The Gulf War was about the control of space. It was about the control of many different kinds of spaces--the physical geographic space of Kuwait (and by extension Baghdad if not the whole Middle East), the psychic space of the public conscience on the massively mediated receiving end, and the electronic space upon and within which the vast majority of the war was waged--the radio, phone, satellite, television and computer. In a certain sense the whole Operation took place in virtual realities of various sorts--the represented realities of newspaper, magazine, television and computer. However, these imag(in)ings of war and the criticisms and concerns they gave voice to were nothing compared to the prospect of waging war in total cyberspaces--computer created, digitally rendered electronic worlds.

We got to see how war in the 1990s was waged when the people engaged in it used all the latest tools and tricks of the trade. But what's the next step? It was one thing to read about or watch the war from your easy-chair, but imagine if you had been able to interactively participate in it; sit down at your computer/television terminal, slip on your head-mounted display, data glove and data suit and blast off into cyberspace, jet out over the network and tap into the latest databases of information, hook up with a virtual friend and/or go chase down a virtual enemy, truly immersed in a computer generated world. What will the ontological status of the "real" be when war is waged in places like these? For many, this move away from a grounded ontology rooted in a relatively definable, observable, immutable, and controllable Euclidean space, toward a relatively undefinable, unobservable, mutable, and uncontrollable non-space is inconceivable. But I would argue, consistent with the position I've taken in other parts to this story, the hasty movement toward the virtual is but a variation on a theme, technically enabled, yes, but no less "real" or no more "simulated" than any technically capacitated prior movement.

Wedded to the notion of virtual reality (VR) is the notion of simulation. The taken for granted assumption is that VR is not real, it merely approximates and struggles to simulate the real. This disjuncture between the real and the simulated is operative at every level of the discourse on VR. The first section of this chapter examines the historic development and futuristic fantasies of military men and their "simulation" technologies in order to explore the increasingly complicated relationship between the "actual" and the "artificial" and to lay the groundwork for later discussions about how problematic and politically counterproductive such dichotomies have become. The next section looks at how human/machinic materials used to wage the war are being refashioned, and how this refashioning is anxiously brought back into popular culture in ways that reproduce a binary opposition between pristine bodies in a "state of nature," and manufactured bodies in an "unnatural state."

Toward the end, debates about the ontological instability of electronic media are revisited in order to investigate the relationship between such theorizing and political action. This chapter and project concludes with some final parting shots, which suggest that critics seeing the war in the Gulf as somehow fundamentally different from all prior wars due to the machines used to wage it were sadly mistaken; Operation Desert Shield -> Sword -> Storm was simply an extension of all that had gone before; what needs contemplation is how to creatively engage in an alternative politics appropriate to our contemporary condition.


Very early on, the goal of the military was to provide soldiers with proximate experiences in order to prepare them for what they might engage in on the "actual" battlefield. Such preparation would ideally result in the reduction of wartime stress, less strategic and tactical error and, perhaps even more importantly, fewer "friendly" casualties. The deployment of increasingly sophisticated high-tech weapons systems into the warzone made these preparations more necessary than ever before. The development and use of simulators for flight provides an illustrative starting point.

The danger of flying planes was apparent from the moment of their inception. Once the military applicability of flight was realized, it didn't take long for safe and cost effective training simulators to become an important concern; and a lot of time and energy was put into their development (Woolley 1992:42). Designs for these early simulators were being patented as early as 1910. But the problem was that these original systems were constructed in a fashion that prevented the person inside from experiencing, in a convincing way, the sorts of movements a pilot would feel in an actual cockpit: "... early trainers were not simulators at all. They were more like fairground rides, they did not attempt to simulate aircraft so much as suggest a vague empirical likeness. Had they been given portholes and propellers fixed at the rear instead of the front, they could have easily been used as submarine trainers" (Woolley 1992:44). This all changed by the late 1920s and early 1930s with the introduction of the Link Trainer which was capable, due to advances in pneumatic technologies, of reproducing some of the sensations a pilot would perceive in real flight, although still at a very rudimentary level. Early simulation was mere mimicry and the boundary between experience in the battlefield and experience in the simulator was a sharp one. But in the last decade or so, that boundary has progressively blurred.

