The Guardian has teamed up with Vincent Hanna to organise “Live Wire” debates. Important politicians will agree to be questioned live (or “in real time” as we computer types normally say) in cyberspace. You do not have to submit any questions: you can, as I did for a while, just sit and watch the questions, the answers, and Hanna’s interventions. Of course, you can submit questions in advance if you want, but during my visit to the inaugural debate it seemed that the questions were coming in as the discussion developed.
Paddy Ashdown was the first cyberpolitician to grace this exciting new political forum. I must say that I was not surprised to discover that Gladstone was his favourite prime minister, nor that he considered the Lib Dems to be the greenest of all the parties represented in the House of Commons. Likewise I was not surprised to discover that while the Lib Dems felt free to criticise the government over its handling of Northern Ireland, Paddy Ashdown could find no particular instance where he felt it would have been fair to make such a criticism. Heady stuff. No doubt Tribune of the People Hanna will find a way of opening up this new medium. I sincerely hope so. It has potential, but if it becomes just another place where the same old people say the same old things, then I wonder why anyone should bother with it. There are further Live Wire debates scheduled for April and May.
There are now almost as many magazines about the internet as there are about computers. I tripped over a new one in Selfridges the other day: Internet Underground. The oxymoron meets cyberspace. It had to happen. I can’t see the journal surviving, but it did have an interesting collection of peculiar Web sites, like the one devoted exclusively to the worst film Tom Hanks ever made, Joe Versus the Volcano, (http://sashimi.wwa.com/ ~shop net/jvv/) and the one dedicated to a museum of air sickness bags (www.pvv.unit.no/~bct/spypose/). Actually it’s a cheat-there aren’t any on display, merely a list of ones the author claims to possess. The University of Reading has created perhaps the world’s first web site devoted entirely to palindromes. It also claims to have a palindromic web address: www.rdg.ac.uk/~sssbownj/jnwobsss~. This is stretching it. Isn’t the whole point about palindromes that they have to make sense independently in some way?…