New Statesman Internet Histories Week 2016

Welcome to the New Statesman's internet histories week, a re-examination of the parts of our lives spent online. 

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It’s easy to talk about the internet as though it’s an imaginary space, where the things we do don’t really matter. The dichotomies are everywhere: IRL vs internet; meatspace vs cyberspace; offline vs online.

Life online is a distraction, we’re told, and a destructive one at that. Dating apps are “ruining” dating, while phones are destroying our attention spans. “Look up,” as that patronising video told us, because the “real” world is happening outside our screens.

But for this week at least, we at the NS want to talk about the internet as a place where we’ve lived real, and sometimes considerable, portions of our lives. Whether the experiences were negative or postiive, the technology was just a tool that allowed us to seek them out. 

It might be where we learned to masturbate, found people with the same bizarre interests as us, or first published a piece of writing. We’ll take a closer look at internet addiction, find out how we all use the internet to speak to those we love, and revisit our cringe-worthy (but formational) teenage exploits on social media. 

Below you’ll find the links of all the stories we’ve run so far. Join in the conversation – and tell us your favourite Bebo or Livejournal memory – at #internethistories on Twitter, or in our comments sections on Facebook. 

A half decade of total secrecy: how I became a successful Harry Potter webmaster

Nick Hilton looks back on his teenage years spent hatching wizarding fansites.

“Nudges were not for flirting”: growing up on MSN Messenger

New Statesman staffers discuss their formative years spent on the instant messaging site - in the form of an MSN chat. 

GirLand, Habbo Hotel and me: how I learned to masturbate online

Rebecca Reid on the sites that allowed her to explore her sexuality. 

Harry Potter and the Minotaur’s Rage: how fanfiction got me into writing

Stephen Bush revisits his teenage fanfiction career. 

"She wore a USB cord instead of a necklace": whatever happened to Cyberfeminism?

Joanna Walsh on the technicolour art and politics movement that was - and is - Cyberfeminism. 

“My words stayed in folders”: life as a fandom lurker

Elizabeth Minkel applies the 90-10-1 rule to internet fandom. 

The DM slide: an investigation

What is it? Why does it cause such trouble? And how can you be better at it? Stephanie Boland investigates. 

An alien for Putin: are emojis changing the face of diplomacy?

How a pizza offended Italy, and why Scotland is angry at Unicode: India Bourke takes a look at the tangled world of emoji diplomacy. 


Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.

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