Social Media Archeology and Poetics: Web Archive

Judy Malloy: Introduction

"There is a communitarian dimension to all media used to make art, the crowd-feeling of a theater audience, the ebb and flow of a painter's opening, the collaborative spirit of a filmmaking team; and this is apart from the social dimensions of economics, class, gender, race, and so on. But by calling only certain forms (and specifically only certain forms of software) "social media," we do not just underline the degree to which sociality and the social are at the heart of the work produced through such media. We also mark how the affordances of such media for real-time, distributed, pseudonymous, improvisational agency have been redefining the social itself for three decades, since the first experiments in electronic community arose in the 1970s." - Antoinette LaFarge, Social Media Archeology and Poetics

Networked Art Works in the Formative Years of the Internet is a web archive created to accompany the book Social Media Archeology and Poetics (MIT Press, 2016). Building on Social Media Archeology and Poetics, which focuses primarily on early Social platforms, Networked Art Works in the Formative Years of the Internet documents individual and collaborative telematic projects.

At a time of reviewing the role of social media in the infosphere, it is important to look not only to the future of social media in the arts and to the rich vein of work being currently produced on social media platforms (SAIC ATS) but also to look at the role of individual artists and writers in creating work that explored the affordances of networked art works in the formative years of the Internet. Expressed when the project was launched in April 2017, the mission of Networked Art Works in the Formative Years of the Internet project is:

"As social media platforms become a core part of -- some would say dominate -- the contemporary Internet environment, a focus on enabling creative voices in social media is an important component of Internet policies that seek to enrich the Infosphere. In this respect, narratives of pre-web social media creative practice not only contribute to the archeology of social media but also nurture innovation in contemporary social media."

In the MIT Press book, Social Media Archeology and Poetics, the words and work of creative computer scientists writers, artists, musicians, historians, and digital humanists bring different histories and perspectives to the documentation of historic social media platforms. Their chapters not only demonstrate how pioneering social media platforms -- including Community Memory, ARTEX, Minitel, the Electronic Cafe, The WELL, Art Com Electronic Network (ACEB), ECHONYC, Arts Wire, THE THING, USENET, and , among others -- evolved from both individual and collaborative efforts but also document the lineage of a wide range of social media affordances that were introduced by early social media. And in narratives, such as Arts Wire's odyssey from a text-based conferencing system to a GUI (graphical user interface) system, this book also documents how some cultural social media platforms migrated to the World Wide Web.

Concentrating on vision and practice, as expressed in individual and small collaborative projects, Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet, the web archive that accompanies the book, is researching and documenting pre-web telematic projects -- complimenting the book, both by highlighting artists' projects implemented on early arts and humanities-centered platforms and by documenting artists' projects and small platforms that existed independently of the platforms documented in the book. The ten works that initiate this project are divided into three categories: "Early Telematic Projects", "Projects Nurtured in Online Conferences", and "Reviews".

Early Telematic Projects

Tom Klinkowstein, diagram "In the late 70's and early 80's, establishing the network (the capabilities for a performance using telecommunications for instance) was daunting. It was a labor of love requiring quasi-missionary zeal...I created upwards of 15 telecom-facilitated works between 1979 and 1990. They were always a fuzzy triangulation between what was going on in my life and what was going on in the world, with the product of the work being a synthesis of the two in the form of a persona based on personal facts and memories and, "the news" -- composed on the screen or in faxes, always a within some networked connection, sometimes performed live and sometimes recorded and edited for later viewing. - Tom Klinkowstein, Networked Art Works in the Formative Years of the Internet

The "Early Telematic Projects" section documents Nina Sobell's publicly-situated interactive video and performative communication-based installations; Tom Klinkowstein's collaborative communications work that infused a creative graphic-art centered dimension into the idea of telematic connecting of wider communities; Olivier Auber's "collective creation of a global image" (Bureaud) in Poietic Generator, which began on the Minitel; the complex systems, which inform the elements of music, painting, sculpture, performance, telematics and computer music in Marcello Aitiani's Nave di Luce; and how continuously updated stock prices control movement of female skirt lengths in Nancy Paterson's cyberfeminist Stock Market Skirt.

Projects Nurtured in Online Conferences

Interative menu "By placing Interactive on Arts Wire, I believe we were seeking to create a place for artists to explore “interactive art, electronic and otherwise” across a diversity of disciplines and cultures, and also to move digital interactive art out of the margins of the art world.

I also hoped that Interactive would help strengthen artists’ voices in shaping the development of the Internet. " - Anna Couey, Networked Art Works in the Formative Years of the Internet

This section is initiated with the work of ACEN Sysop Fred Truck; ACEN participant Robert Edgar's Memory Theatre One, and the Arts Wire Interactive Art Conference that explored the work of Bill and Mary Buchen, Hank Bull, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, Abbe Don, JoAnn Gillerman, Lucia Grossberger Morales, Eduardo Kac, Robert Kendall, Nancy Paterson, Tim Perkis, Sonya Rapaport, Sara Roberts, Jim Rosenberg, Henry See, Bonnie Sherk, and Stephen Wilson, among others.


