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Rhizome Communications, Inc. (New York, NY 10002-1218)
Michael J. Connor (Project Director: January 2019 to March 2021)

Digital Humanities Advancement Grants
Digital Humanities

[White paper][Grant products][Media coverage]

$45,722 (approved)
$45,722 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2019 – 5/31/2020

Early Online Communities in Context

The development of a context-rich, interactive reconstruction of “The Thing,” a significant early online community, and support scholarship based on this reconstruction.

The Thing was a Bulletin Board System initiated in New York by Wolfgang Staehle in 1991, a short time before the rise of the public web. As a testing ground for forms of experimental writing, and one of the earliest online communities to host in-depth discussion of contemporary art, the platform’s content has unique value for humanities scholars. This content and the community that formed around it is best understood in relation to its BBS infrastructure—slow, mostly local connections; a growing accumulation of posts; the absence of surveillance and metrics. This project involves an effort to reconstruct a legible archive of The Thing from a partial copy created by one of its users, to make this available on the web in emulation, and to convene scholars for a discussion of The Thing as an exemplar of early posting practices.