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Chapter 7. Chat, Cams, and Virtual Intim... > Elements of Intimacy - Pg. 78

Chat, Cams, and Virtual Intimacy ...Seeing Computers as Intimacy Devices 78 I'm here to tell you that it is possible. It's a challenge, sure, but it is possible. And it's a necessary part of a vital community. This chapter describes some of the issues around virtual intimacy and discusses some methods to create sites that are truly intimate spaces. It also talks about real-time chat and webcams as tools for intimacy. Finally, we'll hear from John Styn, the ironically selfpro- fessed Cocky Bastard, who has created some very intimate spaces (and done some very intimate things) online. Elements of Intimacy The things that create intimate spaces online are the same things that create intimate spaces in the real world: trust, respect, and honesty. The difference in virtual spaces is that the participants in the community don't have the same control they do in real places, and they don't always feel the same investment. So the challenge is to create a safe environment where users feel comfortable engaging each other on an emotional level. That takes a lot of work, because there are obstacles to overcome. Here are some of the biggest ones, each with some possible solutions based on my experience creating intimate virtual spaces. Obstacle 1: Paranoia Even users who are comfortable with computers can be hesitant to engage them in a personal way, and for good reason. Revealing personal data online can be risky. Search engines (altavista.com or google.com, for example) routinely crawl the web and index ev- erything they come across. So anything you post to a public website is available to anyone who knows how to perform a keyword search. That means friends, family, bosses, and anyone else