Tuesday, March 19, 2019

archaeological layers of online identities

I found myself talking a few times this month about early online selves. My first would have been in MUDs, MUCKs and groups/forums, although I didn't like forums much. I think it's probably because I'm not sufficiently fanatic about anything to pick a forum to live in; or rather, that other people's fanaticism exhausts me; and also that I find arguing a stressful activity, not entertainment. I've heard and observed that people do enjoy arguing, and that's fine for them, but for me there's no such thing as a good argument. So, forums; no. I drifted off the internet and made zines instead.

Then came the year I was needed to edit a website and I taught myself , like you do, using a text editor and a hosting service. Geocities was handy, so I used that, and made this:

It's kind of a zine shoved up online ("Perzine" is the designation for a zine that is essentially all about yourself, and I think this would qualify). It was up for a few short years, until Geocities collapsed. I took a print and squirrelled it away on a friend's server and oh my god everything still works, even the rugged little javascript rollovers.

I went looking for myself in the Geocities archive, when I heard it had happened, but I wasn't in it. Insufficiently significant. The Barbie Pictures got Boing-Boinged one year after someone made a witty tweet about them (no-one I knew - presumably the page was just found via an image search) but that was years after the fall of Geocities. Our server got knocked over and everything.

We put it back up again, and I remember I posted a note in Boing Boing saying so and thanking them for the attention. I remember the tone of the response. "You're our subject matter, the butt of our jokes. Butt out of our conversation. Freak. Fem. Weirdo."

Forums. Usenet. The comments. I never did get along with them. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

re-inventing the mixtape swap for 2019

At the moment I'm digitising mixtapes, and it's a time-consuming task. Let me first clarify that I'm not on the actual case of audio casettes (still carefully filed downstairs alongside the Man from U.N.C.L.E novelisations and the Minic ships) so I'm skipping setting up some sort of lash-in to do the cross-channel ripping and scrubbing up my rusty audio-processing skills for the chopping and cleaning. No, all I'm doing is importing a mix CD and (where the track list has been lost) identifying the tracks, where possible.

Yes, this is me, with my phone to the speakers, with Google listening, poking away at What's this song until a match pops out. Or doesn't, in the case of a lot of the mid-90s stuff, where I was drifting through lo-fi, riot-grrl, anti-folk circles and bands popped in and out of existence like mushrooms with stickered guitars and brightly coloured hair.

In all of this, one of my old comp-swap friends Whatsapped me to say he was  thinking of getting a comp swap going again. Sounds like a good idea, I said. I still treasure them all, my happy old mixtapes, and what's more, I have a slightly shameful secret. I make a mix-tape every single month, using the following basic selection methodology:

  1. Pre-load a music player with the long-list (recently added + random top-up for me)
  2. Bookmark all tracks that resonate
  3. Rearrange the list till it feels like a mixtape
  4. Publish online in some way
And I do this absolutely irrespective of whether anyone else is listening. I don't need to be in a swap to do comping, which is good, as most swaps only last 6-24 months anyway, until people feel they can't handle the new stuff to listen to every month, or that they can't get it together to make the comp, or worst of all, that no-one's interested in what they think is good music and are sick of hearing their music collection.

Not that any of that isn't true. No-one else likes the music you do in the way that you do; it's one of the creases of your individuality. You're obviously too busy. No-body's been bored for years now; the world has moved into a space where everything is happening all of the time. Who has the time to be interested in anything? New awesome things fling themselves beneath your feet at every turn.

Nevertheless, if it's something you can do lightly, folded into life as normal, then it becomes a regular enhancement, a reliable pleasure, a road you like to walk down, an idea that blooms reliably and regularly, like a daisy on a well-trodden lawn. 

So yeah, I though. Why not, I thought:

And then I started tagging in the mixtapers old and new, following my usual rhythm, adjusting the aesthetic to be something a bit more public-facing:

and then somebody asked the question, like they always do: