Cultivating the Web

GeoCities might be dead, but its spirit is still very much alive in various corners of the Internet, for example, read about Digital gardens (pdf version), "side projects" produced by web designers and developers who create "individualized, creative sites that eschew the one-size-fits-all look and feel of social media".

Digital Gardens

In his 2009 essay on Internet surf clubs, Commodify Your Consumption: Tactical Surfing / Wakes of Resistance (optional reading), Curt Cloninger argues that from the artist's perspective...

The danger of MySpace and YouTube is not the threat that they may wind up archiving and owning all the 'content' I produce, or that they are currently getting rich off the content I produce, but that they control the parameters within which I produce 'my original' content.

Curt Cloninger (2009)

The early web is an example of what the Internet looked like when 'the parameters' within which netizens produced their web sites were fairly open and unopinionated, before the era of social media, where a handful of surveillance capitalist platforms replaced the blank canvas of a geocities pages with the restricted parameters of online profiles. What would a contemporary online presence look like if it were unrestricted by these parameters?

What is the difference between a "homepage" and an online "profile"? Consider the digital folklore inspired personal homepages of net artist's Petra Cotright and Marisa Olson; or the the brutalist style of artist and musician Bill Wrutz's homepage; or the minimalist approach indie game artist Paolo Pedercini's took with his homepage; Or the animated design vibes of CSS artist's homepages like Shunya Koide and Agathe Cocco.

The "digital gardens" discussed in the MIT Technology Review article is another answer to that question. Like web designer Melanie Richards' pages for example, Highlights a digital home for all the time's she highlights text in a book she's reading, or Melanie’s Bucket List a collection of places she has/has-yet to visit, or Good Things "a personal compilation of good sensory things in life." Other examples of digital gardens not mentioned in the article are Jake Is Listening, a collection of tracks creative coder Jake Albaugh is currently listening to, or Jake Quits a site where Jake publicly keeps track of how long it's been since he quit smoking, a public reminder he created to keep himself accountable.

In her performative lecture for the Transmediale festival, net artist Olia Lialina makes a distinctions between "Me vs My". In the Web's early days fandoms tended to dominate the Web rings, homepages used to be focused on our interests (My), rather than our selves (Me). If you chose one of your interests to create a digital home for, what would that be? Computer pioneer Ted Nelson coined lots of new words besides "hypertext" and "hypermedia" to convey his visions, Mike Dank is a fan of Nelson's and keeps a digital garden of #NelsonWords (side note: Ted Nelson's site is also worth checking out, he's spoken out against CSS in the past, his homepage's design reflects this position). Or maybe your fandom is more of a love/hate relationship, like Cody Ogden's Killed by Google, a digital graveyard for all the various tools/services Google released then abandoned or "sunset". Or maybe your digital garden collects something a bit more esoteric like Matthew Rayfield's collection of publicly shared 3D (stl) files publicly on GitHub or Cory Arcangel's classic net art piece Data Diaries.