The New Internet Commons: Queercore, Cyberpunk and Networked Communities

Queercore, Cyberpunk and Networked Communities is a one-night event that will focus on the past, present and future of queer communities online. Amongst the keynote speakers is artist and technologist Tom Jennings, who created the FidoNet, an early, low cost, DIY internet protocol that facilitated private and public messaging, and was a pivotal figure in the Queercore movement, popularizing it with the publication of Homocore, one of the first queer zines. FidoNet, named after Jennings’ computer in the ‘70s, which he likens to a mutt because it was cobbled together from many disparate parts, had the following mandate: “unimpeded communication between individuals. No person or group has any more or less right to communicate than any other. No one moral or ethical code has precedence over any other. When conflicts arise, weight shall be given to solutions that favor freer, broader or expanded communications. Justice takes precedence over expediency.”

In the late 1980s, Jennings co-founded the magazine Homocore, which was one of the first queer punk zines. The writer Dennis Cooper, writing in 1990 for the Village Voice described queercore zines as a reaction against the mainstreaming of queer culture. “These zines share a hatred for political correctness, yuppification, and all things bourgeois, especially within gay culture…Though he’d probably deny it, Jennings’s motor-mouthed editorializing makes him the unofficial conscience of the movement.”

Jennings was at the vanguard of two communities that were rapidly gaining influence in popular culture: the early Internet, and the intersection queer and punk cultures. This event will explore both the historical context that led to the development of FidoNet as well as the relevance and possibility for realizing these mandates in today’s networked world. It will ask what their absence means for queer communities in our current internet context, characterized by concentrated power, lack of transparency and inadequate protection of individual freedoms and privacy. We will be asking him about how these cultures influenced each other, how queer life intersected with an emerging networked culture, and how queer culture online has evolved today from his perspective.

Fidonet logo (Fidonet logo)

Sara Constantino is a cross-disciplinary teacher, researcher and writer. She works on topics at the intersection of ecology, economics, sociology, computer and cognitive sciences. Currently, she is working on topics including our evolving conceptions of work (e.g. universal basic income), the role of artificial intelligence in various aspects of our daily lives, and how institutions and norms are mediated by social networks and understood in the context of complex ecological systems.

David Ertel is an artist, programmer and researcher. He recently completed an MFA in Media Arts at UCLA. His work touches on the ambiguous relationship between technology and our natural ecosystems through various digital-material interventions and engages entropy as a visible substance by revealing the dynamics of technological and natural processes.

Tom Jennings is an artist, technologist and educator. Aside from creating FidoNet, the most influential protocol for networking computer bulletin boards, Jennings built Wired magazine’s first internet presence, wrote the portable BIOS that led to Phoenix Technologies BIOS, ran an early regional internet service provider, The Little Garden and maintains an informal archive of Cold War science and technology. In the late 1980s, Jennings co-founded the magazine Homocore, which was one of the first queer punk zines.

Image by John Madil, FidoNet and Homocore Zine, Issue 5