previous day
all days

View: session overviewtalk overview

10:00-11:15 Session 15A: Past Futures
Location: OMHP C0.23 (26)
The social life of the posthuman: transhumanist communities and online future-making

ABSTRACT. In the mid-1990s, both the overcoming of the cyber-frontier and the network economy of the computer industry promised new forms of sustainability, knowledge and disembodied exploration (Turner 1999, 2006; Barbrook and Cameron 1998). Yet, for “transhumanists” who envisioned the possibility of overcoming humanity’s mortal condition through cryonics, nanotechnology, space exploration or artificial intelligence, the digital revolution was only one among many technological transformations that would unleash humanity’s “limitless potential” and pave the way to its future evolution into “posthumanity”. As transhumanists understood it, the “posthuman” did not mean so much the remaking of identities, bodies and worlds (Haraway 1991; Plant 1997), as a process of “ordering-and-transcendence” beyond humanity’s current limits through the rational use of science and technology (More 1993). In the pages of Extropy magazine and more so through online email-lists, Californian digerati, former members of the L5 society, and young European scholars met to discuss the manifold paths to the posthuman future. Two decades later, such conversations were held on different modes, let alone because the posthuman appeared as existential threat to humanity’s bright future (Bostrom 2014). However, it can be argued that the role of online communities retained a central role in the making of posthuman possibilities and transhumanist communities.

This paper proposes a history of posthuman futures through the evolution of the online communities and web settings within which they took shape, from the mid-1990s onwards. Using digital archives and ethnographic interviews, it analyzes how transhumanist communities transformed through online activities and changing web architectures (Usenet, email-lists, Reddit, community websites, repositories, etc.), and how communities’ identities conversely influenced their choices of technological environments. As the paper suggests, these changes also reflected shifting power relations outside the web, including important socioeconomic evolutions of posthuman future-making and its institutionalization in various hybrid spaces, at the intersection of academic and industrial fields.

This paper aims to clarify how online practices and online spaces participated in the enactment of various imaginaries of the posthuman (Jasanoff 2016), articulating often contradictory notions of legitimate social orders, such as radical and conservative notions of technology and political change. As email-lists opened spaces for future-making and nurtured struggles about desirable futures, they also harbored fears about the possibility that an “eternal September” would forever undermine the demanding transhumanist culture in the making. Fears of dilution and establishment echoed a common rhetoric of the early web as enabling the emergence of rational, critical discussions; at the same time, it helped foster a strong elitist culture anchored in pessimistic visions of technology and politics, in line with more contemporary narratives about the internet.

A digital history of posthuman futures also takes place within a broader shift in the political imaginaries of the web, from the creative constraint-free cyberspace to a fragmented and commodified platform web, better characterized by manipulation, exploitation, and the reproduction of incontestable inequalities. As recent works suggest, however, the narrative of the web’s failed promises can be complexified by highlighting the contested and multifaceted character of online practices and politics (Ankerson 2015; Crawford 2016). Indeed, the online making of the posthuman involved multiple cultural and technological practices, including early archiving processes and their later reconstitutions as traces upon which future counter-histories would be built, and conflicting visions of the kinds of communities and knowledge that the web made possible.

The web that wasn’t: a digital library lens on past futures of the internet

ABSTRACT. This paper will explore lost imaginaries of the digital library, to open up perspectives on the shifting cultures of the internet at the turn of the twenty-first century. In the early to mid-nineties the burgeoning network connectivity of the web was perceived as an opportunity for electronic and digital library projects to expand their audiences. As Lorcan Dempsey writes, it seemed ‘a propitious time for digital libraries to move from a niche to central role as part of the information infrastructure of this new shared space’ (2006). However, by the early 2000s, the rapid development and uptake of tools such as Google Search began to present a clear challenge to these aspirations. In some quarters, Google’s corporate mission statement, ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’, was interpreted as a threat to library services and the safeguarding of cultural knowledge.

One notable case was the European response to the announcement of the Google Books project in 2005 (Purday 2009). The concern was that Google would end up digitizing and privatizing a large volume of European print works, and so the proposal was made for an equivalent programme – a ‘European digital library’ – that was open access, with non-exclusive rights (European Commission 2005). Jean-Noel Jeanneney, the former Director of the National Library of France and pioneer of the digital library concept, was a keen proponent of this view, asserting that ‘many Europeans […] refuse to accept that a cultural work might be considered and treated as just another piece of merchandise’ (2007). The European Commission (EC) formally backed the proposal in 2007, and the prototype database, named Europeana, was launched in November 2008. The system worked by aggregating digitized content from across European cultural heritage collections, and the website launched with search bar functionality superficially akin to Google’s. However, Europeana’s emphasis on being a ‘trusted’ and ‘authoritative’ resource (Europeana 2011) demonstrates how it sought to distinguish itself from such ventures.

The fact that a digital library initiative could conceive of itself as a viable alternative to Google in the early 2000s is revealing of several important insights. First, it implies a vision of the early web as a network for information discovery and a site for access to cultural resources. Second, it exposes a tension in the packaging of these resources as cultural assets or public goods. Yet the terms of the debate are also indicative of a fundamental misunderstanding about the dynamism of network services like Google and how the business grew through Search. Therefore, the EC’s worries about the privatization of cultural resources, though not entirely unfounded, initially misunderstood the precise nature of their value for Google. Drawing out these conflations and misunderstandings is significant, both for the study of digital libraries as ‘unique cultural objects coproduced in the contiguities of print and digital environments’ (Dalbello 2008) and for a sharper critical lens on how Google would come to define user experiences of the web. The EC case study invites reflection on the web that wasn’t and concludes with some thoughts about the conceptual slippages involved in claims to ‘organize the world’s information’.

Smart machines, ubiquitous computing, and the future that keeps coming back

ABSTRACT. When today’s smart machines hearken back to ubiquitous computing of the 1990’s, they excavate a past future to produce futures for the present. Drawing on archival work on the subject, this paper describes imagined pasts/futures of digital technologies as fungible and repeatable strategic fictions. It suggests that while these fictions play a key role in motivating technological development, they also act as a force of stasis and stagnancy for the web today.

Over the present decade, smart machines and their embedding into an ‘Internet of Things’ [IoT] has become the technofantasy du jour. (e.g. Hong, 2016; Schüll, 2016) Year after year, observers declare it as the next big thing, a suite of innovations that would ‘invent the future’. (Wired, 2013) At the same time, this seemingly impending future is legitimised by pulling on a venerable heritage of past innovations. Smart machines are described as the ‘computers of the 21st century’ that Mark Weiser had dreamed twenty years prior – when it bore the name of ubiquitous computing, or simply ubicomp. (Weiser, 1991) Weiser and his colleagues at Xerox PARC are designated as forerunners of contemporary visions of ‘atmospheric’ datafication: machines that disappear into the background of life. This paper examines the intersection of one (older) imagined future with another, identifying three key themes:

  1. The legitimising function of strategic fictions. When imagined futures from the past are retrieved to justify new futures for the present, these repetitions are used to naturalise the next disruption as an inevitable and impersonal consequence of technoscientific progress. Kevin Kelly, serial tech visionary and the co-founder of the Quantified Self, an international community of self-tracking enthusiasts, claims that “something is happening with this new ability”: that the advent of smart machines is not a design choice, but a logical next step in the history of technology. (Wolf and Kelly, 2012) This attitude is echoed in the anticipatory positioning that individuals like Weiser took with regards to the future rise of ubiquitous computing. (Kinsley, 2012; Takayama, 2017). Such strategic fictions bestow coherence and significance to technologies of the present. Prototypes, design experiments, failed products, and other kinds of ‘imaginary media’ (Kluitenberg, 2011) are knitted into a broader tapestry of innovation and progress, in a pattern that recalls the ‘eternal return’ of nonmodern mythologies. (Eliade, 1954)
  2. Fungible and repeatable temporalities. Yet for all this supposed inevitability, these referential networks produce not final fulfilment, but an indefinite deferral of the promised future. After all, the two decades separating Weiser and IoT are littered with false starts. A computing magazine listed smart appliances among the ‘biggest technology flops’ of 2007 (Haskin, 2007); by 2014, the same magazine was celebrating IoT as a ‘new economic boom’. (Thibodeau, 2014). Although technological narratives often aspire to a consistent tapestry of inspirations, we are dealing with an endlessly elastic temporality that is manipulated for the stoking of technological desires. As we see with ubicomp discourse over the 90’s and 2000’s, a sense of future certainty grows through the series of unfulfilled prophecies and unresolved contradictions. (Bell and Dourish, 2007; Kinsley, 2011) These are futures sketched boldly on powerpoint slides, then revived periodically for the next big keynote.
  3. Futurism as a cover for stasis. The futures of our digital cultures are so often made of recyclable material. They serve to mask the stasis, repetition, and stagnancy in both the Web as a machine of human desire and the Valley as a model of technological innovation. As users are led towards not fulfilment of their technologically induced desires but a recurring cycle of crisis, habit and update (Chun, 2015), entrepreneurs enter their own cycles of prototype and exit, hype and crash (Shapin, 2008: ch8) that yields a growing array of solutions looking for a problem to solve. (Morozov, 2013)

Sources and approach

The paper puts together the still-forming archives of the boom in smart machines over the 2010’s with archives of imagined smart machines in the 1990’s. For the former, I draw on a larger research project on self-tracking technologies, conducted between 2014 and 2017. This included news media, promotional/industry discourse, and interviews and participant observations of the Quantified Self connoisseur community. For the latter, I turn to first-hand readings of the Mark Weiser Archives at Stanford University, supplemented by ongoing research into media and academic discussions of ubicomp, especially in the 1988-1998 period.

