Engagement * Interface * Community

Mark Pesce

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University October 25, 1996


The open secret of the Internet is community: open because among its users it's well known; secret because as obvious as it is, many folks don't "get it."

Community -- in whatever form -- is about engagment. Engagement in its active forms means beloninging, the glue that binds together folks who might otherwise have little in common. They form to preserve something for themselves - against the boundariless body politic. Communities exist as differences in needs - one identifies with a community in the context of these needs and mantains relationship in community as long as these needs are perceived as important.

Interface, equally, is about engagement. The invisible interface -- an ideal -- engages us totally, at every point, in a subterranean narrative which feels absolutely natural. And interfaces exist to fufill a need.

So community and interface share an isomorphism -- the need to engage. Their meeting point, the Internet, brings both together into autopoeic unity. It's impossible -- and self-defeating -- to separate them.


Mark Pesce is an Internet visionary and co-creator of VRML. What stared as a vision of 3D information on the Internet has blossomed into the reality of a true Cyberspace under his guidance. He has presented his vision of VRML on numerous occasions to the international World Wide Web community. Pesce is the co-recipient of Meckler's Market Impact Award for Virtual Reality, and was recently named one of Network Computing's Most Influential People in Networking. During their 1996 competition, Mr. Pesce received an Honorable Mention from the Ars Electronica Foundation for WebEarth, which creates a fully-interactive real-time model of the planet from space, on the desktop. Mr. Pesce is the author of two books, "VRML: Browsing and Building Cyberspace", and "VRML: Flying Through the Web", both published by New Riders Publishing. His latest project, "VRML University", a twenty-four week course on VRML, will be freely availble through Howard Rheingold's "Electric Minds " Web site later this fall.


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