mudcub (mudcub) wrote,

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In our country, goodbye looks just like hello


I bought into a lie - we are always told that the internet is this huge repository, that a blog entry is stored forever in Google, and a hastily-chosen sentence come back to haunt you for years to come (right "wise Latina" Sonia Sotomayor?). A digital camera at the wrong party can take a picture of you laying in a sling covered in goo, and all of a sudden your future political career is over. Everything electronic is permanent, everything is searchable, and in cyberspace nobody knows you're not the same person you were when you opened that account years ago.

But this idea isn't true. In fact, I don't know of anything that can disappear faster than a website. A power surge, a mistyped DSN entry, a single press of a delete key, and entire novels of words can be gone. And I'm saying this is doubly true for social community websites - places where people congregate online. Those meeting places seem to be extremely ephemeral. Here is a list of websites that meant a lot to me at one time, and now they're gone: (hot, HOT transgressive art and fiction)
yahoo groups (still there, but a shell of what they once were)
Armpits website (can't remember this one, but it was extremely good)
Google groups (again, these died when they started removing gay content) (used to auction *anything* {grin}) (just gone) (again, MIA)
In Passing (a better version of "Overhead In...") (really kinky gay personal ads)
AOL Hometown webpages (hope you didn't invest much time or effort into creating a homepage here, 'cause it's gone now)
Tabula Rasa (a great sci-fi MMORPG by Richard Garriott)

Any other deleted websites you can think of?

The reason I'm posting this is because I've been playing a lot of "Second Life" lately. ( Well, I'm not sure "playing" is the right word - the thing isn't as much a videogames as an immersive art experience. I'm a big fan of installation art, when an artist takes over a gallery and turns each room - even the idea of what a "room" is - into the art itself. For example, Master Thor flew with me to Denver earlier this month, and we visited the amazing Denver Art Museum. There, we saw this piece by Sandy Skoglund.

Individually, the fox statues aren't much to look at, and look kind of fake and plastic, like statues on a trailer park lawn. But the effect of seeing so many of them together with the stunning unusual gray-and-red color scheme is amazing. I spent as much time as I could walking through the room, noticing different details every time. if you are in Denver, I highly recommend visiting the DAM to see the piece. I definitely love installation art. I loved the videogame Myst and all games inspired in the same vein. I'll play first-person shooters in God Mode just to see the scenery without the bad guys and monsters bothering me.

Anyway, at its best, Second Life is like that. There are no dragons to kill, unlike World of Warcraft. It's just a bunch of people creating atmospheric worlds for people to explore. Alice in Wonderland-themed amusement park rides. Scary houses where the walls move and drip blood. Giant chatrooms with furries discussing pop culture while lounging on beanbag chairs. And (my favorite) kinky BDSM dungeons where have sex each other in outer space. The latter place actually existed, called "Black Gazza" and I would hang out there to see the inventive torture devices that could never exist in real life - bondage platforms which would make the victim spank themselves for hours helplessly, huge pinball machines that used human slaves as balls to hit around.

So, imagine my surprise when I logged into Second Life last night, and the whole dungeon was gone. Just missing, and my character was falling though the air and clouds to finally hit the ground. Don't worry, I wasn't injured - characters can fly in Second Life. But I had invested a lot of energy into hanging out there, and I felt oddly hurt when I was left plummeting through space, as if I had lost my actual house in a fire, or someone had stole my identity.

The problem is that nothing is free, even in cyberspace. Someone has to pay for the computers and processing power needed to create all those pretty castles and dungeons. Second Life uses the idea of "prims", which is shorthand for the number of polygons that make up an object. Each money, the manager of the dungeon has to pay actual money to the owner of the Second Life region. Some people are actually paying several *thousands* of dollars per month to keep their virtual worlds afloat. I paid a few hundred "Linden dollars" to the Black Gazza dungeon which cost about $50 on my VISA card. And now it's gone.

Maybe it will come back. Maybe all the other websites I hit each day will go away one by one: Facebook, Recon, Bear411, Twitter, Nifty, Fetlife. Maybe they will be replaced by new, better communities where gay people gather and talk about life, and sex, and love. Maybe they won't... maybe some things are gone forever. Maybe this is what the human experience will be like from now on in the computer age - people building castles in the air, only to have them taken down as soon as they are created, with nothing tangible to show for the work. Not even ruins of building for future civilizations to dig and examine and amaze.

You realize LiveJournal is slowly dying, don't you? That all of your blogs will eventually be lost. Even if you download all of your entries and store them on your own, they will merely be preserved, dead, on bits of files on a backup DVD in a box on a shelf. No body will bother to read your brilliant insights, so your thoughts might as will be frozen in amber. And then when one day you die, your physical mail trickles to a stop, friends stop calling one by one as they find out you're gone, and you will get spam emails until they close your account for lack of payment. Nothing is forever, not even ones and zeros.
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