The Public Sphere Called "Cybercafe" Heath Bunting and the cybercafe, "Backspace" Cybercafe was born in London? There are quite a few people who believe that the cybercafe or "internet cafe" was born in London and not the United States. I, also, was told this before when I interviewed "Cyberia", a cybercafe on Tottenham Court Road. Later, when I met Heath Bunting, I was informed that the concept itself of "Cyberia" was his creation. Heath Bunting and networking People may remember the name, Heath Bunting, from his visit to Japan on invitation by NTT's Intercommunication Center. Those involved in the internet culture and have not heard his name must be bogus. However, on the other hand, there are only a few who can accurately say who he really is. Artist? Certainly, since, centering on the city and cyberspace, he draws graffiti, does hacking, and also things similar to performances, he could be described as a type of artist. Activist? Maybe so. For example, his activities are something like this. He distributes the internet mail addresses even to those who do not have computers and those who cannot use computers from various reasons. He creates a system in which mails sent through the internet to those mail addresses eventually arrive as regular mail at those people with these mail addresses. For connection between the internet and the postal system, he seems to be trying to attain cooperation (rather, maybe he is trying hacking?) from direct mail companies. These activities can be understood as practical political activities that fill in the gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" of cyberspace which is often argued. Heath Bunting has many of these activities. However, he himself seems to be extremely wary of these activities being taken up by major media. It is told that until recently, he had a time when he was a homeless with no real address except his internet mail address. He is an extreme person. Still, this does not mean that he is a fastidious person, difficult to get along with. On the contrary, Heath Bunting actively seeks exchange with various people from various countries, constantly attempting the networking of people. "Backspace", a cybercafe established on the southern bank of the Thames Heath Bunting is recently using the cybercafe, "Backspace", located on the southern bank of the Thames near London Bridge, as his base for networking. This small space which usually operates as a cybercafe, recently holds a series of conferences once a month titled "Anti With E". Though they are called conferences, they are not something rigid. Admission is free. However, participants must bring in food and drinks for everyone to share. The themes are set roughly on subjects such as network art, network religion, and network politics, and the conferences are opened to anyone present to make a presentation freely, if they wish. Among the presenters, there are quite a few from overseas. Besides Pit Schultz, Graham Harwood, Peter Lambourn Wilson, Geert Lovink, and Richard Barbrook, there is also Toshiya UENO from Japan. Outside of these members, basically, anyone is given equal time to make a presentation. The principle of democracy is thoroughly applied. Thus, at the same time, if one says something foolish, he will be fully attacked whether or not he is famous. Such outright argument is unthinkable in Japan where serious arguments tend to be avoided due to consideration for others. Sometimes, when a speaker goes out of control, Heath Bunting watches him with a smile. It does not matter how long an off-the-mark discussion continues. In the first place, they are not discussing in order to come up with a conclusion. After the discussion, people who become acquainted there, go out drinking in a pub. There are also groups who have become friends because they had an argument. In other words, an argument is an argument, a person is a person. The public sphere of cyber culture. There is a famous argument by Habermas concerning public sphere. According to his argument, "public" spaces such as cafes and pubs where people had political discussions from free points-of-view in the 19th century, have played important roles in "modern" politics. Habermas, who is a modernist, states that "now is the time when such a space is needed", but looking at the conferences in "Backspace", we can feel that the tradition of consciously and constantly creating and maintaining "public" space clearly remains within certain political movements in Europe. What is common in their arguments is the clear indication of an attitude of opposing the "privatization" of the "public sphere" including cyberspace by "another power" such as the state or corporations. The public spheres are not spaces which belong to the state, corporations nor to individuals. When something interesting-looking starts, the state or corporations immediately intervene, and the individuals engage merely in making money...the people involved in cyberspace in Japan, who do not have any doubt about this situation should peek into "Backspace", make a presentation even in lousy English, and reconsider the meaning of the word, "public" once again. What do you think? Yoshitaka Mori