The photo is of me, at my dorm desk at Swarthmore, though you wouldn't know it from the caption. They mention me once at the beginning, and moreso at the very tail end.
|Health & Science|
|Monday, February 5, 1996|
Larry Graham, 42, will be photographed in bed at his home near Erie, where he is confined by muscular dystrophy, but from which he has launched an online campaign for funds to pay for his care.
And Lansdowne resident Loren Buhle will tell his story for digital posterity. Buhle, 37, co-created Oncolink, an online resource for cancer patients, while he was an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.
These three, and hundreds of others around the world -- a virtual army of writers, photographers and computer jockeys -- have been lined up to become part of Thursday's project to document ``24 Hours in Cyberspace.''
The project, orchestrated by the originator of the popular ``Day in the Life'' photograph book series, is an effort to freeze-frame at least a portion of the online world for posterity and show how the online world is changing people's lives.
As the information is compiled during the day, starting Thursday at 12:01 a.m., it will be available on the Internet's World Wide Web (and on the commercial service, America Online) for viewing and discussion. Eventually, much of the material gathered will be turned into book, CD-ROM and video formats.
``It's painting on the wall of the digital cave,'' project director Rick Smolan said in an interview. ``I think people love this idea of leaving a message for the future. I was always fascinated by the idea of time capsules.''
Smolan hopes to document the diversity of life in cyberspace. Because of the highly interactive nature of the Internet, he is also welcoming contributions -- pictures and stories about how the digital revolution is affecting lives -- from individuals, schools and colleges.
To avoid boring snapshots of people sitting at computers, many subjects will be pictured in environments away from their keyboards and monitors.
For example, said Smolan, California surfers who use computer data coming from off-shore buoys to predict wave heights will be photographed on the beach; Malaysian elephants will be photographed in the wild, where they are being tracked by satellite for researchers back at Rutgers University; and former Tennessee governor and presidential candidate Lamar Alexander, who has one of the most popular political Web sites, will be shown on the campaign trail.
There will be profiles of folks like Larry Graham, the man with muscular dystrophy. Graham said in an interview that, out of desperation, he used his voice-activated computer in November to design his fundraising Web page:
``With no other recourse, I went to the Internet,'' he said. The effort has raised only a fraction of what Graham needs, he said, but, ``From what I've been told, I've done it very tactfully, and I've used the Net in a way that hasn't really been done before.''
Smolan, 46, created the Day in the Life coffee-table book series in Australia in 1979. The most popular of the annual tomes, A Day in the Life of America, was published 10 years ago.
His latest projects have found their way onto interactive CD-ROMs -- Alice to Ocean, about a woman's trek across the Australian outback; and last year's Passage to Vietnam.
Smolan calls the cyberspace project ``by far the most scary one we have done. There are so many things that are just not in my control at all.''
For starters, he said, ``I'm not a computer person at all. I only know how to turn them on. I'm not a programmer. I couldn't program my way out of a paper bag.''
Not to worry. Smolan is getting help and equipment from a battalion of technology experts, many of whom are lending their services for the day, and from high-tech firms interested in the project, such as Eastman Kodak Co., which is providing film and digital imaging equipment; Sun Microsystems Inc., for a computer networking setup; and Adobe Systems Inc., for electronic publishing software.
The companies have helped Smolan set up an 80-terminal Mission Control center in San Francisco, where all material will be edited and formatted before being uploaded to the World Wide Web.
``We've spent the last six months inventing the newsroom of the future,'' Smolan said. ``It's not random bits of data flowing in. It's not an amateur photography contest.''
Well, there is a contest. Student and amateur photo and writing entries will be judged for a share in about $150,000 worth of computer hardware and software.
But Penn State assistant professor Jock Lanterer said that won't be what motivates him and his advanced photojournalism students when they participate on Thursday.
``I don't consider this a competition as much as I consider it a fantastic learning experience,'' he said.
While assignments were not settled last week, Lanterer said, he hoped to dispatch part of his team to the Pottsville Republican, a 29,000-circulation newspaper in Schuylkill County. The newspaper has become a primary provider of Internet service in its largely rural community.
``Whether we make the page is not so interesting to me as that we participate,'' said Lanterer. He considers the project important for showing how cyberspace connects people.
``We're all going to be enlightened,'' he said.
Sarah Leen, an Annapolis-based freelance photographer, has been assigned to take pictures in the Philadelphia area on Thursday.
Photographing cyberspace ``is going to be a challenge,'' Leen said. ``It's not exactly a visible, tangible entity.''
Yet cyberspace is peopled with some very visible, tangible characters.
One of Leen's subjects is Loren Buhle, the researcher who started Oncolink (http://www.oncolink.upenn.edu/) in March 1994, after his own daughter developed cancer. Buhle thought the Internet was a place where patients and their families ought to be able to turn for help.
Buhle eventually lost control of the service in an editorial dispute with his superiors. But he continues to consult for other online support groups and services. He said he sometimes fields more than 800 e-mail messages a day, many of them from people saying, ``Help, I have cancer.''
``People want to know: What is the party line? What's out there?'' Buhle said. Getting the answers online is empowering, he said.
Leen will also photograph Justin Hall at Swarthmore. Hall has become something of a Net celeb since January 1994, when he opened a Web site called Links from the Underground (http://www.links.net/).
Hall, who admits to an ``unkempt appearance'' due to the fact that he considers brushing his hair a waste of time, has put his soul-baring autobiography on the site, along with his daily stream-of-consciousness diary, which by his estimate, has 27,000 readers a day.
``I've got the confidence that we can do meaningful stuff'' on the Internet, he said.
Smolan invited Hall to San Francisco to help pull the project together Thursday. Hall said he will go to serve as a ``Web jockey,'' after a morning session of his informal, student-run class, in which he preaches the gospel of making the Internet ``a human place to be.''
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Philadephia Online -- The Philadelphia Inquirer, Health & Science -- Copyright Monday, February 5, 1996