Flight trainers have undergone remarkable change. Computer aided VR imaging systems, like the Compuscene series produced by GE Aerospace, have rendered mere mimicry obsolete. And, as author Bruce Sterling put it, because of the prior satellite mapping, digital storage of the entire Iraqi geography, and repeated simulated training runs "[t]he Stealth pilots who blew downtown Baghdad into hell-and-gone had already flown those urban landscapes before they ever put their butts in the cockpit seat. They knew every ridge, every skyline, every road--they'd already seen them on console screens" (1993:98). Simulators for the ground forces Storming across the desert went far beyond mere mimicry as well. Simulated tanks were now actual size, made all the right sounds, and required all the proper timing and motion (Sterling 1993:49). Soldiers no longer had to use a hell of a lot of imagination to mentally move from the trainingzone to the battlezone.

Desert Stormers got a lot of practice. Even those who had never really been there had already virtually been there, those who had never really seen had already virtually seen. They were prepared; but were they artificially prepared for what seemed like real situations, or were they really prepared for what seemed like artificial situations? It was never that apparent. Either way, VR had become both a new toy and a new tool for real killing, and it was pretty exciting. Though the military simulators provided an unprecedented vision of the virtual spaces of war, there were still a few wrinkles to be ironed out, and a few technological limitations. The current generation of simulators, remarkable though they might be, often force the soldier to be trained in relative isolation. Another big problem, from a military training standpoint, is that isolated simulators don't provide much sense of engagement with an enemy: "They can teach the skill of handling an aircraft, but they can't teach combat with your own comrades at hand, against an intelligent enemy who can see you and react to what you do. Similarly, a single tank simulator might train a single crew to some brilliant pitch of mechanical efficiency, but it can't build platoons, companies, battalions, or regiments of armor that can work together, confront enemies, and conquer the battlefield" (Sterling 1993:94).

These sorts of limitations provide the catalyst for DARPA's (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) future-vision. DARPA has a long standing interest in computer networking. In fact, what is currently known as the "Internet" (see "Waging War on the Internet")is the outgrowth of early DARPA technology, as is SIMNET, the global wargame simulator now being developed by the U.S. Army. SIMNET includes over two hundred geographically dispersed yet electronically linked simulators, some capable of seating four persons at once. In SIMNET it is possible for soldiers in places like Germany, Washington D.C. and Kentucky to be interacting on the same virtual battlefield in real-time with literally hundreds of crews fighting entire conflicts in cyberspace (Rheingold 1991:361). But for DARPA, even four-person simulators are not quite good enough. DARPA is currently engaged in project development that by the turn of the century will make SIMNET seem like a dinosaur. Their goal is to get up to ten thousand simulators simultaneously linked on-line, with entire virtual armies capable of fighting in real-time through broadband, fiber-optic, satellite assisted networks with total coordination between every branch of the armed services: "Tank crews will see virtual air support flitting by. Jet jockeys will watch Marines defend perimeters on the pixelated landscape far below. Navy destroyers will steam offshore readying virtual cruise missiles...and the omniscient eye of trainers will watch it all" (Sterling 1993:94).


