Give Me Back My Reblog Archives: Bringing An End To The Perpetual Rediscovery of Net Art

by Paddy Johnson on February 24, 2011 · 13 comments Opinion

Screencapture from an animated GIF on Spirit Surfers.

A professional trend within universities I don’t like: Professors who are given the responsibility of handling New Media departments simply because they have the most advanced Photoshop or Illustrator skills. This isn’t good for anyone. For one, it’s an unnecessary burden on teachers who don’t have the background to teach such courses. Like any other course, simply reading a book on the subject isn’t going to bring one up to date. For another, many art and technology sites don’t make accessing online resources easy. For example: What the hell happened to my two weeks worth of work I did in 2006 reblogging for Eyebeam? As far as I can tell, those archives are either lost or simply unavailable. Given that Eyebeam’s work during the first half of the 2000s is known to be pioneering, particularly in the field of net art, I think the institution has a responsibility to make those archives available. So too does, a site, that at this point, is easily more relevant than Eyebeam. They are currently working to fix the links that broke during their site relaunch last month.

Having access to these archives and links is particularly important, as the number of students I’ve encountered recently who are deeply invested in net art, yet know nothing about its history. This is very disconcerting. Teachers, institutions, and critics, need to be doing a better job at preserving the history we want.

For this reason I will be running a series of discussions prompted by my recent visit to MICA in Baltimore aimed not just at identifying problems, but working to create executable solutions. Look for this on the blog in the coming weeks. Three years from now, I don’t want to run into yet another super engaged 20-something net-nerd, who’s managed to get all the way through university without learning about what a surf club is.

Forthcoming: Institutional website reviews!


tom moody February 25, 2011 at 12:52 am

When “net natives” talk about living in a timeless vacuum of contextless data, this is partly because their elders are too weary or cash-strapped to create a decent archive. Contentious academic types wishing to write pseudo-histories about net expression can get away with bloody murder since they can’t be fact-checked.

Rhizome has had at least three technical directors since the mid-’00s; every time the site architecture is revamped stuff breaks and much of it doesn’t get fixed.

My three weeks reblogging for Eyebeam in ’04 vanished down the memory hole, along with Paddy’s work and many others.This was content from easily over a hundred websites as well as comments I added to posts–a snapshot of the state of tech, art, and politics in the dark days right before Bush’s re-election. Even if someone doesn’t want to read that, they might be interested to know what Alex Galloway, Marisa Olson, Cory Arcangel or SCREENFULL reblogged.

We’ve complained about this several times and the current Eyebeam regime clearly doesn’t care. They launched a new reblog that replaced the old without so much as an explanation. The new model doesn’t have timestamps, which makes it easier to hide that it hasn’t been updated since November.

Ironically solo bloggers have a better record and memory than public institutions. I will try not to abuse this power.

L.M. February 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm

The phrase “living in a timeless vacuum of contextless data” makes me laugh, as I always preferred the description “born yesterday”. I agree that institutions have been very unreliable when it comes to archiving. When I teach or give talks I’m always hitting those particular dead links, and so I end up perpetuating the born-yesterday problem and focusing on individual artists who are currently active on-line.

auralee February 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Has anyone contacted Eyebeam volunteering to host the old versions? Is anyone at museums or other institutions looking at ways to at least preserve the files for old blogs +/or websites for research or other purposes? It shouldn’t take much cash to at least preserve them . . . . perhaps such an effort could be umbrella’d under EAI if not Eyebeam or the New Museum? Or ZKM?

tom moody February 25, 2011 at 3:51 pm

At least a couple of recent histories I know of started with the precedents in Rachel Greene’s book “Internet Art,” published in 2004, and proceeded to erect shaky timelines leading to whatever artist they were championing at the moment (that is, Jon Rafman). This was possible in part because Eyebeam’s archive is gone and Rhizome’s is a “work in process.” The moral here is: write a book. L.M., it’s time for us to put our heads together and write the Digital Media Tree Guide to What’s Important in Internet Art. On second thought, we need to find a ghost writer so our own roles aren’t sidelined.

Dragan Espenschied February 25, 2011 at 4:32 pm

People, take it in your own hands! For example with GNU WGET ( or httrack ( Especially the latter is easy to use, the first can be automated if you like to write scripts.