Hank Bull "We have difficulty imagining the world before the Internet. It takes a material object, like this book, to remind us that there once was a time when unmediated physical contact between humans was the norm, when long distance travel was expensive, and when a conversation in text and image over distance felt like science fiction. Art + Telecommunication is such an object. Since its publication, this book has functioned as a benchmark against which to measure, not only the rapid evolution of media, but also the critical understanding of its impacts and implications for artists and for the world. The idealistic notions expressed here, of 'dispersed authorship,' the 'noosphere,' and 'Indra’s Net' were tempered by the suspicion that contained within the technological acceleration of globalization lay the threats of surveillance, cultural homogenization, exclusion and social control. The authors were acutely aware that their book was being published in 1984. These texts are not only a fixed document of their time, like a fossil, but continue to resonate now, as alive (or not) as the network itself." - Hank Bull quoted in "Review in retrospect: Heidi Grundmann's Art Telecommunication"

In addition to a "Review in Retrospect" of Heidi Grundmann's Art Telecommunication", this section currently includes a review of Serge Guilbaut, Joni Low, and Pan Wendt's catalog for the exhibition Hank Bull: Connexion.

Looking Forward

"We are now living and working in a shared electronic space, and we have compressed time and space such that we must deal with our resulting altered consciousness. We have broken through the boundary of "thingness." The environment in which we now probe feels more like water because every thought is like an immersion. We are traversing a complex system, accumulating layers of information at electronic speed – discovering internal landfalls to aid us in our search for the critical path." - Digital Art Exchange Group

Networked Art Works in the Formative Years of the Internet was conceived with an extensive list of 40 or so contributions. It will be augmented as new contributions are received. Among the artists who have agreed to participate are Eduardo Kac (telematic robots); Peter D'Agostino (Proposal for Qube); Karen O'Rourke (City Projects, which connected artists, students and teachers in eleven Universities on three continents); and Wendel White's early web work: (Small Towns, Black Lives). Networked Art Works also seeks to include projects created/facilitated by ARPANET-era researchers (such as Yumyum and SF-Lovers); as well as more projects created on arts-centered platforms (such as NewMusNet on Arts Wire and Manifesto on THE THING). Additionally, it will review other core sources of documentation -- from Roy Ascott's Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness, to Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise’s Wired Women.

With sadness and respect for his work, Networked Projects notes the July 2018 death of black cyberactivist Art McGee, who was to document early Black BBS platforms for this project.

In addition to providing otherwise difficult to access information on creative practice in early social media, Networked Art Works in the Formative Years of the Internet responds to the question: What can we learn from early social media that will inspire us to connect the not necessarily different missions of community and representation and in the process envision a greater cultural presence on contemporary social media?

Works Cited

Annick Bureaud, "Art and Minitel in France in the '80s" in Judy Malloy, ed., Social Media Archeology and Poetics. (MIT Press, 2016). pp.39-146

Digital Art Exchange, "Philosophy." Available at

Heidi Grundmann, Art Telecommunication. Vancouver: Western Front; Vienna: BLIX, 1984.

Antoinette LaFarge, "Pseudo Space: Experiments with Avatarism and Telematic Performance in Judy Malloy, ed., Social Media Archeology and Poetics. (MIT Press, 2016). pp.377-385

SAIC ATS Social Media Narratives, "Contemporary Social Media Platforms and Creative Practice", November 1-6, 2018. Available at


Roy Ascott, Telematic Embrace : Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness, edited and with an essay by Edward A. Shanken. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

Roy Ascott and Carl Eugene Loeffler, Guest eds., Connectivity: Art and Interactive Telecommunications. Leonardo 24:2, 1991.

James Casey, Randy Ross, (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and Otoe Missouria) and Warren, Marcia (Santa Clara Pueblo of New Mexico), Native Networking: Telecommunications and. Information Technology in Indian Country. Washington, DC, Benton Foundation, 1999.

Annmarie Chandler and Norie Neumark. eds. At a Distance: Precursors to Art and Activism on the Internet. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, 2006.

Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise, eds., Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle, WA, Seal Press, 1996.

Beth Coleman, Hello Avatar, Rise of the Networked Generation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011.

Pavel Curtis, "Mudding: Social Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Realities," Xerox PARC CSL-92-4 (April 1992).

Dieter Daniels and Gunther Reisinger, eds. Net Pioneers 1.0: Contextualizing Early Net-Based Art. Berlin: Sternberg Press , 2010.

Cynthia Haynes and Jan Rune Holmevik, eds, High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2001.

Dave Hughes, "Big Sky Telegraph". Available at

Arthur McGee, "AFRONET BBS List". Available at

Judy Malloy, Social Media Archeology and Poetics. (MIT Press, 2016).

Mary Anne Moser, and Douglas MacLeod, Immersed in Technology: Art and Virtual Environments. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996.

Lisa Nakamura, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet New York and London: Routledge, 2002.

John Quarterman, The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide. Bedford, MA: Digital Press, 1990).

Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. rev. ed., (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000.

Networked Art Works: in the Formative Years of the Internet

Judy Malloy: Introduction

Early Telematic Projects

Nina Sobell: Work, 1977-1997

Interview with Tom Klinkowstein

Poietic Generator
Interview with Olivier Auber

Marcello Aitiani: Nave di Luce (Ship of Light)

Nancy Paterson: Stock Market Skirt

Projects Nurtured in Online Conferences

Fred Truck: Independent Work: 1985 to 1995

Robert Edgar: Memory Theatre One

Anna Couey and Judy Malloy:
The Arts Wire Interactive Art Conference


Review in retrospect:
Heidi Grundmann's Art Telecommunication

Review: Serge Guilbaut, Joni Low, and Pan Wendt:
Hank Bull: Connexion

Networked Art Works
in the Formative Years
of the Internet is an
ongoing supplement to
the MIT Press Book:
Social Media Archeology
and Poetics