“Vague, but exciting.” These are the three words that Tim Berners-Lee’s boss at CERN wrote on the copy of his proposal of an Information System (http://info.cern.ch/Proposal.html), which would eventually become the World Wide Web (WWW). Launched in the early 90s, the Web was imagined by Berners-Lee as a space for knowledge sharing that was by definition an Open Web. Vagueness and excitement, as well as playfulness and ingenuity, also marked the early days of the Web. A time when a still tiny proportion of the worldwide population had the luxury to explore its potential and imagine myriad uses beyond its original purpose. This exhibition aims to convey the spirit of those early days of the Web as a way of rethinking its present and future role in teaching and learning.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee
The snapshots of sites throughout this space offer an impressionistic, incomplete, co-curated glimpse of the 1990s Web. They are loosely organized around a vision of educational resources online, although that distinction quickly breaks down given the early Web was never imagined as a coherent textbook for teaching and learning, but rather a constellation of user-generated resources that provided an alternative means of imagining how we can share what we know, believe, and care about in a heretofore unimaginable context. The now seemingly quaint subdomain www that prefaced virtually all websites in the 1990s provided a constant reminder of how this new global network would eventually shape how much of the world would consume, create, and share information over the ensuing two decades.
The websites you can see as part of this exhibition were submitted as representative examples by educators and technologists predominantly from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. It is by no means a complete picture, but hopefully it provides a provocative peek into the nascent years of a technology that has come to dominante just about every aspect of life in the 21st century. The labels accompanying each website were written by the individuals who submitted the example, and this exhibit, like the web, is very much a work in progress.
The exhibition is available for anyone who wants to host it anywhere and/or keep expanding on it.