Download your blog posts with that soft, zip them up, if something breaks upload it to your own server.

tom moody February 25, 2011 at 4:53 pm

drx, thanks, I have been saving my archives but will try these out. If one of us had been using them to save web pages of public institutions that are now inaccessible we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I haven’t checked, maybe Internet Archive has this page of the radical software group:

I linked to it from my blog, that’s the only way I know it ever existed.

tom moody February 26, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Auralee, in answer to your question, no, I haven’t asked Rhizome or Eyebeam if I could host their archives. It’s more than just saving the database, despite how easy Dragan makes it sound. Rhizome has changed several times the way posts are organized and named –when you go from, say, a numbered post to having the word “reblog” in the url to removing the word “reblog” and assigning a content tag “reblog” to those old posts, links break and commands to “redirect” to the old links have to be written. You could go post by post and do this but usually programmers try to find a way to automate the process, so inevitably content gets lost. It’s still in the database, but invisible to anyone using the site. Also, sites change their CSS design and information specific to the original post is lost that way, too. (E.g., removing a date stamp or a comment link by making it invisible in the CSS script.) Eventually you end up needing massive detective work to find posts (using Google’s cache, other blogs, etc) and can never fully reconstruct a site as readers originally saw it. (I am open to any correction of my understanding of the above–these observations are based on my blog and observing others’ over the years.)

tyler February 27, 2011 at 3:06 pm

if a new media art student doesn’t know what a surf club is then they don’t waste enough time on the net between 1 and 3 a.m.

Nick Hasty February 28, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Hi all,

I incorporated the reblog posts into our blog archive on Rhizome, and they’ve been available since our relaunch under the tag “reblogarchive.”

The old urls should automatically forward now as well.

Wanted to this sooner, but I’ve had my hands full since the relaunch making sure the new site is running smoothly as well as launching our Commissions Program.

As well, I’m working to bring back all our archived content, but trying to do so in a manner that, for posterity’s sake, is sane, efficient, and scalable.


Nick Hasty

Anonymous March 2, 2011 at 2:43 am

Thanks for your reply Nick. Do you have a sense of how long it will take to bring back all the archived content and fix the broken links?

Mattf March 1, 2011 at 2:10 am

As an academic, and one who has indeed had often handled digital media “stuff” simply due to the relative disinterest of other faculty members, here’s some perspective from inside the ivory tower:

University hiring moves incredibly slowly. Faculty lines open up once, maybe twice, a decade. That’s only going to slow as more institutions simply make do with adjunct faculty who often teach a class or two at multiple institutions.

The people who hire college & university faculty are themselves college or university faculty, all of whom are by definition very focused on their own work & professional concerns.

As digital media has become more common, indeed it’s hardly worth classifying it as “new” anymore, academic departments do seem (from the inside, anyway) less inclined to hire new faculty simply because of “Photoshop skills” and are increasingly able to write more comprehensive job descriptions & ask pertinent questions at interviews. Ideally the people who were hired because they were, for any number of reasons, “good at Photoshop” have managed to inform themselves about enough aspects of digital art (like, um, this: to have some idea of where to go next.

As PJ notes in the original post, pioneering digital art institutions should probably make it a priority to organize & present their archives so that people with ordinary digital skills can more easily access them.

I for one would welcome a book – or other comprehensive publication – authored by Tom Moody.

tom moody March 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Nick, great, glad this is getting done. I know we’re riding you hard, but as Paddy noted “of all the broken links that need to be fixed, I’d say the exhibition links should take top priority.” Also there is a longish list of broken URLs in the post of mine that Paddy links to above.

Mattf, thanks for the kind words, it’s nice to hear since the net natives have been all up in my face lately.

tom moody March 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I have been continuing to update my “broken links to Rhizome” list in the post Paddy links to above. Nick fixed a few things by creating an archive page, but I still have a slew of “front page” and “thread” links that don’t redirect to their new homes.

Much of the content reblogged from my blog in the ’05-’07 period gave me attribution in the form of a hyperlink. Those seem to have been stripped from the new, tagged “reblog archives” so it appears that Lauren Cornell or Marisa Olson did the artwork or writing. Am not the only one affected by this–many no longer have credit for their work.

Mattf has got me thinking about a book. It’s just vaporware or a thought experiment at this stage but covers a multitude of ills. It’s called The Lost Years: Art on the Internet Between the Dot Com Crash and the Rise of Facebook.

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