SPIDER OR FLY? main page
O'Reilly & Associates and the NETFUTURE newsletter announce a $5000
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
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.
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,
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