DIGITAL AMERICA

A Virtual Trip to the 90′s and the Foundation of the Digital Age

// Posted by on 09/08/2014 (11:50 AM)

I like to think of myself as being well versed in the modern culture of the World Wide Web. Between constant checking of social medias, refreshing my go-to blogs, watching videos and browsing Reddit threads, I spend a lot of time engulfing myself in the cyber world that has entrenched our modern society. My usage of the Internet has been a gradual progression that has coincided with my development.

I remember first beginning to use a computer, when I was a child when I would come home after school, and play Roller Coaster Tycoon, Putt-Putt, the Sims and numerous other computer games on my mom’s pc. As I have grown, I have found the computer and cyber culture gaining an increasing foothold in my life. I started using the Internet daily sometime in middle school. I started getting news updates through various websites, creating social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, had a brief foray into blogging and just spent a lot of time browsing my interests, keeping my mind occupied with games on Sporcle, redundant information from Wikipedia, videos on YouTube and plenty of other miscellaneous things.

I have grown up with the Internet. But even as I was getting started, the Internet already had a solid foundation with over a decade of use. The Internet of the 1990’s is so foreign to me as I never saw it firsthand. Sure, I’ve seen depictions of it through archived images and the Space Jam website which has apparently not been updated since 1996, but I never experienced the awe and wonder that others felt when exploring this new and untapped resource in its early stages. That is why the chance to reenact a 90’s chat room felt so appealing to me. I was not sure what to expect when logging in to the L.A. Live chat room last Wednesday night, but I was excited nonetheless.

My first look at the chat room interface

My initial impressions of the chat room were pretty representative of the depictions of the 90’s web culture that I had seen online or in other sources of media. The chat room’s interface could not be more terribly outdated, with its black, starry background, and terribly pixelated front-page logo. It was stressful, having to click refresh in order to see new posts and having previously seen posts use a faded font color that was near impossible to see on the starry black page background. Regardless, I powered through the defunct 90s webpage to immerse myself in the chat room’s unique structure.

Once the chat room became active with my classmates and I posting, I began to feel entranced by the experience. In many ways, the chat room conversation was not much different from what I experience browsing Facebook or Reddit now. I found myself refreshing the page as quickly as I could to read through new comments, hoping to stay on top of its conversation. Much like today, if you weren’t the first to respond or add input, your thoughts or comments would be looked over in favor of others. Initially, I distracted myself from the chat room by checking Facebook and other websites, but as the conversation increased I found I was unable to venture away from the chat room.

Our conversation consisted of recalling childhood memories that created a rush of nostalgia within me. With numerous minds collaborating, the discussion brought back memories of candies, games and moments on television that I had completely forgotten or could not have recalled on my own. Within the infrastructure of the chat room, it felt as if we were discussing these things during real time, that we had transported ourselves back to the 90’s.

The discussion grows

Although the early users of the WELL did not have previous experience using online systems, I am led to believe that their use of the WELL created similar feelings of nostalgia within them. For these early users, the WELL must have recalled the Whole Earth Catalog, with which most users would have been familiar. Like-minded people were coming together to produce content and information that could be seen by others all over. Although the digital space they were using was foreign, the users of the WELL bonded over its base structure of the Whole Earth Catalog.

The chat room itself, served as another step in the transformation of the cyber culture. As the knowledge and powers of computers increased, the ability for people to come together took new shapes and forms. The WELL evolved into the World Wide Web, which in turned led to the creation of chat rooms and message boards. For me, it is clear that although the digital age is a constant era of change and growth, the principles that were apparent in its foundation have continued to exist and prevail.  The digital age can credit the human desire to communicate with others and spread information for encouraging its technological growth over the years, a trait was apparent in our chat room discussion.


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