Artifact on the dawn of the web

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I was watching this MTV clip from 1995, which was roughly when I first started using the web. I’d had access to email earlier during my time working for Corning prior to attending university.

MTV programming at the time felt radical because of it’s editing style which was considered to move at break neck speed, but now it feels bitty (because the content was harvested and recycled from earlier interviews and film trailers to fit their needs), not particularly fast and I don’t get the sense of information overload MTV was considered to induce at the time.

A number of things fascinated me about the clip:

  • Musicians had an authority (look at the way Moby in particular is quite erudite about the social aspects of the web) about interface between consumers and technology that they don’t seem to have now. I guess electronic music was thought to be symbiotic in some way, I get the sense culture and technology aren’t as tightly wrapped as they were
  • The timelessness of legal and regulatory issues. The moral outrage is undimmed but libertarianism seems to have taken a back seat
  • The love-hate relationship that the media industry had with the Internet, in particular the struggle of celebrities to deal with largely frictionless news flow ‘creepy’, ‘kind of scary’, ‘hard to deal with’ does as much to help us be more widely known as ‘concert bootlegs’ – a seemingly prophetic argument for piracy
  • Michael Jackson’s live fan chat reminded me of Marketters4DC and AOL back when it was media destination
  • Privacy whilst not articulated as an issue in the segment seemed be one with past online conversations trawled and printed out and handed back to one person in the mention
  • The difference in language that was used to describe web content and consumer behaviour related to use of Internet technologies: cyber porn, cyber voyagers, ‘special interest truck-stops called websites’, ‘network browser programmes’ aka web browser and virtual reality
  • The difference in the level of excitement about people being able to connect meaningfully
  • The level of creativity that early web content showed at an amateur standard. The norms have blandified the web
  • The confluence between what early web users experienced and cyberpunk fiction: you can see artistic cues from The Lawnmower man all over the this video
  • Virtual reality: what every happened to that. I remember trying a virtual reality headset game at the then newly opened Odeon cinema complex in Bromborough and being impressed by it at the time. But it failed to use the web as a springboard. We’ve had a few starts with metaverses, augmented reality apps (Layar) and MMORGs but not the kind of breakthrough promised

One final thing, MTV was supposed to be cool back then, but Comic Sans was never cool, really surprised to see it being used on the clip instead of Chicago or something similar.

The video is on so may take a while.