Taginternet

Creepypasta: Campfire Ghost Stories for the Internet Age

Will Willes on the world of creepypasta, a genre of storytelling quickly becoming the folklore of the internet:

Again, none of these games or shows is real, but stories about them exist in truly bewildering numbers. I had unwittingly stumbled into the world of ‘creepypasta’, a widely distributed and leaderless effort to make and share scary stories; in effect, a folk literature of the web. ‘[S]ometimes,’ wrote the American author H P Lovecraft in his essay ‘Supernatural Horror in Literature’ (1927), ‘a curious streak of fancy invades an obscure corner of the very hardest head, so that no amount of rationalisation, reform, or Freudian analysis can quite annul the thrill of the chimney-corner whisper or the lonely wood.’ These days, instead of the campfire, we are gathered around the flickering light of our computer monitors, and such is the internet’s hunger for creepy stories that the stock of ‘authentic’ urban legends was exhausted long ago; now they must be manufactured, in bulk. The uncanny has been crowdsourced.

The word ‘creepypasta’ derives from ‘copypasta’, a generic term for any short piece of writing, image or video clip that is widely copy-and-pasted across forums and message boards. In its sinister variant, it flourishes on sites such as 4chan.org and Reddit, and specialised venues such as creepypasta.com and the Creepypasta Wiki (creepypasta.wikia.com), which at the time of writing has nearly 15,000 entries (these sites are all to be avoided at work). Creepypasta resembles rumour: generally it is repeated without acknowledgement of the original creator, and is cumulatively modified by many hands, existing in many versions. Even its creators might claim they heard it from someone else or found it on another site, obscuring their authorship to aid the suspension of disbelief. In the internet’s labyrinth of dead links, unattributed reproduction and misattribution lends itself well to horror: creepypasta has an eerie air of having arisen from nowhere.

Full Story: Aeon Magazine: Creepypasta is how the internet learns our fears

(Thanks Adam!)

Examples:

Polybius

Slenderman

Not safe for work: The Creepypasta Wiki

Even less safe for work: Encylopedia Dramatica’s list of the best creepypasta

This Week In Anonymity And Sexualization Of Strangers

A 15 year old girl committed suicide after months of harassment following topless photos of her circulating on the internet

A Tumblr was created to publish the identities of men who post “creepshots” to Reddit

Reddit finally shut the Creepshots subreddit down

Gawker unmasked Violentacrez, a Creepshots moderator who also started or moderated various other, shall we say “distasteful” subreddits.

Hakim Bey Interview From 2010

From e-flux journal 2010:

Well, when I was a child I was of course fascinated by adventure stories, figures like Richard Halliburton and other world travelers who wrote books for children, and National Geographic magazine—I inherited a whole closet full of National Geographic issues going back to 1911 from a friend. And then when I grew up, I became interested in Eastern Mysticism, the way everybody began to be in the 1960s. I specifically wondered whether Sufism was still a living reality or whether it was just something in books. There was no way of telling at that time. There were no Sufis practicing in America, or at least none that we could discover. I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, and then we had May ’68, and that revolution failed. It clearly wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to make my trip to the East and discover whether Sufism was a living reality or not. And, of course, it turned out that it was. And so were a lot of other things that I hadn’t even anticipated, like tantric Hinduism, which I also became fascinated by while I was in India. So that all lasted from 1968 to 1980 or ‘81, when I went to Southeast Asia. I also went to Indonesia for a short, but very influential, trip. And after 1970 I lived in Iran, where I wrote criticism for the Shiraz Festival of the Arts. That’s how I got to meet Peter Brook and Robert Wilson and all the people that I later worked with or was influenced by. I also met an Indonesian artist named Sardono Kusumo, who I later found again in Jakarta when I was traveling in Southeast Asia. He gave me the names and addresses of all these uncles everywhere in Java who were all involved in dance, puppetry, or mysticism; a fantastic family. So I traveled around Java from uncle to uncle, and performance to performance. And they have a special kind of mysticism there called Kebatinan, which is kind of like Sufism but not quite. It’s different, and it would take a long time to explain why.

And on the internet:

Well, I have to admit that, like everybody else in the 1980s, I was much more optimistic about these things. And in some of my writing I may have given the impression that I would become some sort of cyber libertarian. I have many friends in that camp, but then as time went on, I became more of a Luddite. I believe that technology should not consist of an attack on the social. And if you think about the symptom that everybody talks about, the loss of privacy, or even the redefinition of what privacy could possibly be, well, I see this as an actual attack on society. And it’s interesting that it comes at the same time as Thatcher saying that there is no such thing as society. It’s an ideological move against the social. And it’s not for the glorification of the individual, either. To me, the individual also loses in this formula. But it’s primarily meant to break society down into individual consumer entities, because that’s what money wants. Capital itself wants everyone to have everything. It doesn’t want you to share your car with anyone, it wants each person to have their own. And by the way, the US has achieved this—we now have one car for every adult in the country. Capital wants everybody to have to own everything, and to share nothing. And the social result of this is ghastly. It’s scary, frightening. For me it’s apocalyptic.

