CFP: The Web that was: archives, traces, reflections (Amsterdam, June 2019)

A three-day conference, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 19-21, 2019. The third biennial RESAW (Research Infrastructure for the Study of Archived Web Materials) conference. Organized by the University of Amsterdam.

As the first generation of web users goes grey, it’s clear that the internet they remember is no longer around. The early web is now simply another object of nostalgia. Tech anniversaries are a dime a dozen, while once cool digital aesthetics have made several ironic comebacks. All of this reinforces a sense that we’ve left behind a digital history that was as clunky and slow as it was idealistic and naïve.

How can we rethink this relationship to the web’s past and the past web? This question is crucial today as the open web continues to lose ground to platforms and apps. How can this history be reconstructed and re-evaluated, and how are web archives and web histories impacted by technological change? What do traditional problems of preservation and historiography look like at scale? And what stories capture the diverse transformations and continuities that mark nearly 30 years of web history?

There is of course no single web history, materially or conceptually speaking. There is instead a politics of archives, technologies and discourses that needs to be uncovered. How can we expand our view of web history beyond Silicon Valley and celebrated cases? And how can we reveal the technological, social and economic contexts that have shaped not just the present web, but how we access its past? What role do archives play in uncovering the histories of the web, platforms and apps, as well as their production and usage contexts?

This conference aims to bring together scholars, archivists and artists interested in preserving, portraying and otherwise engaging with the web that was. In addition to paper submissions, we invite proposals for audiovisual installations, posters, software demos, or other media that connects to the conference themes.

Submissions in the form of an abstract may relate to, but are not limited by, the following topics:

* Web and internet histories
* Historicizing the web and digital culture
* Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and critiquing periodizations
* Past futures and paths not taken
* Platformization and the changing structure of the web
* Social imaginaries of the early web
* Archives and access
* Research methods for studying the archived web
* Methods for platform and app histories
* Ethics of (studying) web archives
* Technicity of web archives
* Software histories
* Archived audiences and histories of internet use
* Identity, intersectionality and web history
* Digital activism and web history
* Histories of net criticism
* Media industries and their online histories
* Web histories elsewhere: forgotten and marginalized web cultures
* Realtime, time travel and other web temporalities
* Future histories and the archive of tomorrow

Deadline for submission is 19 October 2018.

See the website of the conference

An Interview with Geert Lovink

Interview with the Dutch-Australian media theorist and critic Geert Lovink to be submitted for a special issue of Internet Histories dedicated to Internet and the Web in the 90s (see the CfP), edited by Valérie Schafer and Benjamin G. Thierry (second semester of 2018).

G. Lovink at CPOV-Conference in Leipzig Germany; September 2010
Photo by Rob Irgendwer
CC BY-SA 3.0

Valérie Schafer: First of all, could you tell me when you discovered computers and computer-mediated communications?

Geert Lovink: My first encounter with the world of computers was at the end of my primary school, in the late 1960s. This was a rather intense time for the Magic Centre of Amsterdam and the hippie movement, a rather turbulent time. I got influenced by the promises of computers from the hippie perspective, how people can communicate, influenced by the psychedelic movement, which of course one can read back in Fred Turner’s book[1]. This context is closely tied to the questions of how software should look like and how the user should be positioned in there. This topic is something I was really intimately familiar with when I grew up.

VS: Did your parents work in this field?

GL: No, I grew up near the Vondelpark in Amsterdam, behind the Concertgebouw. Almost next door to my primary school was the Hilton hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono stayed when the hippies took over the park where I played, in 1969. Of course, I’m not from the ‘68 generation, I’m younger, from the punk generation, I entered the scene in 1977. But as a child I was very influenced by the counterculture that happened in front of where I grew up. My first direct encounter with computers was somewhat odd. I was twelve, thirteen years old. With a friend of mine I decided to become a member of a rowing club in Amsterdam. We started rowing on the river Amstel and while we were doing these explorations from the water we came across a strange metal junk yard where the first generation of mainframe computers were dumped and recycled. We could access the yard via the water. We often went there to have a look at these machines. At that time, my friend and I were interested in DIY electronics, in particular transistors. We then traded the large circuit boards we took from there with our friends.

A couple of years later, when I studied political science in Amsterdam at the university, of course I encountered these mainframes again. That was in 1978-1979. We had to learn SPSS and data processing. This was done in the tradition of the Baschwitz institute, which studied public opinion. Kurt Baschwitz is one of the founders of mass communication and he was introducing computers in social sciences. We had to do questionnaires and then process the results using these mainframes.

