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Herts Hammer
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AGE - 30

Get a free iPod - http://www.ipodsgiveaway.co.uk/?r=28319

PLACE - Hertfordshire

hertshammer AT gmail dot com (Anti spam feature in place, you figure it out.)

Would really like to write something outrageously witty here, but as I'm too nerdy I can't.

I'm a season ticket holder, I normally always attend with the Mrs in Tow as she is a Hammer too and if the truth be told actually took me to my first game. (Charlton 5-0, Boxing Day 2000). We also bring the kids to a fair few games, you'll normally spot all five of us singing our hearts out in the BML.

As stated I'm an IT nerd, so if you're having PC troubles, you might want to ask me for some help. Whether I answer or not depends on what sort of mood I'm in, no guarantees, as I have to fix other people's PC problems all day long, I sometimes don't feel like it when I get home. But, don't ask, don't get.

I'm a shareholder in the club too.

_Flame Wars_,

"Flame wars," in compu-slang, are vitriolic on-line exchanges.
Often, they are conducted publicly, in discussion groups clustered
under thematic headings on electronic bulletin boards, or---less
frequently---in the form of poison pen letters sent via E-mail to
private mailboxes. John A. Barry's definition of "flame" (n., v.)
as "a (usually) electronic diatribe"1 suggests that such exchanges
occasionally take place offline, although denizens of computer
networks are putatively PC junkies and hence likely to prefer
virtual invective to FTF (on-line shorthand for "face to face")
Then, too, the wraithlike nature of electronic communication--
-the flesh become word, the sender reincarnated as letters floating
on a terminal screen---accelerates the escalation of hostilities
when tempers flare; disembodied, sometimes pseudonymous combatants
tend to feel that they can hurl insults with impunity (or at least
without fear of bodily harm). Moreover, E-mail missives or "posts"
seem to encourage misinterpretation in the same way that written
correspondence sometimes does. Like "snailmail" (compu-slang for
conventional letters), electronic messages must be interpreted
without the aid of nonverbal cues or what sociolinguist Peter Farb
calls "paralanguage"---expressive vocal phenomena such as pitch,
intensity, stress, tempo, and volume. The importance of body
language is universally conceded, of course; books on the subject
are staples of the supermarket check-out stand. Paralanguage, Farb
writes, is no less essential to accurate reading: "No protestation
by a speaker that he is uttering the truth is equal to the
nonverbal confirmation of his credibility contained in the way he
says it."2 Both, significantly, are missing from on-line, text-
based interaction, which may account for the umbrage frequently
taken at innocently-intended remarks. It accounts, too, for the
cute use of punctuation to telegraph facial expressions. Here is
a key for some commonly-used "emoticons," defined in _The New
Hacker's Dictionary_ as "glyph[s]...used to indicate an emotional
state" (read them sideways):
:-) = smiley face; used to underscore a user's
good intentions.
:) or, less frequently, :} = variations on
the same theme.
;-) = wink; used to indicate sardonic humor or
a tongue-in-cheek quip ("nudge, nudge; wink,
:( = sadness, sometimes used facetiously.
Of course, no signalling system, as one "net surfer"
observes, is fool-proof:
Shit happens, especially on the Net, where
everyone speaks with flattened affect. I
think the attempt to signal authorial intent
with little smileys is interesting but futile.
They're subject to slippage like any other
kind of sign. The bottom line is, anyone who
plans to spend time on-line has to grow a few
psychic calluses.3

