• SPIDER OR FLY? main page
  • O'Reilly & Associates and the NETFUTURE newsletter announce a $5000
    writing contest:
                                 SPIDER OR FLY?
                   Are we masters of the Web or trapped in it?
       Catching the dew and sunlight, and serving as an efficient means of
       livelihood, a spider's web is one of the glories of creation.
       Depending on your perspective, a spider's web is also a prison -- the
       most delicate, flexible, and refined instrument imaginable for
       immobilizing life.
       As you and I settle into the World Wide Web, are we in the role of the
       spider or the fly?
       The SPIDER OR FLY? contest invites you to illuminate the deep nexus
       between computerized networking technologies and the human being.
       Where, amid all the dizzying technical advances, do we carry
       responsibility for their social consequences?  How can we exercise
       that responsibility?  Have we been embracing it or shirking it?  In
       other words:  does the Web own us, or do we own it?
       The contest does not aim at identifying what you like or don't like
       about the Net and the World Wide Web -- not, at least, unless you can
       relate these likes and dislikes to the most fundamental levels at which
       our personal choices in front of the computer screen are shaping the
       future for good or ill.
       Scholars now debate whether certain technologies determine us more
       than we determine them, and whether the determination in either case
       is healthy or unhealthy.  The SPIDER OR FLY? contest is not premised
       upon any particular answer to such questions.  While the questions
       signal our passage into new spheres of responsibility in relation
       to evolving technology, the terms of this responsibility haven't yet
       become clear.  The contest seeks to stimulate a highly personalized
       exploration of the issues.
       The best of the entries will be published by O'Reilly & Associates.
    Press contact
    Steve Talbott
    First prize:  $2500.  Four second prizes:  $500 each.  Five third
    prizes:  $100 each.
    If any prize is not awarded due to lack of meritorious entries, the
    associated prize money will be donated to the Wilderness Awareness School,
    Redmond, Washington.
    Contest themes
    The contest's themes are those of the NETFUTURE newsletter.  Subscriptions
    to this newsletter are free.  The themes can be summarized as follows:
    * What, within you and me, drives the success and progress of the Net?
    * How does technology determine us and how do we determine technology?
      That is, where are we most free, where are we most unfree, and where is
      the greatest promise of extending our freedom?  As technology changes
      the face of society, are we masters of the change, or are we being
      taken for a ride by forces we can no longer control?
    * Does it matter how we form all those little habits that shape our
      interaction with computers -- from the way we scan the words of another
      human being, to the way we hammer out our own words, to the way we bow
      with our attention before the unfolding pattern of screen events, to the
      way we submit our senses and bodies to be trained by electronic
    * Does it matter when we support, through our purchases and use, new
      technological capabilities that exist solely because the massive
      machinery of research has made them possible