Selena Sol was probably born in 1980, probably between 1 and 5 AM, and was
probably parented by Barnaby Fell
and Eric Tachibana (me in meatspace) as we talked far past our bedtimes
and probably most of the way into dreamtime.
In 1980, Selena Sol was the name of a city in a Role Playing Game (like Dungeons and Dragons) set in a near-future Cyberpunk setting.
The name was ultimately derived from "Los Angeles" where we both grew
up. Selena Sol is simply Los Angeles spelled backwards (minus the g to
make it sound good). It's feminine quality mirrored our sense that the
city was a harsh mistress.
For the next few years, Selena Sol, the city, was expanded through hundreds of games/adventures, becoming the flesh and bones of our first self-designed, emergent, virtual reality and our spiritual/emotional/social training ground.
And then, like most of her ilk, Selena was forced to sit patiently and
alone while we went to High School and I went on to college.
In 1990, Selena Sol re-emerged as the name of an alternative rock band made up of me, Barnaby Fell, Marcus Haley and Cort Fritz.
The name was suggested by Barnaby and was instantly adopted because we thought it...just fit. Of course, that wasn't the "official" reason. In the tradition of media hacking, we concocted various "press release" stories about the name.
For instance, on one radio show, Selena Sol was Barnaby's long lost
sister who had been abducted many years ago and for whom we still
searched in vain. I don't recall all of the memes we set loose at that time.
At some point along the way, we also realized that "Sol" was latin for sun and "Selena" was the Daughter of Diana, the Greek goddess of the moon. This yin yang aspect fit very well with the creativity and personality of the band and the sun/moon dichotemy became an important theme in the band's visual imagery (as well as my own visual arts).
But the name, like any living creature, evolved further as time continued.
By 1992, I realized that it was time for me to finish college. (I'd
dropped out of U.C. Berkeley in order to play music in Selena Sol, but
was living fairly close to UCLA). So I reapplied and began school part time.
At UCLA, as part of my thesis work in cultural anthropology, I began an ongoing "study" of gender representation in cyberspace.
For the study, I adopted the identity of Selena Sol, a woman, on IRC networks and on various lists in order to explore differences in experiences through gendered communication.
My goal at first was simply to see if I noticed any differences in how people communicated to me if I was a woman. As a "comparison group" I also had a male identity (sometimes Mark Fletcher, sometimes Eric Tachibana) who interacted with the same people as a man.
The differences that I found were both immense and subtle and have been
echoed in the works of Sherry
Turkle, Sandy Stone
and others who have done similar studies.
(I have collected some excellent articles on the subject at EFF's Net Culture/ Gender Issues Archive)The immense differences turned out to be less interesting, as they are in this post-60s day and age, rather prosaic. I think a good read of something by Deborah Tannen would be a good introduction for anyone interested in gendered communication.
As a woman, for example, I received much sexual harassment akin to whistle blowing on the street, male users from nowhere sending me pornographic innuendos and such. If they only knew :)
People ended messages with intrinsically condescending "C ya sweeite" which they never did to Mark Fletcher who might get a "later dude."
More frustratingly, I found that as Selena Sol, I could not carry on a thoughtful debate ten minutes before I would be disturbed by some random netizen asking what I looked like in a private message. Mark Fletcher could go all day without a single interruption like that.
But to me these gendered differences were nothing particularly new.
Though the experience certainly was positive in that the differences
really got to me (any theory is only intellectual masturbation until you
live it and can integrate it into your life) I hadn't uncovered any new
ideas about people and communication. I was only increasing my empathy.
Don't get me wrong, I think this was a great achievement for me. The anonymity of the Internet allowed me to get trans-sexual experience and knowledge that I could never get in the real world. I could advance from a sympathetic understanding of the condition of femaleness to a quasi-empathetic one. I could actually really "share" in the experiences of women. Like an anthropologist who doesn't just study a culture but becomes part of the culture.
This is not to play up my ability to achieve true empathy of course. I think of my experience as...gaining valuable insight, but insight unachievable without the web.
What was more influential to me, was the appreciation of the subtle differences between being a man and a woman. It wasn't so much the big differences like whistle blowing, but the miniscule manipulations of sentence structure and grammar that people would use to communicate with Selena.
In fact, such communications differences are impossible for me to even put to words. There was simply a "feeling" that things were different, but so subtly that one couldn't put one's finger on it.
It was this subtlety, I argued in my thesis, that covertly and intensely drives the realities of men and women so far apart. I liken it to the sensitive dependence argument of chaos mathematitians...the butterfly effect.
From birth, I wrote, women were presented, through communication, a slightly different world then men. And I don't mean simply boys get blue and girls get pink...but subtler things which i still, years after the research has ended, cannot truly identify.
Men and women live in two different worlds, close enough to make us think there is no difference, but far enough apart that it is like the difference between cultures.
But, of course, Selena Sol was to evolve again.
Currently, Selena Sol is an tool I use to signify my resistance against intellectual property, western atomistic identity, and western individualism in creative thinking and expression.
Modern ethnographers of Cyberia note that these industrial-based concepts of reality are falling away as the environment shifts with the rising tide of the information era.
(For background, read "Out of Control" by Kevin Kelly, "Neuromancer" by Gibson, "Cyberia" by Douglas Rushkoff, "Imagologies" by Mark Taylor, or anything by Marshal McCluhan. Or my graduate thesis)However, though I tentatively accept the validity of the new paradigm shift, I am not personally ready to simply switch everything (including deeply ingrained, culturally conditioned, personal ideological givens like my own identity).
So the name Selena Sol has become a hopefully temporary "crutch" which I use in my personal struggle to rise above egotism in creativity and atomism in identity.
On the one hand, I believe that everything I create, express or think
should be public domain. In the end I think it is "right" to not attach
an individual name to information but to pass it freely through humanity
without tags. I believe that information and progress is a cultural
progress and not an individual process.
When I put my name on something, I have tended to unconsciously think of it as mine. I resist that ideologically and using that name Selena Sol puts all of my intellectual output one step away from me...where I want it.
(This is much like the adoption of Karen Eliot among the Plagiarists community but with more personal meaning).I mean, people still might associate it with me but hopefully people will not be able to tie it to the source. Maybe, others will take on the Selena Sol persona as well.
It is a crutch in that my egoism can be somewhat appeased because Selena Sol is still in a sense tied to me. But my exploration of new paradigms is supported because I have taken one small step away from individualism. Perhaps one day I will succede in feeling completely happy publishing as anonymous. But until then Selena Sol will still exit in its current guise.
But the name Selena Sol is used as a banner for cyberian designer
identity as well as a banner for res nullius.
Many have pointed out that when on the web, I typically write in a way that might obfuscate my true gender. At times, for example, I will use the third person and at other times I will use the pronoun "she" instead of "he" when writing publically
(Certainly this borders on trite 70s feminism, but I still think that a male-centric language should be hacked, even at the risk of being trite).But at the same time, I have placed my photo on the very first page of my homepage as well as include this lengthy discussion of the origins of the name Selena Sol.
Thus, some say, I do not go either way 100% and it seems as if I myself am confused.
I am not confused at all and this behavior is a conscious decision.
It is not my intent to create an "alternate" identity as it was in my undergraduate research. Rather, it is my goal to bleed perceptions and identities while on the net.
I prefer to enhance the multiplicity of identity, a "truth" which I feel is more in line with reality than the traditional western concept of one identity. It is not that I wish to be seen as one person (Selena Sol) or another (Eric Tachibana), it is that I want to be seen as both and neither. Or really, I want it to be known that I don't think it matters one bit.