10:00-11:15 Session 15B: Digital Migration and the Egyptian Net
Location: OMHP C2.17 (48)
On Digital Migration and the Politics of Disguise: Writing the contemporary histories of Egyptian Internet Culture

ABSTRACT. The fetishization of the revolution in Egypt (2011), led to the production of a scholarship of internet studies that caters for the western academia, limited on the role of the internet in social movements, and dismissing the modalities of internet culture in the region, and the multiple histories written through the everyday use of the internet. This panel aims to widen the academic discourse on Egyptian internet culture to include the salient, yet unattended to practices. It starts by the practice of collective mourning and nostalgia to the once had now lost modernity over Facebook, then explores the role of irony and humor in passing political statements from offline to online cultures, and finally it investigates the production of social and cultural value through the production and the movement of kitsch memes online.

The notions of disguise and digital migration are central to the discussion raised in this panel as they have become instrumental in sustaining societal discussions online – and offline – given the latest new media law[1] cybercrime laws in action [2]. Thus, the retreat to memories of the lost modernity, humor, and kitsch memes becomes an act of disguise even in an unconscious way. Furthermore, the migration of social and political discourse from the physical public sphere to the virtual one, can be as a final attempt of existence. Accordingly, this panel aims at opening a discussion on who writes the Arab internet histories and how especially under the current crash on the freedom of expression in post 2011.

#Alexandria_that_my_eyes_never_saw: The Reading Histories as written on Social Media
Author: Nermin Elsherif

After the media coverage of the 2011 social movement in Egypt as a “Facebook Revolution”, a new wave of users started to join the platform, mostly belonging to an elder generation of parents and grandparents[1]. The new demographics of Facebook resulted in the formation of more diverse digital communities with various narratives about the past and the present. Hashtags like #Alexandria_that_my_Eyes_never_saw, and #Egypt_in_the_great_old_days started to connect the nostalgic narrative of “a great old past” that represented – unlike the present – a middle-class utopia (Ryzova, 2015; Watenpaugh, 2006). This narrative depends mainly on the circulation of vintage images from the early 20 th century, combined with comments, hashtags, and long posts mourning the death of a secular, modern, and cosmopolitan society that ended by the death of pan-Arabism in 1967. The migration of these images is not limited to their movement from an analogue medium to a digital one, but extends to their movement from a personal family archive to being an object of display online. Through this process, they acquire other meanings, they are no longer photos of a group of friends by the sea, they are the image of the great cosmopolitan city, they become what Ryzova (2015) considers, orphan images. Such histories written on Facebook constitute a memoryscape in which the past is both personal and public, where biographies are connected through the affordances of the medium. Thus, this genre of technobiographies requires a methodological framework that stands on the threshold between big data analysis and close reading of images and text. In this paper, I present a detailed mapping of this memoryscapes, based on both digital methods (Rogers, 2012, 2017) and online auto-ethnography. I focus on the practices of remembering Alexandria as a case study for this phenomenon, to investigate what happens when both the algorithmic imaginary (Bucher, 2012; 2016) and the Arab middle-class imaginary of modernity (Watenpaugh, 2006) are intertwined. In other words, what does “remembering together” mean in the age of social media? How did the transition from the early blogger sphere to the current web 2.0 affect these practices of remembrance? To answer these questions, this paper maps the different spaces of remembering, between groups, pages, and personal profiles, to define what common interests they have in common. It traces the origins of the vintage images on the web, trying to find their initial digital source. I extract and analyse the levels and types of interaction between the image post and its public. Finally, I conduct a critical discourse analysis (van Dijck, 1993) of the comments text, and the exchange of text between me and the page admins. Based on the analysis, I argue that the practices of remembering of the lost modernity of Alexandria is in fact a rejection of the unpleasant situation of the city, disguised as nostalgia, and amplified by the architecture of the platform and its algorithmic imaginary.

History of the Egyptian Cyberspace through the Lense of Political Irony
Author: Abdelrahman Hassan

In his paper, ”Search for missing Net Histories” Kevin Driscroll discusses the possibility of building alternate net histories where the user experience shapes the narrative. This narrative moves beyond institutions, protocols and politics to a history where the web history is scene from the lense in which the user experiences it. However, In this paper, I look beyond this linear relationship and into the dilecticality of the political and the personal. More specifically, I aim at tracing the internet history in Egypt from the lenses of irony and virality. I see those two things as a part of a power dialectic that does not only react to, but shapes the historical web trajectory in Egypt. On the other hand, I also argue that the ironic web history starts as an extension of traditional media; constructing a thread between irony in pop and cinema in the late 20th century and the performance of irony on social media networks now. I draw on examples that connect micro-histories of memes to macro-histories of the egyptian cyberspace. The evolution of the internet meme "bala7a" which relates the president to a psychotic movie character is a prominent example of both the thread of irony, and the micro/macro-history convergence. In the first part of this submission, I will study the history of the egyptian cyberspace through the history of irony n. The history of the egyptian cyberspace through irony is a history of Egyptian old media in its totality; memes can be seen as perfect fields where this connection between new media and historical media is forged. In my submission, I aim to outline multiple case studies, including the algorithmic case of president sisi and ‘’bala7a’’, where I will study the meme life cycles and their connection to pre-internet Egyptian pop culture. I would also like to implement a mixed method approach to map the movement of those memes; using both image and network analysis as well as discourse analysis. In the second part of my submission, I will study the person/political dialectic that these meme histories trigger. More specifically, I’m interested in the instrumentalization of memes as objects of psuedo-satire and misinformation . The internet, once a free-for-all revolution-catalyzing haven for activists, is now governed by disinformation and troll dynamics. Internet scholar Whitney Phillips, in her book That’s Why We Can’t Have Nice Things reiterates on the role of online trolls in normalizing certain understandings of cultural socio political tropes. The definition of the 'digital trickster' in the context of Egypt needs to be broadened and redefined. In post-2011 internet habitats, trolls are no longer limited to niche societies and peculiar roles, and they're no longer passive spectators but also active opinion-leaders with close proximity to policy makers. But it is this particular ubiquity of trolling that poses questions: How can we refine our definition of the internet troll? Once the state is an active participant in trolling culture, how can its techniques be exposed and co opted? In this section, I will also conceptualize an unfolding yet historical ' war of trolls' where trolling becomes both a means to assert and dissolve control over the perceived cyberspace. In this light, I will attempt to characterize this counter-revolutionary scene in Egypt post 2013 and to make explicit, the implicit patterns and techniques of disinformation. The organized tactics of the pro-regime have a COINTELPRO-esque omnipresence and tactical knowhow. On the other hand, anti-regime revolutionary tides, although seemingly absent and fading, have been at work to subvert such tactics without being exposed themselves. This subversion then becomes essential due to the increasing and unprecedented hostility towards anti-regime activism both online and offline, where ‘explicit’ dissent puts participants at immediate risk of arrest and detention. However, organized and state-sponsored interference in participatory cultures online is not a novel feat, as illustrated by the 2017 report Troops, Trolls and Trouble Makers . What is particularly novel is the state’s insistent participation in and propagation of online post-ironic narratives. And since post-ironic narratives rely on obstructing the lines between irony and truth, post irony becomes an effective outlet for distortion of normative discourse and normalization of absurdity. In this light, I will make a case for the co-creation of internet histories through this tension between state-sponsored trolling and activist led trolling. The end product of this submission is rather an exploration of how internet history can be constructed through Irony. In the context of the Egyptian cyberspace irony is both a thread that connects new media and old media and a contemporary tool for contesting space and narrative. In a way, irony becomes a collaborative tool between the opponents and the proponents of the status quo, a weapon used by both revolutionary movements and regimes alike. This exploration is done through the study of viral internet tropes, or memes, and an exploration of the political dialectics which they illuminate.

Meme Regimes: Perspectives on value and irony from the influencer scene in Egypt
Author: Eman Shehata

Overview: Towards a Materialist Analysis of Memes

In 2015, Egyptian belly dancer Fifi Abdou started making videos on Snapchat where she would address her fans, experiment with and react to popular filters. Her videos were intriguing to many as she would come up with specific catch phrases to express her love to her followers. Soon enough these catch phrases and the aesthetics of her videos would become highly popular memes and would circulate widely between different groups of youth in Egypt. While some would create ironic posts and videos making fun of her, others found her videos relatable, delegating to them an ‘it me’ subjectivity. However, there comes a time in the life of every meme where it is sentenced to become rubbish and lose value. Despite many attempts by some to declare these memes to death, Fifi Abdou’s videos and catch phrases are now graffitied onto collective memories of youth and seen as ‘shaping Egyptian slang’. In the past couple of years, Fifi Abdou has risen to unprecedented fame and is now considered ‘a queen’ by many. How can something, that has been declared as trash, memetic kitsch, last and become durable? More importantly for the purpose of this conference, can we move past a teleological view of the meme lifecycle? And how can we account for the unpredictable moments, the moments of resurgence of such cultural objects, often seen to operate within a fixed temporal scheme?

Memes, materiality and theories of value

Focusing on different trajectories of memes about Egyptian belly dancer and influencer Fifi Abdou, this contribution draws on the work of anthropologists of material culture to make sense of memes, their movement and sociality. I will do so mainly through the lens of Michael Thompson’s Rubbish Theory . In his book, anthropologist Thompson identifies three categories between which objects circulate: durability, transience and rubbish. His theory points to the dynamism of objects and most prominently the flexibility of rubbish. He shows us how rubbished objects could be transformed into lasting and valuable treasures through creative labors. Following the memes about Fifi Abdou as they move between different categories and regimes of sincerity and irony, I will show how these cultural artifacts have moved from the realms of transience and rubbish to durability. Thus, in a sense, a theory of memes as materialities—inspired by Thompson and discard studies—attests to their flexibility and the unpredictability of their fates. Moreover, I delve further into questions around human creativity and the movement of memes between different categories through looking closely at processes of transformation of value. I thus show how Fifi Abdou herself played a significant role in the movement of memes about her and their transformation into durable objects through her creative use and appropriation of these flexible internet artifacts. In parallel to Thompson, I borrow from Graeber’s work in his book ‘Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value’ (2001). Throughout his discussion on “the importance of actions”, Graeber advances a ‘creative energies’ theory of value, where he starts his third chapter by asking “what if one did try to create a theory of value starting from the assumption that what is ultimately being evaluated are not things, but actions” (2001:49). I follow the former interrogation while taking into account that actions that bring about transformations of value are most likely not intentional. In a way, Fifi may not have consciously intended to mess with the flow of memes, relegating them to a durable realm, yet this is what happened. In doing so, Fifi has also messed with the temporality of the meme, which is assumed to die after reaching a peak point. Furthermore, unlike Laur Jackson (2017), who moves away from conceptions lending ‘agency to the meme’, I propose a dialectical approach that not only considers how people shape memes but how memes shape lives and livelihoods. Memes about Fifi have made her more relevant and have led her to refashion herself online, connecting with millennials (many of whom have not heard of her before the memes) in remarkable ways.

