August 2021

Olia Lialina: The Only Thing We Know About Cyberspace Is That It’s 640x480


Since the late 1990s, Olia Lialina has been researching what she calls “the Vernacular Web and Digital Folklore,” or “the early days of the web and web design before it became a profession.” [1]1
Olia Lialina, description for “The Only Thing We Know About Cyberspace Is That Its 640x480: One Terabyte of Kilobyte Age” .
Her work is based on one terabyte of data she and her partner Dragan Espenscheid saved when the internet company Yahoo acquired and then shut down Geocities.

Geocities played an important role in the early internet of the 1990s as a large-scale platform for user-generated content. It offered a simple workflow for publishing websites online at a time when the burgeoning World Wide Web was still mostly a space for system administrators, computer programmers, and information science academics. Before broadcast media companies transitioned online and new digital media empires were built, the users of Geocities built a vast web of websites that gave shape to a folkloristic and vernacular form of expression through libraries of animated GIFs, web-safe color schemes, MIDI soundtracks, and layout templates.

Beyond the surface of ’90s nostalgia, Lialina’s presentation emphasizes the power that the user wielded online before the internet was monopolized and capitalized by tech companies. As she argues here, “being a computer user is to bring a system into action.”

Thank you!

An email with a confirmation link has been sent to the email address you entered. To complete your subscription, click this link.