Report on Cyberspace Conference 2, Santa Cruz, CA, Apr 91 
Author Message
 Report on Cyberspace Conference 2, Santa Cruz, CA, Apr 91

>From The WELL, with permission of Kenny Meyer

# 83: Kenny Meyer (kennym)  Sun, Apr 28, '91  (00:01)  67 lines

I attended the {*filter*}space II conference.  Two 14 hour days of
extremely fast talk.  I never met a salesman who could hold a
candle  to those deconstructionist historians and social
theorists.  I was encouraged to over-hear a couple people say, "I
almost understood parts of what they said."  That's the best
claim I could make.

There was a good balance of presenters: liberal arts scholars,
engineers, social scientists, and  entrepreneurs.  I understand
that many made encore appearances from last year.  It would be
tough to select any particular presentation as a highlight.  There
wasn't a dog in the lot.  Here's the presentations that stick in my

        * Ann Lasko-Harvill: Identity and Mask in Virtual Reality.
        * Stuart Moulthrop:  Paradise for Paranoids: Critical
            Hermeneutics of {*filter*}space.
        * Brenda Laurel/Scott Fisher:  Art and Artistry in
        * Kathleen Biddick: Uncolonizing History in {*filter*}space.
        * Chip Morningstar/Randy Farmer:  {*filter*}space colonies
        * Don Byrd:  {*filter*}space and Procioceptive Coherence: A

I apologize for only dropping the titles.  The thought of
summarizing all the talks is a little daunting.  Rather than the
specifics, let me offer few general observations which might
characterize the event.

      * The conference was run with a light touch.  The atmosphere
        was open and conducive to all kinds of discussion.
        Sometimes it felt like no one was in control.  This was
        especially true during the Friday night panel-discussion
        which became almost anarchistic when audience members
        began shouting demands of the panelists.   However, the
        fact that the talks and meals ran more or less according
        to schedule belied this feeling.   The chair, Sandy Stone,
        deserves a lot of credit for knowing when to show

      * The scholars tended to be pessimistic and the engineers
        optimistic.  The scholars made repeated warnings to the
        engineers and entrepreneurs that the development of VR
        technology was about to create a litany of social ills.
        As the conference wore on and the number of scholarly
        admonitions increased, the latter group seemed to grow
        more restive and defensive.

      * There was a great deal of discussion about VR/{*filter*}space
        being the domain of the white middle class male; a
        predicament which was certain to lead to dire
        consequences.  Considering the "maturity" of the industry,
        I believe these concerns were grossly overstated and
        regretted the absence of an informed, articulate while
        middle class male apologist.  I was not alone; in
        discussion at the closing dinner, I heard a speaker who
        had warned us against white middle class male hegemony
        say the that problem, while real, had been overstated.  
        I find this especially interesting in light of the related
        comments in April's ESQUIRE.  It might be a trend.

In retrospect, I think the conference generated a lot of energy.  
Not the kind that makes people go out and build things; rather, the
pent-up kind that makes them want to talk the kind of talk that
doesn't stop  until it has exhausted the possibilities -- talk as a
way of  catharsis. It seems like there was a tremendous
commotion, with  little visible effect.  It was a different kind of
conference for me,  but maybe that's just because I have not
attended an "academic" conference before.

Fri, 15 Oct 1993 06:26:47 GMT
 Report on Cyberspace Conference 2, Santa Cruz, CA, Apr 91

Quote: (Robert Jacobson) writes:
>I attended the {*filter*}space II conference.  Two 14 hour days of

For those of us that couldn't make it, is there anyway to get
a copy of the proceedings?


Skate UNIX or bleed, boyo...
(UNIX is a trademark of Unix Systems Laboratories).

[MODERATOR'S NOTE:  Allucquere "Sandy" Stone, the CC2 organizer, can be

regarding proceedings...unless someone knows better.  -- Bob Jacobson]

Fri, 15 Oct 1993 09:30:13 GMT
 Report on Cyberspace Conference 2, Santa Cruz, CA, Apr 91

Reposted from The WELL (415-332-6106), by permission of Don Byrd:

Topic  14:  Origins/Usage of Virtual, {*filter*}, and Hyper
#226: Don Byrd (bird)      Wed, May  1, '91  (08:07)      81 lines

        SOME THOUGHTS ON {*filter*}CON 2
        SANTA CRUZ,  APRIL 19-20, 1991

        I should say that I was a speaker at {*filter*}con 2, so I will note
 only that I was astoundingly perceptive and leave myself out of it.

        It was an important gathering not for anything in particular
 which was said, but for the recognition that, increasingly, the
 technology is right up against the hardest philosophic questions.