10:00-11:15 Session 15C: Identity
Location: OMHP C1.17 (48)
‘Coming Out’ in Éire: exploring methodologies for finding and recording internet and web histories of the LGBT movement in Ireland

ABSTRACT. In the same year that CERN released the web to the public domain, as royalty-free, (Berners Lee, 1999: 74) homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland. Up until 1993, homosexuality in Ireland was defined as a criminal act as outlined in the Offences against the Persons Act, 1861, a Victorian law which survived in its entirety after Irish Independence. The law was first challenged in the 1970s by the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform, an organisation led by David Norris, a Trinity College lecturer. The campaign successfully led to a ruling in 1988 by the European Court of Justice, which inferred that the criminalisation of male homosexual activities was in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights. Nonetheless, it took another five years for the Irish Government to address this ruling, and decriminalise homosexuality. While ‘Coming Out’ may have been legal, and a liberation of sorts, it could not be assumed to be safe for any LGBT citizen in Ireland to ‘Come Out’, due to a lack of social and legal policies to protect citizens from discrimination and victimisation due to sexual orientation, as well as from homophobic acts of verbal abuse and physical violence (GLEN, 1995; Silak, 2004). Accordingly, several campaigns ensued over the next twenty years, to ensure LGBT citizens were afforded the same rights and protections as their heterosexual counterparts. These campaigns climaxed with the 2015 Marriage Equality Referendum, whereby Ireland became the: “first country in the world to enshrine marriage equality in its written constitution” (Murphy, 2016: 315). So, how did Ireland emerge from being a state that was intent on prohibiting homosexuality up until 1993, to embracing same-sex marriage in 2015?

There is no doubt that the Irish LGBT movement from its infancy to date will be studied and researched in depth for many years to come. To this end, it was with great foresight that LGBT organisations and activists in Ireland were mindful in preserving materials which would later serve to document their histories. This foresight also resulted in the organisation of the Irish Queer Archive in the late 1990s, whereby, organisations and activists could deposit the materials they had preserved. The Irish Queer Archive is a living archive containing books, periodicals, films, and memorabilia as well as documents relating to the internal and external functioning of LGBT organisations from the 1970s onwards, and will be an influential resource for the study of the Irish LGBT movement. On the other hand, there is very little known, or recorded in respect of how Irish LGBT organisations and activists used the mediums of the internet and the web from the 1990s, or how such mediums were included as part of campaign strategies. For example, in terms of the internet, LGBT news and activities originating from Irish email addresses can be found in the Queer Resource Directory as early as 1992, and posts can be traced to Irish based members in the Usenet soc.motss newsgroup as far back as 1991. For some commentators, soc.motts (formerly net.motss) was one of the first international internet newsgroups to focus on LGBT related issues, such as experiences of ‘coming out’, while setting the standards for intellectual debates on topics such as health, relationships, and employment (Auerbach, 2014). In relation to the web, websites of Irish LGBT organisations have undergone many transformations not merely due to technology, but in terms of discourse and web content, as a result of changes achieved in the social and legal landscape, and an increasing liberalisation to discuss topics which were previously Taboo. Therefore, this paper will argue that there will always be a void in the history of the LGBT movement in Ireland, without serious consideration towards, and recognition of internet and web histories as part of the narrative.

This paper will highlight this void in a bid to foster interest for further investigation to understand the relationships of the Irish LGBT movement with the internet and the early web. In doing so, this paper will explore the methodologies and approaches of projects such as the Queer Digital History Project, the Transgender Usenet Archive and TechArchives-Ireland. It will examine how such approaches might be applied for finding and recording internet and web histories of the Irish LGBT movement. The paper will end with a discussion of potential conceptual frameworks for the study of early Irish LGBT websites, vis-à-vis the changing Irish social, economic and political landscape.

10:20 The Cultural History and Social Life of an Indigenous Web-Based Environment

ABSTRACT. In 1994, the tribal council Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO), which is an association of six First Nations in Northwestern Ontario, Canada, established the Kuh-ke-nah Network (KO-KNET) to connect indigenous people in the region's remote communities through and to the internet and the web. At that time, a local telecommunication infrastructure was almost non-existent. KO-KNET started with a simple bulletin board system that allowed community residents to communicate with family members who had to leave home. The overall aim of this community-driven project was to give people a choice and the possibility to stay in their home communities (e.g., Beaton et al., 2009; Fiser & Clement, 2012). Today, the developed ICT infrastructure includes landline and satellite broadband internet as well as internet-based mobile phone communication, all under the control of the local communities. Moreover, KO-KNET established services that have become widely popular beyond the KO communities. KO eHealth and Telemedicine allow for consulting doctors in southern towns through videoconferencing before making an expensive trip to the hospital. By attending the Keewaytinook Internet High School, students have the opportunity to complete their education in their home communities. And the service enables people to produce and develop their own websites. was set up around the year 2000 for young First Nations people to create digital presences within a cost- and commercial-free space on the web. In the years to follow, different age groups across Northwestern Ontario, a region with an overall indigenous population of about 45,000, and the neighbouring regions started to use this web hosting environment, which still is a free service exclusively for First Nations people. While had approximately 25,000 active homepages in 2013, these numbers have dropped dramatically since 2014; with about 2,890 homepages in October 2018. This decrease is mainly due to KO-KNET’s decision to switch to Wordpress as’s hosting platform to reduce administration and maintenance costs. This move required users to set up new websites. Additionally, has experienced a steady decline of active users over the last six years due to the rise of commercial social networking platforms such as Facebook. Even though’s best days are over, it used to be extremely popular among First Nations people, particularly between 2004 and 2008. This was mainly because of two reasons. First, supported people to establish and maintain social connections across spatial distance in an infrastructurally disadvantaged region. They communicated by writing messages in the homepage’s communication boxes and they linked their homepages to the pages of family members and friends. Second, contributed to different forms of cultural representation and identity construction. Homepage producers utilized the service to represent themselves, their families, and their communities by displaying and sharing pictures, music, texts, and artwork (Bell et al., 2012; Budka, 2015; Budka, et al., 2009).

This paper discusses aspects of's historical development and social life. In doing so, it builds on data that was collected in a bigger anthropological project that explored’s sociocultural significance. Within this project I did fieldwork in Northwestern Ontario (six months between 2006 and 2008 in First Nation communities, organizations, offices, and schools, including participant observation, group discussions, and 96 unstructured and partially structured interviews) and in (following research partners’ online activities between 2006 and 2014, including participant observation and informal conversations via e-mail and chat tools). During fieldwork many people told me stories about their first websites in the early 2000s and how they changed over time. People very vividly described how their homepages were designed and structured and to which other websites they were linked. To deepen my interpretation and understanding of these stories, I utilized the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine – whenever possible – to recover archived versions of these websites. Thus, the Waybeback Machine became an important archaeological tool for my research into the history of Such an approach focuses not only on the stories told by people but also on the digital artifacts created by people and has therefore been described as “cyber-archaeology” (e.g. Harrison, 2009). These digital artifacts are also cultural artifacts through which changing forms of digital sociality and material culture can be studied. While this paper refers to a specific period in the history of, which is marked by the culmination of user accounts in 2007 and the decline of users around 2011, it also refers to stories and the digital material culture related to's genesis. This way, I argue, it is possible to get a deeper understanding of human engagements with digital media technologies.

China's Provincial Internet

ABSTRACT. How has the "regional" come forward in "cyberspace"? People used to imagine the Internet as a virtual space where activities get unmoored from physical places near and far. This de-territorial vision, albeit still dominating popular media, has been proven empirically flawed. Scholarships mapping the infrastructures, protocols, hyperlinks, and linguistic features, as well as user activities on digital platforms such as Twitter and Wikipedia, have demonstrated the fractions of the Internet in correspondence to offline regions. Oftentimes operating on (supra)national levels, these existing studies tend to attribute online content regionalization to the users’ innate geo-linguistic affinities. Conveying the presence of sub-national regions online, a separate body of literature comes from inquiries into how traditional media and government services develop their online storefronts. Since these actors are territorially bound, so are the online entities constructed to represent them. This line of research, therefore, revolves around these singular actors as the unit of analysis, rather than examines the emergence of the regional web as a dynamic, fraught process comprised of negotiations between multiple actors and agendas.

Against this backdrop, this essay documents the untold history of the emergence of China’s provincial-level online portals, which provides an excellent site for exploring the socio-economic, political, and material processes behind content regionalization on the Internet, a hitherto understudied area. Further, it discusses the profound consequences of sub-national online hubs on content production, cultural identity, and Internet policy-making.

Our analysis draws from a variety of data sources. Our archival research includes yearbooks and annual reports on the development of Chinese news media and telecommunication from 1995 to present, records of conferences and officials’ speech related to Chinese media industry and digital technology, documents released by the government focused on online content and telecommunication, as well as memoirs written by key individuals in China’s Internet industry. Also included are analyses of historical usage data from 2009 to 2017, provided by comScore and iResearch, both large measurement companies providing passively measured behavioral data from recruited panels. Such data offer glimpses of the vibrant user activities on a number of particularly popular Chinese provincial portals, which otherwise escape the Chinese Internet’s dominant historical narrative.

