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Sunday, May 20, 2001

(via missingmatter)

(via sylloge)

Saturday, May 19, 2001
hey "mr. bungle" is back, but it's a murder in cyberspace this time and only the perp was hurt, sort of. the register has the story. takes place on the message boards of anandtech. um, helped write this response for a friend a few weeks ago. [update: whoa take a look at this metafilter thread, finale]

Response to 'A Rape in Cyperspace' by Julian Dibbell

It's controversial. The rapes were very literally of the 'he said, she said' variety and it happened in cyberspace, so it gets metaphysical. Dibbell relates the events of alleged rapes that occurred in what amounts to a public Internet chat room and contends that they cannot be easily dismissed as the glorified (and consensual) online role-playing fantasies of the purported victims. What's at stake is how we treat non-physical abuse, the nature of public forums and anonymity on the Internet.

In the conventional sense, and perhaps more importantly by legal definition, no rape can take place in cyberspace – directly contradicting Dibbell's initial, and admittedly straw man, claims. Rape is a physical act, more accurately described as forced penetration of the vagina by the penis. Strictly speaking then, men cannot be "raped" even if violated anally. "[I]ndeed no rape at all as any RL [real life] court of law has yet defined it," writes Dibbell. So then what did take place and why was it wrong?

To answer the question is to disabuse ourselves of attitudes we have taken for granted so long by operating primarily in RL. Dibbell suggests that as more of our activities take place in cyberspace, in virtual settings where the laws of digital code apply more to our existence as we perceive it than physical laws, new conventions should govern what is permissible in a civil society.

What becomes immediately obvious as this virtual act of transgression takes place is the psychic injury that can occur when one is wholly absorbed and disembodied in a virtual landscape. Most of our waking lives, up until the advent of networked computers, has been spent getting accustomed to the physical world, manipulating objects within it for our own sustenance and day to day reproduction as well as avoiding dangers to our being. Through long experience human societies have evolved methods for dealing with our interactions with one another that are more or less agreed upon. Law in western societies, for example, prohibits anyone from taking property away from another unless a contractual settlement is properly exchanged. Ownership, far from a natural right is really more of a cultural institution, an elaborate custom, but also a concept grounded in physical reality. In the physical world it is possible to cordon off a parcel of land or lock away gold bullion for safe keeping. The digital world is not quite like that. Although we may bring such concepts into the virtual realm, they only achieve the significance of metaphor. And bad ones at that.

What the Mr. Bungle incident showed was the fallacy of treating cyberspace like it was real space. If it was the case then all that occurred just took place on the screen and all that happened was some people took offence at what they had read. But it wasn't like that. Our experience with the Internet tells us that we can inhabit virtual worlds with as much verisimilitude as real ones. Just like getting lost in a good book, a setting such as LamdaMOO can be equally affecting if not more so. The lesson is that words, at least in LamdaMOO, are like atoms – words create reality in the MUD. Which isn't to lose sight of the fact that people are able to differentiate the two and their methods of operation, just that each are valid modes of existence that require appropriate frameworks of conduct.

Dibbell spent much of the essay eloquently defending LamdaMOO as such a valid place where meaningful interaction took place despite all outward appearance. "The actors in the drama were university students for the most part, and they sat rather undramatically before computer screens the entire time, their only actions a spidery flitting of fingers across standard QWERTY keyboards." Rhetorical dexterity it seems is a necessary prerequisite to operate successfully in an atmosphere where words are power! He describes in the days after the incident rapes the community response and town hall meetings, the different camps that coalesced around varying political ideologies, Mr. Bungle's defense (which was no defense at all, "Mr. Bungle was a psycho."), and the eventual meeting of punishment and censure. In other words, what carried on following the "crime" in cyberspace was consequential, if not physically, for the collective mental health of LamdaMOO participants.

There are correlates in the real world that put this in perspective and they invariably have to do with more mainstream media. Does graphic/lyrical violence or suggestive/mature programming need to be regulated? What about visual pollution through advertising? Or what about intent to kill when the actual murder was carried out at a distance by another operating of their own free will (I'm thinking of a Law & Order episode where a woman carries on an affair knowing her husband will kill her lover). Each of these "cases" traverse a mental landscape that conventions developed in the physical world do not and cannot provide for and are hence, problematic. Dibbell only hinted at the end, but I would suggest that the answer lies in accountability to your peers. The anonymity provided by an alias, while in some respects offering certain freedom, also divorces one from the consequences of his or her actions, of which others must answer. Accountability, whether in the RL or cyberspace, is necessary for any community to develop and for any society to progress.

in other news :

woman bites off chicago man's testicles!

hybrid cars should merit a tax credit, report says :)
[update2: paul krugman has a bit on the tax credit in his op-ed today (sunday). i don't think it's trivial at all! sniff]

(via most-viewed)

also be sure to read about stubbs the cat (via drudge) more here.

oh hey, and natural capitalism is making the rounds as an email forward. i got this from a friend recently.

