Webzine 2000 and the Emerging Digital World

Jul 22 20

Webzine 2000 and the Emerging Digital World

Paul Weinstein

20 years ago, this July I helped organized a self-publishing event in San Francisco called Webzine 2000. The event was one of a short series of annual gatherings (Webzine ‘98,’ 99 & 2001) dedicated to the emerging world of online self-expression.

The term webzine itself was a homage to zine, a term for self-printed collections of work in a magazine-like form. Thus, a webzine denoted the transition of periodic self-expression from print to digital. As it later turned out, the term (and form) of self-publication to emerge from this period of the web was the online journal or weblog (i.e. blogs). 

Of note, even then, how to organize and validate the sources of information and their impact on the community was understood to be of importance (though back then the “enemy” were corporations, not Russia, China or our own President)).


How do we, as people rate and relate to all of this information. While mottos such as “The truth shall set you free” and “Information is power” sound masterful, how exactly do individuals accustomed to getting information already rated and edited for their consumption not only learn how to publish their own perspective, but also learn how to process all the views they can now access? Do we really need to know that Tom’s cat died last Saturday night? We might find it interesting depending on how Tom himself related to the event and what he has published. Of course this might be valued lower than say, the full text of President Clinton’s last State of the Union address, but you get the point.1


Today, the algorithms and AI of search engines and social networks amplify diverse voices. But, we are still only at the beginning of this evolution. Facebook and other platforms have taken advantage of the Internet’s basic structure and strategically designed themselves to enhance the virality of content. But while these recommendation engines can be useful in identifying keywords, they struggle with understanding context and subtext.

This means falsehoods, and other dangerous content, can spread and connect “true believers” at a scale previously unimagined. It means people can organize and act at speeds never before possible. 

This is in contrast to print zines, some of which also propagated conspiracy theories and “facts”, but spread via mail. Their existence by word of mouth.

By optimizing for rapid distribution, social networks, have created a new world order where false or misleading information runs rampant. However, we can’t use them as scapegoats, absolving ourselves of our ignorance of how these systems work.

Yes, we need to teach critical thinking. Yes, we need to develop and teach digital literacy around all the forms of media the Internet enables, podcasts, videos and imagery. But we also need to unbox the algorithms. We need to know how they work.

The problems of yesterday are still the problems of today.


That groups like zinesters exist signifies that the Internet and its related technologies are seen more than Get-Rich-Quick vehicles for techno-elite groups such as VC firms. That they have taken it upon themselves to help enrich and comment on the interaction of technology and our culture would seem to note that we haven’t numbed our spirit to our tools [or] our to economy.


Internet Archive Webzine 2000 Videos

Additional Reading (from Then and Now)