Hypertext, Beloved

Thoughts on the world’s first website.

Part of the research for the Comics Devices Library includes studying the informational architecture of websites aka how pages/information/media are linked, structured and navigated, alongside best practices. This naturally ties in with my own interest in personal websites and my commitment to building resources as an important part of my practice.

I always believed the internet was created for that academic impulse to share/read information and communicate*. That belief was formed from my very first experiences online (amidst myself as a kid playing games, too), and remained as I grew up and experienced the ebbs and flows of the internet.

*and also the military, but can any science related to communications be separate from the military?

I never went to art school in the real world: the internet is that art school. Almost all of the knowledge I have about being an artist (illustrator, comics creator) and the research that informed my historical fiction comics are because of the vast effort of people who generously created websites, archives, libraries, tutorials, blogs etc that allowed me – a random person from Southeast Asia – to be at the level I am at today.

This is why creating and sharing resources and my processes online is such a core part of my practice. I owe the internet for my becoming, so I want to return the favour and contribute. I never questioned if the internet was the appropriate medium for my resources (and webcomics). It just is. No matter how it (d)evolved, the internet, from its beginning, was made to share information. That was what I thought.

But it didn’t really hit just how much that belief was actually truth until I read through the very first website: Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web pamphlet.

The WorldWideWeb (W3) is a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents.

Reading through the list of terms brought a sense of recognition to me. This was academia, or specifically, an academic way of thinking around producing and sharing research and information. Links are citations for pages (nodes) which are articles which contain text and media. The World Wide Web was analogous to academic publication, with all its checks and balances and discourses, and its structures of citations, bibliography, revised editions – but democratic and free. Free in the sense that anyone can publish about whatever topic they are an expert/enthusiast in; and free in that anyone who is interested in that topic can access it.

How can I help?

There are lots of ways you can help if you are interested in seeing the web grow and be even more useful…
Put up some data
There are many ways of doing this. The web needs both raw data — fresh hypertext or old plain text files, or smart servers giving views of existing databases. See more details , etiquette.
Suggest someone else does
Maybe you know a system which it would be neat to have on the web. How about suggesting to the person involved that they put up a W3 server?
Manage a subject area
If you know something of what’s going on in a particular field, organization or country, would you like to keep up-to-date an overview of online data?
Write some software
We have a big list of things to be done. Help yourself — all contributions gatefully received! see the list.
Send us suggestions
We love to get mail… www-bug@info.cern.ch
Tell your friends Install/get installed the client software on your site.
Quote things by their W3 address to allow w3 users to pick them straight up.

Looking at the pamphlet felt like restorating a painting after decades of sitting under grime. Suddenly all the colours are brighter. It was like I was going all the way back to the beginning of history (which is literally what this is) and all of reality’s purpose became clear.

I know what the internet (or more accurately, the World Wide Web) has become. It’s a gladiatordom of Discourse. The commons are becoming gentrified, appropriated for cynically commercial interests that value the investor or the egomaniac over ordinary readers. When some people think of the internet they think to make it narrower and smaller and more effective at squeezing out attention, money and mental health. Get to the ground floor of Tokens and Billionaire Walled Gardens and Bots polluting the open web… for money and fame???

This change mirrors reality: universities and research centres are more and more oriented towards papers that produce clout, glamour and charismatic impactful results because that is what the rich people funding grants like to see. They are also becoming privatised and run like investment funds; it doesn’t matter if the quality of the education is assured and expanded, as long as infinite money-go-up happens – which often results in budget slashing, exploitation of labour, increased workload on staff and pressure to up numbers by any means (grades, papers produces, statistics, etc).

  • See the Bobby Broccoli series on the King of Cloning and Schon for academic clout-chasing gone wrong. This is what the academic system increasingly cultivates… or maybe it has always had that darkness all along. I mean, quacks and pseudo-science exist.

Basically, Late Stage Capitalism is ruining everything and limiting our options.

I want to strongly hold on to the original spirit of the World Wide Web. Not because it’s already something I have internalised (as me having the habit of linking/referencing my old posts and external sites already shows), but it doesn’t hurt to have one more person online who is still using the internet the way it was intended and should ideally be used: like a nerd, bowtie and stack of books included.


Footnotes:

I really like the Etiquette page: it’s describing things that I take for granted, like About Pages, footers, constant hyperlinking, domain urls, a sitemap, statuses and a changelog.

The first website has a bibliography!

Hello, hello

Reimena Yee is a graphic novelist, artist and flamingo enthusiast.

She writes and illustrates quite a few webcomics and graphic novels. When not making books, she lulls away her time with essays on craft, life and experiences in the publishing industry. Some of her thoughts of art and life are rather unstructured and will evolve over time as this blog matures, as they should be.

Currently committed to being Alexander the Great's death doula. Is a nerd for all things spooky and historical.

Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur

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