Domains in the Afterglow

Image of an early Geocities academic's site

Below is an abstract of the presentation I’ll be giving at Emory Unviersity as part of the Domain Incubator event this Friday (Valentine’s Day!) Baruch College at the end of March. I came up with it a couple of week’s ago inspired by this presentation delivered by Bruce Sterling at the transmediale conference on January 29th. I already blogged about this presentation, but it got me thinking my talks about University of Mary Washington’s Domain of One’s Own project thus far have been primarily focused on the history of this project at UMW—the localized evolution of the idea.

I’m hoping this presentation will help me contextualize Domain of One’s Own within the broader history of the web. To accomplish this I’m going to be focusing on a specific web hosting community site of the early web: the now defunct Geocities. This is inspired by the art project “One Terabyte in the Kilobyte Age” which has archived a terrabyte of data from this discarded online datapolis. The images of these long forgotten ghost sites are remarkable, and speak volumes to the questions of how the web has changed? -who we are on the web over time? Not to mention it starts to underscore the fact that the web is an historical world that will itself have epochs. Virtual cities will rise and fall, and people will come and go. Who are we on the web in our moment, and how much of it is ours?

Below is the abstract I submitted to Luke Waltzer earlier this week. In addition to researching Geocities, I’m going to spend as much time as possible over the next month following up on a series of resources folks from all over North America shared with me about the evolution of personal web spaces on university servers during the 1990s. I’ll be blogging on this theme pretty consistently over the next four weeks, so consider yourself warned.

Domains in the Afterglow Or, What Can We Learn from Geocities about Digital Identity

The motto of the recent 2014 media art conference transmedial was “afterglow” which, according to the organizers, “symbolises the current state of digital culture – somewhere between trash and treasure, between high-tech brilliance and electronic junk – a culture of big-data firms and surveillance systems, where the digital revolution of yesterday has yielded media technologies that are rapidly consumed and discarded.” This talk will examine the state of the afterglow through the lens of an ongoing digital art project, One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age, that focuses on the web’s first major build-your-own-site community hub: the now defunct Geocities. What can internet kipple from twenty years ago tell us about the current state of publishing, community, and identity on the web? What’s more, how can it convince you to reclaim your domain?

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7 Responses to Domains in the Afterglow

  1. Tim Owens says:

    It would be cool if you could also sit down with Ernie Ackermann and get his take on how UMW began rolling them out. I’d love to hear more on that given what we were able to dig up from the Internet Archive.

  2. Reverend says:

    I agree, and the stuff you found is gonna be the beginning of a post on the local history. I have an idea for the structure. Unviersity hosting–>Geocities–>more university hosting–>Web 2.0—>DoOO Just a sense of how hosting has been what so much of the struggle for identity has centered around for individuals and institutions the last twnty years, and this is a kind of locus of pwoer. UMW hosting as it related to DoOO will be key hear. maybe we can present together?

    • Tim Owens says:

      Another important element I’d lump in probably before or right around the Geocities/Tripod/Angelfire era was the existence of personal spaces provided by internet service providers. I want to say my first website was me fooling around with a slice of space provided by Compuserve with our dialup plan around 97 or 98. I’d kill to be able to find some of the stuff I was putting on the web around that time.

  3. Jmcclurken says:

    Hmm, students in the 2011 history of the Information Age class talked to him some about the MW’s initial forays in this area. Not sure how much that was used in their documentary.

    Also, don’t know if you want to wait this long, but this topic would also be something the next info age students could build on.

    • Reverend says:

      I think this would be an awesome topic for he Information Age course. Tim and I could seed the beginnings with this web spaces stuff. Building on that, an interesting frame would be talking to people like Ernie and many others about how they remember the web in the 1990s. Martha was suggesting it as kind of an oral history that maps onto the technical history in some interesting ways. That would be amazing, and provide some fascinating cultural history of the web that is going to be increasingly important over the next few years with the mergence of the New Aesthetic as a political, cultural, and artisitic movement.

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