The internet is not merely a glorified cyber-soapbox. Entirely new concepts of nationhood and cultural identity are evolving online, as people spend increasing amounts of time interfacing with computers. Two of these are VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES and MICRO NATIONS.
There are plenty of stop off points for the web tourist looking for a virtual country to visit. There are literally thousands of examples of online communities organised to varying degrees around the concept of self determined states.
telnet: lambda.moo.mud.org 8888
The most famous virtual community in cyberspace is a Multi Object Orientated (MOO) domain called LambdaMOO. Accessible via applications such as NSCA Telnet or MUDD Dweller, Lambda is a text based virtual reality environment which has evolved into the one of the most talked about net-nations in cyberspace. Designed as an experiment in social interaction by Pavel Curtis of Xerox over six years ago, Lambda is now lays claim to a regular citizenship of nearly 6,000. With its own system of hierarchy and governance, Lambda probes the concept of what it is to be an independent state.
The virtuality of this cyber community in no way lessens the vehemence of its political concerns. Indeed online politics can become just as heated as the 'real' thing. Lambda's complex judicial system evolved from discontent following the notorious 'cyber-rape' incident in 1992. Wired magazine ran a interesting inquiry into the episode (including interviews with the 'victims') in 1993: http://dhalgren.english.washington.edu/~shannon/muds.html. Following the rape, aggrieved citizens of the virtual community demanded a democratic system of accountability and hence the establishment of Lambda's sophisticated balloting system and governing citizen body - the "architectural review board".
Taking the concept of independent nation one step further are MICRO NATIONS. The effervescent and fascinating POP TARTS site provides an entertaining and informative point of entry to this phenomenon. POP TARTS is one of the most astute online cultural inquisitions in cyberspace and a must stop for any switched-on web tourist. There are some great links here including one to the fantastic Documenta X site: http://www.documenta.de/
Micro Nations are, to a certain degree, more politically driven than their free-wheeling cousins, MOOs and MUDs. These virtual republics are digitally defined territories where citizens are, in some cases, even issued legally registered passports. Many of the Micro Nations examined here exhibit an idiosyncratically European sense of nationalism.
The most famous Micro Nation of them all is NSK (recently discussed in the documentary, Predictions of Fire). Predating the World Wide Web by about ten years, NSK is an artists' collective made up of Laibach - an industrial music group, Red Pilot - a theatre troupe and IRWIN - a painting cooperative. The NSK state denies the concept of fixed territory, the principle of national borders, and advocates the law of transnationality. NSK won notoriety through Laibach's politically confrontational music performances using military-style costumes and totalitarian imagery, recalling the aesthetics of both the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Here at their Official Electronic Embassy based in Tokyo, would-be constituents can apply for an internationally recognised passport which designates holders as citizens of the 'first global state in the universe'. Try surfing the SPACE VERSION of the site for an odd but fun experience.
Not only is the internet a powerful research tool, it is also do-it-youself media. It is no surprise then, to find that hotly debated issues such as politics and Republicanism have numerous sites online.
The Australian Republican Movement homepage is a good place to start if you're wanting to get your head around the rudiments of the Republican debate. The site includes essays on the political ramifications of Republicanism and full transcripts of key speeches delivered during the course of the debate.
Essentially providing the same information as the ARM page, the Australian Republic Unplugged site is a more colourful, flashy way to receive information on the issues.
The web tourist looking for an alternative or irreverent critique of the Republic would do well to check out some of these sites:
Andy Petrusevics' immensely entertaining Konstrukto is a probing satirical commentary on Australian politics. An 'agitprop e-zine for the thinking Australian', Konstrukto is like the New Socialist meets the Fortean Times. The result is a burlesque graphic journey through the 'personalities' of Australian politics, shedding light on everything from the One Nation party ('the lunatic mainstream') to the ABC. A truly wacky highlight here is the page of animated Peter Costello's doing a weird hybrid dance, somewhere between the can-can and the funky chicken. Vacillating between approving and disapproving (measured by the perennial thumbs up/thumbs down) Costello's head repeatedly explodes in frustration.
Artist Mike Stevenson has a project at the Codec website (a soon to be launched collaborative web project by four New Zealand art galleries) which is a must see. A delusional journey through the web of intrigue that is art politics, Alt Ways of Seeing is an offbeat and witty rollercoaster ride.
Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative also have a site worth visiting. Featuring a comprehensive directory of exhibitions and events, Boomalli provides a valuable resource for Aboriginal art.
Honor Harger, ANAT