Rex Sorgatz: So I guess the first part about what I remem­ber is the his­to­ry I don’t have of the Internet? I have lots of friends who have… They tell sto­ries about the modem days. And I grew up in rur­al North Dakota, and there was lit­er­al­ly no such thing as modem cul­ture. We would­n’t even have known what it was. And so in some ways I’m real­ly envi­ous of peo­ple who have that his­to­ry and expe­ri­enced those com­mu­ni­ties, let’s say before the browser. 

And I start­ed col­lege in 1990 and that was my first intro­duc­tion. And because it was so jar­ring to go to the com­put­er lab and see this group of kids, a few years old­er than me and wear­ing trench­coats in the com­put­er lab late at night play­ing weird games, I think that my first reac­tion to them was that they were weird, fringey out­siders, and to be avoid­ed. And then by the end of my fresh­man year those weird fringey out­siders to be avoid­ed were my best friends. And at first…this is pre-browser. The first usage of it was like look­ing at con­ver­sa­tions on Usenet. I remem­ber being a reli­gious fol­low­er of alt.postmodern, because I was a crit­i­cal stud­ies per­son and I was read­ing Derrida and Foucault. And I was an active par­tic­i­pant in alt.postmodern. If you go back and do search­es, you can find my name dug up in there and it’s rather embar­rass­ing to see the things that I wrote. 

So that was my first expe­ri­ence of like Internet com­mu­ni­ties. I was edi­tor of the col­lege news­pa­per, so I start­ed using it as a research tool real­ly ear­ly. And I remem­ber think­ing that I had access to some sort of infor­ma­tion that no one else did and I remem­ber just being sort of top­i­cal­ly more engaged because I knew news that peo­ple didn’t. 

The oth­er thing is I went to a big state col­lege in the Midwest. And Minnesota had invent­ed Gopher—the University of Minnesota had invent­ed Gopher. So I remem­ber that being pushed on us real­ly strong­ly, and there is like an alter­nate his­to­ry of the Internet to be writ­ten some­day about how Gopher could have been the Internet rather than the HTML ver­sion of the Internet we have now. But I remem­ber explor­ing that real­ly ear­ly on. I think—I don’t remem­ber when the first main Netscape came through that like the world start­ed to adopt. I think it was 93 that the Internet was on the cov­er of Time, and then all of a sud­den it was a main­stream idea. 

And I had a friend, one of the peo­ple I met in that com­put­er lab, who was explain­ing to me how the new ver­sion of Netscape would allow you to view the source of the doc­u­ment? And I did­n’t under­stand why that was impor­tant, and he was telling me that it was impor­tant because you could view the actu­al code and how it was made and this is gonna be— And we were think— We were going to make a lit­er­ary jour­nal I think is what we were gonna do, and we’re gonna be able to view the source of oth­er peo­ple’s web sites so that we’d know how to make a web site. Because there was obvi­ous­ly no real resources out there for fig­ur­ing that out. 

And that idea struck me as real­ly inter­est­ing, that there was an abil­i­ty to see the pro­gram­ming that was behind the thing. And there’s sev­er­al things that I wish since then were like that. 

I remem­ber the day The New York Times came online. I also remem­ber the day The New York Times Magazine came online, which was a few years lat­er. And then when I got out of col­lege I start­ed work­ing for news­pa­pers and oth­er media com­pa­nies, and even­tu­al­ly in 97 was involved in a start­up mag­a­zine about web cul­ture called Web Guide Monthly, which was in this weird era where peo­ple made mag­a­zines about the Internet—print mag­a­zines about the Internet. And it was sort of like a TV Guide for the Internet. 

And then it was right around that time that I start­ed a blog called Fimoculus. I remem­ber there being maybe a hun­dred or maybe 200 peo­ple doing that at the time. And I real­ly don’t remem­ber where the first one I saw was but I know that some of the peo­ple that were real­ly ear­ly influ­encers for me are still around today. And every­thing since then’s been like Facebook, Twitter, blah blah blah. But those are the most impor­tant ear­ly mem­o­ries to me. 

What do I miss. I think…um…there’s way more access to infor­ma­tion, obvi­ous­ly. And it’s way eas­i­er to under­stand oth­er peo­ple’s… If I find some­body inter­est­ing in San Francisco, I could quick­ly find their Twitter feed and learn a ton about them. The thing that I think is lack­ing is com­mu­ni­ties around ideas. Everything now is in such dis­ar­ray and spread out, and there’s no kin­da closed com­mu­ni­ties where peo­ple are hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions about par­tic­u­lar top­ics like my alt.postmodern exam­ple. I think peo­ple are try­ing to solve for that right now. There’s a few com­pa­nies that’re think­ing in that way. But the advances of Twitter, and Tumblr, and Facebook, those are more…kind of…you know spread out, not con­sis­tent­ly about a topic. 

And I guess the oth­er thing I miss is that the Web once seemed much more a plat­form for cre­ativ­i­ty, explo­ration, and sim­ply the idea of view­ing the source of the doc­u­ment and using the ideas that are con­tained inside of it, is com­plete­ly gone now. Why you can’t view the source of an app, for instance, is dis­heart­en­ing to me. So it’s become a more closed envi­ron­ment, of course. 

And I mean if there’s any moment of Internet his­to­ry that I miss the most it’s prob­a­bly the ear­ly days of blog­ging, where peo­ple built things that looked like some rep­re­sen­ta­tion of their per­son­al­i­ty. And now the only way you’d have rep­re­sen­ta­tion of your per­son­al­i­ty is to like put a back­ground image on Twitter. And peo­ple were learn­ing how to pro­gram from…because they want­ed to build things. And I don’t think that hap­pens now. I think when peo­ple build things, they don’t real­ly learn the sys­tems and the plumb­ing as much. And you know, maybe that’s for the bet­ter but I miss web sites that look like peo­ple’s personalities.

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