Wednesday, December 10, 2008

digital landscapes

There is very little concept of past history in cyberspace. The closest we have gotten to retaining any kind of previous activity is The Internet Archive and that's only for websites. It serves as a static library for data posted to the web in the past. In social realms, however, there is no way to record a user's presence or leave traces behind aside from in the memories of the fellow players. A friend of mine on a MOO I frequent decided to leave entirely. He left a message of farewell, gave me his email, and that was it. I've been meaning to email him, but I lost all the data on my drive recently and I can't think of anywhere it might be lying around. Anyyway, after a few months his character's 'body' hit staledate and the Reaper came around to sweep him away. I made sure to sign up as caretaker of his creations. Aside from the few assorted objects he left behind, there isn't a trace of him on that server. A few people remember him I'm sure, but memories are short, especially online.

Last night I was thinking of various methods of retaining memory within a virtual landscape. As online locales become more dynamic, the concept of allowing change to a landscape must be confronted. The feasable changes to a landscape without disfiguring it beyond recognition depend on the medium, but places needto change as the people who use them change. Eventually, if these possibilities are opened up, it could get to the point where development is out of control as it is here in the real world and the place I first met a good friend
becomes demolished. Then there's the issue of vandalism, terrorism..

The more virtual reality looks like reality, the more the problems we face converge. But I'm getting off-topic. In the text-based systems that have been used the past twenty years, there has been little option to leave anything behind. In MOOs it is possible to create rooms and objects, but these are assigned to the character themself and are therefore unreliable. There are very rarely any written histories of online locales. One of the most significant works in this regard is Indra Sinha's The Cybergypsies

mention IF baubles?\\\

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