The Dads of Tech – by Astra Taylor and Joanne McNeil, The Baffler
"The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house," Audre Lorde famously said, but let Clay Shirky mansplain. It "always struck me as a strange observation — even the metaphor isn't true," the tech consultant and bestselling author said at the New Yorker Festival last autumn in a debate with the novelist Jonathan Franzen. "Get ahold of the master’s hammer," and you can dismantle anything. Just consider all the people "flipping on the 'I'm gay' light on Facebook" to signal their support for marriage equality — there, Shirky declared, is a prime example of the master’s tools put to good use.[more inside]
"Shirky invented the Internet and Franzen wants to shut it down," panel moderator Henry Finder mused with an air of sophisticated hyperbole. Finder said he was merely paraphrasing a festival attendee he'd overheard outside — and joked that for once in his New Yorker editing career, he didn't need fact-checkers to determine whether the story was true. He then announced with a wink that it was "maybe a little true." Heh.
"Is it OK to take a selfie at Auschwitz?", asks archaeologist Paul Mullins. Selfies are people in places, not objects in spaces, says Katie Warfield.
In 2003, Andy "waxpancake" Baio created Upcoming, "a collaborative event calendar focused on interesting arts and tech events around the world, curated by its community. It surfaced weird and wonderful events that usually fell under the radar of traditional event listings from newspapers and local weeklies." In 2005, it was acquired by Yahoo!, who killed the site last April with little warning, and no way to back up events. Fortunately, the complete site was saved by the Internet Archive. But Upcoming isn't dead yet! Two months ago, Yahoo! offered to sell the domain back to Baio. And now, with a fully-funded kickstarter, he's planning on "rebuilding it for the modern era using tools and platforms that weren't available when it was first designed." Welcome to the brilliant life, stupid death, and improbable return of Upcoming.org. [more inside]
Each week, the Internet Archive's tumblr account is completely transformed by a digital resident along a theme of their choosing. [more inside]
Visiting the Big Apple? "Don't ask a pedestrian where a certain street is. He is usually too busy to stop, and if polite enough to stop, won't know. No New Yorker knows anything about New York." And another kind reminder: "Don't gape at women smoking cigarettes in restaurants. They are harmless and respectable, notwithstanding and nevertheless. They are also smart." Advice from Valentine’s City of New York: A Guide Book, published in 1920. [more inside]
Rodrigo Davis of the MIT Center for Civic Media is currently researching crowdfunding for civic and community purposes. Some of the issues he covers includes the ethics of crowdfunding (including Kickstarter's seduction guide debacle and Gawker's attempt to crowdfund a video showing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack), a case study of Kansas City's crowdfunding campaign for their bikeshare program, a timeline of online crowdfunding since 2000, and how the Statue of Liberty was made possible via crowdfunding.
wwwtxt.org: "In 1995, commercialization, a swelling population, and the multimedia revolution began to shape Web 1.0 and the modern Internet. 1988–94 represent the final years of a much smaller, non-commercial, and text-dominated Internet. / The users of this era were not only programmers, physicists, and university residents—they were also tinkerers, early-adopters, whiz kids, and nerds. Their conversations and documents—valiantly preserved by digital archivists—are fractured across numerous services, increasingly offline-only, and incredibly voluminous (100GB+). / wwwtxt digs deep and resurrects the voices of these digital pioneers as unedited, compelling, and insightful 140-character excerpts." [more inside]
When Douglas Engelbart (previously) read a Vannevar Bush essay on a Philippine island in the aftermath of World War II, he found the conceptual space to imagine what would become our Internet...
DEC - I mean Digital - I mean Compaq - er, CMGI - no, Overture; rather - Yahoo ... will shut down AltaVista for good next week.
As Microsoft prepares to retire its unfashionable Hotmail in favor of Outlook.com this summer, let's remember the viral marketing revolution that Hotmail invented. Journey back seventeen years to Hotmail's origins, the birth of the dot.com millionaire, and the boozy optimism of a pre-crash web industry in full-growth mode (Wired, December 1998) .
Somewhere in Portland, there’s a very old building, and that very old building has a very, very old basement. An incredible basement, a video-game-level basement, a set-decorator’s dream basement.
