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paris - lionel lumbroso

Several years ago, it took a bit of sleuthing to find online culture in Paris. Using the grapevine method, I asked everyone who I had met through my virtual reality research in Paris to list a few names. Lionel Lumbroso turned up on a couple of lists. We started exchanging email, and although it has taken us years to unravel exactly what it was, we both seemed to recognize something simpatico in the other. By the time I arrived in Paris, we had exchanged a few dozen long e-letters about our online experiences, philosophy, favorite science fiction books. He became co-translator, with Annick Morel, of La Realite Virtuelle. He became not only my favorite person to hang out with in Paris, but a reason for visiting Paris. Lionel is skeptical, outspoken, wry, well-read. He spent a decade trying to build a virtual community in Paris, long before the Internet became fashionable in the land of Minitel and messageries rose. I wrote about him in Chapter Eight of The Virtual Community.

-Howard Rheingold
A couple of years ago, Gena and I and the 2 boys have left Paris for a house in a village amid the wheat and corn fields, but only 20 miles away. It's a different kind of life from what we knew before.

In terms of work, I was first an English teacher for a year in a public school in Guadeloupe, in the French Caribeans. I then was an English-French interpreter in the military avionics area, doing 3-month-long or so missions on French air bases, at manufacturers, in huge assembly halls, hopping on jet fighters with Libyan or Iraqi or Quatari or Pakistani trainees and having a real hard time adjusting to that at first but sort of enjoying it in the end.

In 1981, I met 2 American fellows at the American College in Paris and I got interested in computers and we started the first online service in France, for Apple II users. It was ludicrously expensive, slow (300 baud) and didn't have much to offer (email and programming languages!). We were in cahoots with the emerging Apple France, though, and things started picking up. I did a bit of everything -- evangelizing, selling, programming services, P.R., and, when we finally got ourselves a forum service, hosting. It lasted 7 years for me, and I learned a lot, and I got a lot of excitement (and incidentally, I helped Annick Morel, who's with us, become a host). And then we had big financial problems and I was part of the casualty.

Since 1988, I've worked freelance as a translator, copywriter, sometime journalist, mostly on stuff revolving around computers, networks, etc. Annick and I have translated Howard's previous book, Virtual Reality, and I've translated his latest, The Virtual Community.

I haven't done any foruming for years, and while this is rather exciting, I'll be the one here (or one of the ones) pointing more or less regularly how boring it is to communicate this way. As a matter of fact, right now, I'd very much like to be in a physical space with all of you, see you, hear your voices, see your attitudes, your "gestures" as Mark may say. A year or so ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Joi here in Paris and of spending an afternoon with him. It was one of the 2 or 3 exciting encounters I made that year, a moment of extreme quality, a person I instantly respected and liked (sorry to embarrass you in front of everybody, Joi! :-).

Whenever I get with Howard, as I suppose is the case for you all, things start flashing, happening at warp 2 speed, we both giggle like kids and make intense sense -- we think.

That, to me, is ultimate interactivity, profoundly enjoyable. I really long to have the opportunity to get with you all. OK, so I'm trapped here in this poor medium with you guys, so propitious to misunderstandings, first and foremost known medium on Earth for inducing flames, and, gawd, where it takes, at least for me, hours to exchange things that would take minutes face to face.

I know, for the time being, we'll have to make the best of it. ;)

- Lionel

Also in Paris: Annick Morel

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