Guest editorial

By Håkon W Lie

This issue of Telektronikk will discuss the emerging global computer network, its inhabitants, its content, and the industries that will converge there.

The title of the issue - cyberspace - is borrowed from a hard core science fiction novel. Most readers have probably seen the term at some point, but perhaps not from a telephone company. Some readers may find the source of inspiration a bit disturbing. The disturbed reader does not expect literary references in Telektronikk, and may argue that valuable contributions in this journal should have a stronger foundation than what a subculture of science fiction can offer. Those who think this way may want to remind themselves of the fact that one of the great successes in the history of telecommunication - the communication satellite - was conceived by a man best known for his science fiction writings: Arthur C Clarke.

The term 'cyberspace' is becoming the preferred term for referring to the global network of computers that connects millions of users, machines and information bits. One of the most popular services offered is electronic mail which allows people to send messages to each other. Arguably, fax machines and voice mail systems already provide adequate messaging facilities. One of the challenges of this issue is to convey how and why a number of seemingly trivial services on computer networks have become a powerful medium referenced by a spatial metaphor - cyberspace. Technology alone does not provide the explanation.

While the personal computer and video games entered the scope of public interest in the 80s, computer networks silently crept through the wires into increasingly computerised academic environments. The situation is changing rapidly as the notion of cyberspace gets into the loop of mainstream mass media. Also, while the networks developed without the active participation of the telephone companies, telecoms are now starting to offer access to cyberspace.

The increased attention will bring new groups of immigrants to the net. So far, the inhabitants have been an international, but homogeneous group of computer-literate academics. The merchants will enter with the hope of peddling information, while the Nintendo generation bring their familiarity with modern technology. These new groups, along with advances in computer and telecom technology, will change the face and content of cyberspace in years to come.

Also, new and innovative user interface technologies allure users and lower the threshold of entering cyberspace. Computers are increasingly capable of handling and combining media types such as text, graphics, images, audio and video - so-called multimedia, and this will give us better tools for navigating information.

The goal of this issue of Telektronikk is to present current research issues in distributed multimedia applications, and the role this technology may play in our lives - if we allow it to.