Mark Pesce

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Mark D. Pesce
Mark Pesce in Australia
Mark Pesce at LCA2011 in Brisbane, Australia
Born (1962-12-08) December 8, 1962 (age 51)
Everett, Massachusetts, USA
Nationality American
Occupation author, researcher, engineer, futurist and teacher
Known for co-inventor of VRML

Mark D. Pesce (/ˈpɛʃ/ PESH-ee) is an author, researcher, engineer, futurist and teacher.


September 1980, Pesce attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for a Bachelor of Science degree, but left in June 1982 to pursue opportunities in the newly emerging high-technology industry. He worked as an Engineer for the next few years, developing prototype firmware and software for SecurID cards. In 1988, Pesce joined Shiva Corporation, which pioneered and popularized dial-up networking. Pesce's role in the company was to develop user interfaces, and his research in this area would lead him deeper into the questions posed by virtual reality. The company would grow from $1.5 million in sales in 1988, to $40 million when Pesce departed in early 1993.[1]

In 1991, Pesce founded the Ono-Sendai Corporation, named after a fictitious company in the William Gibson novel Neuromancer. Ono-Sendai was a first-generation Virtual Reality (VR) start-up, chartered to create inexpensive, home-based networked VR systems. The company developed a key technology, which earned Pesce his first patent for a "Sourceless Orientation Sensor," which is used to track the motion of persons in virtual environments. Sega Corporation of America would use the technology on the design of the Sega Virtua VR, a consumer head-mounted display (HMD).[1]

In 1993, Apple hired Pesce as a consulting engineer, to develop intuitive interfaces between Apple and IBM networking products.[2] In early 1994, while in San Francisco, Pesce and software engineers Tony Parisi and Gavin Bell, spearheaded an effort to standardize 3D on the Web, and invented VRML Architecture Group (VAG), under the leadership of Pesce.[3] The purpose of VRML was to allow for the creation of 3-D environments within the World Wide Web, accessible through a web browser. Working in conjunction with such corporations as Microsoft, Netscape, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Sony, Pesce was able to convince the industry to accept the new protocol as a standard for desktop virtual reality. This development spring-boarded Pesce into a career which has included extensive writings for both the popular and scientific press, teaching and lecturing at universities, conferences around the globe, performances, presentations, and films appearances.

In 2003, Pesce relocated to Australia, where he continues to live, and became an Australian citizen on 4 February 2011[4] (he holds dual citizenship). He is an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Sydney and is a judge on The New Inventors, a nationally televised television program in Australia.

In 2006, Pesce founded FutureSt, a Sydney consultancy dedicated to helping clients negotiate the challenges presented by our hyperconnected future, serving as an advisory to analytic's firm PeopleBrowsr, and The Serval Project, a self-organizing mobile network for disaster areas.[5]

In 2008, Pesce began writing an online column for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's The Drum Opinion.[6]

More recently Pesce has been designing and coding Plexus,[7] a Web2.0 address book and social networking tool, and is writing his next book, The Next Billion Seconds.[8] His current major project, however, is Light MooresCloud,[9] an ambient device of 52-LEDs which is a lamp with a LAMP-stack;[10] the trademark pays homage to the inexpensive ubiquitous computing engendered by Moore's Law. Inspired by the GPIO of a borrowed Raspberry Pi, which he realized allowed web users anywhere on the planet to turn an LED on or off on his machine from their browsers, MooresCloud was brought from concept to prototype by a team in eight weeks.[11][12] Highly configurable, the device has been touted as "illumination as a service"[13] and called "a programmable lava lamp.[14]


Pesce began his teaching career in 1996 as a VRML instructor at both the University of California at Santa Cruz and San Francisco State University, where he would later create the school's certificate program in the 3-D Arts. In 1998, Pesce was asked to join the faculty of the University of Southern California, as the founding chair of the Graduate Program in Interactive Media at the USC School of Cinema-Television.[15] From January 2004 through January 2006, Pesce was the senior lecturer in Emerging Media and Interactive Design at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Sydney, Australia. He now holds an Honorary Appointment at the University of Sydney and has shared some of his lectures online.[16]

16 years ago, hardly anyone was connected; 16 years from now, being connected will be synonymous with being human. That's not a prediction - that's where we are.