        It is, in a sense, technology's loss of innocence, and it is a little
 sad.  There is something charming, if the story is true, that the data
 glove was developed because a couple of  {*filter*}-agers wanted a better air
 guitar. But I just finished reading P.R. Masani's *Norbert Wiener,
 1894-1964*  (Birkhauser Verlag, 1990), which is excellent in a dry,
 straight-ahead way, and, as it makes clear, the philosophical snake
 has been in the technological garden all along.

        However, I think its effects on the cultural-theoretical side
 (where I come from) is going to be good.  It has been possible to jaw
 and jaw, endlessly;  implementation has never been an issue.

        I found the conversations between talks  perhaps the best
 thing, and I wish there had been more time for that.  The whole
 organization of not just information (which is a problem in itself) but
 KNOWLEDGE as such is going to have to get redone, and the fact that
 literary critics were talking to engineers is the first sign that it might
 actually be possible.   In *{*filter*}netics*,  Wiener says that "the whole
 mechanist-vitalist controversy has been relegated to the limbo of badly
 posed questions." But the NEW questions have still not been
 adequately stated.  The engineers still tend to mechanists and the
 cultural-studies people still tend to be vitalists. It seems to be that
 some head way on this problem was made in Santa Cruz.

        The difference between mechanism and vitalism, to sum up in
 a few words a controversy which has been going on since the 17th
 Century is this: mechanists assume that all of the virtualities are
 implicit in the variables of a function; vitalists assume that for living
 things (and for things which living things construct by way of
 observation) the functions themselves change.  The arguments,
 therefore, center around the question of time's reversibility (a movie
 running backwards of a mechanism will still exhibit quantities
 computable by the same functions) and questions of purpose and
 teleology.  A mechanism's purpose is inherent in its design, a living
 thing or organism revises itself in relation to its ever changing and
 non-reversible purposes.

       The reason western thinking has been relentlessly dualistic is
 that these are both important aspects of our experience, and it is not
 possible to give a coherent account of both from either point of view.

        The conclusion that I draw, after little more than a week to
 digest the intensities of {*filter*}con 2, is that machines and life are now
 so intertwined that we cannot go on with the pretense that they belong
 to separate realms.

        Neither mechanism nor vitalism "win." The entire problem is
 pushed up to a higher level of abstraction.  Working in this new space
 is not going to be easy, because both mechanism and vitalism have
 both functioned as religions, that is, beliefs which give finals
 answers.   Those from the mechanistic tradition, which want to make
 things work now, will be impatient; the people from the vitalistic
 tradition will have to put their thoughts into forms which can be
 implemented.  Everyone is likely to be grumpy about the situation.

        A good start on the philosophic problems was made at the
 Macy Conferences, organized by Warren McCulloch and Wiener, in
 the 1940's, but it did not go far enough, and frankly I think its way
 was blocked because it tended to draw more heavily on the
 mechanistic than the vitalistic tradition.  Gregory Bateson and
 Margaret Mead presented the culturalists point of view, but there
 were other people around, such as the poet Charles Olson (with whom
 Wiener was acquainted, though I do not know how well) who could
 have held their own in that heady atmosphere.

        At any rate, everyone circled their intellectual wagons during
 the Eisenhower era.  {*filter*}netics and information theory provided
 fashionable vocabularies for various disciplines (they were like the
 Deconstructionism of that time), but the old disciplinary structures
 did not break-down, and so the kind of metasystemic study which was
 required did not emerge.

        Instead we got a new, jivey computerized version of Cartesian
 mechanism in Cognitive Science, and a new, nervous version of
 romantic vitalism in cultural studies, both essentially nostalgias.

        The important thing about {*filter*}con 2, it seems to me, is that it
 was drawing back to the place where we lost in the late 1940's.  I
 would like to see the discussion move further in that direction at
 {*filter*}con 3 in Montreal.

Mon, 18 Oct 1993 23:43:14 GMT
 [ 3 post ] 

 Relevant Pages 

1. Cyberspace Conference 2, Santa Cruz, CA -- Any Reports?

2. JOB-OFFERED: US-CA-Santa Cruz-Contract Programmer

3. JOB-OFFERED: US-CA-Santa Cruz-3D Graphics Programmers

4. Kahaner Report on Japanese Artificial Reality Conference, July 91

5. JOB: Viz Scientist/Computer Engr/Computer Scientist, UC Santa Cruz

6. Cyberspace Conference Report

7. Virtual Reality '91 -- brief report

8. Short report from Computer Graphics 91 (UK)

9. Eurographics UK 91 conference

10. COMPUGRAPHICS 91: Computational Graphic Conference in Lisbon

11. Two conferences: Bellcore Info Filtering Workshop, Visualization 91

12. Call for Papers: Telepresence Conference, Sweden, 24-25 Oct 91

Powered by phpBB® Forum Software