Spatial cities, of course, are not only condensations of activity to maximize accessibility and promote face-to-face interaction, but are also elaborate structures for organizing and controlling access. They are subdivided into districts, neighborhoods, and turfs, legally partitioned by property lines and jurisdictional boundaries, and segmented into nested enclosures by fences and walls. For the inhabitants, crossing a threshold and entering a defined place-as an owner, guest, visitor, tourist, trespasser, intruder, or invader-is a symbolically, socially, and legally freighted act. There is always a big difference between being a local and being an alien, being on your own turf and being on somebody else's, enjoying your privacy and appearing in public, feeling at home and knowing that you are out of place. So it is on the Net, as well, but the game gets some new rules: structures of access and exclusion are reconstrued in entirely nonarchitectural terms (if we continue to define architecture as materially constructed form), and you enter and exit places not by physical travel, but by simply establishing and breaking logical linkages.
Places in the cyberspace 34 of the Net are software constructions. Each piece of software running anywhere-on any machine or collection of machines in the Net-creates environments for interaction, virtual realms that you can potentially enter. The text window provided by a word processor is one such place. So is the "drawing surface" or "three-dimensional modeling space" within which you produce and view graphic constructions on a CAD system. So are the "desktops" and "file folders" provided by operating systems, the "cards" of Hypercard, and the "mailboxes" and "bulletin boards" of e-mail systems. Like architectural and urban places, these have characteristic appearances, and the interactions that unfold within them are controlled (often very rigidly) by local rules. A software "there" can be a one-dimensional place in a screen-displayed text; a two-dimensional place to put things on a "desktop" surface; a three-dimensional virtual room, storehouse, library, gallery, museum, or landscape; or even an n-dimensional place in an abstract data structure.
Some virtual places, like hermits' huts, can be occupied by only one person at a time. But others are designed to serve as shared-access, multiuser locations for joint activities-electronic calendars that can be updated by several staff members, CAD files that can be accessed simultaneously by several participants in a design session, or virtual chat and conference rooms. Sharing a virtual place is not quite the same thing, of course, as sharing a physical place like a room, a bed, or an umbrella in the rain. Bodies need not be in close proximity, and they need not be enclosed by the same architectural or natural boundaries. The crucial thing is simultaneous electronic access to the same information. At their simplest, shared places are created by displaying the same scrolling text on multiple personal computer screens. In more sophisticated places, inhabitants share the same two-dimensional graphic display or even the same immersive, multisensory virtual reality.
Shared "rooms" on the Net often announce themselves by descriptive or allusive names (like the signs on bars and other hangouts)The Flirt's Nook, Gay and Lesbian, Red Dragon Inn, Romance Connection, Starfleet Academy, Teen Chat, Thirtysomething, Born-Again Onliners, Pet Chat, and so on. You can cruise them by scanning menus, and look in when they catch your interest, as you might bar hop down a street. The point (as in more traditional meeting places) is not just to be there, but to present yourself and to interact with others. Within these places, the participants must somehow greet and introduce themselves to one another, have some way of signaling that they want the floor, and follow some agreed convention for taking and relinquishing it. It can all be done simply by typing text or (if the available technology permits) by activating computer-animated body doubles.
Many of the places in cyberspace are public, like streets and squares; access to them is uncontrolled. Others are private, like mailboxes and houses, and you can enter only if you have the key or can demonstrate that you belong. (To get into my private electronic mailbox at MIT, for example, I have to identify myself and present a correct password to a gatekeeper agent named Kerberos.) And sometimes, as with movie theaters and hotel rooms, you have to pay to get in. But software walls-once erected-can be breached, locks can be broken, privacy can be violated, and turf can be trespassed upon, so cyberspace already has its outlaw hackers and phreaks and posses of lawmen chasing them, its viruses and Trojan horses, and its burgeoning mythology of transgression and retribution-those colorful tales of Acid Phreak and Phiber Optic, Clifford Stoll (the electronic sleuth) and Officer Phrackr Trackr, bumbling Keyboard Kops, the Pakistani Brain, the fabled Bulgarian virus factories, and the great virus-induced Internet Crash. 35
You get from place to place in cyberspace by following logical links rather than physical paths. Sometimes, as for example in the graphical user interface provided by the Macintosh operating system, the places are nested to form a strict hierarchy: you go down a level in the hierarchy by clicking on a folder icon to open a "window" into a place, and you get back up a level by clicking on a corner of a window to close it-just as Dorothy clicked her heels to get back to Kansas. Alternatively, as in many hypermedia systems and adventure video games, the circulation system may be more freeform: each place provides clickable entry points to an arbitrary number of other places, and you can wander at will through the resulting labyrinth. (The symbols indicating these entry points may look like gateways or doors, but this is not essential.) To explore the whole, vast territory of the Net, you can use navigation programs like Gopher and Mosaic; these allow you to poke around in other people's computers at will, following the logical "paths" that relate machines, directories, and files. 36
Click, click through cyberspace; this is the new architectural promenade.