DARPA is neither the first nor the only military agency interested in refashioning the way war gets waged. As early as 1944 the U.S. military began initiating systematic studies, drawing on the talents of futurists, scientists, science-fiction writers, military personnel and civilians, all in effort to help imag(in)e future war. And these studies have been repeatedly followed up. One recent example is AirLand Battle 2000: "AirLand Battle 2000, addressing post-modern war in general, puts forward a number of technological solutions to the problems expected to result from the mind-rending impact of high-technology weapons in continuous combat lasting days at a time..." (Hables Gray 1989:47-48). A number of these solutions include a reconstruction of the soldier itself, making it a more integral part of the weapons system. This reconstitution includes things like see-through eye armor, artificial bones, artificial blood, spray-on skin for the wounded, universal anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-VD vaccines, mycotoxin antidotes, universal insoluble insect repellent, and chemicals to stunt hair growth, retard body functions, and keep teeth clean without brushing for six months (Hables Gray 1989:43-48). This is the Army/Air Force vision of the future warrior, for Hables Gray, a kind of postmodern, cyborg soldier (see Gembicki and Rousseau for the Naval version). Obviously the boundaries separating human from machine, even though artificially imposed to begin with, are becoming much harder to draw.

Accompanying the human refiguring technologies that AirLand Battle 2000 is proposing is the reconstruction of the human interface. The physiological and psychotropic refashioning of the human materiel, in order to help deal with the stress and trauma of postmodern warfare, is helped along by the refashioning of the inhuman materiel, in order to help mediate that stress and trauma to begin with. It is this kind of technological refashioning that forms the bulk of the military's current planning and preparation: "There are projects to create autonomous land vehicles, minelayers, minesweepers, obstacle breachers, construction equipment, surveillance platforms, and anti-radar, anti-armour and anti-everything drones. They are working on smart artillery shells, smart torpedoes, smart depth charges, smart rocks (scavenged meteors collected and then 'thrown' in space), smart bombs, smart nuclear missiles and brilliant cruise missiles" (Hables Gray 1989:54).

The evolutionary transition to vir(tu)al operators is blossoming, replicating faster than ever, some might say "mutating out of control." There is a lot of planning going on, a lot of bets being waged and a lot of corporate contagion in the air. As Bruce Sterling put it after taking a journey through the electronic battlefields being developed for future inhabitation: "The virtual iron is hot." Large sections of the American military-industrial complex have already migrated entirely into cyberspace, and over the next ten years the Pentagon proposes to spend at least $370 billion on electronics R&D (Sterling 1993:96-99).

What is it that drives this mania for extending our-selves through high-tech weapons systems? One reason is that in a discursive field so dominated by technophilia, profit-making and fear, every shiny machine becomes an argument in itself for more mechanization (Hables Gray 1989:54). The military technoindustrial complex has been infected, infected with a virus that continues to propagate ferociously. But it is a virus no one seems eager to cure. Indeed it is a virus with a vision, a virtual vision whose symptomology seduces more than sickens. To speak of a "cure" is to speak a language that no host of this virus will understand, or even desire to understand. It is a virus that feels good. It has percolated into popular culture and its (potential) side-effects are addictive. Virtual anything and virtual everything sells--theme parks, gaming arcades, television commercials, Hollywood movies, war.

All one has to do is look at the tremendous growth of various on-line services and activities for a clue to the marketability of this viral-vision; and, while maybe not virtual in the strict sense of total immersion in a three dimensional computer generated environment, they are certainly progenitors, and can be used as indicators of the potential impact and popularity of things to come.[1] So infectious is this virtual virus that: "You can now call: 1-900-VIRTUAL 'Virtual Reality Information Line.' For only $1.25 per minute you can access this exciting new audio info service, available 24 hours everyday! ... Stake your ground in Cyberspace!" (Virtual Reality 93 1993:73).[2] And remember SIMNET? Well after Operation Desert Storm net activity had experienced so much swelling as a result of this viral infection that: "A recent press release from Bolt, Beranek & Newman heralded a three-day virtual-war marathon running over three continents [which ones remained unspecified]. And SimNet ... is getting a $190 million face lift from IBM Federal Systems" (Wired 1993:21).

