A Handmade Web

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

I made my first web-based art work in 1995. It’s still online, it still works. The internet has changed a lot since then, but the DIY aesthetics and practices of that era have by no means disappeared. In today’s highly commercialised web of proprietary applications, Content Management Systems, WYSIWYG editors, and digital publishers, it becomes an increasingly radical act to hand-code and self-publish experimental web art and writing projects. Drawing upon Olia Lialina’s essay “A Vernacular Web” (2010), this paper makes correlations between the early ‘amateur’ web and today’s maker and open source movements. Examples of the persistence of Web 1.0 are presented, from the massive Ubu Web site which its founder boasts, ‘is still hand-coded in html 1.0 in bbedit, from templates made in 1996,’ to the tiny anti-social network TILDE.CLUB, where small experimental websites are hosted on one ‘totally standard unix computer.’ In addition to the slow writing of the web through hand coding, the practice of appropriating existing source code is discussed in relation to Nick Montfort’s Taroko Gorge (2008), which has been remixed dozens of times. And, drawing upon Lori Emerson’s book Reading Writing Interfaces (2014), it is argued that experimental web-based works such as Daniel Eatock’s The One Mile Scroll (2008), which transforms virtual space into an actual, physical distance, force slow reading by challenge conventions of web design.

Pull Quotes: 

Handmade objects are objects made by hand or by using simple tools rather than machines. Whether the object is homely — as in a child’s clay ashtray — or exquisite — as in a pair of bespoke brogues — the term ‘handmade’ implies a slowness in making and a unique, rare, or irregular result.

I evoke the term ‘handmade web’ to refer to web pages coded by hand rather than by software; web pages made and maintained by individuals rather than by businesses or corporations; web pages which are provisional, temporary, or one-of-a-kind; web pages which in some way challenge conventions of reading, writing, design, ownership, privacy, security, or identity.

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
HTML Tim Berners-Lee 1991

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J. R. Carpenter