Deanna Zandt: My name is Deanna Zandt. I am a media technologist and cofounder, and partner at Lux Digital, a digital strategy agency based in New York. My first memories of being on the Internet, it was 1994. I had heard of the Internet, and I had actually been online with CompuServe at my mom’s work back in the late 80s but then kind of never made the bridge to BBSes or anything like that. That was sort of out of reach in some ways. And so I’d heard about the Internet, and we could sign up for free accounts on the VAX system at college. And I got kind of walked through email, and my amazing first community experiences were all on Usenet. I mean, it was just…mind-blowing to me that there were so many people, talking about so many different things and that everybody could contribute to these conversations, and that just kinda blew my mind.
And then I remember when Mozilla came out and the first graphical web browser happened. And I remember hitting my friend Matt on the shoulder. He was showing it to me and I was like, “Oh my God, this changes everything. There are pictures and colors,” you know. ‘Cause everything before that had been text-based, and there were different kinds of text-based browsers and all this stuff that was kind of super nerdy and awesome and slightly confusing, and then this whole world had been kind of opened up. And I just couldn’t believe that this was happening and that it was already so vibrant, and incredible, and new and amazing. It just felt like anything was possible.
From missing things…I used to spend an excessive amount of time on IRC chatting with people. Stood for Internet Relay Chat. It still exists and it’s used often for lots of different projects. But I don’t necessarily participate as much there. And there’s channels and anybody can create a channel or a room or a topic, and chat with people about it. It’s this super amazing free-for-all.
And there used to be a nightly…pretty sure it was nightly, regular chat for Barenaked Ladies fans? And I…you know, I am from upstate New York. I was a huge Barenaked Ladies fan. And often the conversations weren’t about the band at all. They were about what was happening in people’s lives, and you know, who was moving and who got a new job. And I talked about my classes and things I was interested in.
And I actually had my first meetup because of IRC, and because of this Barenaked Ladies channel. A bunch of us met up on New Year’s Eve 1996 at the show at Roseland in New York. And you know, it was so hard for me to explain to people that I was going to go meet people from the Internet, and no they weren’t going to murder me, you know. Even then there was that association of like, “Strangers? They will probably take out an axe and hack you to death, especially in New York City. What’s wrong with you.” And I just…and meeting the people that I had spent so much time with online was just…it blew my mind. I was like, “Oh my god, you’re Harbinger. That’s incredible! And you’re so-and—” You know, it was just…we had so much fun together. And that feeling of community still persists in everything that I do and all of the work that I do. And you know, being on IRC and feeling free to just hang out and be I think is something that I don’t get to experience as much anymore, and that I miss.