The First Photo on the Web: A story of crossdressing, particle physics, humorous science-based novelty songs, and terrible photoshop.
The concept behind VoyURL is simple: A browser plugin records your every click, which you can then choose to share publicly in a real-time feed. Their website analyzes and shows you your online history in customized infographics, to identify patterns, recommend content and help you learn more about the way you use the internet. You can see the browsing history of all users in one giant timeline or follow a specific user. The service is currently in beta, but you can slip in here or here. [more inside]
She Was A Camera. Melissa Gira Grant writes about camgirl culture. (NSFW?)
150 years ago, a primitive Internet united the USA. "Long before there was an Internet or an iPad, before people were social networking and instant messaging, Americans had already gotten wired. Monday marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental telegraph. From sea to sea, it electronically knitted together a nation that was simultaneously tearing itself apart, North and South, in the Civil War. Americans soon saw that a breakthrough in the spread of technology could enhance national identity and, just as today, that it could vastly change lives."
"[W]ebsites and hosting services should not be “fads” any more than forests and cities should be fads – they represent countless hours of writing, of editing, of thinking, of creating. They represent their time, and they represent the thoughts and dreams of people now much older, or gone completely. There’s history here. Real, honest, true history. So Archive Team did what it could, as well as other independent teams around the world, and some amount of Geocities was saved." Now, one year later, they have announced that nearly a terabyte of web history will soon be made available to the public as a 900GB torrent file. (Previously. / Previously.) [more inside]
Let's take a walk through the Google graveyard.
Cybersyn (or Synco, in Spanish) was computer network constructed in 1970 by an English/Chilean team headed by cyberneticist Stafford Beer (his papers). Cybersyn was an electronic nervous system for the Chilean economy, linking together mines, factories and so on, to better manage production and give workers a clear idea of what was in demand and where. The network was destroyed by the army after the 1973 coup. Later that year Stafford Beer drew upon the lessons of Cybersyn to write Fanfare for Effective Freedom, a eulogy for Allende and Cybersyn, and Designing Freedom, a series of six lectures he gave for CBC, outlining his ideas. Besides the first link in this post, the best place to start is this Guardian article from 2003. If you want to go more in-depth, read Eden Medina's Designing Freedom, Regulating a Nation: Socialist Cybernetics in Allende’s Chile. And if nothing else, just take a look at the amazing Cybersyn control room.
In the beginning of 1995 before the release of the first graphic browser, Clifford Stoll Of Newsweek said "After two decades online, I'm perplexed. It's not that I haven't had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I've met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I'm uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community." Via Metachat.
One way to look at the decade from 2000-2009 is as the digital decade. In this decade the world has gone from having about 300 million to 1.6 billion users . The number of mobile phone subscriptions has gone from about 750 million to 4.5 billion. The decade even started out being called the digital decade by none other than Bill Gates. [more inside]
Forty years ago today, Leonard Kleinrock and a team of engineers at UCLA connected to Stanford Research Institute and typed (an incomplete) message between the first two nodes of the Internet: "lo." [more inside]
Sunday, February 28, 1993. A new word -- Internet -- makes its first appearance in The New York Times.
Newspaper says goodbye via Vimeo. The Rocky Mountain News published its final edition today, after 149 years, 311 days in circulation.
History of the Internet is an animated documentary explaining the inventions from time-sharing to filesharing, from Arpanet to Internet.
Vanity Fair has a typically excellent article out -- "How the Web Was Won," an oral history of the Web. Even if you're familiar with ARPANet, Metcalfe's Law, Pearl Harbor Day, the VC rush, whatever -- the story told by the often-animated people at the center of the whirlwind is an enlightening and entertaining experience. And for those of you don't know the history of the Internet, learn it! This is part of your heritage now. [more inside]
"Schools should continue to require library research so they can see how old folks used to Google stuff."
The continuity I have in mind has to do with the nature of information itself or, to put it differently, the inherent instability of texts. In place of the long-term view of technological transformations, which underlies the common notion that we have just entered a new era, the information age, I want to argue that every age was an age of information, each in its own way, and that information has always been unstable. Let's begin with the Internet and work backward in time.The Library in the New Age by Robert Darnton, historian and Director of the Harvard Library. A wide-ranging overview of the status of libraries in the modern world, touching on such subjects as: journalist poker games, French people liking the smell of books, bibliography at Google, news dissemination in the 18th Century, book piracy and the different texts of Shakespeare. Some responses: Defending the Library of Google, The Future in the Past and Librarians Need a Better Apologetic.
