The below essays are is written by Net evangelist Justin Hall at the beginning of the Information Age. Rebel and visionary, Hall calls on us to forge our own culture on the World Wide Web. Hall dramatically forges the way with his own incredible page "A View From Underground" with stories about his father's suicide, extensive drug use, venereal diseases, and even naked pictures of himself.

Hall perhaps has the quixotic "fight the established order" syndrome, but listen to the passion in his writing about webpages and digital culture. His spirit is contagious! And it is a breath of fresh air in an advanced capitalist society where so much is market driven and profit oriented.

íViva Justin Hall!


"Let's Forge Our Own Culture!

"

Justin Hall
Internet visionary Justin Hall

"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet success unexpected in common hours."
Henry David Thoreau


"FORGING CULTURE!"
Justin Hall
27 april, 1995

Don't wait for anyone to recognize your talent;
do what you love, and do it online.

I grew up a voracious reader. As I read, I burned to be writer. But I sought approval before I created. I didn't realize that to be a writer, I just had to write. Somehow, I thought an agent and a book publisher came first. A contract with Time magazine, sanction from the big boys. I thought that everyone who had anything to say was published, simply because I'd never been told otherwise.
When I was 19, I began publishing on the web. Because it was fun, because I could, because I wanted to. I didn't have permission from anyone, I wasn't trying to carve myself a digital niche. A year later, I find guys with suits and too much
money asking me about "content providing" and "youth culture" - like I've found the philosopher's stone of netgeist.

What are you when you compose your e-mail? your web page? your own graphics?

You too are a digital artist! You are among the digital elite!

Publish yourself. Publish your friends. Digital culture sucks when everyone's hanging around looking for the latest pop culture trend before it hits, so they can put their name on it, invest, and cash in. Forget it - invest in yourself. Tell stories, and worry about the next trend when you're on the toilet.
Good stories, good art - these make good web pages. Not money, not hot systems, not big hired guns. People are naturally funny. Give them a chance to be so, and they will.

Go out into your neighborhood and do a video documentary! Stage a play on a streetcorner! Strike up a conversation! Read a poem on a train!

Then, write about it on your web page.

Remember the first time you had sex? How strange that was?
Write about it. Put it online.

Remember the first time you were dumped? How shitty that was?
Write about it. Put it online.

I'd sooner read that than Barry Diller's five means of media ascension.

Culture doesn't come from Warner Brothers and Sony. Culture is that woman friend of yours who tells the most outrageous stories.

Culture doesn't cost big bucks, and hang in a gallery of modern art. Culture is your friend who likes to draw.

alt.sex.stories is a popular newsgroup - because people like reading stories about other people's sex. Tell your own, and readers will come.

People responding to your work is the highest form of praise. You can get that on the net for $20 a month - you don't need a donation from Silicon Graphics.

If you don't write, or create something, you should. It's human. After a while, getting by ain't shit.

If you write, or create something, please share.

How will you be paid? I'll send you a story in return.

This is culture people - unbound, unabridged, unedited, unpackaged, unfiltered. This is people culture - fresh, alive, un-self-conscious, hype-free.

Beware anything that tells you what it is. That is marketing.

Things should just be. Critics can talk about them. If you are talking about what you are doing, you aren't doing it.

Let's not pay other people to tell us what's the best we can do. Do it, and share. We'll make a culture to be celebrated.

why the web?

The web is the first semi-permanent unlimited world wide exhibition space. Think of it as a never-ending world's fair, where anyone can set up a booth, and you don't have to be there to see it.
The web is an opportunity to make good our fifteen megabytes of fame. Because web pages encompass any existing media, you can forge your site in your own image. You can be unique, because there are no expectations. Most people set up personal home pages out of nothing other than love and curiosity.
This is what is healthy and wonderful about the web. When you discover the "model train home page," and it's not set up by Lionel, you know it is a labour of love. Some gal who loves those trains put up a page with a picture of her track, her and her son playing with the trains, and a list of designer trains she's created.

What does she get out of that effort? Folks who are interested see what she is doing, and she hears from people who share her passion for trains. Perhaps another train enthusiast will be inspired to set up their own page, and soon there will be a online community of train enthusiasts.

When you start talking about cancer, in addition to trains, the possibilities for enhancing our daily lives become apparent.

Why put details about your personal life online?

What would you rather read? A pamphlet? Or a heartfelt tale, or personal perspective? The web will reflect humanity if we put our lives online.

Putting our lives online does not mean leading our lives online, it is about utilizing unprecedented sharing. We interact in the real world, and we use cyberspace to collaborate and share and conjure new possibilities.

Do we want to see ourselves, joys and sorrows, reflected in cyberspace, or do we want an easier mall? Not that both won't exist, but when you sit down to craft your page, take into account which you'd rather see.

Why would anyone care about my life/hobbies/stories?

Writing it down and putting it up is the large part of the catharsis: crafting art, making something transcendent out of everyday existence. That people would read it is flattery. They will, because people are naturally curious.
Because we are lonely. We need more friends, or sympathetic ears, people who will listen to our stories, and tell us their own, or tell us they were moved. We like to read other people's stories because they help us affirm our own - we are not alone out there.
Since people can't see you, prejudice is harder to come by. The anonymity of cyberspace can free you from shame; the possibility of embarrassment or harassment is lessened when the people sharing your stories aren't there to spit in your face. Most people won't take the time to deliver negative comments. They wouldn't bother visiting your site if they weren't somehow interested.

Would you rather they read your resume, or your autobiography?
I'll tell you which I would prefer!

humanizing the highway

The web is the prototype for how people will relate by computer in the next century, and beyond. There may not be web pages in 2010, but there will be an Internet, in one form or another.

Right now, the web offers a bridge between that old media world of broadcast text and images, and the new world of video virtual reality interconnectedness.

It is critical that folks get on there and make the web reflect human culture, relationships, community.

The Networks may be planning a big Internet video launch of all of their programming next year, but if it is as banal as most of television, I will be right back on the web. Ultimately, people are responsible for the production of those shows, and those stories. With the web, you are offered the chance to directly produce your own material. The technology makes it possible to look as slick as the professionals, so the playing field is leveled. What is important is the story, the intention. Is your heart in it? If it is, it will show, and it will show up the people making pages to make a buck.

People worry about government censorship. It is easy to censor pornography collections, because you can justify it - sex out of context can be a dangerous thing. But if the sex is part of a larger story, love, erotica, relationships - a life story, then the job of the censors is compounded, difficult. If you want to see sex online, grassroots it. Tell small-scale sexual stories. Publish pictures of you and your partner posing naked together. Making a business out of it is what draws attention to it.

The more widespread and grassroots the Internet, the more difficult it will be to dominate and control it. You can contribute directly to the humanizing of the wires by telling your story, adding your persona to the unaffiliated.