produce a series of photo-books that were events. A Day in the Life of America. "A Passage to Vietnam". Each book was an event, a community, a snapshot of the life of a culture. A labor of love! Definitely. You could put the result on your coffee table, then your bookshelf. And next year there was another country, another culture, and less visibly, another level of technology explored.
Rick's world and my world have intersected for thirteen years. Now it intersects at a different level. I've become a webwriter, and Rick is bringing photography to the web. This DaveNet piece implements part of the intersection. It appears in the normal flow of DaveNet-stuff, but it's also part of the 24 Hours project; it appears on Rick's website at http://www.cyber24.com. And it's possible that the text, or some part of it, will appear in the coffee-table book. Later today I'll be at their headquarters in San Francisco to have my picture taken by Rick and to talk with other people about this project. Maybe Amy Tan will be there? It's going to be a fun day! Yes.
So Rick asked "Dave, what is DaveNet?"
DaveNet is writing. It's electronic. It's interactive.
DaveNet is not usually reporting, but occasionally I get a scoop.
It's active journalism. I try to influence influential people. I allow myself to try to make the news myself. It's recursive! And I think that's OK.
Sometimes it's a channel to present other people's ideas, ones that I think are important. When "Marc Andreessen" wants to talk about web technology he can use my platform. If "Al Gore" has something to say about freedom of speech on the Internet, I would be happy to carry his message. If you aren't a principal, but you have something elegant or funny to say -- I want that too.
DaveNet an experimental medium. I get to play with new kinds of software, a hybrid of prose and scripts and C. Music and movies! Words and beauty. I started DaveNet as a commercial software developer. Now I have writing experience. I get interesting ideas that may not occur to other people because I do both things. Want a new example? Check out my "Pointers" page.
I like leaving out detail. I like to create puzzles. I wonder how many people get the little stories between the lines. There are connections that I don't bother to point out. You don't know who "Ed Kranepool" is? Figure it out. I don't have time to explain. Everyone should know how to use an Internet search engine. Go for it!
DaveNet is entertainment. That's why they're called Amusing Rants, not Perfect Truths or Grand Visions or Bold Initiatives. They are just the things that occur to me as I live my life. It's one life, it's mine. DaveNet is one way I share what I have.
DaveNet gives you something to react to. It gives exposure to ideas. I hope it's stimulating. I hope it helps expose *your* beliefs and feelings. Or gives you a new idea. Often.
Other media do the same thing. Watch 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace is angry! Leslie Stahl is surprised. Andy Rooney tells the truth. They evoke your feelings. It's hard to turn 60 Minutes off without having an opinion and a feeling.
DaveNet is personal. It can be more personal than a TV show because it only takes one person to do DaveNet. You get a cleaner connection. There's no editor between you and me. You get exactly the characters I type into my outliner. Like Rick, I use software to connect people together.
To the extent that I can listen to myself and express what I hear, you're getting pure unadulterated human being here. Yes sometimes there is noise. I get confused!
One week I admire Microsoft's new web browser for the Mac. The next week I get the full picture of what they plan to do, and I fear for this peaceful land. Even though these stories contradict each other, there is no contradiction.
I try to remain centered on what Microsoft is. As the world shifts, the effect of Microsoft is felt in different ways. And don't overlook the certainty that Microsoft will change. Nothing stays the same, although sometimes it may be more comfortable to believe that things do.
Some people say DaveNet is self-serving. Of course! We could argue that all opinionated writing is self-serving. But it's a boring argument. Maybe I'll find an interesting angle on this someday. Bill Gates has a column in the New York Times. What an interesting combo! Hmmmm. Cooool. Why not?
People run programs just like computers do. Certain input yields the same output every time with every person. If I tell you a sad story in an interesting way, if it involves you, your disbelief suspends -- you feel the same sadness. If I can express my anger cleanly -- it will reach inside you and you can access the same anger. If I can access your sense of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, if I can get right in there -- you'll laugh, just like I do!
If you see me in color, that allows you to see your colors too.
Don't overlook puns in our language. How do you feel? A really strong emotional feeling can be felt physically in your body. I feel things as I write. If you read them you feel them too.
It's called communication. It's what human beings do. When we access each other's center, cut thru all the experiences we have, get underneath that, it provides the proof we all need that we're not alone in this world. We're not. If you like DaveNet that's part of the reason you like it. It's evidence that you're not alone. I'm here! It may seem like I'm your friend. Cooool.
I think we all like to have our centers reached. It makes you feel good even if you're feeling sad or angry. It's as old as story-telling. The scenery in my stories is technology, but the stories are as old as humanity. Technology is all about people. That's more true with computers today than it ever has been.