Welcome to Mosaic Communications Corporation! It was 1994, and the World Wide Web as we know it today was about to be born. [more inside]
Edward Samuel's Illustrated History of Copyright A fascinating illustrated historical tour, looking at how different technologies have shaped how we think about copyright and intellectual property.
RIP Netscape browser, 1994-2007. AOL, who acquired the groundbreaking browser as part of a $4.2 billion deal in 1998, announced the end today. Good-bye or good riddance?
The currency of the New Economy won't be money, but attention -- A radical theory of value. It's with great hesitation that I post an article that refers to the Internet as "cyberspace", but I found this article revolutionary when I read it almost ten years ago. Does MetaFilter prove it right after all these years?
Before RSS and personalized aggregators such as Personalized Google and NetVibes, there was CRAYON, a service that allowed you to "CReAte Your Own Newspaper" by providing a page with links to chosen sources. [mi]
The Future Just Happened A series of four BBC programmes about the internet from five years ago watchable online (via pre-broadband 56k real) that provide a snapshot of a time when AOL was 'at the heart of the new world', Marillion were releasing music through fan subscriptions and Monica Lewinsky was talking about how she didn't trust email anymore. Amazing.
Email used to be the ultimate application of the Internet, and there are still some interesting artifacts of that left behind today: As a source of randomness Email Roulette (which we've seen before) is my favorite application of email. TPC Remote Printing Service, a free mail-to-fax gateway, is pretty useful in a pinch and is something of an Old Internet institution with a history predating the web. Nearly as venerable is the more frivolous Internet Pizza Server from the days when the very idea of making a purchase over the Internet was funny, and the idea of browsing the web via email didn't seem so peculiar as it does today.
Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing (Google video) A fascinating 30 minute documentary about ARPAnet - the precursor to today's Internet. (Can you spot the real ubernerd mover and shaker at BBN? Hint: He wears no tie!) (via: all over the place)
Vint Cerf, "father of the internet", joins Google! It seems Google is going from strength to strength. Not content with buying up the world's dark fibre, they've now wooed Vint Cerf to work for them as "Chief Internet Evangelist" (what a great job title!) Vint's interview is here, and information on his major cause: the need for more IPs!
The Virtual Museum of Canada has funded or collaborated on almost 150 virtual exhibits, mostly relating to Canadian History and Culture. There is great diversity, among my favourites are Nk'Mip Nation Aboriginal Childrens' Art from the Inkameep day school (a welcome counterpoint to the residential schools tragedy), the historic re-photography and soundscapes of Montreal, Haida Culture documented , and also compared to Inuit Culture, Inuit (Eskimo) games and 3-dimensional (VR) sculpture, a history of the Canadian Trucking Industry, a splendid overview of Canadian documentary film making, Canadian design in the late 20th century, and the Shipwrecks of Vancouver Island. There is also a searchable image gallery. The only thing missing is a historical whodunnit or two (or three). All sites available in both French and English, and some in other languages too.
A nice article on some of the engineering and economics aspects of WiFi, and the history of frequency regulation in the USA.
Digital Quaker Collection Courtesy of Earlham College, the Digital Quaker Collection offers free access to "over 500 individual Quaker works from the 17th and 18th centuries." More historical texts, including many from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are available from The Quaker Writings Home Page. (Main link via Scribblingwoman.)
The First Community Blog? Five years ago today, Caleb Donaldson pulled the plug on Geek Cereal, a social experiment that began on March 21, 1996. Some of the links don't work like they should anymore, but the calendar will get you to all the juicy bits. An interesting little time capsule. The site's demise is mentioned in this Ghost Sites 1997 obit, and in this virtual eulogy from Caleb's dad on MIT's website.
Back in the day . . . Remembering a time when the BBS was king.
RIP Jim Ellis. Jim was one of the co-founders of Usenet. Today's a sad day, between Michael's death and Jim's... Why is it that net pioneers die so young...
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