Digital Culture Sites that Allison Digs

Presented here are five different websites that I have discovered over the years which have fostered my interest in digital media. As a prospective graduate student, these sites (in one way or another) have provided inspiration and have shaped my interests in theories related to multimedia and human-computer interaction. All are fairly simple at the core, acting as archives of artists’ work and then some. But these websites also deeply examine obscure topics and digital artifacts, connecting them with internet theory itself (no pun intended) and acting as a testimony to their enduring, if not iconic, status. Whenever you get the chance, take a look at them; they’re strange, they’re stunning, they’re all-around spectacular, and I wouldn’t be sharing them with you if I didn’t think they were just jim-dandy.

1. Born Magazine: Fifteen Years of Art & Literature

Though retired in 2011, nearly seven years later, Born Magazine is still well ahead of its time in terms of content. Now acting as a digital gallery, the website exhibits multi-modal masterpieces from over 900 different contributors, dating back as far as 1996(!) The work presented by Born Magazine combines visual, aural, and interactive features with poetry and prose alike, allowing those who visit the site to watch/listen to written works, as well as click through them in order to progress. During this experience, “readers” are able to become more immersed in the works as aspects of the works themselves are enhanced through sensory extension. Born Magazine offers a virtual literary archive of multi-modal gems that will enrich your life and make you wonder where the time went in the most poetic sense.

2. DIAGRAM: Anode Cathode Hot Rod Lit

Anode Cathode Hot Rod Lit. What a cool subtitle.

Similar to Born Magazine, DIAGRAM is another quirky literary journal that combines visual art and literature, but with a unique scientific twist. The text of each publication is accompanied by, you guessed it, one or more diagrams, several of which are jokes, at least one of which can teach you about glycolysis*. According to Poets & Writers Literary Magazine, the editorial focus of DIAGRAM is “representations,” not just through their use of schematics, but also in how data, chemical reactions, flow charts, etc. can tell a story on their own or add to an already composed story, offering another facet for readers to ponder.

3. UbuWeb

All avant-garde. All the time. With a tagline like that, how could anyone pass up UbuWeb? Bespectacled Samuel Beckett adorns the top of the page looking cool as ever, while visitors are encouraged to take a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole into an experimental wonderland of academic writing, conceptual writing, visual poetry, film, radio, dance, music, sound– you name it. The site is overwhelmingly complex and beautiful, so much that I really can’t do it justice in this brief description. Every link leads to something new and as equally brilliant as the last. In addition to all of its original content, UbuWeb is also home to the Aspen Magazine digital archives, which is described as a “multimedia magazine in a box” (are we catching on to a theme here?) that originally ran from 1965-1971. It would probably take years to find all of the hidden gems in this part of the website alone, so get lost in it, kids, while you still can– everyone’s invited.

4. Closing Logos Group Wiki

Yes, Virginia, there is an internet subculture dedicated to the television, movie, and home video logos/vanity cards of yesteryear. The Closing Logos Group Wiki (fan-created and maintained as all proper Wikis are) offers copious amounts of information for nearly any closing logo one has ever seen on-screen. Each entry includes a brief history and evolution of the logo, a description of the logo’s appearance, sounds and effects, its availability (or rarity), and a “scare factor” rating ranging from “low” to “nightmare,” with an explanation as to why a given logo might potentially disturb some viewers. While this site is mostly just a fun encyclopedia for people with highly specific interests and/or fears, the Closing Logos Group Wiki is, below its surface, a meditation on the sociological effects of 20th Century mass media, speaking to the iconic nature that something as simple as a branding logo can assume in a world primarily driven by technology and entertainment. And then they take it one step further by analyzing the Viacom “V of Doom” and the Paramount “Closet Killer” logo, citing both as nightmare-inducing.

5. Museum of Endangered Sounds

I get a real kick out of this one, especially since I’m old enough to remember when several of these sounds were far from being endangered. From the Nokia ringtone that graced the silver screen in dozens of “turn off your cell phone” movie trailers to the “bad jazz”+ sound of AOL’s dial-up internet that scarred a generation, you can hear them all at the Museum of Endangered Sounds. The time lady? Yeah, she’s there. Not much personality, though. The three-tone chime that sounded when the number you were trying to reach had been disconnected? Relive the glory days. Television static? Just as eerie as ever. AIM notification sounds? Junior high wouldn’t have been the same. My personal favorite: the minstrel music from Encarta ‘95’s “Mind Maze” game. This, my friends, is tech nostalgia at its finest.


*courtesy of Fulla Abdul-Jabbar, DIAGRAM, 17.5

+courtesy of Joe Dunthorne’s Submarine