Exploring the differences, the unique qualities of each person, is where the beauty is. If every flower were exactly the same, none of them would be beautiful! It's our differences, our struggles to reach our centers, that makes each of us unique and beautiful.
If I see you as more than a reflection of myself, I experience your uniqueness, I experience beauty and my life is richer. We're all running that program.
We share our individuality. That's love.
We pretend everyone is just like us -- that's fear.
If you're an adult in 1996, you grew up in a culture that tried to flatten everything out, to rewrite our programs, almost by edict. Like the legislature that tried to redefine pi to equal 3. It was a lunatic way to live. You could be happy and emotionless at the same time. Not! Every human feeling was outlawed, but you were supposed to be happy. Hmmm. It didn't work.
The old programs: suburbia, television, freeways, communists. They weren't exercises in healing. Instead of cutting thru our layers, they added more layers. More stuff to process, not less. Less communication not more.
Communication used to suck. TV is a narrow pipe. It supported the freeway lifestyle. It simulates community, but we all end up with the same friends -- Roseanne and Homer. Butthead and Picard. Pick your poison! These guys are not friends, they are entertainment.
The web can be different. It's the medium of epiphany. Each link is an instance of communication. Linking is an artform. When I find something interesting on your site that fits into something I'm talking about on mine, I create a link.
Holding hands in cyberspace! As Rick says -- we're painting on the wall of the digital cave.
Putting your thoughts on a web page is an invitation to anyone to take your hand. It's an open medium. A link is a connection between people. A web page is an open hand.
A link is a tunnel. It connects two places that weren't connected. It allows new flows to build. When www.suck.com links to DaveNet, DaveNet gets more flow. When DaveNet points to "PointCast", they get more flow.
That's the Information Superhighway -- but it isn't just information!
It's a new way for humans to be present.
Look at how far we've come.
Re-read this piece imagining that it's 1993 and you're reading a random email message. Could I have talked about love and fear so easily? Would you have been ready to hear it? I wasn't ready to write about it in 1993! No way.
For me it's about evolution. Growing. Sharing. It's about love! Yes.
Another conclusion -- DaveNet works only if lots of people do the same thing. There's lots of evidence! So much creativity is being unleashed. True, there's lots of mindless crap on the web, but there's also a lot of work to do.
All forms of expression need to be on the web. I want to write about "Dave Matthews" next week. I want to point at music clips so you can listen while you read. Technologically and economically there's nothing in the way. It's just a matter of time before every movie and every song has a presence on the web.
That's creativity! As artists from other media leap onto the web, there will be new epiphany. I'm a writer. Right now this is my medium. But as time goes by it becomes the medium of media. There's nothing specific about the web. Every form of human expression will flow thru it. That's why it's so exciting!
The "24 Hours in CyberSpace" project is a very important milestone. It's a chance to welcome the highest quality photographers to our world. It's a first step to gather a massive amount of new content from the world of pictures and text. It's an intersection. I get to collaborate with my friends. We have fun! We learn. We share. It's cooool.
Every person who pours their creativity into the worldwide web deserves our thanks. Putting up a website is an optimistic act. It's an offer for a connection. Let's link! Yes.
Saying what you think, really listening to yourself and then learning how to communicate is an act of evolution.
They should be supported and encouraged and thanked for taking a chance.
Every time someone steps out and shares their self with the world, they are being vulnerable.
Even more so, in just a few hours...
Today's the day that President Clinton signs the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Sally Atkins, email@example.com, writes: "This is a major day. 24 Hours in Cyberspace feels to me like fiddling while Rome burns. Stupid Internet tricks on the day when Clinton signs the bill."
Yes Sally! We could look at it that way. But we could also stay focused on the reasons why it's lunacy. The best demo is to have fun, no matter who says we can't. The President! Man. We'll get his ass. We get to say who our next president is. I'm voting against Clinton in November. I don't care who runs against him. I'm a one-issue man.
They're attacking the net before we had a chance to organize our economics and political power. In a couple of years we'll be too big to control. Things are growing so fast. They assume they know what our world will look like in November. My bet: they don't have a clue!
Black pages today.
Blue ribbons everywhere.
And Rick and his photographer buddies move onto the Internet.
I say welcome! And let's have fun. Now! And later.
In February: Clinton tries to shut down free speech on the net.
In November: we send Clinton back to Little Rock.
PS: We need something like this for the Mac scripting community: http://www.digitalfocus.com/digitalfocus/faq/howdoi.html.