Around 1983-1984 the personal computer became affordable and available, with the introduction of the IBM PC combined with MS-DOS, the Microsoft operating system. We started to use it. We were running a weekly magazine for the squatter’s movement in Amsterdam and very early on we used the computer to do text processing. Friends of mine also started to use the computer to build databases in the early 1980s, to trace neo-Fascist groups and map housing speculators. These were early database and mapping exercises. The use of computers and databases in social movements goes back a really long time. Activists gathered names, dates and observations. There are archives that try to conserve the autonomous social movement heritage and I’m also playing a role in this preservation effort at the International Institute of Social History (IISG), which is in Amsterdam. IISG has extended its archives, which focused on Marx, Bakunin, early trade unions and the Spanish civil war to contemporary movements such as feminism and ecology.

When the squatter’s episode of my generation came to a close, in 1987, with the help of my father, I purchased my first personal computer.

VS: Did you feel early on that there was a need to archive this history?

GL: My studies started with a visit to the Institute of Social History. The first paper I wrote, I was 19 years old, was on the history of the provo movement[2] which I had witnessed as a child. Back then I was too young and I couldn’t really understand much of it. I went back to the archives, to study that movement ten or so years later – a movement that had had a big impact on Amsterdam and was foundational to the squatter’s movement. Archival work has always been an important task for social movements to pass on collective experiences, images, concepts and debates.

VS: Would you say that your investment in digital cultures and social movements is a continuity of this starting period?

GL: For sure. We’re aware of similar struggles before WWII. But we also knew, in particular in the city of Amsterdam that was so severely hit by the Holocaust, that the rupture of WWII and the following decades of conservative reconstruction created a gap in the collective memory. We met few people in our field, only one or two, that were able to bring the memory of the pre-war back. It was a bit more common with the 60s movement. Memory and its transition from one generation to the next, a strong theme in the work of Bernard Stiegler that I admire, were at the forefront when I grew up.

VS: You bought your own computer in 1987.

Lire la suite

Temps et temporalités du Web

Après le colloque de décembre 2015 TTOW… le livre regroupe une partie des contributions présentées lors de ces journées …

Archives du Web et métadonnées

Entretien avec Jean-Claude Michot (1/2)

Le parcours de Jean-Claude Michot, qui s’inscrit à la fois dans les innovations télématiques des années 1980 et 1990 et dans celles qui touchent à Internet et au Web dans la décennie 1990, témoigne d’une continuité certaine dans l’histoire du numérique et de ses cultures. Cette continuité est palpable dans l’aventure France Teaser qu’il retrace pour nous, depuis la création de la société pour permettre de télécharger des logiciels via Minitel à son passage sur le réseau des réseaux. Mais c’est aussi dans QBBS, BBS du 3614 que se lit une continuité d’usages, ici moins informatiques que communicationnels. De France Teaser à Gandi, Jean-Claude Michot éclaire aussi plus généralement le contexte entrepreneurial d’une économie numérique en plein développement.


Le Web, lieux de contre-mémoire?

Avec un nouveau parcours guidé dans les archives de la BnF réalisé par Sophie Gobeil à découvrir !

Entretien avec Christophe Wolfhugel du 28 juillet 2017

Dans cet entretien, Christophe Wolfhugel revient sur son parcours et sa découverte des réseaux, son souhait de casser le monopole sur les Newsgroups de Fnet en France, la création du premier serveur IRC en France, des groupes Usenet fr. et de leurs prédécesseurs, la fondation d’Oléane ou encore son investissement dans l’AUI (Association des utilisateurs d’Internet). Un témoignage riche autant pour découvrir le tournant de la décennie 1990 que le monde des premiers FAI et le développement des échanges en réseaux hors de la sphère des laboratoires.

Un « bouquet de rapports »

Au plus haut niveau de l’État, c’est en 1997 qu’est explicitement exprimée la volonté de prendre un virage vers Internet, avec le discours d’Hourtin de Lionel Jospin à l’université d’été de la communication. Toutefois, avant même que l’on ne parle dans le grand public français d’Internet et du Web, l’État engage une analyse de ce qui se nomme alors « les autoroutes de l’information », dans le sillage des discours états-uniens. Signe toutefois de l’héritage historique, c’est à un ancien Directeur général des télécommunications (1974-1981), Gérard Théry, un des artisans du développement du Minitel, qu’est confiée en février 1994 cette réflexion. Parallèlement, Thierry Breton, alors chez Bull, explore les téléservices et l’impact sur les emplois qu’ils pourraient susciter. Le rapport Théry pose les premiers jalons d’une prise de conscience des enjeux à venir. Il reste toutefois très critique à l’égard d’Internet.

Mais, ce sont surtout les années 1996 et 1997 qui sont le signe d’une véritable frénésie, liée en partie au démarrage des actions en justice, tandis que fleurit un « bouquet de rapports », selon la formule du site Adminet.

Voir le PDF : Un bouquet de rapports