Carmen Hermosillo aka Humdog, Montserrat Tovar, Sparrowhawk Perhaps
A few months back – actually, probably a few years ago now – I found myself heading down one of those Wonderland-like-internet-holes. You know what I mean – you catch a random link in an unrelated article (the White Rabbit) and then spend the next four hours utterly immersed – poring through articles, wikipedia entries and blogs (Wonderland).
Usually, when I meander down the rabbit hole, it’s a storm in a teacup state of affairs (Scientology or the Hugo awards Puppygate for example) but every now and again you catch something quite remarkable.
Anyhoo, I can’t remember what the initial link was but I found the collective online memories, writings and experiences of Carmen Hermosillo immensely affecting… and oddly sparse given that this woman was an online pioneer.
This post isn’t a memorial. It’s a link page purely so that anyone else who is interested in finding out more about her writings and thoughts have a starting off point.
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who is carmen hermosillo?
Carmen Hermosillo was a poet, pianist, sister, daughter, writer/essayist, gamer, amateur philosopher, Gorean roleplayer and Second Lifer.
Online from at least 1991, she populated many of the early online boards, message rooms and forums that have subsequently evolved (devolved?) into the social networking sites we use today. The wild wild west stereotype feels appropriate here!
Her journey across the online landscape is now one familiar to many. After an initial idealistic entry period of embracing online sharing and community creation, she entered a more cynical phase as she developed a growing awareness of the self as becoming commodified – resulting in a hugely influential 1994 essay.
when i went into cyberspace i went into it thinking that it was a place like any other place and that it would be a human interaction like any other human interaction. i was wrong when i thought that. it was a terrible mistake.
She cautioned against the tendency to conflate the virtual with the real, whether that be in terms of identity or community, while acknowledging that virtual interactions can be as meaningful and have as much impact as ones IRL. All this BEFORE blogging entered the mainstream or myspace or fb.
The ideas and concepts that Carmen dissected are of huge relevance today – arguably more so now than when she wrote them. As more and more people access social networking sites at a younger age then ever before; we have yet to truly analyse the effects this has on our concept of self, regarding ourselves less as individuals and more as potential Brand Me’s.
Carmen’s intellect and ability to analyse her own online activity (such as engagement in communities or in flame wars) meant that she provided passionate, articulate and coherent articles dissecting the newly forming social structures. More importantly perhaps, all her writing were deeply personal – she was an insider. Her interviews with notable sims and online personages became things of legend(Evangaline and PETSA) …in a particular circle.
By 2008, Carmen was in a very bad place. In the space of a year she had moved house, lost her beloved mother and hit a rough patch in her relationship with her sister – who was unaware of the extent of Carmen’s online activities. Her health had been poor for some time and she was reliant on medication. Unemployed and frustrated by the apparently fruitless and unending application process; she had become reliant on her online socialisation for positive interactions and a break from her real life. Her Second Life island had resulted in a relationship (on and offline) that became increasingly toxic over time.
As dependent as she was (upon Second Life in particular), she was disenchanted with the online world, while remaining deeply embedded within it. In the past, when her online presence had caused stress or conflict, she had stepped away from communities and sites and taken time to reassess her place in them. Friends were advising her to ‘unplug’ and rest but Carmen seemed on a mission to expose the dangers of online immersion which had always involved her knowingly living it.
On the 8th of August she began to deactivate and cancel a variety of online accounts, persona and profiles. Some reports suggest that she then stopped taking her heart medication, which would have had fatal consequences. Her sister responds to this in her essay Zero Dark Thirty (below) – even if true, no one knows what motivated her.
Carmen passed away on the 10th of August 2008.
Zero Dark Thirty – The Last Days of Carmen Hermosillo
SAMPLE OF ARTICLES
- 1994 – Pandora’s Vox – On Community in Cyberspace
- 2004 – Clones – on scam or con accounts designed to mimic pre-existing ones
- 2004 – Diary of a Second Life Newbie – the first in a series of posts
- 2004 – The History of the Board Ho – on board culture
- 2006 – Confessions of a Gorean slave – Parts 01 and 02 – BDSM relationships online
BBC – Youtube – Trailer – All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace
- Humdog is gone
- Island of the Blessed
- Remembering Carmen Hermosillo
- A virtual life. An actual death
- Second Life Memorial
- Shared Memory
- Memorial for a Queen