Electronic notes, posted in group discussions, differ from
hand- or typewritten letters in several significant ways. Like
public bathroom graffiti, their authors are sometimes anonymous,
often pseudonymous, and almost always strangers. Which is the
upside of incorporeal interaction: a technologically-enabled, post-
multicultural vision of identity disengaged from gender, ethnicity,
and other problematic constructions. On-line, users can float free
of biological and sociocultural determinants, as least to the
degree that their idiosyncratic language usage does not mark them
as white, black, college-educated, a high-school drop-out, and so
on. "There is no visual contact, no hearing of accents," said
Wayne Gregori, a 35-year-old computer consultant who runs SFNet.
"People are judged on the content of what they say."4
Posts are read and responded to by computer users scattered
across the Internet, the global meta-network that comprises
information services such as BITNET; the private, academic and
government laboratories interwoven by NSFNET (the National Science
Foundation Network); mainstream networks such as America Online and
CompuServe; and smaller, more esoteric bulletin boards like San
Francisco's WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) and New York's
MindVOX. (Mitch Kapor, founder of the Lotus Development
Corporation, once compared the Internet to a "library where all of
the books are dumped on the floor in no particular order.")5 But
unlike profundities scrawled on restroom stalls (which always seem,
somehow, as if they belong on the walls of Pompeiian ruins), on-
line conversations exhibit a curious half-life; as the reader
scrolls downscreen, scanning the lively back-and-forth of a
discussion that may go back weeks, months or even years, he
experiences the puns, philippics, true confessions, rambling
dissertations, and Generation X-er one-liners as if they were
taking place in real time---which, for the reader watching them
flow past on his screen, they are.
On occasion, one might stumble onto a flame war, although
verbal brawling lowers the tone of colloquia and is therefore
frowned upon. In the WELL's _Mondo 2000_ conference, users take
their disputes outside the topic, into the virtual version of the
back alley---a topic-cum-boxing ring called "Flame Box," where they
may roll up their sleeves and pummel each other witless.
Witlessness, in fact, was the order of the day in the flame war I
witnessed, where squabblers seemed to specialize in a baroque
slackerbabble related to the mock-Shakespearean put-downs used by
Alex on his droogies in _A Clockwork Orange_: "Look, you syphilitic
bovine harpy," "You heaving purulent mammoth," "Get thine swampy
effluvia away from me, you twitching gelatinous yolk of rancid
smegma," and on, and on. "This standoff will probably end in
Koreshian glory," predicted one user, with thinly-disguised relish.
In some ways, flame wars are a less ritualized, cybercultural
counterpart to the African-American phenomenon known as "the
dozens," in which duelists one-up each other with elaborate,
sometimes rhyming gibes involving the sexual exploits of each
other's mothers. At their best, flame wars give way to tour-de-
force jeremiads called "rants"---demented soliloquys which elevate
soapbox demagoguery to a guerrilla art form. Characterized by
fist-banging punctuation, emphatic capitals, and the http://www.ipodsgiveaway.co.uk/?r=28319< br>

