Selena Sol was probably born in 1980, probably between 1 and 5
AM, and was probably parented by Barnaby Fell and Eric Tachibana
(Selena Sol in meatspace) as we talked far past our bedtimes
and probably most of the way into dreamtime.
In 1980, Selena Sol was the name of a city in a Role Playing
Game (like Dungeons and Dragons) set in a near-future
The name was ultimately derived from "Los Angeles" where we
both grew up. Selena Sol is simply Los Angeles spelled
backwards (minus the g to make it sound good). It's feminine
quality mirrored our sense that the city was a harsh mistress.
For the next few years, Selena Sol, the city, was expanded
through hundreds of games/adventures, becoming the flesh and
bones of our first self-designed, emergent, virtual reality
and our spiritual/emotional/social training ground.
And then, like most of her ilk, Selena was forced to sit
patiently and alone while we went to High School and I went on
In 1990, Selena Sol re-emerged as the name of an alternative
rock band made up of me, Barnaby Fell, Marcus Haley and Cort
The name was suggested by Barnaby and was instantly adopted
because we thought it...just fit. Of course, that wasn't the
"official" reason. In the tradition of media hacking, we
concocted various "press release" stories about the name.
For instance, on one radio show, Selena Sol was Barnaby's long
lost sister who had been abducted many years ago and for whom
we still searched in vain. I don't recall all of the memes we
set loose at that time.
At some point along the way, we also realized that "Sol" was
latin for sun and "Selena" was the Daughter of Diana, the
Greek goddess of the moon. This yin yang aspect fit very well
with the creativity and personality of the band and the
sun/moon dichotemy became an important theme in the band's
visual imagery (as well as my own visual arts).
But the name, like any living creature, evolved further as
By 1992, I realized that it was time for me to finish college.
(I'd dropped out of U.C. Berkeley in order to play music in
Selena Sol, but was living fairly close to UCLA). So I
reapplied and began school part time.
At UCLA, as part of my thesis work in cultural anthropology, I
began an ongoing "study" of gender representation in
For the study, I adopted the identity of Selena Sol, a woman,
on IRC networks and on various lists in order to explore
differences in experiences through gendered communication.
My goal at first was simply to see if I noticed any
differences in how people communicated to me if I was a woman.
As a "comparison group" I also had a male identity (sometimes
Mark Fletcher, sometimes Eric Tachibana) who interacted with
the same people as a man.
The differences that I found were both immense and subtle and
have been echoed in the works of Sherry Turkle, Sandy Stone and
others who have done similar studies.
(I have collected some excellent articles on the subject
Net Culture/ Gender Issues Archive)
The immense differences turned out to be less interesting, as
they are in this post-60s day and age, rather prosaic. I
think a good read of something by Deborah Tannen would be a
good introduction for anyone interested in gendered
As a woman, for example, I received much sexual harassment
akin to whistle blowing on the street, male users from nowhere
sending me pornographic innuendos and such. If they only knew
People ended messages with intrinsically condescending "C ya
sweeite" which they never did to Mark Fletcher who might get
a "later dude."
More frustratingly, I found that as Selena Sol, I could not
carry on a thoughtful debate ten minutes before I would be
disturbed by some random netizen asking what I looked like in
a private message. Mark Fletcher could go all day without a
single interruption like that.
But to me these gendered differences were nothing particularly
new. Though the experience certainly was positive in that the
differences really got to me (any theory is only intellectual
masturbation until you live it and can integrate it into your
life) I hadn't uncovered any new ideas about people and
communication. I was only increasing my empathy.
Don't get me wrong, I think this was a great achievement for
me. The anonymity of the Internet allowed me to get
trans-sexual experience and knowledge that I could never get
in the real world. I could advance from a sympathetic
understanding of the condition of femaleness to a
quasi-empathetic one. I could actually really "share" in the
experiences of women. Like an anthropologist who doesn't just
study a culture but becomes part of the culture.
