Vivian Selbo,

Vivian Selbo,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Dec. 9 1997 3:30 AM

Vivian Selbo,

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     This morning I cleaned files off the server, though a glance at my desktop--the solid, tangible one that supports my keyboard, telephone, Manila folders, and a collection of books listing affectionately toward the monitor--would not suggest that I feel this urge often. I won't mention the heaps of paper. Virtual design requires lots of documentation, and I use one stack to keep my forearm and wrist on the same plane so as to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, otherwise known as repetitive strain injury or potential unemployment. It's a dreaded occupational hazard. I think a worse one is a short attention span.      A mail icon blinks at the top of my computer screen insisting that I pay it some heed. Several software windows are open; several e-mails wait half-finished, as does my bagel. Fidel, äda'web's Webmaster, would like unnecessary material deleted in advance of moving äda'web to another server, but I uncover things I can't remove. UNIX files know who you are when you log in and they know what acts you're permitted to perform, identified in three simple categories--read, write, or execute. I have obliteration in mind, but I have found files I do not have permission to terminate, with or without prejudice. My job is dangerous and exciting. I ask Fidel, who has what's known as root permission--he is allowed to do anything. He writes: "Are you sure you want to delete them? ;)" In this digital realm without originals and never enough time, there is still what amounts to irreversible erasure, and a wrong move could prove disastrous, or at least extremely annoying. I reply, "Yes."      Tonight I went to a panel called the " Virtual Economy#2:http://www.feedmag.com/html/dialog/97.12dialog/97.12dialog_master.html}}," my first foray into the events surrounding Internet World, a huge convention taking place this week in New York. David Bennahum, Douglas Rushkoff, Andrew Shapiro, David Shenk, Stefanie Syman, and Mark Stahlman--Web luminaries all--discussed deregulation, decentralization, disintermediation (removing the middleman), information talking to information (think of computerized stock trading), blurred lines between creation and consumption (e.g., products invented by way of focus groups), network effects, filters, and attention. The real subject, though, was a general complaint: information overload, or how exhausting it's all becoming.      They say that attention, or "mindshare," is the currency of the New Virtual Economy. "Mindshare." Checking my dictionary, I only find "plowshare," the sharp part of a plow. By analogy, mindshare would appear to be the sharp part of the mind. Perhaps we're being splintered into a lot of cutting edges.      What's the connection to Web art? It's a gross understatement to say the Web as a medium is a rich conceptual palette. All its parts are potential elements for artistic exploration. Especially the space between the keyboard and the chair.      If there were e-mail links around those panelists' names, you could be attracting some of their attention right now. If any of them were valid addresses but misnamed, I'd annoy both you and some Webmaster with the noise of Mail System Error--Message Undeliverable. One woman's attention may be another woman's noise.

Vivian Selbo is a Web site designer and artist. She works at äda'web, a Web site that helps artists learn about, and create projects for, the World Wide Web. She lives in Manhattan.