Reaching out

Some of us had had the experience of the Galactic Hacker Party, where we managed to establish a network and get a variety of very different people involved. Because of our backgrounds and because of this experience at the GHP, the focus of our thinking was to create an AIDS network. This would be shaped and launched by a Zero Positive Ball, as it was then called.

We imagined this design process for the network would carry on until September 1990 and then we would launch the AIDS network at the Zero Positive Ball. The AIDS network that we wanted to build would be able to facilitate grassroots organizations exchanging information and communicating with each other and it would facilitate the contribution of artists. It is important to realise that at the time the Internet still did not have a graphical interface, there was no World Wide Web, interactivity was only to be found in exchanging text and commands and it was mostly computer experts who were using the Internet. To create an accessible network seemed to be a sensible contribution to the fight against AIDS.

In a letter I faxed to Lee Felsenstein on the 7th of November 1989, I sent a first draft of the proposal as it was conceived by me through the different conversations we had had till then. Concerning the network I wrote:
"All groups that would like to participate in the creation of the 0+Ball and network are asked for their wishes and ideas about what the network should be able to provide and how it should be created. In other words: How does one dance on the wires? The structure of the network, we think, should have different space levels. One distinction that has to be made is between local, national, international and continental areas. The many languages that the world knows will force this naturally. Another distinction might be a different sort of text like poetry, prose, news, chat, knowledge, visuals, science and information. The technical form in which the network will be shaped is to be defined as 'self-structuring'. The Community Memory project that is based in Berkeley California will inspire this. Also, in the INTERDOC networknote 166 , there is a lot of experience in this field." (Personal Folder Before 1st of May, 1990).

In the same proposal we also sketched the concept of 'package time', which was elaborated upon later and ultimately was not used. Package time was supposed to solve the time gap that occurs when people in different locations around the world gather physically and communicate in one network, in other words share time from different time zones. When reading this text based on our conversations in late 1989, I realise that conversations about designing communities in 2006 are still concerned with the same issues: self structuring, different levels, languages and sorts of text. It is often argued that information and communication technologies develop so quickly. The concepts and issues that underlie these technologies apparently do not change that fast.