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Cyber Era

The ages of writing and of images are now giving way to the cyber era, which both encompasses and surpasses them. Cyberspace is not merely a technical phenomenon, but a new form of writing out to conquer the world. Its digital alphabet is the universal lingua franca. Its terrain of action is the network of all networks founded, like Internet, in immense oceans of knowledge which percolate infinitely diverse currents. Finally, the virtual is its future. Cyberworlds will allow us to act more effectively on reality or even "augment" it, but will also incite us to flee reality via "reality parks", photorealist illusionism and virtual games.

The cyber era inaugurates major cultural transformations and sets off quakes which will be still be felt long into next century. Moreover, it announces economic and social upheaval for which we are doubtless unprepared. The virtual annihilation of borders between countries, the gradual onset of radical forms of remote work (assisted for example by virtual 3D clone communities), and industrial exploitation of resources obtained by delocalizing capital and production capacity, will generate a frontal shock for organizations used to stable environments or material, tangible products. We are already witnessing virtualization of whole sections of the information economy. In a world increasingly prey to the immaterial, notions like the "value" of things or work must be keenly reconsidered.

We are experiencing a profound revolution, which for the information world is comparable to the 19th century Industrial Revolution, provoked by sudden availability of abundant, cheap energy. Thanks to information highways and graphic interfaces such as those sampled via Mosaic and the famous World Wide Web, the world's entire memory will be readily accessible by everyone, everywhere and for a modest price. While the ensuing magnificent development opportunities should be appreciated, we must also guard against the emergence of new inequalities.

Faithful to its method, IMAGINA will strive to emphasize some of the force lines of this virtual earthquake: by scrutinizing new ideas and images, we can discern the emergent contours of tomorrow's possible worlds, and thus act in time.

Philippe Quéau

IMAGINA Program Chairman

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