hertshammer kill-'em-all-
and-let-God-sort-'em-ou t rhetoric patented by Hunter S. Thompson,
rants are spiritual kin to Antonin Artaud's blasphemous screeds and
the Vorticist harangues in Wyndham Lewis's _Blast_. Here is a
classic, written by Erika Whiteway (a.k.a. "outrider"):
Never give in, never submit. Or just never go
out of your house anymore. In twenty years
this will be Life: stay home all the time
because it's too dangerous to go out/you can't
eat red meat in public/or sugar either/or
grease/and you damn sure can't smoke; get all
stimuli, info, human contact, groceries,
money, etc. on your computer. All materials
will be delivered by heavily armed people in
tanks: they must cross the moat filled with
piranha, crocodiles, and weird water-borne
disease organisms, and also pass the security
check that keeps them from getting
Swiss-cheesed by the remote control firepower
in the gun turrets at the razorwire perimeter,
then they have to pass the dna identity
scanner at the last portal--and they
absolutely refuse ALL TIPS AND GRATUITIES.
After a pleasant meal of micronuked frozen
blah, you can jump onto the Net and read the
Daily Horros in the form of movingpicto-news;
go to the library and download the original
French version of Madame Bovary AND a decent
French dictionary. Read in the comfort of
your cozy warm bed, safe behind triple-wall
steel constructed building. Pet your cat/dog.
Clean your arsenal. Sleep. Dream of a more
lifelike life...remember the olden days when
you could walk outside in the Night and go
places, when you could drive safely from here
to there...go back to sleep.6
This special issue's title is intentionally ironic. The tone,
as in most intellectual discourse, is decorous; there are no flame
wars here, and no rants in the proper sense (although Tricia Rose's
inspired peroration on feminist mothers as "the most dangerous
muthafuckahs out there," with its call for "feminist women to have
as much power and as many babies as they want to, creating
universes of feminist children," comes close). Even so, the compu-
slang title reminds us that our interaction with the world around
us is increasingly mediated by computer technology, and that, bit
by digital bit, we are being "Borged," as devotees of _Star Trek:
The Next Generation_ would have it---transformed into cyborgian
hybrids of technology and biology through our ever more frequent
interaction with machines, or with one another _through_
technological interfaces.
(According to Clark Fife, who works at New York's Forbidden
Planet sci-fi bookstore and memorabilia shop, a cap-and-T-shirt set
produced by a merchandiser to capitalize on the inexplicable appeal
of the Borg---implacable _Star Trek_ villains who function as a
"hive mind," or collective entity, and whose bleached flesh is
interpenetrated by fetishistic high-tech prostheses---have proven
wildly popular. The Borg are popular, says Fife, because they
resonate with the cyberpunk sensibility and because "they're
symbols of technological victimization that appeal to people."
Simultaneously, their cultish following bespeaks a pervasive desire
among sci-fi readers, _Star Trek_ fans, and other members of fringe
technoculture to sheathe the body in an impenetrable carapace,
render it invincible through mechatronic7 augmentation---a
hypostasization, perhaps, of a creeping body loathing congruent
with the growing awareness that wires are twined through all of our
lives, that our collective future is written on confetti-sized
flakes of silicon.)
Jejune though they may seem, "flame wars" merit serious
consideration; offering ample evidence of the subtle ways in which
on-line group psychology is shaped by the medium itself, these
subcultural practices offer a precognitive glimpse of mainstream
culture a few years from now, when ever greater numbers of
Americans will be part-time residents in virtual communities. As
Gareth Branwyn notes in "Compu-Sex: Erotica for Cybernauts," "the
rate of growth for new computer networks joining the Internet is
25% _every three months_," an astonishing statistic that attests to
the explosion of interest in electronic interconnectedness.
Approximately 10 million people frequent electronic bulletin
boards,8 and their ranks are growing by the score. A WELL employee
told me, shortly after the appearance of _Time_ magazine's February
8, 1993 cover story on cyberpunk, that the bulletin board's
population---already 3,000 strong---had swollen by several thousand
more. "People call and ask, 'Is this the cyberspace?,'" he said.
Indeed, it is---"the desert of the real," where the shreds of
the territory, to invoke Baudrillard, "are slowly rotting across
the map."9 Those who spend an inordinate amount of time connected
by modem via telephone lines to virtual spaces often report a
peculiar sensation of "thereness"; prowling from one conference to
another, eavesdropping on discussions in progress, bears an uncanny
resemblance to wandering the hallways of some labyrinthine mansion,
poking one's head into room after room. "One of the most striking
features of the WELL," observed a user named loca, "is that it
actually creates a feeling of 'place.' I'm staring at a computer
screen. But the feeling really is that I'm 'in' something; I'm
some 'where.'"10
Virtual reality interfaces, facilitated by high-bandwidth
information highways of the sort proposed by the Clinton
administration, will concretize loca's "feeling of 'place'"; at
last, there _will_ be a "there" there. Using current developments
as a springboard, one might imagine users in head-tracking 3-D
goggles, a quadrophonic sound system imbedded in the goggle's
earpieces. As the user looks up, down, or from side to side, the
computer's high-speed program animates the world---and its
soundscape---accordingly, creating the illusion of a 360-degree,
real-time hyperreality. Howard Rheingold completes the sensorium
with the sense of touch, imagining high-tech bodystockings that
"know" where their wearer's limbs are in space. The inner surfaces
of these suits would be covered with
an array of intelligent sensor-effectors---a
mesh of tiny tactile detectors coupled to
vibrators of varying degrees of hardness,
hundreds of them per square inch, that can
receive and transmit a realistic sense of
tactile presence.11

