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Tom Matrullo

Tom writes.

About you

What did you do before the Web?

Most recently, I edited a web "city-guide" - remember those? - for a large corporation; before that, wrote print journalism for a couple of other large corporations. Earlier still, I taught writing and lit at several colleges in New York City, on the completely unverifiable premise that a graduate degree qualified one to do such things. I have studied music, aspired to play lute, had a rock band, worked in a plastics factory, sang in a gregorian chant choir, been a Wall Street messenger, spent time in Italy, among other digressions.

How did you find the web?

Let me point out that I have no ancient computing pedigree to boast of. I had no use for a computer until it could go beyond the mundane tricks of computing. In 1987, via CompuServe and a Tandy, I got online and discovered a world of chattering maniacs. I quickly got off, but not before forming the conviction that things were about to get interesting.

A few years later I was fooling with BBS stuff, email, WAIS, gopher, newsgroups and utilities and completely ignoring the web because some book I picked up made it sound dull. When I did get to Mosaic, it was like stumbling into some inadequately funded laboratory of things to try out. The fact that, say, Time Warner, or Conde Nast, did not have a web position seemed promising - suggesting to me, anyway, that the web isn't about the world that's already there.

Why are you here?

An adequate answer would surely be beyond even your editorial generosity. Let me pursue what I was just saying - the sense of a world not yet persuaded that it is done being made. Wandering around the web eight years ago, one sensed that a bunch of oddballs - some of genius, some with enormous hobby horses, some who seemed conversant with a familiar sense of not fitting in anywhere else - were knocking together something - it wasn't clear what - that had an air of freedom about it, a wildness known to certain types of undomesticated souls - explorers, pirates, voyagers of yore. The CRT offered glimpses of a realm apart, a social and aesthetic environment not yet ground into tediously familiar pulp, like the door in the back of the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardobe.

Like Narnia, the web proved more interesting, and more morally challenging, than much of what passes in the media phantasmagoria for real life. This was exciting. Still is. It's a little harder to see now, because so many deputies and legates from the world of Dullness are striving mightily to mediate, appropriate and domesticate the "high seas;" to replace our rough-and-tumble beachheads with gated condominiums and property managers. And I have it on good authority that in hell, property managers dwell beneath the lawyers.

Methods of production

What do you use to create your sites?

I'm still using Manila for the simple needs of my blog. Basic html for other projects. Not a coder.

About the Web

What do you see as the greatest strengths of the web?

To me the main thing is the sense of entering - taking part in making - a moral realm that is far more vast, less formed, more complex and more challenging than what one finds if one pulls one's head out of the CRT and turns to mediated distribution - Blockbuster, the New York Times, MTV, the complete works of the Modern Language Association - etc. The web will remain interesting so long as it resists the pressure that begins (in the U.S. at least) in Pre-K to dumb down, talk nonsense and fart quietly.

What do you see as the greatest dangers?

  • 1. Complacency
  • 2. The failure to recognize complacency.
  • 3. The failure to address the failure to recognize complacency.

What would you say to folks who want to work the web?

If you wish to "work the web," don't create barriers to being worked by it in turn. You and the web have the opportunity to inform and delight each other - it is yours to shape in the light of your sovereign imagination, if that once glorious word isn't too shopworn beyond hope. This is not about "art," nor is it about "technology," or "politics," or the rest of the reified effluvia we are all fully capable of drowning in "in real life." It is, in fact, about what all that is notů

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Tom Matrullo
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