The essay traces the decades-long trajectory involving telecommunication companies, legacy media organizations, and propaganda directives from the central government. The mid-late 1990s saw the emergence of Chinese websites providing locality-specific content. Branches of China Telecom Corporation that served affluent locations with early Internet adoption ventured to build a series of “information ports” and exploited their existing Internet service reach to attract users. Meanwhile, traditional media, including national media defined by distinct specializations as well as newspapers and broadcasting at different administration levels, sought to dive into the waves of digitalization and establish their online presence. Around the same time, upon China’s connection to the World Wide Web as a relatively late comer to the new virtual space, the Chinese state set out to build Chinese-language web and represent “China’s voice” to “the rest of the world.” These three forces were brought into a two-decade long negotiation filled with shifting imaginaries about Internet technology and information, competing economic interests, compulsion and compromises of policy imperatives, and the rebalancing of power. In the process arose a set of provincial-level information and entertainment portals with substantial user-base, a phenomenon that is distinctly Chinese.

The “provincialization” of China’s Internet bears two main implications. First, the “mainstreaming” of Chinese online cultures has been widely observed since the mid-2010s. We argue that this “mainstreaming” has its beginning during the materialization of China’s provincial Internet since the 1990s, when online content production on scale became locked into state jurisdiction. Second, the emergence of China’s provincial Internet also pioneered the state’s subsequent efforts in “linking” online and offline entities, such as real-name user registration and the push for government branches, traditional media, and corporations to set up “official” accounts on nationwide digital platforms. We consider these a series of “indexing” measures that map the web onto physical entities within the national territory, which is crucial to envisaging and implementing the sovereignty-based Internet governance approach. In recent years, China has been forcefully advancing this Internet governance approach, contending against the multi-stakeholder approach campaigned by many International organizations.

Finally, this essay foregrounds the “provincial” to problematize the notion of the “Chinese Internet” as a monolithic entity. We theorize, beyond the Chinese context, how the concept of the “provincial” may serve as a sensitizing devise to identify within “national Internets” the dynamisms in political economy and cultural imagination that typically escape academic searchlight.

10:00-11:15 Session 15D: Vernacular Creativity
Location: OMHP C0.17 (84)
“I’m singing with my laptop, making up new songs”: Automated music-making and vernacular appropriation in the moment that was, and future that wasn’t, of Microsoft Songsmith

ABSTRACT. In January 2009, Microsoft Research uploaded to YouTube a commercial for a new piece of software: Songsmith. The video highlighted the easy usability of the software, where it would generate a backing track in a chosen genre to the user’s own singing. However, the banality of the commercial’s scenario – a marketer attempting to write a jingle for glow-in-the-dark towels – and its quality significantly overshadowed the technical achievements of Songsmith’s automated music creation. Rather than being an impressive demonstration of the software, the Songsmith commercial was ideal – and likely intentional – fodder for mockery (Stross, 2009).

At the time, YouTube’s potential for both user creativity and memetic possibilities was already being realised (Burgess and Green, 2008). Tay Zonday’s ‘Chocolate Rain’ (April 2007) was an early example of an original creation that garnered intense viral attention and parody. Thanks to the growing ubiquity of the practice in 2008, many internet users were no strangers to love when they got Rickrolled by inadvertently launching the video for Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ – indeed, even before January 2009, Rickrolling had gone from niche, 4chan-led practice to mainstream and (arguably) over-played, where YouTube’s 2008 April Fools’ Day joke involved Rickrolling all visitors to the site, and where Astley himself was in on the joke in the 2008 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The US band Weezer’s video for ‘Pork and Beans’, meanwhile, a celebration of early YouTube memes and viral celebrities with cameos from the likes of Zonday and Chris “Leave Britney Alone” Crocker, dates back to May 2008…

Releasing the particular Songsmith commercial into this environment meant that it received widespread attention. In addition to generating buzz about Songsmith, the video also led to new creative, memetic approaches to the software itself, leaving behind the commercial. With Songsmith available as a free demo, an immediate meme was created, with vocal tracks from popular songs backed incongruously with Songsmith’s automated, synthesised instrumentation – a salsa take on Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, for example, or Will Smith’s ‘Wild Wild West’ with a bluegrass arrangement.

The memetic appeal of Songsmith was short-lived, though. Attention died down later in 2009, and while the software survived, it has not been updated in several years; the last stable version was released in 2012, although its website remains active and occasional user questions are still answered. Any attempt on Microsoft’s part to make Songsmith a competitor for Apple’s Garageband was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, two years after Songsmith’s launch, an unrelated video appeared on YouTube that seemed to deliver on all the possibilities of the software’s promotional video – upbeat and catchy but unvarying melodies, inane, seemingly stream-of-consciousness lyrics about mundane situations – taken to the next level: Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’; as a professional release, ‘Friday’ had higher production values – for both song and video – than a Songsmith project, however its unflinching sincerity and innocence meant that there was a strong similarity to the Songsmith video.

Similarly, the meme culture of which Songsmith versions were a part of, has morphed and moved away from this fairly innocent form – songs mostly unadulterated beyond the new backing track – into a more visceral experience, twisting the familiar in new directions, making the viewing an act of endurance. From ‘shreds’ videos, mocking up off-key dubbing and sound effects onto live performances, to remixes where it’s the same but different (‘All Star but every other beat is missing’, ‘All Star but it gets 15% faster every time he says ‘the’’), music meme cultures draw on shared references, both in well-known songs and the extensive memetic vernaculars of 4chan and reddit, mutated into new forms.

This paper explores the initial release of Songsmith as a moment in web history that was, and a future that wasn’t: where the software, intended as educational tool for music-making and aesthetically grounded in the early Web, was appropriated by the vernacular creativity (Burgess, 2008) of early YouTube and beyond; and where memory of that moment, only 10 years on, is somewhat lost. Many videos participating in Songsmith-as-meme have long since disappeared from YouTube, for copyright reasons but also as accounts are deleted. Automated music creation, meanwhile, has developed with technological improvements to AI-led music-making with commercial aims (Dredge, 2017), offering more polished and professional-sounding output than Songsmith’s MIDI backing tracks. This paper demonstrates how the story of Songsmith offers cultural insights into the web that was – and the web that came to be – in the longevity and aesthetics of memes and software, the technical capabilities of the time, and in the realisation of vernacular appropriation.

“MySpace Had Us All Coding”: A Nostalgic (Re)imagining of ‘Web 2.0’

ABSTRACT. Early social networking sites such as MySpace laid the groundwork for what are now known as ‘social media platforms’ (Baym, 2015), and established expectations around how user-generated online spaces are best designed and experienced. Within three years of its 2003 launch, MySpace became the most visited website in the United States (Cashmore, 2006). However, by 2009, competing social networking site Facebook surpassed MySpace in both global and U.S. traffic (Albanesius, 2009), becoming and remaining the dominant Western social network. In describing why MySpace lost out to Facebook, MySpace’s former Vice President of Online Marketing referred to the website as a “massive spaghetti-ball mess” that was plagued by lack of focus and corporate mismanagement (Dredge, 2015).

Although MySpace fell from dominance almost ten years ago, we are currently witnessing a profound MySpace nostalgia as the site is being re-imagined and idealized by its former users. Recent critiques of Facebook as a surveillance behemoth with constrained design has prompted a wistfulness for the “free form self-expression” of earlier web spaces (Chayka, 2014). One way that this nostalgic conceptualization of MySpace has materialized is through a Twitter meme about MySpace and computer programming skills that has been circulating on the platform since late 2015, particularly amongst users who represent themselves as Black or as young women. This meme is encapsulated in a (now-deleted) viral tweet from user @StillEWills which states, “MySpace had us all coding and not knowing that we were flirting with a six figure skill”.

While the exact composition of the tweets vary, the MySpace Had Us All Coding meme: (1) articulates the creative and technical skills that MySpace required to customize profile pages, (2) highlights that contemporary social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat) do not require these skills, and (3) conveys a sense of regret that users did not further develop these skills and translate them into highly-paid programming careers. The sentiments in this meme reflect a stark reimagining of MySpace: rather than an amateurish “ghetto” where children were at risk of victimization (boyd, 2011) or a “junk heap of bad design” (Parker quoted in Tsotsis, 2011) that reflected the racialized and classed tastes of its least desirable users (boyd, 2011), MySpace is instead a site of artistic self-expression where youth who were traditionally excluded from computer science learned highly sought-after skills that are increasingly valued as a conduit to well-paid jobs in the technology sector.

Niemeyer asserts that, more than a trend or fashion, nostalgia often expresses or hints at something deeper related to imagining and (re)inventing the past, present, and future (2014, p.2). Taking inspiration from Niemeyer’s provocation, “what is nostalgia doing?” (ibid.), we ask, how should we make sense of the generation and persistence of the MySpace Had Us All Coding meme? We argue that this nostalgia is rooted in a dissatisfaction with ‘the web that is’: platforms with fixed identity and profiling architectures that prioritize individuals’ monetizable behaviors rather than their creative self-expression. This longing for the original promises of ‘Web 2.0’, particularly the ability of users to perform identity through intricate profile customization (Zimmer, 2008, n.p.), has been at least partly inspired by the emergence of a contemporary ‘learn to code discourse’ that positions computer programming as essential for individual access to the most desirable and highly-paid labor markets, particularly for marginalized groups such as women and people of color (Miltner, 2018). MySpace users needed to learn basic HTML and CSS in order to modify their profiles, affordances that are mostly absent from contemporary social media platforms; this skill acquisition is now being framed as MySpace’s “coding legacy” (Codecademy, 2018).

