Imagine that you would have an awesome technology that allowed you to create an universe you have just pictured in your mind, to the extent of detail you wish, and that you could get realistic characters walking around your universe, so perfect in its minutiae that their behaviour and looks would be completely impossible to distinguish from real human beings. Now imagine if that technology were available to everybody in the world and that anyone, anywhere could have access to it.
Actually, that technology does, indeed, exist. It’s even quite old, having first been developed over 6,000 years ago. It’s called a book.
Nevertheless, a “book” is not perfect — there is an author, and there is an audience. The author can do with their book whatever it wishes; but you, the reader, cannot. All you can do is read and imagine with the author, but not contribute to the book.
Enter the Internet, and its many social environments: from the old bulletin boards, through FidoNet, later the USENET, finally to IRC, and to webchats, we come to things like, well, Second Life. Here a new paradigm has emerged: the notion of a collaborative environment, where readers and authors alternate roles, and both contribute, at the same time, to a collective work. Early analysts of the “Internet revolution” have touted this as the primal change in the way we think about the ancient roles of author-editor-publisher-audience; the old “broadcasting” paradigm (one sender, many receivers) has been replaced, on the Web, by a new model: multicasting (all are senders and receivers) and the notion of collaborative environments, where all are readers and authors at the same time.| | | Next → |