Inspired both by the digital revolution and the capacity for computers and the internet to 'electrify the word', I first created a website in the mid 90s (at some social space I don't even remember) and then uploaded my own website to demon around 1997. Of course this was genuine mixture of vanity and geekishness, but I still believed there was something more to this - something along the lines Walter Benjamin had described in his 'Work of Art in an Era of Mechanical Reproduction' - that this technology would transform the assembly line models of industry and culture, and enable more of us to become producers of culture rather than just consumers of it.
I first wrote this up in an Essay revising Benjamin's precepts for the New Statesman - The Work of Art in the Digital Domain.
But I was also inspired to turn that dry, function FAQ language of computing into something poetic. Of course, I wouldn't have been the first, and both the Italian Futurists and Soviet Constructivists had dabbled with the technocratic dreams of the early 20th Century, which clearly ended in catastrophe.
We still don't know where this dream will lead us: to Big Brother or, more insidiously, being 'entertained to death' like the inhabitants of Huxley's Brave New World.
Still, let's be optimistic. And despite his sudden and brutal end in Soviet Russia, let's be stirred by some of the words of Mayakovsky
THE FORCE OF WORDS
I know the force of words, their urgent calling,
not just words that draw polite applause
but words that even the dead find disturbing
break through their graves and walk abroa
Though censors edit or publishers ignore them
words knuckle down, buckle under, cut through, keep on
hammering away till express trains come fawning
to lick poetry's rough hands, tame and meek.
I know the force of words, like a tissue flung
under dancers heels, they seem empty air,
but man is made of backbone, heart and tongue.
Version by Peter Jukes
Click below for the animated fish in the web version