The nostalgia underpinning the MySpace Had Us All Coding meme tells an important story about how the values and desires connected with technology can shift in a relatively short span of time. Most significantly, it tells us that the fetishization of coding skills in the contemporary labor market has caused the very elements that made MySpace “lose out” to Facebook - its “messy” (Dredge, 2015) design, and the dominance of people of color and young women - to be reframed as desirable and monetizable. Recent calls for women and ‘underrepresented minorities’ to enter the technology industry has given their perceptions and experiences new credence, particularly when it comes to origin stories about learning to code. In sum, the MySpace Had Us All Coding meme is a powerful reminder of the influence contemporary discourses have over our re-imagining of the past.

Years of the Internet: Vernacular creativity before, on and after the Chinese Web

ABSTRACT. The Internet arrived in Mainland China on the 26th of August 1986, and its early years in the country were characterized by academic frustration, technical pessimism, bureaucratic impediments and international mistrust. Offered to the country’s general public in 1996, ten years after its first infrastructural link, the Internet has become, in the span of little more than two decades, a fundamental part of the everyday life of the majority of Chinese citizens. One peculiar consequence of the accelerated and compressed development of ICTs in China has been the conflation of the Internet (as a network of networks) and the Web (as an information-sharing protocol) in the experience of a large majority of users. The first Web server in China was installed in 1994, when only a minimal fraction of the population had access to the Internet, so that the users coming online during and after the ‘Year of the Internet’ of 1996, along exponential growth rates propelling the Chinese user population to 2.1 million by the end of 1998, could already experience the Internet not only through e-mail and bulletin boards, but also through web browsers and link directories.

The idea of the ‘vernacular’ was introduced as early as 1960 by anthropologist Margaret Lantis, and a particular attention to everyday forms of speech has been extended (most famously by the work of Michel de Certeau) to the user practices resulting from the consumers’ tactical engagement with popular culture and media. The vernacular has been more recently discussed by various authors in linguistics, media and cultural studies, becoming central in Jean Burgess' definition of ‘vernacular creativity’ as a productive articulation of new consumer practices with older popular traditions in the context of digital mediation. With the popularization of Internet access and digital media platforms, these communicative practices become increasingly central in everyday life, and the rift between active producers and passive consumers shrinks into a permeable boundary. In this chapter, I adopt Burgess’ definition of vernacular creativity in order to distill a chronology of the Web in China from the point of view of the creative practices of its users.

This paper offers an episodic chronology of Internet use in China by singling out six landmark years and highlighting how creative practices have been shaping the adoption of the technology before, during and after the popularization of the World Wide Web as the primary information space for hundreds of millions of Chinese Internet users. After introducing the early years of local Internet development and arguing for a historical perspective that highlights how the creative practices of local users have shaped three decades of ICT development in the country, I chronicle six historical turning points (the years 1987, 1995, 1998, 2001, 2005 and 2011) exemplified by different forms of vernacular creativity, each connected to the rise and fall of communication protocols, coding standards, content-management systems and social media platforms. Starting from the pre-Web examples of e-mail and BBSs, I follow everyday creative usage through the boom of amateur homepages, community portals and blogs, towards the looming enclosure of the Web hidden behind contemporary social media platforms. In the conclusion, I argue that vernacular creativity provides a productive thread through which the advent, popularity and disappearance of the Web can be followed from the point of view of regional populations of Internet users.

11:15-11:45Coffee Break
11:45-12:45 Session 16: Keynote: Megan Sapnar Ankerson

Dr. Megan Sapnar Ankerson (University of Michigan)

Zombies, Robots and Time Machines: Improbable Histories of the World Wide Web

What is “the web that was”? In important ways, the question is an invitation to reimagine what it means to do web history and think historically about networked algorithmically-generated records more broadly. Born-digital archives encountered through platforms like the Wayback Machine and Google Streetview are important objects to think with about the epistemologies, temporalities, and lived experiences of a digitally networked archived life: they are material-semiotic sites through which we encounter history anew. While the “material turn” has inspired research into the infrastructural, algorithmic and programmable aspects of digital platforms, surging interest in materiality has come at the expense of critical attention to the semiotic dimensions of sociotechnical systems. This talk therefore turns to the “tropic” role of language in order to probe the tensions and contradictions that trouble categories of truth, knowledge and evidence in the digital era. Drawing inspiration from Donna Haraway’s famous figure of the cyborg in modern technoscience, I turn to three figures that can be found lurking in the technical documentation of web archives: zombies, robots, and time machines. These figures emerge in these documents not for fictional or dramatic purposes, but as a way to help explain the uncanny temporalities encountered in the process of archiving the “live web.” More than just colorful metaphors that infuse geek culture, I approach these figurations as material-semiotic nodes that register interference patterns in the archival epistemologies of modernity. Zombies, robots and time machines trouble distinctions between past and future, archived and live, automated and human, and in doing, they direct us towards the political work and queer potential of grappling with “improbable artifacts,” historical records that challenge the categories and schemas put in place in the creation of modern archival systems and principles in the 19th century. Recognizing the queer potential of web archives, I suggest, is an opportunity to harness different perspectives on “what was” and what “will be” in order to read against the grain of algorithmic logics of probability and prediction.


12:45-14:00Lunch break

Brown bag lunches will be available in the Allard Pierson Museum Café (Google Maps link). There is limited seating in the café itself, but plenty of nice outdoor spaces in the surrounding area. 

From 13:30-13:50, come and join Robert Jansma for a walk through Digital Amsterdam of 1998. De Digitale Stad was a BBS and then a website that pioneered internet use in the Netherlands. We will be looking at a replica based on the FREEZE, a backup made during the two year anniversary of DDS. To join this session, go and head to the conference exhibition in BG2 (Google maps link). Space is limited, so please arrive early and follow the instructions of conference volunteers.

14:00-15:15 Session 17A: Countercultures and Counterhistory
Location: OMHP C1.17 (48)
Nurturing the Nodes: Early Carework for Future Hubs of Computational Culture

ABSTRACT. This talk seeks to undermine the primacy of Vannevar Bush as an architect of digital culture by reimagining the story of national computing infrastructure through the framework of feminized care work and the narrative of Mina Rees. It argues that early forms of networked computational media were situated in collaborative spaces in which labor oriented around utilization, maintenance, and domesticity were understood to be essential duties. Rather than focusing exclusively on programmers, engineers, or designers as potential “mothers of invention,” this essay focuses on the infrastructural planners who grappled with the actual messiness of networks – including how they were situated in interpersonal relationships, familial and neighborly rivalries, and struggles to keep up appearances. Experts like Mina Rees served as the social workers of the digital age, performing what were effectively “home” inspections before a mainframe computer could be placed in a hub of technocultural innovation.

Histories of digital media often begin with Bush and his famed account of personal computing and disintermediation, which was to be enabled by an imagined device that he called the “memex.” In collections of seminal texts — from Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort’s New Media Reader to Wendy Chun and Thomas Keenan’s New media, old media — the curation of essays authored by Bush seems to burnish his reputation as a pioneer and prophet and one of what Peter Lunenfeld has called “the patriarchs” in the history of computing culture. Although Bush imagined the memex as an item of furniture, specifically a kind of desk equipped with scanning and replication technologies, the domestic context of computing is largely excised from his account of a future “machine which types when talked to.” According to Bush, access to a device capable of automated selection will supposedly liberate its operator from repetitive drudgery and information overload. But no one seems to worry about the memex being maintained in Bush’s story. Unlike other kinds of household technologies that might generate what Ruth Schwartz Cohen has called “more work for mother” as expectations for performance were continually recalibrated and scutwork was consigned to women, Bush’s memex was presented unconditionally as a labor-saving device for which strategies of care and repair require no consideration.

But what if we tell the story of innovation differently to rebut the canonical account of the solo white male inventor myth? Important work has already been done on the history of women “computers” by Janet Abbate, Marie Hicks, and many others, but relatively little has been written about their challenging roles as infrastructural mediators who were responsible for organizing and rationalizing material, financial, legal, and human resources to establish specific geographical hubs for technological innovation, many of which were far from Silicon Valley, Xerox PARC, or other sites of celebrated discovery. Locations were often chosen based on domestic rather than entrepreneurial criteria with inspection of the computer’s potential home environment at a university or research center a necessary precondition for consideration. Despite often being perceived as low status “assistants” who were responsible for site visits and summarizing documents, those who were attentive to technological carework were often essential decision makers for establishing the conditions of regional advantage.

Responsible Computing Before the Web

ABSTRACT. Debates about the moral fiber of the Internet and its computational backdrop have been around since its inception and in recent years these debates have intensified. This article uncovers the history of one activist group which attempted to steer the future of computing based on their moral principles and political values. Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) started in 1981, lasted for over 30 years, and influenced many of today’s leading Internet watchdog and social justice groups. The rich history of CPSR has important lessons for the Internet and its advocacy today.

CPSR’s expansive reach and decentralized, chapter-driven work agenda meant that the organization addressed a wide-ranging set of concerns over its long history. Using extensive archival material and interviews with key figures, we highlight three such topics within CPSR, each drawn from the fertile period of computing history that surrounds the rapid expansion of Internet technologies (1981-1996): military funding and the limitations of technology, civil liberties, and the responsible design of computing technologies. Through these initiatives, CPSR informed many of today’s most powerful Internet advocacy groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), while advocating for the rights of computer workers and helping to introduce and transform a radical Scandinavian labour movement for a corporate North American audience.

These case studies are motivated by CPSR’s central conceit that computer professionals ought to consider the ethical implications of their work and educate the public and government about computing and its limits. We define the term “responsibility” in the context of social values in a capitalist society and briefly trace the parallel emergence of “responsibility organizations,” especially as they are connected to Corporate Social Responsibility, which has since become a ubiquitous corporate mandate.

