The Cyber Editor: Musings on a Citizen of the World
By Ian Irvine
When Thomas first began posting his thoughts about life
on the World Wide Web he considered himself a citizen of
Australia only. He had a wife and a child, he had a well
paid job as an English teacher, he had a house and he drove
a late model car. Though he was generally a tolerant man
he had his prejudices. These prejudices came from the fact
that he simply didn't know much about the rest of the world.
He'd never been out of Australia and thus he found it difficult
to empathise with people 'out there', people he only ever
saw in photos or as flickering images on a television screen.
In a sense he was proud of his provincialism.
But the people 'out there' flooded to his web-site to read
what Thomas had to say about life. They left messages, they
wanted to talk to him on chat lines. The outside world was
beginning to live in his soul - there were real people out
there. Those people responded to Thomas' writings on many
different levels and from many different cultural perspectives.
Thomas only realised later that they were helping him through
a difficult stage in his life. Thomas' marriage, you see,
was almost over.
As Thomas read more and more from the hundreds of people
who e-mailed him every month he decided to include some
of their thoughts, poetry, stories, sound extracts and visual
images in his pages. Thus his personal pages gradually turned
into a fully-fledged e-zine. As the submissions started
rolling in from the four corners of the globe Thomas felt
a growing sense of excitement. Before long he had friendships
with poets, writers, essayists, philosophers, thinkers,
artists and musicians from all over the world. More remarkably
he found that it was often to these people that he spoke
most honestly about his life, his goals and of course his
One day Thomas' wife finally left him for another man. It
had been coming for a long time but the final parting still
hit him very hard. At the end of the day all he had left
was a fist full of money (from his share of the house sale),
his job and of course the core of his being, the electronic
magazine he was editing. His wife, his home and, for all
intents and purposes, his child, were gone, for his wife
was doing everything she could to exclude him once and for
all from her life.
Apart from a few of his close friends in Australia Thomas
found that it was his internet friends who most understood
the difficult period he was going through. This was around
the time that he began to see his e-zine as international
rather than simply Australian. He began to enjoy the prospect
of making the e-zine placeless and yet everywhere. It dawned
on him that it was his ideas rather than his regionalism
that was the zine's core. Why should he pretend that he
was only limited to Australia? His ideas after all were
universal, that was what had made the publication so successful
in the first place. The zine had been improving in terms
of popularity and creative excellence for some time, to
the point that it now had its own international e-mail address
where electronic mail (plus file attachments) could be downloaded
from anywhere in the world. It was also archived by half
a dozen national governments and arts organisations and
had won numerous awards for innovation in design. Likewise,
friends in literary organisations on five continents had
agreed to sort local 'snail-mail' for him and post submissions
to Thomas' editorial address electronically. Regardless
of where he was in the world so long as an intenet mailing
site was near by Thomas could send and receive mail for
the journal and thus publish the journal every three months.
Increasingly he was flooded with requests for full-length
audio versions of some of the music that had appeared on
his site. Many people also wanted to view more of the art
produced by individual artists They also wanted more audio
interviews, more video snatches, better quality animations
as well as cumulative versions of the e-zine for their own
immediate reference. Thomas soon decided to open the zine
to CD-Rom subscriptions for non-downloadable material. The
huge number of people who accessed the site were happy to
pay for the additional material, artists to were pleased
to receive royalties for the sale of their work and within
6 months Thomas found himself all but financially independent.
The CD-Roms were cut and distributed by companies on all
the major continents. The last reason for staying in Australia
- the need to work at something he didn't enjoy - disappeared.
And so Thomas decided to travel in the flesh. He became,
in fact, a Cyber Editor Backpacker, and a true citizen of
the world. For a time the internet came to represent a kind
of world wide home for him, many of the relationships he
made, once cemented by personal contact, became lasting.
And of course, wherever he was in the world he could still
contact Mohammed in Syria every day, likewise, Geoffrey
in Scotland, Frances in Canada and so on. Thomas, you see,
was not obsessed with computers. He preferred face to face
communication with people.
It was not hard to take his work with him. He bought a powerful
lap top computer with various sophisticated add-ons. He
also purchased a backpack, a medical kit, international
insurance, a decent camera and he took to the open road.
Every couple of days he sorted through the plethora of images,
stories, poems, thoughts and sounds that the world sent
to his portable mail box. He organised e-mail (or occasionally
face to face interviews) with alternative psychologists,
writers, musicians, artists and spiritual leaders from all
over the world. Gradually the editorial of his e-zine became
influenced by what he saw on his travels. Only hours after
taking a picture of the reefs off Lovina Beach northern
Bali he found himself scanning the beautiful images of fish
and coral into a web page as accompanying photographs for
his next editorial. A week later he stayed with friends
(and past contributors) in an artist's commune West of Jakarta.
