Tuesday, November 11, 1997

Web Writers honoring Steven Johnson's "Interface Culture"

While the banks were closed in honor of America's veterans, plenty of veteran Web writers were out honoring Steven Johnson and the recent publication of his new book, "Interface Culture." Feed Magazine (http://www.feedmag.com) sponsored the intimate soiree on Nov. 11th at the Merc Bar's brick walled and softly votive-lit room.

Stefanie Syman, Feed's co-founder, was conversing with Rufus Griscom and Genevieve Field of Nerve Mag (http://www.nervemag.com). Genevieve enticed me with news of their upcoming anthology -- "The Best of Nerve" (working title) -- and a new site and community space with Echo (who will manage it).

When I asked Sam Lipsyte, senior editor of Feed, what it's like to work with a big celebrity now, Sam beamed, "Steven's a great celebrity! He's my boss." Steve seems to be taking it well enough. He said after having the proposal in for about a year, he finished a chunk in March and then wrote the rest in about three months. He confessed when people come up to him and tell him they really enjoyed reading his book, over 250+ pages, it creates quite a swell in his heart.

Others who were also among friends were Jamie Levy, CEO Electric Hollywood, Betsey Schmidt, a freelance writer and editor of Open City magazine, and Cherry Arnold of Avalanche Systems. "This is a good party, everybody's here," said Mark Tribe of Rhizome, at which point I turned around and spied Nick Butterworth of SonicNet and was introduced to Mark Amerika of Black Ice Press in Boulder, CO. Of the Allen Ginsberg School of Disembodied Poetics, owner of the altx.com website, and a pioneer of Hypertext, and Gamatron, Mark is truly an interesting specimen in our fine world or bytes and bugs. We spoke of how the beauty of the Web often lies in the communities that come out of it, and how essential these social events are to it.

Of course "attitude has worked its way online as commerce has" he noted. This very point was echoed later as I spoke with David Kushner, contributing editor of Spin Magazine and writer for Wired News. We were comparing what's been happening with the Silicon Alley "Scene" versus Silicon Valley. While SV has been around developing soft and hardware for much longer, it seems as if there is a stronger community sense here. He commented, parties like this one are not fringe, or trivial at all, but essential and core to the scene. It is events like this that propel the scene forward and give it validity.

(Appeared originally in @The Scene in the @NY newsletter)