The first topic we address is moral resistance to military funding and the development of computing technologies for military use. While this topic has renewed interest today—for example, for workers who resist building state-sponsored surveillance technologies—for CPSR members it grew out of concerns about computer-aided nuclear war. In 1981, the US government was still deep into the Cold War and was pursuing the development of the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), also known as “Star Wars.” The SDI relied on advanced detection and “launch on warning” capabilities made possible with emerging computing technologies that, according to CPSR members, were too fallible for use in critical applications. It was, in fact, resistance to the US military that initially brought together computer professionals at XEROX PARC to form the nascent CPSR. Over time, many CPSR members established a bright moral line for their professional activities by refusing to work on military applications of any sort. Unlike most activism today, these politics were underpinned by a belief that technology is limited and ought to be restricted.

At the end of the Cold War and with easing nuclear tensions, CPSR’s activism dispersed and broadened. It is in this political context that we address our second topic—emerging conceptions of computer and Internet “civil liberties” and “privacy,” which were taken up energetically by some but definitely not all of the members of CPSR. Using the methods previously developed for educating and shaping policy about SDI, CPSR members addressed broad privacy-related issues, including a new federal policy that would expand digital recordkeeping in the context of the criminal justice system. Key members of CPSR eventually started EPIC, an Internet privacy advocacy organization. When CPSR was in dire financial shape in the early 1990s, the EFF stepped in to support their efforts, initiating an era of cross-pollination and collaboration between the two organizations.

The third topic, responsible design of computing technologies, originated outside of CPSR but was introduced and incubated by members of the associated scholarly community. The particular version of responsible design that emerged within CPSR was a radical Scandinavian labour movement known as Participatory Design. In the 1970s, Scandinavian Participatory Design was largely used for addressing labour issues, especially social justice and equity matters in traditional settings like factories. As it developed and was taken up in the US, organizations like CPSR promoted its use by simultaneously referencing its past as a tool for workers but also by transforming it for use in digital design environments. Before long, participatory design emerged as a design technique palatable for the rapidly developing US computer industry, incorporating consumer needs and desires and taking on the name of “human centered design,” “user experience,” and “design thinking.”

What can the World Wide Web learn from the Wood Wide Web?

ABSTRACT. Today’s internet has become like Deleuze’s societies of control, media scholars argue. The network’s invisible infrastructure, with near global reach, has amplified hierarchies, and is owned, exploited and surveilled by internet, advertising, and data-analytics companies, and by state security institutions. With the digital data produced by the often banal and quotidian activities of millions of internet users – or dividuals – a monopoly of a handful of Tech Giants accumulate massive amounts of wealth, and influence. The world wide web, various media scholars contend, has degenerated to a serpent’s coil. This article argues that the rhizomatic Wood Wide Web provides a basis from which to rethink today’s debate on the present and future of the internet, and challenges a predominant understanding of the societies control. Beneath our feet and beyond our perception, a subterranean meshwork of trees, mushrooms and fungi forms an ecology of trans-species solidarity, singularities, and creative, collaborative interactivity that could carry us outside the entrapments of the supposed totality of the societies of control. What can the World Wide Web learn from the Wood Wide Web?

14:00-15:15 Session 17B: Territories and Topologies
Location: OMHP C2.17 (48)
Territories and Topologies of the Early Web: Internet Cafés, Cyber Geographies, APIs, and Graph Topologies

ABSTRACT. The panel raises the question of how new technological assemblages, often referred to as digital networks, have profoundly transformed not only our social, but also our cultural, economical and political fields of action over the last 30 years. It thus focuses on the “sense of place” that the Early Web has created. At the beginning of the 1990s, a very active media culture scene emerged and provided a space to discuss the potential of newly built network technologies (e.g. Critical Art Ensemble, nettime, Ponton/Van Gogh TV, Digitale Stad Amsterdam and Old Boys Network). These pioneer projects serve as the starting point of our discussion, particularly if we define them as experimental, localized playgrounds for new forms of media and social practices, which have become part of our everyday culture. Hence, it is essential to look back to the early days of network-building, if we want to understand the transformation of what was then called “online” spaces or “cyberspace”, and the transformations of data topographies within an ongoing “topological shift” that accompanied the Web 2.0.

With this panel we revisit this critical time when the Internet was not yet an everyday reality, but when its spatial characteristics were regarded as something entirely new, “an other space” that became an affordance for exploring and building anew. The historical context of net topographies and topologies, therefore, provides a basis to critically engage with the current discourses about the weal and woe of the Internet and its geopolitical use and abuse. To do so, we revisit loci communi of the Early Web, and their transformation within Web 2.0: the Internet café, geographies of cyberspace, the rise of Web dashboards and APIs, and the secret and not-so-secret appropriation of graph technologies.

Revisiting the History of Internet Cafés in the 1990s and early 2000s

The early years of the Web have also been the years of Internet or cyber cafés. A comparatively marginal phenomenon today, at least in the global North, these public access points were a vivid cultural feature in the 1990s and early 2000s. They became a critical public infrastructure especially for anyone who could not afford to use the new media technologies at home, or who would not find access through universities, research facilities of similar institutions, or who started out unaware of the Internet and the World Wide Web altogether.

Until recently, ethnographical accounts from anthropology, sociology, geography or science and technology studies have examined the role of Internet cafés as meeting places for various social groups or subcultures. To broaden this view, my paper will address this issue by taking into account the role of Internet cafés as contact zones and media use environments that 2 contributed to the awareness, experience, understanding and imagination of the Web as an evolving global, cultural practice of everyday life in the 1990s and the early 2000s. In particular, I will provide an in-depth case study of Internet cafés in Germany in order to examine more closely how this local variety of a global phenomenon evolved. Germany makes for an interesting case due to the rather slow diffusion of the WWW in the private homes, but also because it has been widely overlooked by early Internet café research, which focused mostly on Anglo-American and Scandinavian countries.

I will start with a short contextualization of earlier publicly accessible online services such as the Community Memory Project, the Electronic Café and the SF Net Coffeehouse Network, and look also at the German videotext system Bildschirmtext or BTX as another discursive precursor of the Web. I will then outline the rhetoric and material configurations of German Internet cafés in the 1990s and early 2000s and show how they have structured and have been structured by imaginations, ambivalent discourses and social practices. Those reach from economic speculations and opportunities in the wake of the new economy to pedagogical questions concerning the media literacy of the youth, of unemployed people, and of senior citizens. Finally, I will discuss economic and especially legal issues, that led to the decline of Internet cafés, before addressing WiFi-cafés as a new arabesque from the mid-2000s.

To give an account of this somewhat neglected or even marginalized cultural phenomenon as a part of the Web’s general history is to reflect on the challenges and the opportunities of such an endeavour. Based on a variety of written and visual sources from newspapers, magazines, archival resources and legal documents, my paper will also take into account websites of earlier, no longer existing Internet cafés, as well as various other sources from social media platforms. I will argue that Internet cafés offer a specific, local perspective on the history of the Early Web that is intertwined with wider social and cultural contexts of consumption, lifestyle, education, law and everyday life. In conclusion, this paper will aim to offer new insights into the diffusion, normalization and conventionalization of the Web as a mass medium, as well as into the challenges and opportunities of writing its various histories.

Cyber Geographies, Web Topologies

When Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchin published their “Atlas of Cyberspace” (2001), a period of rapid expansion of the Web had found its media geographical expression. While also taking into account popular visual imaginations of the new digital spaces, Dodge and Kitchin (2000) have extensively aimed at a literal and metaphorical mapping of geographies of cyberspace. In our talk, we are going to revisit these early epistemic practices of mapping cyberspace, and compare them to the mundane shift from the early Web to Web 2.0 technologies and practices. How were the early geographies of cyberspace created, in terms of metrics, software use, and reference to the sociotechnical practices of online usage? With this 3 deliberate juxtaposition and crossover, we want to ask how the “spatiality of cyberspace” of the 1990s turned into spaces of data flow regulation via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This is an experimental talk, in which emphasis is put on the epistemic and infrastructural practices that generate the spaces and architectures of the Web (and their imaginaries). How did the dislocated, othered “cyberspace” and its geographies end up in dashboards and APIs that manage actual data flows and territories? What exactly happened during the shift when webmasters became extinct and web developers took over?

One way to look at this is through the definition of Web 1.0 as a pull medium. As the Web became a push medium new technologies and skills have become dominant. In response to the great demand for Web APIs Flickr’s Catherine Fake, for instance, suggested the term Web Biz 2.0 to emphasize the contractual nature of the professionalized Web. Following Flickr and Salesforce, new social networking services of the early 2000s, such as Google Maps (2006, in response to hacking the JavaScript interface) and Facebook (2007, introduced the developers platform in response to crawling and scraping) began opening direct access to their backend services. In providing access through standardized Web APIs, on the one hand, corporate Web applications set up their businesses to the processes of platformization (Helmond 2015, Rochet and Tirole 2003) and gained in popularity and growth through a horizontal expansion. On the other hand, publicly available APIs permit stricter control over corporate Web data – and hence, network orchestration. Web APIs are first and foremost services. Services are subjects to contracts, they are agreements over the conditions under which the provider will offer its service to the other side. APIs are not only interfaces to external applications and Websites (Public APIs and Partner APIs), they are, most often, Internal Private APIs that also push the data into user interfaces e.g. Facebook’s timeline, chronic and other elements of social media GUIs that have become the dominant Web aesthetics. Through its Graph API, Facebook even claims to have the social graph at their disposal. Yet, being software architecture styles, the entire spectrum of Web APIs is by its technical definition a coordinated set of architectural constraints that restrict the role or features of architectural elements as well as the relationships allowed among those elements.

So what do Web APIs mediate, and how were they able to reconfigure both topographies and topologies within the infrastructure of the Web? Which values were taken into account for the regulation of data streams, and which did not seem to matter? Our experimental idea is that the development from the early Web to Web 2.0 is best described as a “topological shift” that abandoned the abundant geographies of cyberspace(s), while thus creating new topographies of usage that in turn became affordances for platformization and graph-based surveillance.

