olia lialina on Fri, 31 Aug 2007 15:12:36 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> vernacular web 2

In the beginning this article was an "index.html" saved in the
"glitter" folder. Then it got the working title "The work of users
in times of perfect templates". Then it became "Rich User Experience
for the Poor" and was presented at the New Network Theory conference.
After the presentation, UCSB professor Alan Lui suggested to rename it
to "Homesick". But for the moment I'll leave it as

Vernacular Web 2


Two years ago I wrote an article titled ?A Vernacular Web?, in which I
tried to collect, classify and describe the most important elements of
the early Web ? visual as well as acoustic ? and the habits of first
Web users, their ideas of harmony and order.

I?m talking about everything that became a subject of mockery by
the end of the last century when professional designers arrived,
everything that fell out of use and turns up every now and again as
the elements of ?retro? look in site design or in the works of artists
exploring the theme of ?digital folklore?: the ?Under Construction?
signs, outer space backgrounds, MIDI-files, collections of animated
web graphics and so on.

If you are missing the way pages looked before, you should install The
Timemachine Firefox Add-on by Tobias Leingruber.

And today, in the end of June 2007, when we hear of amateur culture
more often than ever before, the cultural influence of ?Welcome to My
Home Page? web pages looks especially interesting. People who created
them and their ideas of what the Web is, how it can be used and how
the pages should look, these people?s likes and mistakes gave the
today?s Web its current shape.

To me, what defines the history of Web is not just the launch dates
of new browsers or services, not just the dot-com bubbles appearing
or bursting, but also the appearance of a blinking yellow button
that said ?New!? or the sudden mass extinction of starry wallpapers.
Jenkins wrote in his 2002 article Blog This!:

    ?We learned in the history books about Samuel Morse's invention of
the telegraph, but not about the thousands of operators who shaped the
circulation of message.?

To rephrase him, I?d say we?ve studied the history of hypertext, but
not the history of Metallica fan web rings or web rings in general.

The relationship between ordinary users and the Web of the 90s is
a very interesting subject to study, because it?s a relationship
filled with love, hate, all kinds of drama ? in other words, it?s a
full-blown relationship between a new medium and its first users, a
relationship that?s exalted, complex, sometimes silly ? whatever it
is, all that matters is that it existed.

Today, that relationship is gone. And for a good reason. The space
that we?ve researched as a new medium for the last ten years has
turned into the most mass medium of them all. Nothing more than a mass
medium, permeating our daily lives to the point of becoming invisible.
Its numerous users are busy working, having a good time or expressing
themselves, and they have almost perfect tools and services at their
disposal. Connection never breaks, distinction between a server and a
hard disk, between your desktop and that of another person has almost
vanished, and there?s nothing that could contribute to the development
of user-media relationship, nothing to provoke us.

Web 2.0 propagandists can?t stop talking about the multitude and power
of today?s web amateurs, the new users who love to dance, compose
songs, write encyclopedic articles, take photos and film videos,
write texts and publish it all on the Web. And yet, they are rather
indifferent to the Web itself.

So, here?s the question: how does the Web look now, when it?s no
longer seen as the technology of the future, when it?s intertwined
with our daily lives and filled by people who are not excited by the
mere fact of its existence?

At a first glance, this question looks like a purely aesthetic
one. One might think it?s almost unimportant. But in fact, nothing
demonstrates the state of the Web in general and the state of its
services, in particular the ones that follow the Web 2.0 ideology, as
clearly as the style and look of ordinary users? home pages.

[for the complete illustrated version visit pls

forever yours


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@kein.org and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@kein.org