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Living la vida loca (virtually)

In Indra Sinha's mesmerising tale of love, life and travels on the electronic frontier, The Cybergypsies, he talks about a multi-user game?Shades?and suggests that Cybergypsies survive on free-flowing, live and subtle interaction amongst them. Visit the myriad by lanes of the internet and you will hear an animated buzz.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2003 12:01 IST

In Indra Sinha's mesmerising tale of love, life and travels on the electronic frontier, The Cybergypsies, he talks about a multi-user game—Shades—and suggests that Cybergypsies survive on free-flowing, live and subtle interaction amongst them. Visit the myriad by lanes of the internet and you will hear an animated buzz.

Gen Now is actively forging relationships, dating, flirting, learning, relearning, playing, making love, in essence, virtually living in cyberspace.

Chatting and blogging not only suit the socially challenged (a.k.a shy), enabling them to don an outgoing personality online and achieving that untapped gregarious-potential, but also provide the ultimate platform for the naturally affable who simply want to spread their wings further.

Online dating is no more a rare phenomenon. It started with chance meetings late at night with bored 15-year-olds asking for every weber's ASL (age/sex/location) and grew into entire sites dedicated solely for the purpose of finding that perfect partner for you.

If the cyber gods look kindly upon you, you might even decide to marry Mr. CrprtJob76. Goes without saying there are plenty of sites like www.theknot.com or www.shaadionline.com to plan your dream wedding.

Taking it a step further, you can even register at www.livewed.com and get married online and live cast it to webers worldwide. If you thought this would be the end of cyber inter(net)ference in your social life, think again.

With a multitude of websites dedicated to spicing up your marital life, who needs to go to old-fashioned porn shops or strip clubs? Log on and let the good times roll, baby!

And if you are wondering what's sex got to do with the exploration of countercultures on the internet, please don't be naïve. Sex rules the cyber world in more ways than one and is so pervasive that it would be dishonest not to accept its influence.

Serious surfers learn to sift through the enticing cornucopia of cybersex but each one of us has experienced it in one form or the other.

In a radical departure from the ivory towers of highbrow academia, and in a remarkable demonstration of farsightedness, San Francisco State University started the world's first university-level class that takes an academic approach to cybersex. The course material —including a tour through interactive adult CD-ROM Virtual Valerie—is said to be exciting.

However, getting back to the point, this is not intended to be just a perspective piece on how the internet is shaping new lifestyles and creating a counterculture adopted by tech savvy youth, but also to get into the entrails of one cultic society and live life from the inside. Showing by example.

In one of my many serendipitous travels, I recently stumbled upon, what is billed as the `civilisation for the virtual age’, a futuristic, immersive society accessible via the internet. Welcome to Cybertown. Punch in www.cybertown.com and you’re on your way.

The year is 2091 AD and there's a plethora of activity in the town's plaza with citizens engaged in animated 3D chat. But hey, what is Cybertown? A clean, safe (well, because it's intelligently moderated) community on the net.

Cybertown is an interesting place for people to communicate, explore and share in the magic of online 3D. Its citizens use personalised 3D avatars to represent themselves and they can own free 3D homes with virtual pets, hold jobs, form clubs, shop in the virtual mall, dance in the night club, play games in the casino and arcade, attend live celebrity and author chat events and more.

The basic principles are simple, really. You earn virtual city cash by visiting Cybertown everyday. Your 3D house can be bought and upgraded. There are multiple Cybertown colonies, with their unique identities.

You can have access to all the features of Cybertown as a basic subscriber for only $5 (roughly Rs 250) per month. At last count, there were a million virtual citizens.

You could opt instead to be a guest. But if you don't join, you'll be stuck in the blue dummy guest suit (in 3D).

The internet is catalysing global interaction and I'm waiting for the day when the whole wide world will be a global village. Hopefully, Gen Now will power One World one day.

Meanwhile, carry on surfing!

First Published: Oct 18, 2003 12:01 IST