JUNE 21, 2001 THURS EVE,
7-10pm worldwide, all time zones

As an alternative to George W. Bush's energy policies and lack of emphasis on efficiency, conservation and alternative fuels, there will be a voluntary rolling blackout on the first day of summer, June 21 at 7pm - 10pm in any time zone (this will roll it across the planet).

It's a simple protest and a symbolic act. Turn out your lights from 7pm-10pm on June 21. Unplug whatever you can unplug in your house. Light a candle to the Sun goddess, kiss and tell or not, take a stroll in the dark, invent ghost stories, anything that's not electronic - have fun in the dark.

Read the 1999 book "Natural Capitalism" by Hawken and Lovins to learn that conservation/high efficiency technologies already ARE on-the-shelf. If implemented these revolutionary ideas would pay themselves off within five years, after which we'd be pumping far less greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and saving bucks to boot.

Forward this email as widely as possible, to your government representatives and environmental contacts.

Let them know we want global education, participation and funding in conservation, efficiency and alternative fuel efforts -- and an end to over-exploitation and misuse of the earth's resources.

Friday, May 18, 2001
peter bagge writing for spider-man? (via linkmachinego)

jonathan lethem shills for salon :)

Thursday, May 17, 2001
high praise for lord of the rings preview footage from AICN! (via sensible erection)

some stuff on russ meyer from plastic :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2001
hallucinogen conference (via omnivore)

"I have talked to the elders and they say my people never used magic mushrooms, even though they're everywhere around here," Sewid-Smith said from Campbell River. "They connect magic mushrooms to the realm of the frog, which is a very suspicious realm. So we don't touch them."

irish soma

Keightley says the puff-ball [a type of mushroom] is called puckfist or Puck's Fist in English and Cos-a-Phooka or Puck's Foot in Irish. In Welsh 'toadstools or poisonous mushrooms' are named Bwyd Ellyllon or Elves'-food. "Perhaps, however," says Keightley (p. 412), "it is not the large ugly toadstools that are so named, but those pretty small delicate fungi, with their conical heads, which are named fairy-mushrooms in Ireland, where they grow so plentifully." This constitutes a perfect description of the Psilocybe semilanceata or 'Liberty Cap.'"

more soma

Tuesday, May 15, 2001
thinking things over

btw, here're some salient points about the new reform agenda outlined in prime minister koizumi's speech (may 7) to the diet as generously provided by the gartman letter.

  1. To rid the financial sector of the enormous amount of bad debt held by the nation's banks, and to do so within the span of two or three years;
  2. To shift economic policy from sponsoring "demand-supportive" measures;
  3. To cap new government debt issuance at Y30 trillion beginning with the new fiscal year starting April 1, 2002 [ed. note: but admittedly not a huge priority];
  4. To revive the stock market with tax reform;
  5. To privatise the nation's postal savings system;
  6. To reform the nation's pension, medical and welfare system;
  7. To devolve federal programs, where possible, to local government;
  8. To pursue deregulation of the economy and to sponsor pro-competitive export policies by strengthening the Japan Fair Trade Commission;
  9. To move eventually to a popular vote for the office of Prime Minister;
  10. To ensure greater US/Japanese security alliances in the future;
  11. To increase Japan/N Korean diplomatic relations; and finally
  12. To resolve the long standing Japan/Russia diplomatic confusion over the Kuril Islands; [update: and apparently]
  13. To "re-normalize" the state as well.

also, princess masako is preggers :)

Monday, May 14, 2001
a matter of private law (score:5, genius)

Etymology is important in understanding the mentality that would lead these "reformers" to behave in this fashion. The Republican Party exists to create privilege for the wealthy in this country. This word, derived from the Latin words "privus" and "lex" literally translates as private or separate law. The individuals and corporations cited in the article all assume privilege for themselves as a matter of course. There are legal and moral codes that apply to the common run of humanity that do not apply to them because their wealth or their office entitles them to privilege. Through this elitist concept, all manner of hypocrisy is justified. Republicans can, for instance, insist with a straight face that they support equitable campaign finance reform when their proposed legislation would operate solely to prevent labor unions from contributing to campaigns and PACs while easing restrictions on corporations. Defenders of privilege see or, at least, admit no intellectual contradiction in arguing for medical reform to benefit patients that consists largely of preventing people from suing their HMOs.

