Sex You Can See

Oh, the beauty of Cyberspace. Through chat rooms and e-mail, people finally have the ability to develop complex relationships without superficial worries about image. On the Internet it doesn't matter what you look like, fat or thin, blond or brunette. Right?Wrong. It can matter quite a bit. With the development of a desktop video-conferencing program called CU-SeeMe, Internet users now have the option of seeing, and being seen by, their cyberpals. With a connection to the Internet (a 28.8 baud rate modem is recommended) and a computer capable of downloading video images, you can now invite total strangers into your home. And, if you're in possession of a handy little hardware device called QuikCam (usually priced at around $100), you can enter their homes as well. CU-SeeMe users pop up on the screen in video windows, and you can talk to other users by sending messages through "message crawl," which is similar to sending messages in a chat room. Or, you can really chat with them by using a microphone and CU-SeeMe's Push-To-Talk mode. To connect one-on-one with someone, you need the IP address (the numerical code for an Internet address) and the agreement to meet at a certain time. To connect to a larger party, just access a reflector site (currently, each reflector site can host up to eight individuals). Think of reflector sites, which are similar to Web sites, as the meat markets of the future, your new, friendly neighborhood bar or cafe. CU-SeeMe technology is still shaky. It's called "real time" conferencing, but there's actually a small delay as the image is transferred across phone lines. Plus, the video images are still on the primitive scale; they're small and the resolution is rough. In all, it's less a high-tech, real-time, person-to-person flesh feast than a sometimes frustrating, peep-show tease. CU-SeeMe was first developed in 1993 by Tim Dorcey with design assistance from Richard Cogger of Cornell University's Information Technology department. Since then, the software has been placed on Cornell's ftp site, and has been downloaded by thousands of people worldwide for a variety of uses. Initially, CU-SeeMe was designed for business and educational purposes--i.e. business meetings, lectures and demonstrations. Others have touted it as a video outlet for concerts and sporting events. But the possibilities for video-conferencing don't end there. Take two--or more--consenting adults and you've got an instant party. With the proper software and hardware, you can even set up your own private reflector site. In other words, you can enjoy the right to behave in any way you please. You can flash body parts, send sexy come-ons or act out digital foreplay without the omnipresent fear of exposing yourself to minors or other inappropriate parties. The implications of CU-SeeMe cast the Internet into a whole new realm, both in terms of personal freedoms, privacy and free speech, and in relation to the honesty of communication. For a long time, the Net has been heralded as sphere where only words and ideas count. Fine and dandy, but that leaves an awfully big loophole to hide in. With CU-SeeMe, there can be no inflated body part sizes. No self-congratulatory remarks about attractiveness and body image. CU-SeeMe is a window of truth. To download a directory of shareware, FAQs and various instructional files needed to run CU-SeeMe, contact ftp://gated.cornell.edu/pub/video

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