Program

Digital Humanities: Digital Humanities Advancement Grants

Period of Performance

9/1/2019 - 5/31/2020

Funding Totals

$45,722.00 (approved)
$45,722.00 (awarded)


Early Online Communities in Context

FAIN: HAA-266568-19

Rhizome Communications, Inc. (New York, NY 10002-1218)
Michael J. Connor (Project Director: January 2019 to March 2021)

The development of a context-rich, interactive reconstruction of “The Thing,” a significant early online community, and support scholarship based on this reconstruction.

The Thing was a Bulletin Board System initiated in New York by Wolfgang Staehle in 1991, a short time before the rise of the public web. As a testing ground for forms of experimental writing, and one of the earliest online communities to host in-depth discussion of contemporary art, the platform’s content has unique value for humanities scholars. This content and the community that formed around it is best understood in relation to its BBS infrastructure—slow, mostly local connections; a growing accumulation of posts; the absence of surveillance and metrics. This project involves an effort to reconstruct a legible archive of The Thing from a partial copy created by one of its users, to make this available on the web in emulation, and to convene scholars for a discussion of The Thing as an exemplar of early posting practices.



Media Coverage

THE USER-CENTRIC MUSEUM, ARCHIVAL FLAME WARS, AND A BOARDED UP WEBSITE (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Brian Droitcour
Publication: Art in America
Date: 7/31/2020
Abstract: Write-up of Rhizome's programs surrounding the restoration of The Thing BBS in an art magazine's blog.
URL: https://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/features/art-tech-news-getty-digital-strategy-1202695855/



Associated Products

The Thing BBS Message Archive (Web Resource)
Title: The Thing BBS Message Archive
Author: Dragan Espenschied
Author: Lyndsey Moulds
Abstract: Contextualized access to a selection of recovered messages that were posted to The Thing BBS, which operated in New York City and several European cities in the early 1990s.
Year: 2020
Primary URL: http://thingbbs.rhizome.org
Primary URL Description: The Thing BBS Message Archive
Secondary URL: https://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/first-look-the-thing-bbs
Secondary URL Description: Online exhibition of The Thing BBS Message Archive

Consensual Hallucinations: Early Online Writing from The Thing BBS Archives (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Consensual Hallucinations: Early Online Writing from The Thing BBS Archives
Abstract: An online presentation and discussion about the early years of The Thing BBS, an online community active in the early 1990s, and the social dynamics and cultural practices that it gave rise to.
Author: Michael Connor
Author: Lori Emerson
Author: Wolfgang Staehle
Date: 7/21/2020
Location: Online
Primary URL: https://www.newmuseum.org/calendar/view/1675/consensual-hallucinations-early-online-writing-from-the-thing-bbs-archives
Primary URL Description: New Museum event listing for online event
Secondary URL: https://vimeo.com/441025954
Secondary URL Description: Video documentation of the event.

Phantom Threads: Restoring The Thing BBS (Public Lecture or Presentation)
Title: Phantom Threads: Restoring The Thing BBS
Abstract: This online conversation and presentation explored the philosophical and practical questions that arose in process of offering access to the archives of The Thing BBS.
Author: Dragan Espenschied
Author: Lyndsey Moulds
Author: Ben Fino-Radin
Date: 7/23/20
Location: Online
Primary URL: https://www.newmuseum.org/calendar/view/1676/phantom-threads-restoring-the-thing-bbs
Primary URL Description: New Museum event listing for public event.
Secondary URL: https://vimeo.com/441448535
Secondary URL Description: Video documentation of conversation

"Did We Dream Enough?" THE THING BBS as an Experiment in Social-Cyber Sculpture (Blog Post)
Title: "Did We Dream Enough?" THE THING BBS as an Experiment in Social-Cyber Sculpture
Author: Lori Emerson
Abstract: This article considers how social dynamics and writing practices on an early online community were shaped by the technical possibilities of the software it relied on, The Bread Board System.
Date: 12/16/2020
Website: https://rhizome.org/editorial/2020/dec/16/did-we-dream-enough-the-thing-bbs/

The Thing BBS Message Archive: An Early Online Community in Context (Report)
Title: The Thing BBS Message Archive: An Early Online Community in Context
Author: Dragan Espenschied,
Author: Lyndsey Moulds
Author: Michael Connor
Abstract: This white paper discusses the challenges inherent in offering access to a legacy online community archive, and discusses possible approaches, including emulation and visualization.
Date: 8/1/2020
Primary URL: https://thingbbs.rhizome.org/static/NEH%20Early%20Online%20Communities%20in%20Context.pdf
Primary URL Description: The white paper for this project is hosted on the project website for Rhizome’s restoration of The Thing BBS.
Access Model: Open access