What is the Folk Web?
April 4, 2012 5:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for 'Folk' Web Cultures. I am thinking of the recent take-down of Geocities, which seemed to refresh people's love of the naff, kitsch aesthetic it was famous for, as a prime example. What are some other folk cultures still lingering in the dark corners of the web?

I use the term 'Folk' in the sense it is used to denote 'common people' cultures, including art, music, dance, songs and stories. The artists Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane collated a Folk Archive for the British Council a few years ago, it really gets to the heart of my use of the term.

The web is old enough now to have passed through several stages of infrastructural and aesthetic upheaval. What is quaint, outdated and kitsch for some still drives the passions of others (previously).

- What is, and where can I find, the Folk Web?

- What websites and archives have devoted themselves to highlighting and saving these cultures?

- Do you know any examples of writers, artists, designers who have been influenced, or abused a Folk Web culture in their contemporary work?
posted by 0bvious to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Is this the sort of thing you are looking for?
posted by lollusc at 5:51 AM on April 4, 2012

Some of the old, pre-web communities that I was involved in still thrived, namely the MOOs. LambdaMOO was always one of the biggest, and the one I grew up on still exists (yet is crumbling, and has few users left).
posted by smitt at 5:52 AM on April 4, 2012

There are still quite a number of people who play on MUDs and other text-based interactive games. Not so much "the web" because most of it is telnet, but it's still out there. It is kind of disappearing, but at least the places that I used to play have generally had a core of people who've kept it up, even as most of the same sorts of gaming have either gone over to play-by-email/forum/IM arrangements or graphical MMORPGs.

As far as artist influence, well, Naomi Novik was a MUSHer, and I think her writing has some stuff in it that people from that scene would kind of recognize as far as storytelling/character conventions, and a lot of how WoW and so on operate pretty much came out of the MUD style of gaming.
posted by gracedissolved at 5:52 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

For 'folk internet' rather than 'folk web'... I was never much for role playing MUD/MUSH places, but I used to hang out during the workday with a bunch of folks on a MUD that appeared to consist entirely of people hanging around chatting, so I picked up a bit of info about them. (I was never on LambdaMOO, but I know some of those folks.)

A bunch of authors cut their teeth in role playing MUD/MUSH systems - C. E. Murphy and Jim Butcher that I know of, and I gather there are a few others. I have no idea if there are any still out there, but for people wanting something different than an AIM chat room, there were sexually explicit MUDs, too, for your cybersexing needs. TinyMUD itself comes back (or used to come back) every year on 8/20, "Brigadoon Day".

There's also mailing lists. I'm on some social mailing lists that date back to 1985.

And of course, USENET, where much of shared net culture came from and was spread.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:46 AM on April 4, 2012

I suspect you will find Textfiles.com interesting.
posted by Senza Volto at 7:02 AM on April 4, 2012

The page that lollusc linked above is by Olia Lialina -- she and Dragan Espenschied have done a lot of work on "Digital Folklore."
posted by neroli at 7:53 AM on April 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

IRC, USENET, LiveJournal
posted by rhizome at 8:02 AM on April 4, 2012

posted by snorkmaiden at 9:38 AM on April 4, 2012

Right now, you are essentially looking for:

* 4chan. The obvious issues here are twofold. One, it's 4chan. Two, it's not archived, adamant about not being archived (enough to block attempts at archiving it), so that'd make research (if research is your aim) difficult.

* _____ Groups. Have you delved into Yahoo! Groups at all? Goldmine. (And will probably die in like ten years, let's be real.) Google Groups does the same thing for mailing lists, and who knows what their goal is.

* Small forums for small games, MMOs, etc.
posted by dekathelon at 2:28 PM on April 4, 2012

The Active Worlds virtual environment is now nearly 17 years old and still exists, albeit at vastly reduced population. You might also like investigating The Well, a precursor to modern web discussion communities.

* 4chan. The obvious issues here are twofold. One, it's 4chan. Two, it's not archived, adamant about not being archived (enough to block attempts at archiving it), so that'd make research (if research is your aim) difficult.

Not officially, but sites like 4chanarchive and the revived Encyclopedia Dramatica keep track of notable memes and events and such.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:57 PM on April 6, 2012

There's Tumblr's Social Justice Blog culture which I was a part of for a while. Parodied here: http://questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=2229

Quite a few fandoms have really strong distinct online presences and cultures.

When i was a teen i remember a really distinct strong web culture: personalised domain names and subhosting, "vector" art, constantly changing website layouts, "content" (the same combo of personal stuff and rehashed tutorials), little web badges to show who you were a fan of (fanlistings!), review/rating blogs, a very similar aesthetic. This was around 2000-2004.
posted by divabat at 6:25 PM on November 17, 2012

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