lo tek nexus

Johnny Mnemonic heavily jacked inFor everybody harbouring a piece of cyberculture inside the depths of the mind getting connected to the Internet is vital. Obviously. This banality starts to get interesting when one is obsessed with questions like that one: What machine shall I connect to the Internet and via which path? Yesterday KerLeone managed to connect an ancient Toshiba 1200XE laptop to the net via a cellular phone and published the Retro Wireless Blogging Tutorial [in German] explaining the feat he pulled off. In my project’s abstract I wrote that I will set my fieldwork-results into relation to the appropriate parts of the history of technology. That’s not meant as a mere academic exercise, upholstering my gobbledygook with some historical background, but a central issue concerning the attitude of my tribe’s people towards technological artefacts [comprising hardware and software], especially dated ones. I said it before: “Not only gamer- or modding-communities are very conscious of the history of technology, but it seems to me that ‘online culture’ in general is.” (unix history) “Autohistorical” fascination among my people ranges from topics like the roots of the own sociocultural environment, the milieu or scene [see the story’s last paragraph and ↵biXen’s comment], the past of the own community, towards personal gaming histories. And there of course is the fascination with hardware which goes beyond the need of its functions, its capabilities. Development and history of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is an issue manifoldly reflected in the community-members’ actions and interactions and the wider context being cyberculture at large.

On the basis of my sojourn in the MP-community, which lasts since 2002, I dare to claim that I am in resonance, that what is true for me—the thickly participating sociocultural anthropologist continuously on the brink of going native online—is at least partly true for the members of my tribe, too: “May Payne not only resparked my kidhood’s fascination with the medium [computergames], but made me experience a part of what I unconsciously had been longing for: my personal eclectic conglomeration of atmospheres and narrative content built from a lifetime of digesting popular culture.” (access) The genre of speculative fiction called alternative history is especially embraced by gamemodders and 3D-artists. It allows them to tell stories and to induce atmospheres in their audiences’ minds—stories which by there disposition already reflect the very action of modification itself, the gist of the modder’s lifestyle. The elements ‘modification’ and ‘history’ fuse in this genre, as it is powerfully demonstrated in The Difference Engine (Gibson & Sterling) which gave rise to cyberpunk’s sub- or twin-genre steampunk.

I do not want to make the same mistake here, which some contributors to Cyberspace: The First Steps (Benedikt 1991) have made, as Danny Yee has rightfully pointed out: […] jargon flies in all directions and quotes from Gibson’s fiction are considered better evidence than anything that happens on real networks. Sigh.” My point is that widely spread, adapted, and assimilated ‘stories’ (novels, movies etc.) like those have an unnegligible influence on cyberculture. By means of a little diving one can make those influences resurface time and again. Sorry for repeating myself, but: “It is my innermost conviction—at least for now—that the metaphorical and symbolical web which we call ‘culture’ is constituted, built and rebuilt by ever-changing, interlocking feedback loops of the associative kind.” (wargames reloaded) Having stated that I feel safe to mention another work of fiction. Not steampunk, but a historical novel: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (Stephenson 1999), which—among many other things—virtuously deals with the invention and historical circumstances of the development of ICTs. It is best read in company with Pierre Lévy’s scholarly article The invention of the computer. (Lévy 1994) Cryptonomicon is a story of ‘hands-on’, of creativity, of invention, of hacking and modifying … The lifestyles of gamemodding and hacking are inextricably interconnected with the creative appropriation of artefacts. Stunts like KerLeone’s wirelessly jacking up his museum piece of a laptop to the net are far from being uncommon and/or isolated cases—as the accomplishment described in the below quoted conversation proofs [GutBomb is the former longtime administrator and owner of ↵MPHQ]:

[Session Start: Wed Jun 18 10:25:47 2003]
[17:44] <GutBomb> zeph did you have a VC-20?
[17:44] <zephyrin_> No, a C64
[17:44] <GutBomb> ah i had both
[17:44] <GutBomb> i still have my VC
[17:44] <GutBomb> still works too
[17:44] <GutBomb> i even got that sucker on the internet
[17:44] <GutBomb> sort of
[17:44] <R|ppER> GB was a spoiled brat ;P
[17:44] <zephyrin_> with a Linux-shell?
[17:45] <GutBomb> yeah
[17:45] <GutBomb> i dialed into a linux shell account using the 300 baud vicmodem
[17:45] <GutBomb> then i used the net through the linux shell
[17:45] <R|ppER> wow
[17:45] <GutBomb> no graphics or anything
[17:45] <GutBomb> just text mode browsing
[17:45] <GutBomb> at 300 baud
[17:45] <R|ppER> you were hax0r gut
[17:45] <GutBomb> ripper check this out
[17:45] * zibo has joined [the channell]
[17:45] <GutBomb> that computer has 3.5 K of RAM
[17:46] <R|ppER> WOW!
[17:46] <GutBomb> the commodore 64 had 64k
[17:46] <GutBomb> but i don’t think all 64k was available
[17:46] <R|ppER> that’s wild
[17:46] <GutBomb> the OS (which was actually just a BASIC interpreter) took up a little bit

Spin Magazine’s reviewer wrote about Gibson’s accomplishment in the novel “Count Zero” (Gibson 1986): “This man has tapped right into our collective cultural mainline and shows no sign of stopping.” That’s already true for the Sprawl trilogy’s short fiction prequels, especially “Burning Chrome” (1982) and “Johnny Mnemonic” (1981). In the latter an interesting cultural group appears:

  The graffiti followed us up, gradually thinning until a single name was repeated at intervals. LO TEK. In dripping black capitals.
  ‘Who’s Lo Tek?’
  ‘Not us, boss.’ She climbed a shivering aluminium ladder and vanished through a hole in a sheet of corrugated plastic. ‘”Low technique, low technology.”‘ The plastic muffled her voice. I followed her up, nursing an aching wrist. ‘Lo Teks, they’d think that shotgun trick of yours was effete.’

Here I sense the same fascination with ‘low’ or ‘alternate to the state-of-the-art/mainstream’ technology as it is culturally manifested in the stance of the followers of the boomslang and in casemodding-culture. (see real virtual car, oelrechner, dark side of casemodding, german casemod masters, and Kitchenman 2001)

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