And if watching Desert Storm Troopers participate in their wargames was not enough, you now have the chance to do a variation on the theme yourself in one of a number of rapidly multiplying "location-based theme parks," like Chicago's "Virtual World Entertainment" (VWE). VWE blends "amusement park ride and videogame, adds a storyline, and serves it up via computer-based graphics, sound, input and display technologies." In this brand of VR there are: "No helmets required, just 'pods,' or cockpits installed in a thematic setting, beckoning passengers to virtually soar into bit-borne fantasy worlds" (Jacobson 1993:36). VWE's biggest attraction is "BattleTech," a virtual narrative revolving around a futuristic military zone. So popular is BattleTech that: "The Virtual World Center has spawned a subculture of Chicago twenty-somethings, some with legendary status in 'BattleTech Society'" (Jacobsen 1993:38): postmodern training grounds for the next generation of warrior-heroes, following in the virtual footsteps of America's own Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf. Surprised?


Allucquere Roseanne Stone argues that "social systems [arise] in phantasmic spaces enabled by, and constituted through, communication technologies" (1992:610). So what kind of electronic space is generated in an immersive virtual system? How does VR differ from pseudo- or proto-virtual technologies like the newspaper, magazine, television and home computer? For starters, the immersive experience of the phone, TV, or home computer is relatively easily breached, ruptured, its technological character exposed for what it is, analogous to the moment the camera is turned on itself, snapping the narrative thread of a film. With VR this is much harder to do because one is placed into a much more total environment. When your head turns your digitally-mediated world turns with you, in its full visual and auditory splendor. One of the outcomes of this immersion in the space of VR is a certain dislocation of one's sense of place, where to a considerable degree the physical body is replaced with that of the virtual world and the immaterial "no-body."

This kind of "re-placement," particularly in the context of war, begs to be explored more closely. As Avital Ronell asked shortly after the Desert Operation was stitched shut: "What is the battlefield? What are its boundaries and symbolic localities? When does the battlefield take place? And how does it place us?" (1991:78-79). The war in the Gulf destabilized our understanding of location and served in unique and unprecedented ways to dissolve spatio-temporal boundaries, more than reinscribe them, the traditional goal of most warring activity. So what sort of locational rethinking does the reflective and refractive experience of Desert Storm encourage? It certainly didn't lead many people to reconceptualize and redefine what war is, it only made them long for what they thought war was. Thus, a key operational assumption remained, what counted as war were those unique moments of intra- and international conflict played out on unusually distanced killing fields, not the public participation in the day-in and day-out activities that support and reproduce a militarized political economy, or the newly forged and technically afforded alliances that are redefining the social-self.

One thing that is important to look at is how popular exposure to immature VR has unraveled the sociopolitical fabric, and how that sociopolitical fabric might be reworked. Different people have different perceptions about what this technology will allow. From one point of view, VR, even in the hyper-militarized/masculinized zone of BattleTech, promises a social reconnection: "Herein lies one concept stoking VR development (the fact that it's a reconnection enabled through the activity of cooperative and coordinated killing seems to matter little): the potential to produce entertainment in which the audience determines outcome in a meaningful way, engaging in conflict and resolution within a teamwork atmosphere. Virtual World centers present the tip of this iceberg" (Jacobson 1993:39). Of course, virtual team-building is but a single, though prominent, vision. For others, like Ronell, virtual worlds are anything but social and in fact are more akin to "inscriptions of a desire whose principal symptom can be seen as the absence of community" (1991:74, emphasis mine).