—Mark Pesce, May 26, 2011

Ideas, Thought and Influences[edit]

Virtual Reality[edit]

Pesce has said that technologies act as amputations; But that these amputations ultimately give us greater abilities. In perceptual cybernetics, the entire universe is divided into three fields of information. Everything outside of you, everything inside of you (thoughts, emotions and feelings), and everything in between; because there is no excluded middle in this theory. Pesce stresses the importance to identify the boundaries that exist between these fields of information because information is always lost at these boundaries. He gives the example:

"If I were to take an infrared remote control for a television set and flash it at you, well there is information coming out of the device, but you don't perceive it because you aren't sensually equipped for it. Information is being lost at the boundary between the physical world and your biology. On the other hand, if I were to say, "Watashi wa midori no chiisai no hito desu." (Japanese for "I am a little green man"), information might be lost between your biology and your cognitive self. So if you're Japanese you have an innate interface to this information so that it can go from the physical world into the world of your self. But if you don't know Japanese, then that information gets filtered away as noise in the FX/Psi boundary."

Web 2.0[edit]

Pesce describes the difference between the Web 1.0 era, and Web 2.0 era, as not being so much related to publishing as to communication, stating: "Wiki's were invented in 1995. They're an early web technology; but everybody thinks of them as being the quintessential Web 2.0 technology; they're not. The way we use a wiki. So it's not about the hardware and the technology, it's about, the software of the culture... It's a communication medium, and that's where that entire shift in emphasis came from; just static web pages to now; it's all about the conversation." Pesce says that if the culture has an inherent level of trust, that people are more willing to join each other in debate and discussion, whereas, when no trust is established it becomes incoherent and falls apart.[17]

Censorship and File Distribution[edit]

Pesce has distributed digital versions of his hardcover publications for free on his website, licensed under the Creative Commons - ShareAlike License.[18] On the topic of censorship and file sharing, Pesce states that whenever there's a block that's artificial, that's non inherent, that people will find a way around it and that, for good or for ill, it may be functionally impossible to stop or censor information. Paraphrasing an Interview in 2008, Pesce says: "This is why when you try to control some piece of medium it becomes hyper-distributed, because whenever there's a block it puts pressure to find a way around it. If you put that barrier up you're going to drain that audience away; and now what you have is a situation where the more something is shared, potentially, the more valuable it becomes.",[17] perhaps referring to positive network externalities.

Crowdsourcing and Sharing[edit]

Pesce's view is that humans are hard-wired to share, pointing to work by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, that evolution favored our ability to share to enable us to survive longer. He uses the folk story of the Stone Soup as a metaphor for this collaborative lesson in cooperation, especially amid scarcity. Pesce also warns that systems of cultural control are no longer able to cope with this accelerated hyper-connectivity. He points to examples of Sexting and Jury systems as being unable to detach from this increased ability to share information, stating that traditional newspapers will be extinct within the next decade.[19]

Pesce suggest that our connected collaborative actions, aimed towards a common purpose, has always been inherent but has always been too difficult to happen on a global scale; that it needed hyperconnectivity to be released. He points to the recent events in Japan, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, as an example of common people working together to achieve a common purpose. Pesce argues that today's technologies aren't just gadgets or toys, but instead provide immediate abilities to a life-line; Pointing to how Japanese citizens became self-organized, collecting the information the Japanese government could not provide, using a website named, which mapped radiation levels on personal Geiger counters all across Japan.[20]

Pesce declares: "Wikipedia has changed the way we make knowledge. Wikipedia was not supposed to work. Wikipedia was supposed to implode in noise and lies and endless arguments about how many angels could dance on the head of Richard Dawkins; And instead has become the singular reference work, the common connected touchstone for a connected species." Pesce says: "People connected in their numbers simply overwhelm, out-perform, and thrust aside all obstacles, whether they are cultural or legal, that your can put in their way; and this is where we are right now."[21]

