A Journey of Integration

Virtuality And Physicality In A Computer-Mediated Environment aka the story of my wired life.

Sue Thomas
Mar 2 · 8 min read
Remember when we all looked like this ?

Introduction to A Journey of Integration

I first became enchanted by computers in 1985. I had gone to university as a mature student to major in English and History, but it was the optional short course ‘Computers for Management’ that changed my life. It was there that I learned to code in Basic, played adventure games from cassette tapes connected to my Amstrad 6128, and began to grasp the enormity of what programming could do. Everything I have written, studied and thought about since then goes back to those heady days in a tiny computer lab run by the Geography Department at a time when nobody else in the Humanities Faculty had a clue about what was to come.

In 2004, almost twenty years and several books later, I submitted my PhD thesis, ‘A Journey of Integration’, tracking two decades of discoveries, imaginings and mistakes.

This is the first time, 16 years after completion, that my thesis has been made available. Why not before? Two reasons, really. First, since it is a Thesis by Publication (explained below), it’s not as traditionally academic as most conventional theses, and this made me reluctant to submit it to any scholarly journals. Ironically, however, other readers might consider it too academic for general readership. So, stuck in my usual uncategorizable backwater, I didn’t send it to any editors at all. Second, I wasn’t happy with the final chapter and always intended to revise it, but never got around to it.

But then, Medium.

My plan is to publish one chapter a week over six weeks, with the hope that by the time I reach Chapter 6 I will have made my peace with it or, if I haven’t — well, publish and be damned!

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Chapters

  1. Experiencing the machine
my tattoo of cyberspace, 2004
my tattoo of cyberspace, 2004
In 2004 I wanted a tattoo to represent cyberspace. There was no image for that then and there still isn’t, so I designed this myself. It’s still bright and colourful today!

7. Background Information

Thesis Abstract

This thesis details the history of my writings on computer-mediated experience since 1988, from the research for and writing of my first novel Correspondence (1992), through a second novel Water (1994) and a number of collected and single works in print and new media, to the non-fiction book Hello World: travels in virtuality (2004). It argues that computers offer an opportunity to explore our sense of connectedness not just with each other, but also with the natural, the mechanical and the digital. However, the immense promise of digital life lies in its very resistance to definition, and the growing web of online social networks must be regarded as an ecological system living and evolving on its own terms.

This work is from a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of Nottingham Trent University for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, December 2004. The thesis formed part of a PhD by Publication gained through previously-published work, and was submitted alongside copies of three books, four chapters, three websites and a supporting bibliography. All of this work was undertaken between 1988–2004 during my part-time and full-time employment at Nottingham Trent University. These chapters were lightly edited for publication on Medium, but there have been no major changes.

Single Authored Books

Thomas, S. 2004, Hello World: travels in virtuality, Raw Nerve Books, York.

Thomas, S. 1994, Water, Overlook Press, New York; 1995, Five Leaves Press, Nottingham.

Thomas, S. 1992, Correspondence, The Women’s Press, London; 1993, Overlook Press, New York.

Chapters

Thomas, S. 2004, ‘Sistema Purificacion’, Pulp Net, London, http://www.pulp.net/fiction/stories/10/sistema-purificacion.html January 2004

Thomas, S. 2003, ‘Spivak’, Barcelona Review 35, ed. Adams, J. March-April 2003 http://www.barcelonareview.com/35/e_st.htm

Thomas, S. 1994, ‘All Strapped In’, Wild Women: Contemporary Short Stories By Women Celebrating Women, ed. Thomas, S. Overlook Press, New York; Vintage, London, pp.87–91.

Thomas, S. 1990, ‘Between the Boys and their Toys’, Where No Man Has Gone Before, ed. Armitt, L., Routledge, London, pp.109–122.

Websites

Thomas, S. 2004, Travels in Virtuality, http://travelsinvirtuality.typepad.com/

Thomas, S. 2000, Correspondence, http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/suethomas/correspondence/.

Thomas, S. 1997, ‘Revolver’ Freebase Journal of Culture and Technology, ed. Mills, S. http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/frame/freebase/suet/r1.html

8. Thesis Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Professor Gregory Woods for his commitment to helping me shape this account of the books discussed in this essay, and for his invaluable attention to detail. I would also like to thank Dr. Catherine Byron, Dr. Ann Kaloski, and my sister Carolyn Black for reading the manuscript in progress and providing useful insights, and Professor Sandra Harris for having the faith to employ me as a lecturer in 1988 and thus setting me on my way towards this doctoral thesis. And finally, as always, I must thank my daughters Amber and Erin for their patient endurance during the research and writing of these works, which happened to coincide with their growing up.