Plugging into the global telephone network, the user connects
with similarly-equipped individuals or groups. All appear to each
other as believable fictions: lifelike characters inhabiting a
three-dimensional environment. (Reality, here, is mutable, evoking
Greg Tate's mock-serious vision of the defaced, re-faced Michael
Jackson as "harbinger of a transracial tomorrow where genetic
deconstruction has become the norm and Narcissism wears the face of
all human Desire";12 gender, ethnicity, age and other variables can
be altered with a keystroke or two.) "You run your hand over your
partner's clavicle," imagines Rheingold, "and 6,000 miles away, an
array of effectors [is] triggered, in just the right sequence, at
just the right frequency, to convey the touch exactly the way you
wish it to be conveyed."13
It must be noted, however, that virtual embodiment of the
Rheingoldian sort is an http://www.ipodsgiveaway.co.uk/?r=28319< br>

hertshammer kill-'em-all-
and-let-God-sort-'em-ou t early-to-mid-twenty-first-century
tec hnology. It would require a global fiberoptic network in
concert with massively parallel supercomputers capable of
monitoring and controlling the numberless sensors and effectors
fitted to every hill and dale, plane and protuberance of the body's
topography. Then, too, a reticulated fabric of safe, high-speed
micro-vibrators is only a mirage, given the state of the art in
current technologies.
Nonetheless, there is more to cyberculture than cyberspace.
Cyberculture, as I defined it in an earlier essay, is
a farflung, loosely-knit complex of
sublegitimate, alternative, marginal, and
oppositional subcultures [whose common project
is the subversive use of technocommodities,
often framed by radical body
politics]...[Cyberculture is] divisible into
several major territories: visionary
technology, fringe science, avant-garde art,
and pop culture.14
Fredric Jameson has noted the correspondence between cyberpunk
novelist William Gibson's cyberspace---the sci-fi reification of
what Jameson calls "the world space of multinational capital,"
where vast sums are blipped through fiberoptic bundles---and has
called for a cognitive cartography, "a pedagogical political
culture which seeks to endow the individual subject with some new
heightened sense of its place in the global system."15 A map of
the increasingly virtual geography in which we find ourselves,
suggests Jameson, is essential in "grasp[ing] our positioning as
individual and collective subjects and regain[ing] a capacity to
act and struggle which is at present neutralized by our spatial as
well as our social confusion."16 Compasses and sextants in hand,
the writers in this collection embark on Jameson's project, mindful
(if intuitively) of one WELL-dweller's corrective:
This medium gives us the possibility (illusory
as it may be) that we can build a world
unmediated by authorities and experts. The
roles of reader, writer, and critic are so
quickly interchangeable that they become
increasingly irrelevant in a community of
co-creation such as the WELL. (cf. Benjamin's
"revolutionary literature;" on-line far
supersedes the newspaper as a medium in which
the reader is likely to also be the writer.)
I really have no objection to someone who has
come into our community, lived here and
participated, analyzing [his] experience and
trying to put it into perspective. I think
the objection to the "critics" who are now
fawning over cyberthis and cyberthat is that
they are perceived as intellectual
carpetbaggers who don't bother to learn the
terrain before they create the map.17

- 30 -

I am greatly indebted to Gareth Branwyn, a longtime resident of
virtual communities and serious thinker about cyberculture. His
many insights, articulated in lengthy conversations on- and
offline, proved invaluable in the writing of this essay, as did his
willingness to fact-check the finished work, sparing me the fate of
the "intellectual carpetbagger."


1 John A. Barry, _Technobabble_ (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), 243.
2 Peter Farb, _Word Play_ (New York, 1975), 69.
3 Anonymous correspondent, in a private E-mail letter to the
author, April 17, 1993.
4 Katherine Bishop, "The Electronic Coffeehouse," _The New York
Times_, August 2, 1992, V3.
5 Robert E. Calem, "The Network of All Networks," _The New York
Times_, December 6, 1992, F12.
6 Erika Whiteway, using the pseudonym "outrider," in the topic
"Flame Box" in the _Mondo 2000_ conference, March 29, 1993.
7 The mirror image of "electromechanical," _mechatronic_ is a
Japanese coinage meaning "the fusion of machinery and electronics";
it stresses the importan
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