• This book is a historical document of the earliest stages of internet-mediated social communication. The authors are generally the practitioners themselves, writing about early projects and social sites that facilitated their work in the 1980s and 1990s. It offers a counterhistory to contemporary social media platforms, e.g. Facebook.


  • “social media” is here intended in its broadest sense: digital media that connect people with people and which mediate/foster social relations. As such, the history of social media presented here is not about social networking companies but rather networking technologies. “Social media platforms, also known as social network services or sites (SNSs), are computer-mediated multi-user communications platforms” (4).


1. Introduction

  • Malloy’s introduction lays out the familiar history of internet-enabled social communication: the RFC (also discussed in Chun, I believe?), mailing lists, msgroup, networking gaming (e.g., Adventure), email in the 1970s, PLATO inaugurating public cyberspace, BBS, Usenet, WELL, MUDs …
  • I grow really tired of this standard history, with its focus on the same names over and over, the same art-and-theory-world locations, the same sense of pride in themselves for having invented the internet. I am more interested in the dirt of what people did with these technologies, how they fit in alongside other kinds of networking tech, and how ppl who weren’t artists in Tribeca or programmers in California used these technologies.
  • In any case, this collection is immense. There’s no way I’m going to get through it all, so I’ll just flag some things that are interesting for later reference and note the methodological bent—how this “archaeology” differs from the archaeologies of so-called-German media theory, and how these approaches feed back into “Anglo” media archaeology.

Archive and Impact

  • Malloy is one of the earliest electronic literature practitioners and much of this collection is about theorizing and historicizing the early pre-internet communities that established social protocols for the broader internet.
  • This book is interesting in two respects: 1) as an historical document of pre-Internet technologies and 2) as a methodological counterpoint to the “German” media archaeology. This more Anglo-approach (though European media theorists and artists make many appearances) addresses more intensely the social and ethnographic “remains” of pre-Internet technologies, with less focus on the hard engineering side of things.