This absence of community, decentering and fragmentation that Ronell gives voice to is quite compatible with the phenomenological shift that Sobchack describes in her explication of the move from the photographic, to the cinematic, to the electronic (see "The Killing Zone"). To recap, according to Sobchack the electronic is comprised of discrete bits of abstracted digital information that get transmitted discontiguously and insubstantially across a network, providing the receiver with a fundamentally altered phenomenological experience. While the cinema provides a representation of the "lived-body" experience, the electronic does not, instead giving rise to a "sensual and psychic experience that seems to belong to no-body," severing the connection between signification and referentiality. Thus "space becomes abstract, ungrounded, and flat--a site for play and display rather than an invested situation in which action "counts" (Sobchack 1993:17-22). Once again, the critical issue has to do with notions of embodiment and inhabitation. From Sobchack's perspective, for reasons just described, it is essentially impossible to inhabit electronic spaces. So what does adopting this belief imply with regard to not only the phenomenological experience of the medium, but its potential politicization? When it was perceived that the Allies' primary sight/site of the Persian Gulf War were electronic battlefields of various sorts, sights/sites that inhibit any deep structure of feeling, sights/sites that are moving evermore toward the virtual and artificial, sights/sites that preclude the possibility of embodied inhabitation, relegating the receiver to fragmented yet playful parodies of some formerly unified and ontologically grounded ego state, the prospects for political action are pretty poor--at least political action as it is commonly understood and hoped for.

We saw how ineffective organized political action was in the Gulf, how easily rendered silent and obsolete. That was because Operation Desert Storm had a different sensibility, where autonomous, isolated individuals who were capable of using technology (perhaps the chatters discussed in "Waging War on the Internet" provide an early prototype) had the potential to do far more damage than some collective body that was only capable of being used by it (as most war participants on the battlefront and homefront appeared to be: see "Battle Scenes" and "Television Screens"). Power was far more systemic and embodied in and through the machine. A lone hacker, distant in time, space and maybe even political intent, had far more power to bring down a complex system, to "jam the code," through the introduction of some digital disease[3] than any unified group of activists carrying placards and lobbying for change. This is the kind of politics that now, more than ever, provides a vision of our VIRtuAL future.


Part of what many critics found so repulsive and/or so attractive about postmodern war was the way machinic operators seemed to remove humans from decision making loops. Cybernetic systems of various sorts were being used and profiled in extremely visible ways, creating the perception that "War in the Age of the Intelligent Machine"[4] had indeed descended upon us (or, rather, Them). A good bit of this repulsion and the anxiety that accompanied it centered around a feeling of lost control, lost control that was itself out of human control. And the continual anthropomorphization of the weapons systems did little to convey the feeling that Operation Desert Shield -> Sword -> Storm was a war waged by humans, against humans and for human--as opposed to technological--purposes. Neil Postman clearly articulates this technophobic pathos in a recent book entitled Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, where he describes an "agentic shift" taking place that allows humans to shift responsibility for social problems onto machines (1992:114).

At this speed, the next war, or so it might seem, would be conducted primarily for the evolutionary benefit of the inorganic machines used to wage it! Indeed, Manuel De Landa (1991), building upon the work of French theorists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987), argues that perhaps humans are simply enabling technologies for machines, and our role on this planet is to give birth to a new species of non-being, a "machinic phylum." To hell with organic and inorganic fusion, we're talking total replacement, we're talking extinction. Thus the disintegration of the organic and inorganic split that Operation Desert Storm began to give voice to, and that many resisted or refused to hear, is a small, but illustrative, step on the way to carbon Man being subsumed by the prosthetic devices of his own technical imag(in)ings.

With arguments like these, the anthropocentrism endemic in prioritizing the organic over the inorganic, certainly starts to break down and dissolve, but in the wrong direction, at least in terms of where the breakdown and dissolution could take us. Such arguments still fall into the same trap of reproducing the human machine binarism by privileging the machine--perhaps rightly so, who can say for sure. It certainly makes for an interesting epistemological and paradigmatic turn. But for the purposes of thinking about how we want to reinvest meaning into our own species be(com)ing--in the Hegelian sense of creating the enabling conditions for "doing" and self-realization (so markedly absent in the context of the Gulf)--it is probably not the most productive path to follow. So until I no longer have the technically afforded luxury, let me propose and encourage the following "dissolution."

