This post was inspired by latest episode of Why? Radio, “What Does it Mean to Keep the Internet Free?” with guest Cory Doctorow. You can listen to the full episode here.
In 1995, I was fortunate enough to be in Vienna, Austria and participate in the 9th Annual European Meeting of Cultural Journals. The conference involved about fifteen representatives of small, art and culture publications that were trying to find their way in the new world. The newly created World Wide Web had opened to the public two years earlier and, as everyone knows, it shook the publishing industry. Independent niche magazines felt the seismic shift more than anyone.
Vienna is the meeting place of Eastern and Western Europe, and the conference represented the cultural divide. There, participants had two fundamental differences of opinions. Folks from the West were overwhelmed by the internet’s size and wondered how creativity would avoid getting lost in the vastness. People from the East were upset about the web’s lack of permanence. If you could edit any web page or delete any file, how could you ensure that history could not be rewritten? All of this was in character. The former Soviet republics were still unsteadily recovering from the union’s collapse and capitalists were taking a victory lap. The East was worried that power would win the internet and the West feared money would. No one was confident about what was to come.
I just recently scanned my copy of the limited-edition magazine we published to commemorate the event, and have now uploaded it here. It’s in English, French, and German, and asks (among other things) what the computerized Europe of the new millennium would look like. There’s an article about community cohesion in Albania and one about cultural journals in Romania. I wrote an article about the way the web balances individuality and community. Someone else talks about how computers made him feel old. What is overwhelming about this artifact is that the questions everyone was debating during the birth of the web are the same ones everyone is asking now.
Only 99 were printed, so I’m sure no more than 150 people worldwide even know it exists. I suspect it will be read by more people the first day it’s up on this blog than in the last twenty-five years. I’m also confident it will find its way to many of the original contributors. Take a look and let me know what you think.
The magazine was a joint publication of the Austrian publishing house Wesspennest (Wasps’ Nest), which still publishes a magazine, here.