Theories and Metaphors of Cyberspace- Abstracts

WaterBird: A Metaphor for the Net

By Charles Cameron

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  • Abstract:

    This paper proposes the WaterBird Game as a fruitful metaphor for the net. The WaterBird Game is played with ideas and images woven into connection and gestalt on a WaterBird Gameboard with ten positions and a number of linking lines. The Game draws much of its inspiration from Herman Hesse's "Glasperlenspiel" -- the Game played in his Nobel-winning novel, _Magister Ludi_.

    Two playings of the WaterBird Game are presented in the paper.

    The first is a Game played by the members of a small and intimate Internet Mailing List called Gold: it has a lyric quality to it, and exemplifies another "net metaphor" -- the Buddhist image of the Net of Indra, a network of pearls in each of which all the other pearls in the net are reflected. This Game is described in some detail, but to appreciate the full beauty of the Game, readers are referred to the fuller presentation on a Web page (still under construction at this time, but intended to be ready long before the Conference).

    The second is a Game written by the Game's inventor, the author of this paper, to test the hypothesis that the Game can serve as a metaphor for the net in a second and perhaps more powerful way -- by weaving together a Game from the miscellaneous threads of conversation on the Gold list. This playing of the Game not only demonstrates the topological value of the Game board for mapping the twists and turns of a mailing list conversation, but also includes references to other "net metaphors", including the Jungian notion of synchronicity, quantum complementarity in physics, and the previously mentioned Net of Indra.

    Given the fact that this Game is not only a metaphor for the net in itself, but includes sub-metaphors for the net among its moves, it is described in greater detail.

    Game diagrams for each of the two Games are included.