Open Source[edit]

Pesce says about open source software: "I don't know if you're familiar with path dependence, but it's a new type of economics. If you're selling, for instance, a particular platform of computer, what counts is for you to get as much platform penetration as possible, because the more platform penetration you have, the more pathways you have to move your product. The more people who own a particular type of computer means that more people will own that computer because more software will be developed for's like an economic snowball effect. That's called path dependence."[22]

Spiritual Beliefs and Practices[edit]

Pesce was raised Catholic, but later converted into Pentecostal Protestantism. After reaching nearly 30 years old, he conceptualizes his belief system as something more akin to Paganism, with a mixture of Christian, pre-Christian, Buddhist and Taoist traditions.[23] While developing VRML, Pesce began to more seriously study Witchcraft, conceptualizing how VRML could be used to create a sacred space. From this he conceptualized what he called the CyberSamhain, which was a ritual held simultaneously in cyberspace and in real space. The ritual was publicly available on the web for anyone who wanted to join, either on the web, or in real space.[24] Pesce says he was attempting to represent how he saw the Internet forming, as a self-organizing system of intelligent parts coming together to create a whole. He views the practice of witchcraft, as a religion of harmony with yourself and the environment, harmonizing yourself with the cycle of time and being able to deduce what things are appropriate to the moment.

Pesce confesses that when he brings a new website online, before it goes public, he's places a page of invocation and blessing on its root page, to realize a sacred intention for it, saying: "If we don't bless the machinery, if we don't imbue it with the sacred, then it will invariably profane us."[24]


Film projects[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pesce, Mark. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Mark Pesce. Retrieved 19 August 2011. 
  2. ^ MARKOFF, JOHN (November 25, 1996). "A New Language Is Adding Depth to the Flat Computer Screen". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  3. ^ MARKOFF, JOHN (July 16, 1996). "Tomorrow, the World Wide Web!;Microsoft, the PC King, Wants to Reign Over the Internet". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Pesce, Mark. "Mateship and becoming Aussie". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Creativity | Insight | Inspiration". Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Mark Pesce - The Drum Opinion". Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  7. ^ Bauwens, Michel. "Why we need a wikileaks for social media: Marke Pesce on the launching of the Plexus project". P2P Foundation. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Pesce, Mark. "The Next Billion Seconds". Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
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  15. ^ "USC IN THE NEWS". USC NEWS. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  16. ^ "Mark Pesce's videos". Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Mark Pesce, Mark Molaro (Aug 16, 2008). Web technology expert Mark Pesce on The Alcove (SWF, FLV, Flash) (Video Interview) (in English). New York: The Alcove with Mark Molaro. Event occurs at 2:35. 
  18. ^ Pesce, Mark D. (2005). hyperpeople. 43: Published by Mark D. Pesce. p. 63. 
  19. ^ Mark Pesce (31 March 2009). "Share This Lecture!" (SWF, FLV, FLASH). (Videotaped (Lecture)) (in English) (Sydney University, Australia). Event occurs at 43:00. Retrieved Aug 22, 2011. 
  20. ^ Mark Pesce (May 26, 2011). Mind Share with Mark Pesce HD (SWF, FLV, FLASH) (Videotaped (Lecture)) (in English). Australia: Event occurs at 25:30. Retrieved Aug 19, 2011. 
  21. ^ Mark Pesce (May 26, 2011). Mind Share with Mark Pesce HD (SWF, FLV, FLASH) (Videotaped (Lecture)) (in English). Australia: Event occurs at 28:30. Retrieved Aug 19, 2011. 
  22. ^ Pleshaw, Gregory. "An Afternoon with Mark Pesce: The Uncut Version". Emerging Geeks. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  23. ^ Slack, Gordy. "Mark Pesce interviewed by Gordy Slack". Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  24. ^ a b Davis, Erik. "Technopagans - May the astral plane be reborn in cyberspace". Retrieved 20 August 2011. 

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