This is not to play up my ability to achieve true empathy of
course. I think of my experience as...gaining valuable
insight, but insight unachievable without the web.
What was more influential to me, was the appreciation of the
subtle differences between being a man and a woman. It wasn't
so much the big differences like whistle blowing, but the
miniscule manipulations of sentence structure and grammar that
people would use to communicate with Selena.
In fact, such communications differences are impossible for me
to even put to words. There was simply a "feeling" that
things were different, but so subtly that one couldn't put
one's finger on it.
It was this subtlety, I argued in my thesis, that covertly and
intensely drives the realities of men and women so far apart.
I liken it to the sensitive dependence argument of chaos
mathematitians...the butterfly effect.
From birth, I wrote, women were presented, through
communication, a slightly different world then men. And I
don't mean simply boys get blue and girls get pink...but
subtler things which i still, years after the research has
ended, cannot truly identify.
Men and women live in two different worlds, close enough to
make us think there is no difference, but far enough apart
that it is like the difference between cultures.
But, of course, Selena Sol was to evolve again.
Currently, Selena Sol is an tool I use to signify my
resistance against intellectual property, western atomistic
identity, and western individualism in creative thinking and
Modern ethnographers of Cyberia note that these
industrial-based concepts of reality are falling away as the
environment shifts with the rising tide of the information
(For background, read "Out of Control" by Kevin Kelly, "Neuromancer" by
Gibson, "Cyberia" by Douglas Rushkoff, "Imagologies" by Mark Taylor,
or anything by Marshal McCluhan. Or my graduate
However, though I tentatively accept the validity of the new
paradigm shift, I am not personally ready to simply switch
everything (including deeply ingrained, culturally
conditioned, personal ideological givens like my own
So the name Selena Sol has become a hopefully temporary
"crutch" which I use in my personal struggle to rise above
egotism in creativity and atomism in identity.
On the one hand, I believe that everything I create, express
or think should be public domain. In the end I think it is
"right" to not attach an individual name to information but to
pass it freely through humanity without tags. I believe that
information and progress is a cultural progress and not an
When I put my name on something, I have tended to unconsciously think of
it as mine. I resist that ideologically and using that name Selena Sol puts
all of my intellectual output one step away from me...where I want it.
(This is much like the adoption of Karen Eliot among the Plagiarists
community but with more personal meaning).
I mean, people still might associate it with me but hopefully
people will not be able to tie it to the source. Maybe,
others will take on the Selena Sol persona as well.
It is a crutch in that my egoism can be somewhat appeased
because Selena Sol is still in a sense tied to me. But my
exploration of new paradigms is supported because I have taken
one small step away from individualism. Perhaps one day I
will succede in feeling completely happy publishing as
anonymous. But until then Selena Sol will still exit in its
But the name Selena Sol is used as a banner for cyberian
designer identity as well as a banner for res nullius.
Many have pointed out that when on the web, I typically write
in a way that might obfuscate my true gender. At times, for
example, I will use the third person and at other times I will
use the pronoun "she" instead of "he" when writing publically
(Certainly this borders on trite 70s feminism, but I still think that
a male-centric language should be hacked, even at the risk of being
But at the same time, I have placed my photo on the very first
page of my homepage as well as include this lengthy discussion
of the origins of the name Selena Sol.
Thus, some say, I do not go either way 100% and it seems as if
I myself am confused.
I am not confused at all and this behavior is a conscious
It is not my intent to create an "alternate" identity as it
was in my undergraduate research. Rather, it is my goal to
bleed perceptions and identities while on the net.
I prefer to enhance the multiplicity of identity, a "truth"
which I feel is more in line with reality than the traditional
western concept of one identity. It is not that I wish to be
seen as one person (Selena Sol) or another (Eric Tachibana),
it is that I want to be seen as both and neither. Or really,
I want it to be known that I don't think it matters one bit.