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Visions of Cyberspace:
Cyberspace becomes a Place
The rise of virtual worlds on the Internet
Since 1994, we have become accustomed to seeing the Cyberspace as a great sea of World Wide Web documents. However powerful the Web is, it may not be the ultimate interface to Cyberspace. More fantastic views of Cyberspace have been given to us by Hollywood or from fictional worlds like the Matrix in William Gibson's novel Neuromancer or the Metaverse in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. These visions portray Cyberspace as a labyrinth of interconnected virtual worlds inhabited in real time by millions of people represented as avatars. The coming of virtual worlds will represent a true paradigm shift for our on-line experiences, moving Cyberspace beyond a mere interface to becoming a place.
But is this a reality for some distant time in the 21st Century? Surprisingly, from 1995 to 1998 a variety of inhabited virtual worlds have appeared on the net with thousands of users colonizing and developing an enormous and often highly innovative digital real estate. Consortium projects involve live interaction in several tyes of on-line virtual worlds, working closely with their inhabitants. Consortium members believe that these early worlds represent the first steps to a powerful new medium for collaboration, play and learning.
Consortium Special Interest Groups, Conferences and events, and other projects are opening up this new cyberspace. Take a look at our recent works:
- Avatars98 Inside Cyberspace and Everywhere, the first big conference inside inhabited virtual worlds.
- Pushing into new spaces for on-line pedagogy in The U Virtual University Architecture Competition and University of California Virtual High School
- Borders Bookworld, 3D net-hosted retail environments for Borders Bookstores, customer community support and book clubs
- The social anatomy of a virtual village in Sherwood Forest Town
- Growth and learning about nature in biologically inspired worlds such as Nerve Garden and the annual Biota Conferences.
- Hollywood and cyberspace as a universal improv space for Inhabited Media Properties
- The economics of virtual worlds and their communities, the hardware and immersion equation behind the coming of the Home Holodeck
- Take a look at the past annual conferences, Avatars 97 and Earth to Avatars 96.
Our Mission, Our Roots
The Contact Consortium is the first global organization focused on inhabited virtual spaces on the Internet. These spaces are shared in real time by thousands of users and represent a new frontier in the experience of cyberspace. The non-profit Consortium supports special interest groups, holds conferences, sponsors research and papers, and serves as a catalyst for this new medium. A broad Consortium corporate, institutional and individual membership is working to ensure that this "cyberspace beyond the web document" will emerge as a powerful place to learn, play, work and interact in the 21st Century.
The Contact Consortium was born out of CONTACT: Cultures of the Imagination, a seventeen year old organization which has engaged anthropologists, space scientists, fiction writers and others in pioneering exercises simulating human contact between speculative cultures. The Contact Consortium was built on these foundations to become a structure for the development of human contact, community and culture in digital space.
An Important Time
The birth of a new medium is an exciting but also an important time. We are collectively setting into motion a phenomenon that will affect millions of people. If the digital worlds we create are appealing, effective and culturally rich, they may greatly benefit humankind. By bringing together people and expertise from many diverse backgrounds, we hope to empower the development of community and culture through virtual worlds. We can also provide a forum for alternate voices of caution.
Join us by filling in the membership form.
Who Should Join?
The Consortium warmly welcomes new members who are very excited (or deeply disturbed) by the implications of this technology for human society. Since our formation in early 1995, we have attracted members from many diverse backgrounds, including: anthropologists, space scientists, world builders, writers, graphic artists, computer scientists, engineers, business people, chat, MUD and MOO experts and players, students, musicians and just normal folks!
See our membership benefits to choose your level of participation.
Other Consortium Facts
We are a not-for-profit membership and research organization based in Scotts Valley, near San Jose and San Francisco in Northern California. We have a membership which includes individuals, corporations, universities and other membership associations. We are organized as a public benefit corporation in California and under the U.S. Federal 501c-3 corporations code. The Consortium was conceived by Bruce Damer and Mark Conway in conjunction with Dr. Reed Riner in August 1994. It was formalized at the CONTACT XII conference in San Jose in March 1995 and formed in April of 1995. Incorporation was completed by September of 1995. We held our first annual meeting on March 8, 1996 at our first annual symposium, a dry run for our planned first conference.
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