Cyberville : Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town
by Stacy Horn
The founder of Echo, a virtual salon based in New York City -- where people log in to talk about art, movies, books, and the minutia of everyday life -- provides a frank and realistic picture of life online. "Horn's candor and sense of humor are vastly ap pealing, particularly when compared to the pomposity of much other writing about the net ... In an age where corporations are seeking ways to cash in on the Net, this should be required reading for anyone wishing to understand more about the human side .. ." (Publisher's Weekly) "What truly distinguishes Cyberville ... is Horn's disarmingly candid tone ... and the use of the words and thoughts of the Echoids themselves ..." (Kirkus Reviews).
The author , 12/19/97:
Stacy Horn's favorite excerpts from her book Cyberville
"Think: Grover's Corners -- The Dark Side.Don't get me wrong, I love it here. I love this place and everyone in it, even the people I don't want to know and don't particularly like. When we were growing up we didn't get to pick who liv ed in our neighborhood ... Cyberspace is just like any small town ... Every virtual community has its town cranks and drunks, psychos and saints, good girls, bad girls, good guys, bad guys ... It may take a long time for the secrets to come out but you ca n't hide forever -- even online where no one can see you.
Cyberspace is not OZ. It's Kansas. Okay, it's not Kansas either but it's closer to Kansas than OZ. We're not better in here. And no worse. We are who were are and we always come back to our selves. Frankly, it amazes me that anyone would think that we'd start behaving ourselves the minute we turn on a computer. Let's get Charlie Manson online and see how it transforms him."
Why Virtual Communities are Growing
"From my expe riences online and off, I'd say that everybody -- from executives of large corporations to out of work actors, from know-it-alls to know-nothings, everybody has a trace of an ache -- some eternal disappointment, or longing, that is satisfied, at least for a minute each day, by a familiar group and by a place that will always be there.
This is what online communities offer: a connection to people. That's all any virtual community has to offer. Period, end of story. If you don't like the people on Ech o, for instance, and what they have in their heads and hearts and how they express it then there is no reason to stay. This is all we have. This strange group of people and the society we have created. It's a community of personalities. If we didn't br ing our personalities, what makes us unique, then it wouldn't matter who you talked to, one person would be much the same as another."
On Virtual Romance
"I started Echo to meet guys. It's at the bottom of everything I do. The promise of sex. Whether I'm reading, writing, watching tv, at the movies, or dancing, it all has a sensual element and if it doesn't, on to the next thing. Without it, what's the point? Boys, boys, boys. I haven't changed a bit since I was 16. The men on Ech o have left me breathless -- something they said, it made me laugh, made me think, made me mad. No where else am I so surrounded by the words of men ... they raise the air of possibility and keep it there always, up, up, and everyday I log on and think, 'Well, you never know.' It's irresistible I tell you. Cyberspace is a most erotic medium. Expectation. It's thrilling. Keeps you alive.
But cyberspace plays with our hopes ... if you've had bad patterns in love elsewhere then you're going to get to watch in horror as you repeat those patterns online. Pain, heartache and all the unspeakably nasty things we do to each other in the name of love, they're all here."
On Virtual Psychos
"I didn't plan on the bad people.
I wasn't t hinking about psychopaths. Why wasn't I thinking about psychopaths? Did I think they would hear about us and very considerately decide to leave us alone? Oh, let's not bother those nice people. What a numbskull. Some made a beeline straight for us. A nd when they did, I didn't know what to do. The first couple of times I was left wondering, 'What the Hell just happened?'
Some people say the relationships in virtual communities aren't real. Usually some disappointed Utopian who wasn't looking for real, but better. They are unhappy with how dismally real it can be. No, cyberspace is not filled with just the people you like. You're also going to run into people who give you The Fear. If you're an ass out there you're going to be an ass in here. Y ou just can't help yourself. Alas.
What do communities do when someone's behavior becomes intolerable? If part of the measure of a community is how it deals with conflict, what about when the conflict cannot be resolved? When someone does something the community can't live with? When someone is being abusive or harassing and will not stop? We're not a government. We don't have jails or fines. We can't wish them into the cornfield. What's an online society to do?
... the wack-jobs forced us to examine what we had and what we could live with. This is how communities are formed. Not by creating a place and putting out a welcome sign. They are formed and strengthened through the resolution of conflict. You could say the heart of a community can be found in these conflicts -- the struggle, the outcome, what is created, is the community."
On Gender Issues
"The only gender differences online are the ones that are expressed with words. You can't see anyone. There's no scent of perfume, no sweat. Nothing soft, nothing hard. We are stripped of everything but our words. And if you take everything away from us but our words, what are the differences between men and women? ... you can't always tell. At first. But you can often tell over time. The illusion of free and unbiased communication can only be maintained, and then only briefly, as long as people hide. It's a trick. In time, if you act yourself, gender is revealed. Because we do take our bodies with us. I don't log o n and suddenly forget I'm female. Oh, I'm online! Now I can forget a lifetime of socialization. There it goes, right out the window! Right. You don't forget your body online anymore than you do in the physical world. Or remember it. Sometimes you g et caught up in your head, sometimes you're aroused, and when there is a conflict with respect to sexuality or gender, you remember which side you're on."
Dan Swerdlow (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Bethesda, MD , 01/20/98, rating=9:
Cyberville describes the growth of an online community.
If all youíve ever done on the Internet is surf the Web and send Email, youíve barely scratched the surface. In Cyberville: Clicks, Culture, and the Creation of an Online Town, Stacy Horn describes the founding, growth and day-to-day life of Echo, her New York-based online community.
This is a story about people, not machines. There is more here about eunuchs than about Unix. Horn started Echo in 1990, her only financing her severance package from Mobil Oil. Cyberville tells about the early sett lers of this electronic homestead and how they grew it into a town with heroes, villains, wackos, love, hate, sex (all kinds), death, birth, laughter and tears.
The people of Echo donít stay glued to their computers. They bowl and drink and play softb all and go to the movies together. Horn follows these face-to-face activities and relates them to the online life these people share.
Written in a light and breezy conversational style, Cyberville comes across as a fascinating tale of interesting peo ple settling an uncharted land together.
A Reader from San Francisco, California , 01/19/98, rating=10:
i couldn't put it down. brings home the experience in dense, funny, entertaining style.