Monday, May 18, 2009

brief hist

New additions....

Double Shakespeare this week, with Love's Labour's Lost and Romeo and Juliet. (Shakespeare is the most futile of topics, if what you are interested in is getting people to read you. No-one will ever find their way to your words via Google, because of the swamping effect surrounding major canonical authors.)

Also: Borden Chase's Red River

And on Intercapillary Space:
William Canton
Lisa Samuels: The Invention of Culture

I've just seen the announcement that Yahoo are ceasing their free Geocities service later this year; the gloomy prediction in my advertisement has thus proved true, though what I had really believed was that the web would evolve in such a way that no layer however venerable would ever be lost; I had supposed that storage space would become so cheap that the tiny part of it occupied by an ancient hosting service (personal disk-space limit: 15MB) would cost more to delete than to maintain. But perhaps I am now the only tenant.... I've been with Geocities for around ten years. At the time I signed up, you had to decide which bustling virtual city you were going to live in - my choice was Paris, which I was told was inhabited by artists and intellectuals. (Cities such as Mumbai and São Paulo were not on offer; the Mid-West hadn't heard of them; nothing good, anyway.) The virtual city idea was an imaginative one, in the sense both of beauty and of indifference to reality. Its creator supposed that site owners might like to form virtual communities within their "local" neighbourhood, and would spend many a cold spring evening strolling the boulevards of "Paris" and browsing the ateliers of their neighbour "citizens" - none of whom were French, by the way. There were local contests and neighbourhood forums. This was a prophetic dream of Facebook. But as a virtual community Geocities was over-optimistic. The sites of that era were non-interactive, comment streams were in their infancy. Web surfers have a targeted agenda and do not drop in on new sites randomly. Nothing was less likely to satisfy than the site next-door. And besides, what meaning did next-door have, when every site in hyperspace was a single click away?

Soon after I joined, the virtual city idea was in effect bulldozed when inhabitants were given a new site-name based on their username. I suppose siteowners instantly embraced the novelty of having a site with their own name in the URL. For a while, I don't know how long, the old virtual Paris name was retained concurently. But if you try to navigate to virtual Paris today, all you'll see is a "Page could not be found" and an ad for the world's largest matrimonial agency, decorated with photos of lovely and gifted unbetrotheds (one is from Mumbai).

So my website will have to up sticks, and I'll be doing a lot of tedious relinking at some point. As a matter of principle (as well as wallet) I would like to continue to use a free hosting service, so if you've got any suggestions push them my way...

Oh, of course, what you really want to know is what is my grand total of web hits after ten years? The answer is about 35,000 (some stats were lost, so I'm not really sure). Of these, my long-standing Shakespeare page contributes a pitiful 347. The most popular is a relatively recent page on Rubens' Judgment of Paris - about 4,000. Memo to self: include plenty of images, and don't bother with self-indulgent creative stuff, remember about the targeted agenda... Of course I don't really mean this, but it's a sobering thought that the flock of Rubens students have probably given this page a lot of relatively engaged readings. Whereas the vast majority of other visitors will have suffered only brief disappointment - they realized their mistake and they instantly clicked away.

(One of my own naiveties was to suppose that occasionally my site would be visited by some casual specialist, who would take up one of my numerous invitations to email me with a factual correction. I knew I must have made a lot of errors. This pleasing fantasy has, of course, not once occurred. But when I wrote about Bob Cobbing on Intercapillary Space, Lawrence Upton jumped in straight away. That - actually uncomfortable - exposure of my ignorance has not yet recurred; this is because I no longer make mistakes.)

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