Mediamatic Magazine 8#2/3

spring 1995

Home Issue: Home @ Last

This issue contains a collection of strange pictures: visualisations of spaces in MediaMOO.


Mediamatic Magazine Cover Vol. 8#2/3 -

MOO's are very powerful - because fully text-based - virtual realities. You meet people, play or work and you can arrange your own space as you like. You arrange the space by describing it and programming behaviour of elements contained in it. The suggestion of such text can be strong, as strong as the text of a good book can be. So it is actually not necessary to visualise such spaces on paper, but we just couldn't resist. The rooms people create for themselves in MOO's on the net are examples of the development of a radical, new idea of home. Home has undergone some sweeping changes during the last hundred years. The house as home for the late-modern nuclear family ripened into its definitive form. A reliable, well-thought-out solution. Standardised enough to produce in large quantities and to agree that everyone has the right to one. Everyone knows where he or she belongs - at Home.

All houses were connected to networks: Roads, Gas, Electriclty, Water, Postal Service, Central Urban Heating, Subway, Garbage Collection. Modern support networks that turn the house into a safe, comfortable and practical spot.
Almost simultaneously, the house was connected to the networks of the media. Telephone, Radio, Television and Computer networks turn the house into an even more effective base of operations.

But they also rupture the safe walls of the house radically. Of course, media have always done that. One who loses himself in a hook teleports out of his or her physical environment. Newspapers, radio and television possess that same quality. They are windows onto another world. Often so absorbing that the window metaphor no longer applies. One becomes mentally connected to the media space and consciousness of ones own body and home is temporarily suspended. We have become used to having a couple of channels to media space open simultaneously. Reading the newspaper with the TV on; enjoying a book while a CD plays. Or we mix up home and media: eating in front of the television, vacuuming with the radio on, making love while music is playing.

The telephone is another story, as we are not completely displaced into media space. We make contact through it: we speak to others who are absent. And, as opposed to prayer (see the next issue of Mediamatic) we get a clearly audible answer. The other speaks to us and we feel obligated to answer in our turn. Telephone is more engaging than other media, and not so easy to combine with radio or television. We're there in person. When the telephone rings, it’s (usually) for us and we have a place of our own in the telephone net. That place corresponds with home. If I don't pick up the telephone, the conclusion at the other end of the line is: He's not home. Or even: He’s not there. Many answering machines state that their owner is not at home. At home means my end of the telephone line.

We are becoming increasingly connected to interactive networks comparable to the telephone net. Besides my telephone number, I have an e-mail address and a home page on the Web. And a room in a MOO. The MOO is the limit: if I'm not there and someone drops in, I appear to be there. The system says: Willem is asleep.
The difference between the old mass media and the new many-to-many networks is that it matters whether the individual participant exists or not. Increasingly, users are forming a virtual spot of their own. An electronic home that supplements our old home: its a spot that is very closely connected to our identity. A spot where we can be found and which serves as a base of operations. A space we arrange ourselves, where we receive visitors and collect our electronic possessions.

At the last Doors of Perception conference, many speakers declared that their laptop computers are their only homes. (For an extensive report of the conference, see our Website: http:/ / Today’s laptops may be the first primitively fashioned dwellings in cyberspace: for the moment, that kind of avant-garde comments can only be expected of
toy- crazy telenomads. But Mediamatic found reason enough to devote this issue to exploration of the theme of home.

This edition of Mediamatic is also online