As the infrastructure of the net evolved into the ‘90s, these virtual promises began to seem tangible. This was the short decade of posthumanism and its cyber-hopes. Anonymity and the ability to inhabit several invented selves online were going to un- de- or re- identify us—at least those of us with Internet access.
Minorities, especially women, were supposedly going to get a big cut of cyberspace. British philosopher Sadie Plant synopsized the mood in her 1993 essay “On the Matrix”: “After decades of ambivalence towards technology, many feminists are now finding a wealth of new opportunities, spaces, and lines of thought amidst the new complexities of the ‘telecoms revolution’. The Internet promises women a network of lines on which to chatter, natter, work and play; virtuality brings a fluidity to identities which had once been fixed, and multimedia provides a new tactile environment in which women artists can find their space.”
Not only gender but race, hair color, disability—all hallmarks of social hierarchy and sexual appeal—could become, if not irrelevant, then distorted, upturned, obscured. Beginning in 1990, the popular MUD LambdaMOO became a forum for debate, discourse, and experimentation in the politics of virtual embodiment. It was a community of believers whose population reached 10,0002. One player, Legba, expressed the communal optimism in 1994: “We exist in a world of pure communication, where looks don’t matter and only the best writers get laid.”