We are at a historic brink, a brink where all manner of previously held dichotomies--like human and machine--are rapidly unraveling, a brink that for a lot of cultural critics resisting the somatic impurities such unravelings seem to carry along with them, is a little too unsettling to gaze critically into. For such people, a world in which human bodies become "defiled" by technical artifact is not a happy one, and needs to be exorcised (see Postman 1992 for example). But this kind of cultural conservatism is not only naive, it fundamentally misunderstands and misrecognizes the always already fuzzy lines between the organic and the inorganic.

What we need now is to conceive of another kind of "mythological figure," one that follows along the same (intentionally blurry) lines that Donna Haraway (1989, 1990, 1991) has sketched to conceptually illustrate her "cyborg" metaphor for understanding dynamic human/machine relations. As she describes it, the cyborg is: "Linguistically and materially a hybrid of cybernetic device and organism ... a powerful social and scientific reality ... simultaneously a myth and a tool, a representation and an instrument, a frozen moment and a motor of social and imaginative reality" (1989:138-139). According to Haraway, the cyborg comes into being when two kinds of borders are experienced as problematic, and is "born of the interface of automaton and autonomy" (1989:139). The cyborg can be read as an always ironic, fantastical, quasi-fictional, quasi-real boundary creature, culturally, intellectually, ontologically bound, constantly learning to live on the borders (Roseanne Stone 1994), a process that we are constantly engaged in, though perhaps now, more than ever.

We have to get away from objectivist rhetoric that tends to formulate politics in terms of liberal humanist ideals around pristine soma/bodies floating in a state of Nature, bodies somehow distinctive and separate from other forms of "nature" or the "inorganic" world of the device. As Haraway makes clear, the stakes in these "border wars" between organism and machine--the territories of production, reproduction and imagination--have been quite high; what needs to be cultivated is our "pleasure in the confusion of boundaries," (not our panic over maintaining them) a pleasurable confusion accompanied by "responsibility in their construction" (1990:191). We cannot continue to let a militarized political economy set the tone for what can and cannot be imag(in)ed. Human bodies are a site of micro-processes, the same kinds of micro-processes that guide smart missiles. This process of miniaturization has changed our experience of mechanism, and has turned out to be fundamentally about power; now we must learn how to think those power relations, how to transgress boundaries, create potent fusions and dangerous possibilities as oppositional tactics and strategies, to perversely shift perspective in effort to contest new meanings in technically mediated societies (Haraway 1990:195-196).

We need a mythical figure--unnamed and unnameable--that embodies a kind of viral politics, politics with a small "p," where analogous to the movement from "MAN" (Enlightenment) to "man" (feminism) to "man" (a kind of post-structuralist, post-organic, post-man), is a movement from "POLITICS" to "politics" to "politics." It would be a virulent metaphysical form that inhabits and travels through cybernetic systems in the same way viral bodies inhabit and travel through human biologies. It would occupy a dispersed and fragmented subjectivity bred from the electronic extensionality of a carbon-based central nervous system, but remain a "live" environment in the full organic sense (McLuhan 1968:36-37). It would be capable of touching down and propagating through networks and nodes, increasing the territories of political space through a kind of rhizomatic de- and re-territorialization," destroying old and building new assemblages along continuums of constant variation and modification, avoiding orientation toward a culmination or external end, instead remaining always in the middle, between (Deleuze and Guattari 1987:11-25). It would be a chimerical figure that harbors a viral consciousness, a mutative consciousness, making small-scale interventions that hold the potential for rapid reproduction and systemic destabilization. Only this kind of "post-organic" form will be able to effectively respond to a waging of war in those same networks and nodes, a war that increasingly touches down in many different places simultaneously, places we too often refuse to even contemplate or see, but places that desperately need to be counted as "warzones"; places where destructive activities are institutionally and individually reproduced, day-in and day-out, routinized activities that we have (unfortunately) managed to keep conceptually separate from those not so unique moments where nations go to battle.


