Cyberspace as a paratactic aggregate:

So the virtual worlds constitute a strand of thought that stretches back through history, a mindset that produces and complexifies a whole series of worlds, the latest being cyberspace, and virtual meaning these aren't within the real world: A virtual world has to be brought into being by explicit statements (this means this, that means that), as with cyberspace which itself is an offshoot of cybernetics, and so the statements are cybernetic feedback loops: this means (read: causes) this, that means (read: causes) that. The driving force of virtual worlds is towards replicating the real world in a describable way, associating semantic handles with everything, and the power of the virtual world (in the current case: cyberspace, which is the internet and more) is that these handles are programmatically available - in the past, oral culture put handles on human nature; the great scientific models put handles on the physical universe - and the drive to do this [the continuing evolution because of incremental benefits] is called the semiotcracy. This however is also the weakness of the virtual world because the selection of handles is dependant on the worldview of its authors (so we have email addresses for individuals and not groups, not properly) which shapes the reality of people living within the world.

And people do live within the virtual worlds! or at least partially. Once the nest of statements grows beyond a certain complexity, individuals can no longer comprehend it logically, and so the structure of the brain itself, which has adapted to the physics of the real world (distance means dilution of causality, is one such adaption), is utilised: the design of the virtual world must now therefore take its clues from humanity's interfaces with the pre-existing universe, and build in equivalents. The virtual world may then re-merge with (deterritorialize back into) the real world.

Early virtual worlds: On the subject of Archaic art: "The picture becomes a list. Thus a charioteer standing in a carriage is shown as standing above the floor (which is presented in its fullest view) and unencumbered by the rails so that his feet, the floor, the rails can all be clearly seen. No trouble arises if we regard the painting as a visual catalogue of the parts of an event rather than as an illusary rendering of the event itself (no trouble arises when we say: his feet touched the floor which is rectangular, and he was surrounded by a railing...)" -- the picture is a series of statements: "We have what is called a paratactic aggregate: the elements of such an aggregate are all given equal importance, the only relation between them is sequential, there is no hierarchy, no part is being presented as being subordinate to and determined by others".

(Aside: If you think as semantic distance as the online equivalent as distance, and each statement building that world is therefore a difference, then "Distance is therefore a set of ordered differences, in other words, differences that are enveloped in one another in such a way that is it possible to judge which is larger or smaller, but not their exact magnitudes", which is from D&G's 'A Thousand Plateaus', and this also sounds like trails in Xanadu.)

Unlike present day art where it makes sense to ask about the almost accidental meaning behind choices, influences, this wasn't the case then: "Not every feature of an archaic list has representational value just as not every feature of a written sentence plays a role in articulating the content. This was overlooked by the Greeks who started inquiring into the reasons for the 'dignified postures' of Egyptian statues (already Plato commented on this). Such a question 'might have struck an Egyptian artist as it would strike us if someone inquired about the age or mood of the king on the chessboard'". (These quotes all from Paul Feyerband's 'Against Method'.)

It would not be possible now to make Archaic art. It would carry more signifiers. My implicit choices could be criticised; why had I chosen to make something that looked like Archaic art?; so on. This form of art [a virtual world] has been reabsorbed into the real world, and so it can have implicit qualities, widely dispersed associative meaning -- just like the real world in fact.

Cyberspace is still a paratactic aggregate. This is a bad thing -- this particular manifestation of the virtual worlds is now complex enough to shape thoughts, but tyrannised by the minority who are the only ones able able to state the propositions to shape it.

The real world at least is shaped democratically: Walking down the street I exist within a crowd. I cross the road to go to a coffee shop, a ripple moves through the crowd, it becomes marginally easier for others to cross at the same point as me. I have helped shape a social feature; this is extelligence. The storing of knowledge and tools in the environment (which in this case includes other people, society). On a grander scale, we vote with our feet (and wallets) at stores. We face away from people, stare at people, shape their personalities (and social position). Our every accidental movement and action influences reality. Contast this with the web: Aside from recommendations at Amazon and sites that monitor their traffic, the only way people affect the virtual world they live in is by creating new handles (new nouns), that is, URIs, that is: creating their own content. It's too explicit! Where is the implicit shaping?

Cyberspace is characterised by parataxis - defn: "The mere ranging of propositions one after another, without indicating their connection or interdependence; -- opposed to syntax" - and yes we're discovering the syntax (what if we could build cyberspace using the fuzzy statements of a pattern language?) gradually, but how much longer will we be building a world which continutes to exclude the vast majority of humanity, pretty much by design?

It's possible there's some trend in our virtual worlds: from the creation of a new medium as a paratactic aggregate, how long does it take for it to become part of the real world again, complete with the implicit nothing-is-wasted qualities of the universe? Is this period decreasing? How long did art take, how long did other media take, and by extrapolating this line, can we tell how long before cyberspace becomes a fair place to live?

(Three incidentals. 1. The pyramids were a virtual world, a society facing towards constructing their cyberspace of very nearly just a single statement: Here we are. (The most basic social transaction: I'm OK, You're OK.) 2. Virtual worlds are often artifacts, things that enter time, after-images of humanity, and it's unfair that the virtual world we're building now is preventing such a large number from contributing to the pyramids of our age. 3. From Feyeraband again, a warning against taking abstracted thought too far: "Many years later Galileo cautioned against this way of reasoning: rainbows, he said, cannot be caught by triangulation".)