Full Story: e-flux: In Conversation with Hakim Bey

Cyberculture History: French Proto-Internet Minitel to Shutdown at the End of June

Minitel welcome screen

The French are pulling the plug on Minitel, their national BBS system:

Thirty years ago, France led the world into the 21st century, but the world hardly noticed. In 1981-82, two French inventions offered a glimpse of the future. One was the Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) or high-speed train. The other was the Minitel. The what? [...]

The Minitel was the world’s first large data base accessible to the public. The Minitel terminal – provided free to subscribers – was the first screen-and-keyboard combination widely available in any country. Minitel had chat lines where people could commentate on world events, or their own lives, long before the blogosphere. There was even an abbreviated Minitel language, rather like “text speak”, such as “slt, té ki?” (salut, qui es- tu; or hello, who are you?)

Full Story: The Independent: How France fell out of love with Minitel

I found this via Boing Boing and Bruce Sterling, who both linked to a weird abridged version of the above article that was missing a few paragraphs, including this bit:

Gerome Nox, a veteran male French pop musician, admitted this week to the newspaper Libération that he had in a previous life been “Julie”, an “animatrice” or hostess on one of the first Minitel text-sex lines. Few women wanted the work, he said, so most of the “hostesses”, paid the equivalent of £2.50 an hour, were men.

“(The clients) were like a shoal of starving piranha fish,” he said. “No hello. No polite openings. It was to the point and crude.” After a while he realised that “my Julie” had become “disagreeable, wicked and odious”. He announced online that he was a man “whose job is to inflate all your phone bills. So you’ve all been screwed, just like you wanted to be”. He was fired the next day.

See also:

Before the Web, AOL, and Prodigy, There was Minitel

Cyberculture History: Before the World Wide Web Did Anything, HyperCard Did Everything

Female Reporter Infiltrates All Male Hasidic Jewish Rally Agaist the Evils of the Internet

Ace tech reporter Adrianne Jeffries “in a pair of $15 Payless loafers, my brother’s dress clothes, and a donated kippah. Oh, and the white duct tape around my chest, G.I. Jane style,” dropped in on a Jewish rally at Citi Field in New York on the subject of the evils of the Internet:

There wasn’t much I could quibble with in the speech. The Internet is about instant gratification? It’s “fleeting and empty”? It causes us to waste productive hours? It threatens the preservation of isolated communities with strong traditions, such as the ultra-Orthodox Jews? Well, yes, but…

“Children are being turned into click-vegetables!” Rabbi Wachsman declared.

Some Jews are already enslaved, as if caught in a spider web. “The webbed mind has to struggle to understand Torah,” he said. ”There are those who sit at home and click and click into oblivion.” [...]

The second cause of objection is more damning. Last week, the New York Times wrote about child sexual abuse in Orthodox communities, and the group’s policy that such allegations be vetted through a rabbi before being routed to city authorities. A group organized a small protest outside the rally under the shibboleth, “Not the problem.” The group’s Facebook page read: “We are fed up with rabbinical leaders’ dismissive attitude towards sexual and physical violence against children. The internet is not the biggest problem we face. Protecting children and bringing molesters to justice should be our number one priority.” The issue of child sex abuse was not discussed at the rally, although the health and success of children was invoked repeatedly.

Betabeat: Ultra-Orthodox Jews Take a Hard Line on the Internet at Rally of 40,000 Men (And Me)

See also:

How Many Dead Babies Does It Take to Make a Debate?

How Osama bin Laden Used E-Mail Without An Internet Connection

According to the Associated Press’ sources, Osama bin Laden routinely typed e-mails on an Internet-less computer in his compound, saved them to a USB thumbdrive and had a courier e-mail them from cybercafes in nearby towns. Apparently this went on for years, undetected. According to the AP, Navy SEALS found about 100 flash drives that apparently contain series of these e-mail communications.

This is what’s referred to as a sneakernet, and as Internet crackdowns occur all over the world, it may become an increasingly popular way for people to communication.

A couple years ago, in these very pages, Trevor Blake wrote:

Now is a good time to establish lines of electronic communication that are not entirely (if at all) reliant on the Internet as it currently exists. Hand delivery of a stack of media is still one of my favorites. At a certain point it the best bit-per-second value known, it has certain privacy features that can’t be beat and it requires very little technical know-how or fancy equipment or money. For all the gnostic freakout of The Matrix, the scene where a disreputable character knocks on Mr. Anderson’s door and passes him a data disc might be the most prophetic.

Learning about cryptography, fidonet and the postal system won’t do anyone any harm. Nothing beats trusted person-to-person connections established in many only-partially overlapping social / professional circles.

