As I read my email and watched some of the YouTube videos on channels that I subscribe to this morning, I realized how different my life has become in a very short amount of time. Back in the early 90s I worked in a Virtual Reality lab at a large corporation. We were trying to determine if and how we could use immersive virtual reality to do things better, cheaper, faster, safer, etc. We were chasing the holy grail of cyberspace, that place that is everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. As I exchanged comments with fellow YouTubers in North Carolina, Liverpool, New York City, Florida and Arkansas, it struck me that cyberspace has become a lot more subtle than Neal Stephenson and William Gibson ever imagined. There is no immersive virtual reality, for which I am thankful. I used to get motion sickness from wearing the VR helmet. The glue is the virtual places that we congregate online, through the web or email or the telepresence of our webcams.
I used to scoff at the term social-web. I was convinced that what we were experiencing was a variety of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). What I’ve realized lately is that the social-web is CMC of a very intimate variety. I probably have as many friends on line as I have in “real life”. I hate the term “real life”. It implies that my online friends are somehow not real. I tried using “3d space” but it is just a little too geeky for me, and I consider myself a geek. I don’t know what we should call it but I’ll recognize it when I hear it.
I recently upgraded my amateur radio license to Extra Class (the highest class possible). I now have privileges to talk on the part of the radio spectrum that propagates around the world. I haven’t got a radio yet but I am shopping around and thinking seriously about building a low power transceiver. I realized as I was thinking about cyberspace this morning that the allure of ham radio has always been the magic of talking to someone far away as if they were right here with me. I haven’t been on the air in years and I haven’t been on the air in the HF bands ever so I don’t have any radio friends yet. But I am sure that they will be just like the YouTube friends I have made.