... A few familiar figures lurk about the LinX3D  console.... With calm voice commands, she logs onto the Konsum slackerserver, a node of an independent network of noncommercial machines that lie in the shadows of the Pop nets. Meanwhile the digital eye atop the console scans her body, and in nanoseconds Dark_Star is staring at her datavatar, a skeletal three-dimensional doppelganger carved from codetext. She is face-to-face with her interface. ... Dark_Star relishes this abstract and eerie moment, for she knows that this bare body of information is, for the moment, the kernel of her soul.... the real action lies on the level of protocols, not polished hexagons. She wants to embody the immanence of code." 


Erik Davis, San Francisco on the LinX3D ride

      Dark_Star enters the Konsum on a psychic roll. Her eyeballs instantly organize the pixels ricocheting through the gaming hall, while her ears map the sonic landscape generated by tall the noisy toys.  Long ago, in this very place, Punks, Sk8ers, and Hackers gathered about their ancient computer Worlds, building nascent forms of net-life from the crude machines churned out by a gaming industry that did not know, at least at the time, that it was training human beings how to leave human being behind. Today Dark_Star scans a new crop of joystick nations -- Betas, BogoMips, Cryptos -- as they cluster around a dizzying array of video consoles, cheering or silently scoping their comrades as they interface the Otherworlds.

        Dark_Star is already vibrating, her etheric body primed to slip out of its strong young flesh and merge into the electro-infonic sea of the nets. It has been weeks since the last LinXRite, and the collective transform has worn off, returning her to an atomized subjectivity she knows to be false but cannot deny. She longs to be free of the narrow cavern of the self, not to mention that self's equally stifling dream of Total Fusion, the false doctrine of so many techno-trancers and netaphysicians. She longs for neither self nor All. She longs for the in-between, for the*inter*.
Like the other adherents of the LinXRite, Dark_Star is not interested in the slick surfaces of the Otherworlds, the succulent bit-maps that realized the twentieth century's great dream of immersive virtual reality. Most gamers are happy to wile away their time as off-the-shelf avatars and celebrity clones, set loose into fantasy lifestyle Mall-worlds conjured up by the cynical demiurges of the Pop nets. But though Dark_Star respects the gamers who hack their own underground realities, she's basically not interested in 3D illusions at all. She knows the real action lies on the level of protocols, not polished hexagons. She wants to embody the immanence of code.

        Dark_Star's more political buddies, members of the Koding Futurismo Collective, decry the Otherworlds as "HyperSpectacles," vampiric feely theme parks that smother all will toward emancipation. Her friends who consider themselves artists, or who at least build the sort of recursive and recoding mechanisms that now generate most art, simply gagged on the cheesy pseudo-realism or moribund fantasyscapes that characterized most of the Worlds. And the few techgnostics she knows criticized them as online *maja* , unreal engines of humankind's collective sleep.

        But though Dark_Star and her pals dismissed the surfaces of the Otherworlds, they did not fool themselves by "seeking the depths." Instead they slipped themselves between surface and depth, into the mediated flux of mutating and recursive data streams that composed the interface and eroded the boundaries between datavatars. This collective act of slippage, of dislocated immersion, they called the LinXRite.

        Dark_Star, or rather Dark_Star's generically-costumed datavatar, plunges through the nets until she reaches the pseudo-randomly chosen site, which today happens to be a leafy green Motorola-sponsored golf course spiced up with dragon caves and tiger woods and other neo-medieval crap. She spots the others flitting through the crowd: Machiko from Tokyo, Rafi from Barcelona, Konrad from the Boogie Boy colony on Io. There were a number NoNames as well, anonymous aficionados effacing themselves even before the Rite began. Some of these faceless avatars were autobots, representations of datasets that had gotten caught up in certain weird recursion loops that now draws them to LinXRites like moths to the digital

        The participants gather next to a gurgling quicksand trap, as explosive golf-balls soar over their heads through the cobalt-blue air. They invoke the daemons of the transform, and their virtual flesh begins to peel away, exposing their raw datavatars beneath: shimmering bone-dry sculptures of streaming codetext. As they strip down to symbolic pulses of photons, the golfworld around them begins to implode, the fairways and greens dissolving into the dense root-systems of the underlying network. In moments, their 3D pocket of virtual space-time has evaporated into an electric lattice of nodes that endlessly reflect an insubstantial play of bits -- a grid that the more mystically inclined dubbed the IndraNet.

        Then it hits Dark_Star, the way that the certain knowledge of your own death can grip you in the depths of a sleepless night: kernel panic. For one horrifying but exhilarating moment, the boundaries that define Dark_Star's datavatar, and thus her virtual subjectivity, dissolve into a collective bit-stream with the other participants in the LinXRite. Their ASCII faces blend together like cellular automata, bitstreams racing like an encyclopedia of tickertape across a now orgiastically morphing mass of datavatars.

        Rather than simply fuse with the ecstatic flows, Dark_Star maintains her constantly eroding self at the edge of dissolution. It's the trickiest, but most vital, part of the Rite: riding the edge between self and other, presence and absence, code and volt. Slipping into the *inter.* If they pulled it off, they would be collectively intertwined, neither a collection of atomized Cartesian nuggets nor a melty custard mush of groupthink. Then one and all could truly play, having left behind both the one and the all.

Erik Davis, http://www.levity.com/techgnosis