Graphs & Graph-Appropriations 1998–2008

When asked what exactly they were doing former NSA technical director William Binney answered to German politicians: “We build a graph of the world.” The occasion of this interrogation was the special investigative commission established by the German Parliament in the wake of the Snowden affair. Binney’s testimony is astonishing for at least two reasons: first it shows that the NSA considered graphs as an essential asset, secondly the timeframe he is referring to is 1998. During this time he was one of the lead architects of the project ThinThread, a graph-based database meant to consolidate all information collected by the NSAs worldwide signal intelligence endeavors. Binney asserts that it was his insistence on the privacy provisions for US-Citizens built into ThinThread that lead to his eventual resignation.

1998 also marks the publication of the PageRank-paper by Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin. The PageRank algorithm introduced by the authors shows that representing web-pages as a graph allows for a high-performance search-service delivering satisfactory search-results. In the wake of Google, capturing web-activity as a graph became an essential part of digital economies. Facebook, launched in 2004 managed to capture social life as a graph, which Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg calls the social-graph. Companies like Twitter, Amazon but also telecommunication providers rely on graphs as an essential element of their business model.

Concurrently to these developments the American security establishment began to utilize graphs as a tool in the War on Terror. With the publication of a Counterinsurgency Field Manual by the US-Army in 2006 and the introduction of the Human Terrain System graphcapture and exploitation became a doctrinaire element not only for clandestine services, but for the military at large. A large literature on terrorist-networks and so called shaping of graphs developed at US-military-academies, and military institutions like the DARPA focused funding on Social-Network Analysis and other graph-related topics.

My contribution to this panel offers a discourse analysis of the available material on the role of graphs as strategic assets both in business as well as in geopolitical contexts. Based on the discoursive material it will be shown that the timeframe roughly between 1998 and 2008 can be understood as graph-appropriations where large actors sought to capture web-activity as 5 graphs. For economic actors building business-models on top of these graphs became a premier business model and an important stepping stone to what latter was called platforms. For geopolitical actors the publicly available material allows for a reconstruction of the trajectory of the Web being regarded as an unwieldy and post-national space to a resource for strategic graph-appropriations.

Both for the business as well as for the geopolitical actors it can be shown that the discourses around graphs entail a particular notion of totality. Binney’s “graph of the world” is an indication of this: the entirety of electronic interactions was to be captured. Similar notions can be found with Facebook, Amazon or other economic actors utilizing graphs as a strategic asset. They strive to capture the totality of interactions relevant for their respective business model. This all-encompassing notion particular to graphs stands in stark contrast to the local and heterogeneous conception of the Web that dominated much of the discourse on global cultures during the 1990s and early 2000s.

The talk will conclude with a reflection on the theoretical framing of such graphappropriations. Utilizing Carl Schmitts notion of Land-appropriations (Landnahmen) as well as of locating and order (Ortung & Ordnung) a critical approach to Schmitt’s inherently identarian theory of the relation between law and land will be offered. Here the media-history of means to appropriate spaces and to locate will be employed to investigate the emergence of graphs as means to create order in an orderless Web.

14:00-15:15 Session 17C: Constructing Archives Together
Location: OMHP C0.23 (26)
Finding traces in YouTube’s non-archival archive

ABSTRACT. On April 23, 2005 the first video on YouTube was uploaded by Jawed Karim, one of the founders of the website. During that year, “Jawed” would upload more video clips. But only his first one, titled “Me at the Zoo”, is available on YouTube. Years later, the maker removed his other contributions. This is typical for much of YouTube’s history: it might be there but it might also be gone, unavailable for those who would like to revisit the early history of YouTube. And this loss matters, especially for media scholars and historians who aim to revisit that early period when YouTube started and rapidly became this rather unruly community in which people experimented with new media forms and formats. At the time new genres emerged, including remixes, pranks, tutorials and intimate personal vlogs. A whole new user generation who entered this platform was drawn to the freedom of expression and the ability to gain a potentially worldwide audience. The early YouTube videos indicate a new type of media use that disrupted and ultimately transformed social, aesthetic and cultural conventions on how and what and when to use the camera in domestic areas or at private moments and share those moments on a public website.

In just a decade, this platform transformed from a modest video repository into a global popular archive. Being this huge database of millions and millions of mediated human traces, of happy and unhappy moments, makes YouTube fascinating platform and a ‘heterogeneous, but for the most part accidental and disordered public archive’ (Burgess and Green 2009). The combination of audio-visual content and the responses by viewers, including video-responds, commenting, liking, hating, suggesting, supporting, allows YouTube to become a valuable place for future historical research as it brings together the whole chain of production, distribution and reception. If preserved properly, media historians might be able to understand the process of meaning making in digital audio-visual culture.

However, although YouTube looks like an archive, it is not. Despite the huge volume of videos, the long-term sustainability of YouTube is questionable, just like most websites. There are several reasons to be cautious about YouTube as a site for historical research. First, YouTube and its users are under no obligation to safeguard data, which means that the typical archival protocols and routines are absent with regard to acquisition, appraisal, description, and preservation. Second, YouTube is resorting more and more to censorship by deploying algorithms that actively seek out ‘unwanted’ content, meaning uploads that could ‘harm’ the viewer or, more importantly, the advertiser. Under growing public pressure, YouTube deleted millions of videos for content violation. Another reason to be critical in considering YouTube an archive is the fact that is impossible to have precise knowledge about the exact parameters of this collection, as the video repository is extremely dynamic. YouTube’s growth is beyond control and almost 400 hours of content are uploaded every minute. In addition, there is also a continuous process of deletion, although it is unclear how much is deleted and by whom. Lastly, there is another reason why YouTube should not be seen as a stable archive: it does not like its own history. The search algorithms favor recent and popular uploads, rather than assisting users to find historical or unique material that rarely has been viewed before. In addition, the YouTube search filters only allow the user to go back in time one year. If a user abandons a channel, the footage might become ‘orphaned’ and eventually untraceable.

So, how to deal with the challenges of tracing YouTube’s early history? What are the obstacles and what are the strategies that can help us build a solid historical corpus that includes examples of early interfaces, channels, videos, comments, profiles etc.? The aim of this paper is to present a web-archeological approach that will be instrumental in tracing the early history and "observing" this giant cultural universe of both user-generated and professional media content and its context. We will look at current formal and informal archival practices with regards to YouTube material and we will explore digital methods needed for historical filtering, comparing existing search tools like those available in the Digital Methods Initiative with experimental methods of computer vision.

Participatory Web Archiving: Opening the Black Box of SavePageNow

ABSTRACT. In this paper we report on the preliminary findings and methodological considerations of a pilot project examining usage of the Internet Archive’s SavePageNow (SPN) tool between 2013-2018. The Internet Archive (IA) has collected, maintained and provided access to the past Web since its inception in 1996. With the addition of SPN in 2013 [1], the IA enables anyone with a web browser and an Internet connection to add a web resource to the WayBack Machine. The IA is widely considered to be the largest web archive in the world, and according to recent estimates, over 100 URLs per second are added to the archive via the SPN API [2]. By extension, SPN can therefore be characterized as one of the largest public-access, ‘participatory web archiving’ projects, and as such it offers a window into how web archiving is being enacted at scale outside of traditional archival environments. By improving our understanding of this tool and its influence, this work reveals the ways in which participatory web archiving services generate stakeholders in web archives. In doing so, the paper also contributes to literature concerning the challenges of infrastructure studies and the role of automation in the circulation and production of information online.

Recent work in and on web archives illustrates the critical importance of studying web archival practices (Ogden et al., 2017; Summers and Punzalan, 2017) - framing these archival interventions as a relatively under-examined, yet increasingly embedded component of Web architecture. Accordingly, research examining IA and the Wayback Machine has begun to make visible and contextualise the often invisible infrastructural workings of the world’s largest public web archive. Studies have explored the language and geographic distributions of content held within Wayback (AlSum et al., 2014; Thelwall and Vaughan, 2004), and conducted comparative studies of collection holdings held in web archives elsewhere. Further work has characterised the use of Wayback through the examination of IA access logs (AlNoamany et al., 2013) and the circulation of Wayback links on different social media platforms (Zannettou et al., 2018). Other complementary research has identified SPN as one of several mechanisms by which IA are attempting to ‘leverage the power and labour of the crowd’ in order to diversify the selection of domains and content for the Wayback Machine (Ogden et al., 2017). However, external observations about IA’s use of the crowd as citizen archivists (Owens, 2013) to augment its archival holdings have been elusive until now.

This study builds on existing work on IA to include a pilot exploration of the SavePageNow tool and API as a form of participatory web archiving - or web archiving activities that are centred on collaboration and the availability of open nomination and collection tools. In this paper we report on the preliminary findings of this pilot project. First, we discuss the processes undertaken to collect SPN data from the IA, as well as the documentary sources (including press releases and contemporary forum posts) used to frame our decisions surrounding what data to collect. Next, we examine the types of URLs archived via SPN between 2013-2018 over the course of one day per year in an effort to characterise SPN’s use and contribution to Wayback. As a proxy for measuring the value of SPN by its various users, the extent to which these URLs are available on the live Web and other web archives is analysed. Following recent calls to study ‘archival algorithmic systems’ (Summers and Punzalan, 2017), we also examine the role of bots and automation in the production and circulation of the archived Web through an analysis of the various user agents used to submit URLs to SPN. To further contextualise the SPN assemblage, we also report on the results of additional experiments used to trace both automated and human-driven data flows through the infrastructure that facilitates SPN and the Wayback Machine.

To conclude, we discuss both concrete and potential implications of a publicly available tool for participatory web archiving. In doing so we consider the power and presumed democratising effects of SPN for shaping the archival record, as well as the multiple ways in which SPN creates and transforms users into stakeholders of the Internet Archive. We also collectively reflect on the opportunities and limitations of our approach, incorporating our plans to expand the project in the future to include a mixed-methods approach for contextualising public web archival practices. We also discuss how our findings suggest future directions for research on web archives that draws on critical data studies, infrastructure studies and Science and Technology Studies, more generally.