Cyberculture History: Internet Co-Inventor Paul Baran RIP

Paul Baran

Paul Baran, inventor of packet switching and co-founder of the Institute for the Future, is dead. If anyone could have claimed to have invented the Internet, it may have been Paul Baran. From Wired’s obit:

Baran was working at the famed RAND corporation on a “survivable”communications system in the early 1960s when he thought up one of its core concepts: breaking up a single message into smaller pieces, having them travel different, unpredictable paths to their destination, and only then putting them back together. It’s called packet switching and it’s how everything still gets gets to your e-mail inbox. [...]

Baran approached AT&T to build such a network. But the company, which at the time had the U.S. telephone monopoly and, backing Baran, could conceivably have also owned the internet, just didn’t see the possibilities.

Wired: Internet Architect Paul Baran Dies at 84

Wired 2001 interview with Baran

New York Times obit for Baran

Wikipedia: Paul Baran

Cyberculture History: The High-Tech Pagan Origins of the .to Domain Names

Here’s a fun discovery: the founder of the company that commercialized the .to top level domain name is none other than Eric Gullichsen, co-author with Timothy Leary of Load and Run High-tech Paganism-Digital Polytheism. Here’s an article on Gullichsen from Time Magazine in 1999:

The two Erics decided the best way to beat the com system (and make some easy money in the process) was to circumvent it. There’s nothing magical about the letters com they reasoned; why not just use, say, .to for Tonga?
So in 1997, with the Crown Prince’s permission, Gullichsen and Lyons started Tonic Corp. and began selling Tonga domain names on a first-come, first-served basis. Bummed that the cool website name you thought of is already taken? Visit www.tonic.to with a valid credit card, and they’ll sell you the same name in the .to domain. Price: $100 for the first two years. You can still host your site from your PC in Topeka, Kans.; the name will just be registered by a company based on an island you probably can’t find on a map.

Time: He’s the Master Of His Domain Name

What did Gullichsen decide to do with his earnings?

And with the cash these virtual companies siphon out of the old world order, Gullichsen plans to build a new one. The crown prince has given him the run of a tiny Tongan outrider island, which Gullichsen hopes to turn into a prototype sustainable environment. “I’m setting up an ecologically closed community,” he says. “I’ll have a wind generator, solar panels, a geodesic dome and hydroponics. I want to live off the grid but still be online–be connected to the global fabric but from a venue that is free from regulation and in harmony with the environment.”

I wonder what ever happened to him.

For more on the intersection between occulture and the high-tech world, check out Erik Davis’s classic article or his book Techgnosis.

Robots to Get Their Own Internet

Rusty and Big Guy

The BBC on the coming robot hive-mind:

European scientists have embarked on a project to let robots share and store what they discover about the world.

Called RoboEarth it will be a place that robots can upload data to when they master a task, and ask for help in carrying out new ones.

Researchers behind it hope it will allow robots to come into service more quickly, armed with a growing library of knowledge about their human masters.

BBC: Robots to get their own internet

(via m1k3y)

U.S. Government Subpoenaing Foreign Leader’s Twitter History as Part of WikiLeaks Investigation

Glenn Greenwald reports that the U.S. has subpoenaed Icelandic member of parliment and WikiLeaks supporter Birgitta Jónsdóttir’s Twitter history:

What hasn’t been reported is that the Subpoena served on Twitter — which is actually an Order from a federal court that the DOJ requested — seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Julian Assange. It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks’ Twitter account.

The information demanded by the DOJ is sweeping in scope. It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the “means and source of payment,” including banking records and credit cards. It seeks all of that information for the period beginning November 1, 2009, through the present. A copy of the Order served on Twitter, obtained exclusively by Salon, is here.

The Order was signed by a federal Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, Theresa Buchanan, and served on Twitter by the DOJ division for that district. It states that there is “reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation,” the language required by the relevant statute. It was issued on December 14 and ordered sealed — i.e., kept secret from the targets of the Order. It gave Twitter three days to respond and barred the company from notifying anyone, including the users, of the existence of the Order. On January 5, the same judge directed that the Order be unsealed at Twitter’s request in order to inform the users and give them 10 days to object; had Twitter not so requested, it would have been compelled to turn over this information without the knowledge of its users.

It’s possible other companies like Facebook, Google and Skype were subpoenaed and complied with the requests silently.

Matthew Ingram writes for Gigaom:

The fact that Twitter is being targeted by the government is another sign of how important the network has become as a real-time publishing platform, and also of how centralized the service is — something that could spark interest in distributed and open-source alternatives such as Status.net, just as the downtime suffered by the network early last year did. It is another sign of how much we rely on networks that are controlled by a single corporate entity, as Global Voices founder Ethan Zuckerman pointed out when WikiLeaks was ejected from Amazon’s servers and had its DNS service shut down.

See also this post about Douglas Rushkoff’s call to abandon the corporate Internet and the supplemental links I supplied there. I’m tagging further links on the subject of a decentralized Internet with decentralized net.

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