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.

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