Forensically Reconstructing Non-Institutional Archival Practices in Timothy Leary’s Digital Archives (1989-1996)

ABSTRACT. In 1996, the controversial American psychologist and “acid guru” Timothy Leary published a selection of digital archival materials on his personal website at, allowing website visitors to browse digitized facsimiles of select primary documents from his decades-long career. In this paper, I will perform a forensic reading of and the digital artifacts included within, examining the ways that archival labor, digital file formats, and user interface design work together to produce an experience of historical memory that is uniquely reflective of its non-institutional origin. Furthermore, by focusing on Leary’s role as a public intellectual and his interactions with non-institutional archival practice, I hope to expand existing scholarly accounts of early web archives to include greater consideration of the archival practices that take place outside of traditional cultural and historical institutions.

Developed in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of archivists and digital artists, utilizes a graphical user interface that employs first-person perspective and digital photography to simulate a three-dimensional walkthrough of rooms in Leary’s actual California home, with each room containing a different set of thematically-organized digital artifacts from Leary’s career. By situating digitized archival materials within a simulated domestic space,’s photographic, three-dimensional, and first-person navigation system reframes materials from Leary’s personal and intellectual history in terms of users’ mutual embodiment within a shared contextual space. In the process, the team gestures towards archival practice as a form of collaborative expressive technique, wherein users’ experiences of collective memory are enacted through a particular set of digitally constructed interactions, and sensory immersion is prized above the completeness of records.

This paper will present a forensic analysis of and the historical artifacts contained within, comparing the website’s user interface and digitized artifacts against their original counterparts in the New York Public Library’s Timothy Leary Papers. These findings will be contextualized using written correspondence between Leary and his team of collaborators, in addition to various other print and born-digital primary sources from Leary’s personal archive. By emphasizing bibliographic details such as file format, available metadata, and the physical materiality of user interfaces, my analysis will highlight the variability of knowledge construction in an archival setting, thus illustrating several senses in which historically and culturally specific forms of archival labor produce sites of memory according to similarly specific epistemological agendas, both online and off.

While Leary initially rose to prominence as a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University in the early 1960s, the university terminated his employment in 1963 amid growing criticism of his public advocacy for non-medical administration of psychedelic drugs. Buoyed by his outsize public persona, Leary embarked on a prolific career as an independent scholar following his termination, publishing over a dozen books and serving as the inspiration for a 1994 American Psychological Association symposium and a 1996 special issue of the Journal of Personality Assessment concerning his works and legacy. Despite this notoriety, Leary’s attempts to solicit commercial interest in digitizing and publishing his archives via CD-ROM throughout the early 1990s were unsuccessful. Undeterred, Leary assembled a staff of independent digital artists and archivists to construct his digital legacy, and the team won a People Magazine “Cool Site of the Year” award for their work in October 1996.

As a case study, provides an early example of the collaborative, interdisciplinary, web-based digital archival projects that have since become predominant in Digital Humanities and public history settings. While similarly interdisciplinary and collaborative digital archive projects from the same era are well-documented in the scholarly literature concerning digital humanities (e.g. Liu 2004, Dalbello 2010), most such case studies concern projects that occurred within universities or comparable cultural institutions. In contrast, relatively scarce academic attention has been paid to such projects when pursued by public intellectuals and independent scholars. By focusing on the independent team responsible for producing’s digital archives, I aim to expand on academic history and archival studies concerning diverse forms of collaborative archival labor. In conclusion, I suggest that reexamining today helps to emphasize the ways in which all archival practice relies on unseen curatorial and authorial labor in order to construct the subjective experiences of information access and the range of narrative possibilities present within an archival collection.

14:00-15:15 Session 17D: Rethinking the Web and the Archive
Location: OMHP C0.17 (84)
The Objecthood of Web Archives

ABSTRACT. Traditionally—if in the short period that web archiving as a practice has existed using this word makes sense at all!—web archives are commonly regarded as artifacts that came into existence via a process similar to that of scientific sampling. An automated crawler is exploring a continuous publishing space, constrained by certain technical parameters, perhaps repeatedly. The web as a subject of study is therefore defined by the same rules as other data gathering-based research: web archives are commonly judged by their Gigabyte size and explored via data analysis tools. However this is based on a few assumptions that do not hold true in today’s web necessarily. These assumptions are:

  1. A web archive can never be big enough, as it is only an approximation of what happened on the internet. More data = higher accuracy.
  2. The same reply is returned for every request to a URL at a certain point in time.
  3. Web archives contain narration that has to be made visible or extracted.
  4. Publications on the web are similar enough to publications on paper to use comparable citation systems.
  5. Publications on the web are different enough from other types of publications so they have to be kept and managed separately.

This paper argues that a focus on smaller, highly curated web archives that are made up of sessions rather than samples, and a preference of curatorial agency over technical boundary definitions, can lead to a new, more accessible, more classic humanities-centered way of web archive analysis. Based on examples from Rhizome’s preservation efforts around the Net Art Anthology, work on Rhizome’s collection, and collaborations with other art institutions, a set of practices will be presented that are applicable across different disciplines of digital history research and restoration.

The new forms of the archive in digital culture (is it still an archive?)

ABSTRACT. The digital archive is no longer a hierarchy of knowledge, but a dynamic collection always open to a new hierarchy. Furthermore, the digital archive is no longer a place, but a hyperspace capable of containing all space. In this context, the question that arises is whether these digital objects are still archives, or if this terminology is not obsolete. It becomes urgent to think of a new terminology that defines and conceptualizes this new form of storing and generating memory.

In its genesis the archive is a place where we store information that we want to preserve in the future — a space of memory — or as Charles Merewether (2006, 10) asserts, “the archive, as distinct from a collection or library, constitutes a repository or ordered system of documents and records, both verbal and visual, that is the foundation from which history is written.” According to Michel Foucault (1972, 129), “the archive is first the law of what can be said the system that governs the appearance of statements as unique events”. And in order to define its concept, Jacques Derrida (1995, 9) stated that the term archive shelters in the memory of the name arkhé and its double meaning of commencement and commandment. As a result, the archive, in its principle of commencement, is a place of domiciliation or localization and, in its principle of commandment, is an hierarchy of consignation.

However, and also according to Derrida, with the introduction of digital technology, an archivist technical revolution happened. This led to the transition from analog archives to digital archives, transforming these objects in algorithmic devices where all the documents, regardless of their nature, are coded in the same language and placed in a non-hierarchical structure called database. About these objects Lev Manovich (2001) refers that “many new media objects do not tell stories (...). Instead they are collections of individual items, where every item has the same significance as any other.” So, the databases have discontinuous reading and the new archives structured by them are “collections of items on which the user can perform various operations: view, navigate, search” (Manovich 2001, 194). As consequence and contrary to the preservation and narrative principle of the archive, according to Wolfgang Ernst, with the procedural nature of the digital archive, now we live in a constantly updated dynamic memory culture where “the new archive’s task is to meaningfully link up different information nodes (...) it is no longer a question of reactivating objects, but of relations” (Ernst 2013, 83).

Within this context, the Internet emerges as an important representation of this digital archive concept, since it is itself a vast network of interconnected nodes. It is also the clear representation of an already long-cherished hyperspace, a space that is virtually capable of containing all space or, in other words, all memory. Thereby, if the classical concept of the archive was based on the idea of location or domiciliation, its limits now tend to spread in its hyperspace potentiality. Under this circumstances, when questioning whether the internet is an archive or its metaphor, Ernst (2013, 95) point out that the internet is not an archive, but a new type of transarchive, which he calls "dynamic archive", as it is constantly being updated. Also when refers to “archival art” particularly the one developed in the Internet context, Ernst adds “‘archival art’ is not just an assembly; it is organised according to a higher order than simple ‘database art’”(Ernst 2012, 08).

Thus, today we are experiencing times in which technological evolution led to the dilution of the principles that were in the genesis of the concept of the archive. With this dilution, the dualities that define it as interior-exterior, eternal-ephemeral, past-present, sacred-profane, or public-private tend to disappear, making it increasingly difficult to recognize the archive original character in these new digital memory devices. In this way, and even though we admit the parallel with the archive, since these devices have the power of construct discourses, even though now fragmented, and have a governmental and consigning character, the question still arises whether if redesigning the concept of the archive is enough or if we should not get rid of this tie and start to look for new terminologies that contain the breadth of the new forms and processes of storing and generating memory, so that we can identify and consequently recognize these devices.

Archives, Web fragments and diasporas : for a disaggregated exploration of web archives related to online representations of diasporas

ABSTRACT. The Web is an unsteady environment. As Web sites emerge every days, whole communities may fade away over time by leaving too few or incomplete traces on the living Web. Facing this phenomenon, several archiving initiatives try to preserve the memory of the Web. But today, a mystery remains : While they have never been so vast and numerous, why are the Web archives not already the subject of many historical researches ? In reality, Web archives should not be considered as a faithful representation of the living Web. In fact, they are the direct traces of the archiving tools that tear them away from their original temporality. Thus, this paper aims to give researchers the theoretical and technical means for a greater manageability of the Web archives, by defining a new unit of exploration : the Web fragment, a coherent and self-sufficient subset of a Web page. To that end, we will follow the pioneering work of the e-Diasporas Atlas which allowed, in the 2000s, to map and archive thousands of migrant Web sites. Thus, it is through the particular angle of online representations of diasporas that we will explore the Web archives of the Atlas.

15:30-16:45 Session 18: Closing Panel

Kevin Driscoll (University of Virginia), Ian Milligan (University of Waterloo), Valérie Schafer (University of Luxemburg), Jane Winters (University of London) 

Panel members will lead a discussion of key issues raised during the conference and reflect on future directions for the field.

16:45-17:15 Session 19: Closing remarks and the future of RESAW with Niels Brügger

Prof. Niels Brügger (Aarhus University) will lead a closing session and discuss the future of RESAW including upcoming conferences.