9. Thesis Bibliography

Print

Abram, D. 1997, The Spell of the Sensuous, Vintage, New York.

Bachelard, G. 1969, The Poetics Of Space, Beacon Press, Boston.

Campbell, J. 1972, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Classen, C. 1993, Worlds of Sense, Routledge, London.

Connor, S. 1995, The English Novel in History 1950–1990, Routledge, London.

Cross, R. February, 1995, ‘Modem Grrrl’ Wired 119, San Francisco.

Curtis, P. 1998, ‘Not Just a Game: How LambdaMOO came to exist and what it did to get back at me’, High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs, Eds. Haynes,C. and Holmevik, J.R., University of Michigan Press, Michigan, p.27.

Davis, E. 1999, Techgnosis, Serpent’s Tail, London.

Dibbell, J. ‘A Rape in Cyberspace: How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society’, The Village Voice, December 23, 1993.

Dibbell, J. 1999, My Tiny Life, Fourth Estate, London.

Flanagan, M. and Booth, A. Eds. 2002, Reload: rethinking women and cyberculture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, Cambridge.

Gibson, W. 1984, Neuromancer, Gollancz, London.

Grand, S. 2003, Growing up with Lucy, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London.

Haraway, D. 1991, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, Routledge, New York.

Harper, M.C., 1995, ‘Incurably Alien Other: A Case for Feminist Cyborg’, Science Fiction Studies Volume 22, p.417

Haynes, C. and Holmevik, J.R , 1998, High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs, University of Michigan Press, Michigan.

Kroker, A. & Weinstein, M.,1994, Data Trash: The Theory Of The Virtual Class, New World Perspectives, Montreal.

Krueger, M.P. 1983, Artificial Reality, Addison-Wesley, Reading.

Leder, D. 1990, The Absent Body, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Mavromatis, A. 1987, Hypnagogia: The Unique State Of Consciousness Between Wakefulness And Sleep, Routledge, London.

Minsky, M. 1987, The Society Of Mind, Heinemann, London.

Ong, W. 1982, Orality and Literacy, Routledge, London.

Robbe-Grillet, A. 1961, ‘The Secret Room’, The Penguin Book of French Short Stories, ed. Marielle, E. Penguin, Harnondsworth, p.407.

Romanyshyn, R.D. 1989, Technology As Symptom And Dream, Routledge, London.

Stone, A.R. 1995, The War of Desire And Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age, MIT Press, Cambridge.

Thomas, S. 1994, ‘All Strapped In’, Wild Women: Contemporary Short Stories By Women Celebrating Women, ed. Thomas, S. Overlook Press, New York; Vintage, London, pp.87–91.

Thomas, S. 1990, ‘Between the Boys and their Toys’, Where No Man Has Gone Before, ed. Armitt, L., Routledge, London, pp.109–122.

Thomas, S. 1992, Correspondence, The Women’s Press, London; 1993, Overlook Press, New York.

Thomas, S. 2004, Hello World: travels in virtuality, Raw Nerve Books, York.

Thomas, S. 1994, Water, Overlook Press, New York; 1995, Five Leaves Press, Nottingham.

Thomas, S. ed. 1994, Wild Women: Contemporary Short Stories By Women Celebrating Women, Overlook Press, New York; Vintage, London.

Toffler, A. 1971, Future Shock, Pan, London.

Thoreau, H.D. 1999, Walden, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Turkle, S. 1996, Life on the Screen, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London.

Turkle, S. 1984, The Second Self, Granada, London.

Weizenbaum, J. 1976, Computer Power and Human Reason: from judgement to computation, W. H. Freeman, San Francisco.

Web (apologies for dead links)

Agre, P. and Horswill, I. (1997) ‘Lifeworld Analysis’, Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research Volume 6, pages 111–145, http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/project/jair/pub/volume6/agre97a-html/lifeworlds.html

Barbrook, R. and Cameron, A. ‘Californian Ideology’, 25 Oct. 1997, Chaos http://www.arpnet.it/chaos/barbrook.htm Accessed 10 Aug. 2003

Barlow, J.P., 1996, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’, February 8, 1996 http://www.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html Accessed 10 Aug. 2003

Besher, A., Engebretson, P. and Bollerot, F. 1995, ‘Virtual Tao, A Cyber-Meditation’ Shambhala Sun Magazine, http://www.shambhalasun.com/Archives/Features/1995/July95/VirtualTao.htm Accessed 1 September 2004.