This assumption of privilege is, of course, common to everyone. We all drive over the speed limit while wishing that the police crack down on those manics out on the roads. And we all know people who argue passionately for the environment who drive SUVs and eat their lunch out of styrofoam containers. But rarely do we see such shameless displays of assumption of privilege as those committed by corporations and the Republicans who serve them (though the Democrats are not without blame). Elitist privilege is not a necessary outgrowth of conservative economic theory. It is an indulgence of a natural human appetite to have the behavior of others controlled while allowing yourself free rein. Members of an elitist political party, like the Republicans and as opposed to true economic conservativism, do not commit hypocrisy when they behave in this fashion because of the philosophy they espouse. It's only hypocrisy when they defend or obscure their personal actions in order to convince the electorate that they are less elitist than they actually are.

re:eh? (score:4, redundant)

...I briefly contemplated Fuller and his myriad ideas while falling asleep. We don't have the Dymaxion car, the instant houses, the one-cup-of-water showers, let alone his economic visions. How come? Some of his ideas may be actually impossible to bring to fruition, but that is not reason enough. The answer is that society is not ready--not ready to let go of the notion of scarcity of wealth. Fuller's ideas, whether socio-political or mechanical in nature, transcend economics. In his mind, all people are equally valuable and all rightful heirs of the earth and of humanity. Any object he designed shared the same properties: cheap, useful, sustainable, and democratic. These are all anathema to our greed-oriented society, which is tripping over itself in its attempts to consolidate all wealth and power in the hands of a few wealth addicts.

suck deal... (score:4, insightful)

I did break into the school computer when I was in high school ... they caught me about six weeks till the end of the semester. My "punishment" was getting kicked out of my computer class, which ultimately meant being short credits for completion. My alternative was to pay for access to a computer at the local community college and finish my assignments there, which I did.

At the same time, I can tell you I felt really, really empty inside. If there was *one* thing I was good at, it was computers. To have that taken away from me, and to become an outcast even in that realm was pretty disorienting ... perhaps even crushing. At the same time, I suppose they could have been a lot meaner.

Sunday, May 13, 2001
the winners write history (score:5, genius)

People will fight and die over myths; they always have and they always will. Why? Because myths are in many ways more powerful than facts because they speak to the emotions and to the subconscious mind rather than directly to the intellect. Myths change people, make them behave differently, make them FEEL differently about themselves and about the world. Fighting over the veracity of myths is like fighting over politics: the real fight is over who will wield the whip hand, not who is "right."

re:estrogen cures homosexuality?! (score:5, informative)

...One thing I especially enjoyed was his brilliant idea that, to a computer, the distinction between "code" and "data" is artificial. He seemed very interested in the idea of deliberately-self-modifying code. I tend to agree with him - this "protection" against self-modifying code is preventing many novel approaches to solving problems. I feel it would be especially useful in AI - humans, especially philosophers, do a lot of thinking about thinking. Could it not be said that being self-referrential and self-modifying are the hallmarks of true intelligence?

the juice on dick gregory (via suck)

...Dick Gregory, Entertainer, begat Dick Gregory, Activist/Politician, who begat Dick Gregory, Food Zealot. In November '67, Gregory weighed 288 pounds. He was a vegetarian, but while he didn't eat meat, he ate damn near everything else, plus he smoked four packs of cigarettes and drank about a quart of scotch a day. Then he began a public fast—starting Thanksgiving Day—to protest the war in Vietnam. 40 days later—40 days of nothing but distilled water while he continued to travel and lecture around the country—Gregory broke his fast with a hearty glass of fruit juice. He weighed 97 pounds.

Saturday, May 12, 2001

   , ; ,   .-'"""'-.   , ; ,
   \\|/  .'         '.  \|// 
    \-;-/             \-;-/ 
    // ;               ; \\ 
   //__; :.         .; ;__\\ 
 jgs       '(  (..-'

Friday, May 11, 2001
synergetics! by r. buckminster fuller (via abuddha :)

At present 99 percent of humanity is misinformed in believing in the Malthusian concept of the fundamental inadequacy of life support, and so they have misused their minds to develop only personal and partisan advantages, intellectual cunning, and selfishness. Intellectual cunning has concentrated on how to divorce money from true life-support wealth; second, cunning has learned how to make money with money by making it scarce.

database as symbolic form! by lev manovich (sort of via haddock)

  1. part 1 : database logic, data and algorithm
  2. part 2 : database and narrative, a database complex
  3. part 3 : database cinema

more by lev

riotville (via feedmag filter)

Though some individual departments have taken action to deal with police homicide, there is no national accounting system to compare its prevalence across localities. Without data, it is hard to hold cities accountable. Despite the fact that a 1994 law requires the Justice Department to gather such data, many police departments refuse to collect or report it.

children of rwanda's genocide (via most-viewed)

The violence that children were exposed to or engaged in is a unique and traumatic problem for Rwanda. A recent Unicef study found that 96% of children interviewed in Rwanda had witnessed the massacres and 80% of the children had lost at least one family member.

also see frontline interview with philip gourevitch

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