He edited whilst he sat around eating papaya and making
low-memory recordings of local poets for inclusion in the
poetry pages of the next edition. He was learning more and
more about 'the people out there' and also about life as
a travelling cyber editor.
For a time his life became a kind of pilgrimage. And as
part of that pilgrimage he found that he was almost involuntarily
forming an overview of planet earth in the late 20th century.
What he saw filled him both with sadness and excitement.
The world was a chaos of clashing and co-existing cultures,
a maelstrom of colourful histories and sometimes mutually
exclusive realities. Everywhere he looked there was injustice
and tragedy, beauty and spirit. At times when he contemplated
the human condition he felt a kind of cosmic sadness which
he approached from different angles in his writing. Others
too understood this sadness and they too painted or photographed
it, poeticised or spoke about its contours. Almost unconsciously
Thomas began formulating a different vision, a utopian vision,
of mankind's future. More and more he included writers and
poets, artists and musicians who could contribute to this
One day on a visit to see friends in Brazil, and whilst
learning Spanish and attending meetings with recently dispossessed
Amazon Indians Thomas realised the degree to which he had
developed a global consciousness. He realised he felt hurt
when he heard about floods in China. This was partly because
he'd been to China. It pained him that Lao in Shang Hai
- who translated the zine into Chinese every three months
- might have friends or family in the flooded areas. Likewise,
he feared for his good friend Mohammed in Syria every time
he heard that tensions were rising in the Middle East. There
were millions of men like Mohammed in that region and likewise
many many people who talked and looked like his Jewish friend
Asher who lived in Czechoslavakia. And so in contemplating
all of this Thomas often felt sad, frustrated and even angry
that people in certain parts of the world still viewed other
people, people they had never really met, as objects to
be treated inhumanely, to be bombed, raped, starved, oppressed,
exploited, etc. And Thomas also wrote about this in his
e-zine and as the years went by his thoughts and the thoughts
of the many hundreds of people who contributed to the journal
were translated into dozens of different languages.
This story has a happy ending. After a while Thomas fell
in love with a Canadian woman he'd met whilst making a special
for on Nepal for the zine. Together they returned to Canada
and later moved on to Australia where they had a child together.
Although Thomas his wife and second child lived in the Australian
bush listening to kookaburras and watching the kangaroos
gather in the back paddocks at sunset part of him remained,
ever after, 'global'.
Copyright, 1998, all rights reserved.
e-mail Ian Irvine at email@example.com
or visit 'The Animist' electronic journal of the arts (which
I co-edit) at
P.O. Box 309
About the Author:
Ian Irvine is an Australian poet (text and performance),
writer, academic and musician. He has had a great deal of
short stories and essays published about the place, most
recently by the Canadian Journal 'The Antigonish review',
Lotus magazine, The Bendigo Advertiser, VICE, Curiosity's
Escape (US), The Resistance (NY) and Parabola Magazine of
Myth and Tradition (NY). Over twenty poems from his recent
self-published collection 'Facing the Demon of Noontide'
are about to be (or have already been) published in a variety
of Australian and international magazines and e-zines including
the US journals ACME Poets (Kansas City), Kitty Kaboolas
Diamond Life Magazine (Chicago), Island Life (Milwaukee),
Flies on the Ceiling, and Conspire (New York). A great deal
of other material is also currently being considered by
publishers both in Australia and overseas. 'Facing the Demon
of Noontide' will soon be released electronically (PDF format
or CD-Rom). Ian's reviews and poetry also appear regularly
at Australia's major literary net site 'Ozlit' .
Ian is also co-editor of 'The Animist' electronic journal
of the arts http://animist2000.netgazer.net.au/.
The Animist features some of Australia's (and increasingly
other countries') best writers, poets and thinkers and is
archived by the Australian National Library as a journal
of national cultural significance. The Animist may soon
be available on CD-Rom. Ian has just completed a PhD on
ennui in European literature, philosophy and sociology and
the manuscript is currently being reviewed for possible
publication by Melbourne University Press. He also has a
novel and a play at both conventional and electronic publishing
houses. In former incarnations Ian was an alternative rock
singer/songwriter with a band called 'Goya's Child' and
a professional cricketer in England and New Zealand. He
has taught history, literature, sociology and mythology
to postgraduate levels at La Trobe University Bendigo.