Bricklin, D. 2001,‘The Cornucopia of the Commons’, http://www.bricklin.com/cornucopia.htm

Davis, E. 1994, ‘It’s a Mud, Mud, Mud, Mud World: Exploring Online Reality’, The Village Voice, 22 February, http://www.techgnosis.com/muds.html.

de Kerckhove, D. ‘Network Art and Virtual Communities’, Parallel, Australia, 6 November 1995, http://www.va.com.au/parallel/x2/journal/derrick_dk/ddk.html Accessed 6 October 2003.

Del.icio.us http://del.icio.us/

Flickr http://www.flickr.com/

Hansen, S. 2002, ‘The Emotional Machine’, Salon, http://www.salon.com/books/int/2002/01/02/grand/index3.html, Accessed 10 October 2004.

Hardin, G. ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, Science, 162(1968):1243–1248. http://dieoff.com/page95.htm

LambdaMOO, telnet://lambda.moo.mud.org:8888.

LinguaMOO, http://lingua.utdallas.edu.

Mills, S. Ed. 1997, Freebase Journal of Culture and Technology, http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/frame/freebase/.

Mills, S. Ed. frAme Journal of Culture and Technology http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/frame/.

Montfort, N. 2003. ‘Toward a Theory of Interactive Fiction’, http://nickm.com/if/toward.html. Accessed 1 October 2004.

O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, March 2005, http://conferences.oreillynet.com/cs/et2005/view/e_sess/6329

Sondheim, A. ‘Books I like and highly recommend’, Nettime 10 May 2004, http://amsterdam.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-l-0405/msg00023.html. Accessed 1 October 2004.

Stryker, S. ‘Sex and Death among the Cyborgs’, Wired 4.05, May 1996, http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/4.05/stone.html?topic=&topic_set=, Accessed 29 August 2004

Suler, J. ‘The Psychology of Cyberspace’, http://www.rider.edu/~suler/psycyber/psycyber.html

Suler, J. ‘The Showdown between In-Person and Cyberspace Relationships:

Sensory Integration and Intuition’, Selfhelp Magazine http://www.selfhelpmagazine.com/articles/internet/showsens.html no date given

Thomas, S. 2000, Correspondence http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/suethomas/correspondence/.

Thomas, S. 1997 ‘Revolver’ Freebase Journal of Culture and Technology, Ed. Simon Mills, http://trace.ntu.ac.uk/frame/freebase/suet/r1.html.

Thomas, S. 2004, ‘Sistema Purificacion’, Pulp Net, London, http://www.pulp.net/fiction/stories/10/sistema-purificacion.html January 2004

Thomas, S. ‘Spivak’, Barcelona Review 35, ed. Adams, J. March-April 2003 http://www.barcelonareview.com/35/e_st.htm

Thomas, S. Travels in Virtuality web complement to Hello World. http://travelsinvirtuality.typepad.com/

Vanderwal.net http://www.vanderwal.net/random/category.php?cat=132

Weizenbaum, J. 1966, ‘ELIZA — A Computer Program for the Study of Natural Language Communication between Man and Machine,’ Communications of the Association for Computing Machinery 9, pp.36–45. http://i5.nyu.edu/~mm64/x52.9265/january1966.html Accessed 20 October 2004.

Wikipedia http://www.wikipedia.org/

Films

Badhan, J. Short Circuit, USA, 1986.

Lipstadt, A. Android, USA, 1983.

Lisberger, S. Tron USA / Taiwan, 1982.

Lang, F. Metropolis, Germany, 1927.

Lynch, D. Mulholland Drive, USA, 2001.

Mann, M. Collateral, USA, 2004.


This is the Introduction to my 2004 PhD thesis A Journey of Integration.
For more see Introduction | Ch 1 |Ch 2 | Ch 3 | Ch 4 | Ch 5 | Ch 6

I’m currently writing my 3rd novel ‘The Fault in Reality’, a story of life, nature and technology. Latest book: ‘Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital Age’. Amazon Author Page. www.suethomas.net

Paperback and Kindle

Sue Thomas

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Writing my 3rd novel ‘The Fault in Reality’, a story of life, nature and technology. Latest book: ‘Nature and Wellbeing in the Digital Age’. www.suethomas.net

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