Monthly Archives: June 2010

out of the past

Feed magazine, edited by Steven Johnson and Stefanie Syman, started publishing online in 1995 as a “webzine”. They’ve been gone for a long time: they stopped publishing after the first dot-com boom, in the summer of 2001. It’s exciting to see that they’ve just put their online archives back up (at a huge number of interesting critics got their start at Feed, and I expect I’ll be spending a lot of time digging through pieces that I only half-remember.
One thing worth pointing out is from very early in their tenure – it’s dated May 1, 1995. Editor Steven Johnson (of Everything Bad is Good for You etc.) convened Bob Stein, Sven Birkerts, Carolyn Guyer, and Michael Joyce to discuss reading electronically. The Gutenberg Elegies had recently been published, and Birkerts was the go-to critic for electronic media; Michael Joyce is still remembered for afternoon, a story; and Carolyn Guyer was another hypertext author, though I have to confess that I’ve never seen her work. It’s an interesting conversation: in some ways, the same conversation that we’re still having fifteen years later, though the discussion is almost never as wide-ranging as this one.
It’s hard to tell – I certainly don’t remember, though maybe Bob will – how different the current presentation is from the original. Navigation is a bit confusing: there are four main pages, but you need to click the button labeled “This way for the next object” to get to following pages. There’s a very interesting sort of hypertext linking going on: links in the main text link to comments by other participants, who are sometimes, but not always, identified in the left margin. The design doesn’t always work: but the pixelated graphics and complicated structure beckon us back to a time when the web was pure potential.