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
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!
Internet visionary Justin Hall
"Nothing great was ever achieved
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
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
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
Write about it. Put it online.
Remember the first time you were dumped? How shitty
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
Culture doesn't cost big bucks, and hang in a gallery
of modern art. Culture is your friend who likes to draw.
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,
Beware anything that tells you what it is. That is
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.