Everything I Know About the Internet I Learned from the Spice Girls

  • December 14, 2013
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Website screenshot detail #1

3.5" floppy disk with website (11 HTML pages), 71 found images, and ReadMe file (essay)
Dimensions variable
Edition of 20

Everything I Know About the Internet I Learned from the Spice Girls is an attempt to re-create my first website from memory using HTML and formatting consistent with the time in which it was created.  Though autobiographical in nature, the piece raises broader questions about the preservation of born-digital archives in the face of technical obsolescence and the privatization of web services and content.  It also offers a unique lens through which to view the visual aesthetics and social practices of the early consumer-oriented World Wide Web, and the ways in which digital performance of identity has dramatically shifted.

The project was inspired when I discovered a box of old 3.5" floppy disks at my parents' house and was disappointed to learn that none of them contained any traces of my teenage pop obsession.  Not wanting to give up, I went searching for the site I'd created using AOL's WYSIWYG editor nearly fifteen years ago, only to find that AOL had shut down its hosted homepages in 2008 with very little warning to its users.  Not only had I overridden my own archives with new files, but the public documentation of this labor of love had been removed without my knowledge or consent.  In trying to find any remaining bits of this mass digital disappearance, I learned that there were many others who had also lost cherished content -- some even called it an eviction.

The exercise of rebuilding the site from memory also provided a unique opportunity to consider the ways in which the design, architecture, and functionalities of the web has changed since the late 90s.  As with many projects based in remembering, I recollected  details in waves, often feeling unsure of specific characteristics' veracity and concerned that I was merely performing a hazy nostalgia.  Still, as pieces came into focus, I was surprised how deeply affective and even embodied of an experience it was to revisit particular images and styles, while at the same time questioning why and for whom I made the original.  In a world in which so many aspects of our lives are now experienced online, it was fascinating and almost quaint to revisit this rudimentary and experimental form.

I have chosen to release the complete work only on 3.5" floppy disks, as I find it another notable marker of change that all of its data occupies less disk space than a single image from my current mobile phone.  I also want to consider that perhaps, in addition to loss, obsolescence, and scarcity, the ever-changing nature of technology itself may also render a sense of preciousness in the forms that are left behind.