The technological aestheticization of war has been present from the beginning. Frankfurt School theorist Walter Benjamin was right on target when he asserted that war has always spoken to and helped construct the artistic gratification of a sense perception enabled through and transformed by the technologies used to wage it (1973:242). And in this case, as in all those before it (and in all those to come), it wasn't the machines that made war for the Allies fun, but the people whose subjectivity was collectively displayed through them. The common misperception that the U.S.-led war in the Persian Gulf was unprecedented in the way it melded technology, pleasure and entertainment into some monstrosity that prevented us from experiencing the "True Nature" of war is simply mistaken; it was just a variation on a theme.

Reality, or lack thereof, is not the ontological or philosophical problem, "simulation" is. To assert that we are losing touch with the real world, that everything is now questionable, simulated, and soon-to-be virtual, where all we can do is playfully uninhabit electronically generated spaces, implies that reality is not and has not always been socially constructed, mediated and intentionally made to mean. The Gulf War meant a lot of things to a lot of people, none of which can in any objective sense be ontologically privileged. Simulated battlezones, whether in flight and tank trainers, living rooms and theaters, or even more importantly the killing fields themselves, were as real as any other; the reality they represented simply resided in the realm of the electronic--still a tremendously undertheorized place. Indeed, the biggest myth generated about the war in the Gulf was that it could not and did not "really" take place in digital and analog(ue) space.

In many ways the mediational experience of the Gulf War remained synonymous with the mediational experience of wars in the past; we just had some exciting new methods of screening it. The aesthetic component emerged in a way that gave it more prominence than ever before, but it was not unprecedented, it was simply the latest version, an extension of all that has gone before. The new was fused with the old in interesting and idiosyncratic, yet representative, ways. Culture, technology and politics continue to come together in war, making it evolutionary in the sense that war has always been marked by distinctive sociocultural formations, formations that beg for, indeed require, a continual rereading, remapping and updating. That rereading, remapping and updating is largely what this project has been about.


1. Take MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons or Domains) for instance. MUDs are a relatively recent phenomenon where personal computer users log on to the Internet in order to participate in on-line gaming activities with other users dispersed all over the country and/or globe. The following is a letter written in to Wired magazine, a kind of Rolling Stone for the computer generation, expressing anxiety about the amount of time people (close to the letter writer) are spending in cyberspace since the introduction and population of these kinds of virtual places:

I have watched my brother MUD his way into failing out of an engineering degree. He didn't study, he MUDded. I am watching my fiancee, a 28-year-old, fourth-year astrophysics student, begin to squeak by and then withdraw from courses because of her increasing on-line time. What used to be a few hours after homework grew into six, then into all-nighters, then into single connections of twelve hours, and then to the current average of sixteen to eighteen hours a day on-line for the past four months. I look at the connect logs and I see 350 to 500 hours logged a month. Don't systems administrators see this? ... I don't have anything against MUDs ... They are interesting experiments in interactive communication... [but] People are getting addicted and destroying their academic careers, jobs, and lives (September/October 1993:17).

2. An interesting turn of phrase--"stake your ground"--and one that gets a lot of metaphoric play in the burgeoning literature on cyberspace (along with the use of terms like "frontier," "colonizing," "territory," and the like) The basic problem with such terms is that they hearken back to notions of space and place rooted in physically circumscribed, fixed, and ultimately controllable geographies. Such usage thus misses the whole point of electronically generated space where due to the non-existence of finite boundaries place has been displaced.

3. In fact, digital laboratories that allow users to design their own computer viruses are now replicating themselves in underground networks, tapped into through electronic bulletin boards. For example: "One program known as Dark Avenger, lets expert programmers create polymorphs--new strains of viruses that can mutate, like human viruses, to avoid detection." There are over two thousand known computer viruses in existence and an average of a hundred new ones being discovered every month (Details November 1993:45).

4. Poached from Manuel De Landa's 1991 book of the same title.


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