fig. 33: Zysun, 1995
© Corinne Whitaker

unfolding: a memoir

iii
Community

What is missing so far in this digital community are the pleasures of the senses, the smell of autumn, warmth of summer sun on our skin, ice on our noses in January. Seasons don't exist; temperatures don't change. We don't need overcoats and umbrellas because there is no body in cyberspace to clothe or protect. Nothing grows and nothing decays. No one ages. Nothing rusts. Time is an ancient and untranslated language. We are detached from the rhythms of seasons, of night and day. No moon rises, no sun sets. We are in a mindscape community. The landscape of Constable and Turner is disappearing into the clouds of history. The new mindscape is sitting on our desktops, only a click away, beckoning to us at all hours.

fig. 34: Death and the Maiden, 1997
© Corinne Whitaker

It was not always so, of course. The learned ones, the sure ones, the rational ones, the smug ones labeled and classified and categorized and delineated in linear frenzy. Their world, and ours as a result, was expounded in black and white for all to see, in encyclopedias and scientific tomes and papers with unpronounceable titles and unreadable vocabularies, all of which proved how erudite they were. Those of us who pondered the imponderable could sleep peacefully at night knowing that there were smarter human beings who had the answers, who had disciplined the chaotic world of nature into an explainable and diagrammable chart. And on Saturdays or Sundays we went to church and temple secure in the knowledge that reason ruled the universe, that any failure to understand the logic of existence was due to God's complexity and our own failings. Our Western alphabet reinforced that formalism, with its black and white linear and one-directional mode of moving from one letter to the next and one line to the next and one page to the next, each adding to our understanding of the material to come. There were 26 basic keys to survival; learn to follow them in linear progression and your future was assured. Someone always had an answer, a diagnosis, a prescription, an existential Alka Seltzer or a set of twelve Hail Mary's (one after another, please) in case you stumbled.

fig. 35: God's Childhood, 1994
© Corinne Whitaker

And then a bit of glass, a tiny bit of sand, began to shatter our illusions. Someone figured out how to put gobs of data onto a tiny sliver of silicon, and someone else figured out how to project that data onto a phosphorescent screen. NASA scientists built a sphere and pasted the insides of it with images sent back from the first unmanned satellite to land on the moon. They cut a hole in the sphere for their heads, and immersed themselves in a new virtual world. Someone else created the ability to navigate in virtual worlds with multiple bodies and multiple personalities. Up and down became instairs and outstairs. The logical Newtonian sidewalk was developing cracks, and some people were afraid they would fall through.

fig. 36: Family Gathering, 1994
© Corinne Whitaker

Others, though, began drawing new maps of a wild, uncharted territory. They dreamed of understanding books by entering their 3-D space and traveling through them. Like Web surfing, they wanted to start in one place and then veer off into a completely different universe which in turn would offer choices into totally different directions. The sequence would be unique to each 3-D traveler and would make sense only to that person. As a result, the book that I read weblike might share only its title with the book that you webcrawl through. Digital artists rejoiced in the open ranges of this new frontier, glorying in the lack of fences and walls. The freedom to roam, to explore unfettered, to create unhindered in a vast unmapped territory, to visualize the silences in undreamed-of ways - this is the emerging digital world, and this is my community.

fig. 37: Jukebox Jamboree, 1994
© Corinne Whitaker

"I know I have the best of time and space,
and was never measured,
and never will be measured."


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Spirituality

Community

Identity

Syllabus

Spirituality

Locality

All text and images © Corinne Whitaker.