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Nemeton Blog

Sun, 18 Jun 2017
REND386 World
REND386 World

As part of the Cyberculture exhibition in Leicester I've launched my first Google Cardboard Virtual Reality app. REND386 World takes classic VR "worlds" from the 1990s and presents them for Cardboard v2. Currently it is only on Android, but iOS, Oculus and Vive versions will be coming soon. Download it for free now from the Google Play Store. Search for "REND386 World" or follow the link to http://interactdigitalarts.uk/rend386.

Sun, 11 Jun 2017
Cyberculture Pt3: 25 Years Later
Cyberculture Pt3: 25 Years Later

Twenty five years on and the era of 'cyberculture' seems like a long time ago. The internet (no capital 'I' any more) is now an integral part of our lives, Virtual Reality less so, predictions of the end of national borders havn't really happened, but we do have Facebook and social media, which are sort of borderless. Connectivity is truly ubiquitous and we have faster internet in our pockets that we every imagined possible in the 1990s. In fact, smartphones encapsulate much of what we imagines the internet could be.

When thinking about those times I was struck by the fact that 25 years means that an entire generation has grown up taking the Internet for granted. They probably can't imagine that there was a time without it, nor do they realise that there was a time when the rules were up for grabs. For those of us who were around I'm sure memories are fading and we may not realise how important those times were.

It was for these reasons that I thought it was time to start cataloging my collection of materials from the era and looking for opportunities to exhibited. The first outcome of this work are what I am now calling the "Nemeton Archive" at nemeton.com. This collects all of my online materials from the early 1990, the websites for The Shamen and other early websites, lists of books and videos and so on.

The second is the exhibition "Cyberculture: The Beginning of the Modern World" at The LCB Depot in Leicester. This will run until 17th June 2017 and culminates with an all-date event of music, performance, videos, talks, Virtual Reality art by William Latham and a rare show by the Oscillate Sound System and Higher Intelligence Agency.

See http://interactdigitalarts.uk/cyberculture for details.

Hopefully this will lead to more activities in the future. If you have any materials to contribute to the archive please let me know. Follow me on Facebook for Twitter for future news.

Sat, 20 May 2017
Cyberculture Pt2: ...and the Birth of Cyberculture
Cyberculture Pt2: ...and the Birth of Cyberculture

The rise of the Internet was not just about technology. For many people it was part of a vision that saw digital technology as having the potential to create a new world without national borders or governments, where all information would be free and where human consciousness would be lifted to a new level. The Internet was a new electronic frontier, a place they called "Cyberspace".

People interested in this vision met online in places such as the The WELL (established in 1985) and at night clubs like Cyberseed and Megatripolis in London (1993). Their ideas mixed with those from previous counter-culture movements and new figureheads emerged. John Perry Barlow from the Grateful Dead formed the Electronic Frontier Foundation (1990) to protect online rights, R U Series published Mondo 2000, essential reading for all would-be cyberpunks. Bruce Sterling wrote about The Hacker Crackdown (1993). Fans of electronic music, computer graphics and Virtual Reality became involved and by 1993 "Cyberculture" was fully formed and ready to make use of the newly-public Internet and World Wide Web.

For me it meant using my Internet skills for more than University research. From running cybercaffs at the Oscillate club in Birmingham, homebrew VR at Megatripolis, websites and live events for The Shamen and other bands, writing for the new Internet press, to touring as a VJ at gigs and festivals.

But almost 25 years later does any of this matter?


Fri, 19 May 2017
Cyberculture Pt1: The Rapid Rise of the Internet...
Cyberculture Pt1: The Rapid Rise of the Internet...

In the late 1980s and early 1990s I was a researcher at Loughborough University specialising in "co-operative computing". It was interesting work and allowed me to develop expertise in use of "IP networks" well before they became available to the general public in the UK.

Initially, in 1989, my internet (lowercase 'i') was limited to accessing computers on the University campus. It was useful for "Talk", email, file transfer and X Windows, but was not much like the service we have today. It was possible to connect to the global Internet (uppercase 'I'), but this was done via a single 9.6kbps gateway that connected the UK academic network to the US. So, if I wanted to get a document from the 'Net I would first have to search through the index of "anonymous FTP" services for its location, then request the file from the server, the request would be queued, then downloaded from the US to a computer in London, where I would use the UK's X.25 network to transfer it to my own computer.

Then, in 1991, the UK's academic network moved over to using IP (first as well as, then instead of, X.25) and all of the things I had been doing locally could be done globally. The transatlantic link got a boost too and the result was amazing - I could download a document from the US with a single click! IP (which if you don't know stands for "Internet Protocol") glued everything together so seamlessly that the same technology you used to share files, or send messages, between two computers in the research lab could be used to do the same between two computers anywhere in the world. It was also very flexible, and new IP-based services arrived almost weekly and I would experiment with them all - anonymous FTP, Usenet, Gopher, WAIS, CUSeeMe, and so on.

Everything was still something of a well-kept secret though - in fact I remember being mocked by friends for having a "nerdy" email address on my business card. Most Internet users were academics, or people from computer companies or multinationals, and home Internet access was rare. I was able to dial-in to the University from my Mac SE at home, but most people didn't think they were missing anything. This was all about to change with the arrival of two things.

The first in 1992 was tenner-a-month home Internet access using dial-up from Demon Internet. This made home Internet use a reality, and kept it affordable. The second was the release of NCSA Moasic in early 1993. This gave the Internet a simple user interface via the World Wide Web. Plus, Demon gave you some "web space" to host your own documents.

The bits were in place and the Internet was ready to go.


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