Hello World

Introducing a New Publication from Naive Yearly and Are.na

by Meg Miller
naive-yearly.are.na [The naive-yearly.are.na webpage divided into thirds: a foreword written by Kristoffer Tjalve, a list of the speakers where one can click in to read their pieces, and credits.]

Around this time last year, Kristoffer Tjalve got in touch to talk about a new project he was working on called Naive Yearly. He explained it was a conference on the odd, quiet, and poetic web. The name implied that it would be something of an annual, in-person version of his newsletter, Naive Weekly, which was enough to draw me in. Naive Weekly is the rare newsletter that I open nearly every time I get it, both for the information within — usually, a list of small, personal websites or digital projects that consider the internet as a space of experimentation, a medium for the otherwise — and for the way that information is conveyed — with thoughtfulness, enthusiasm, and intimacy. There’s a good bit of overlap between the people on Are.na and the people both reading and featured in Naive Weekly. We (at Are.na) were interested to know more. 

So, Naive Yearly: an independent conference organized by Kristoffer, which would take place in Copenhagen at the National Film School of Denmark. A gathering of ~150 people and eight speakers — Chia Amisola, Elliott Cost, Benjamin Earl, Tiana Dueck, Laurel Schwulst, Marty Bell, Maya Man, and Alice Yuan Zhang who engage with the web in interesting, idiosyncratic, and critical ways, and who, to quote Kristoffer, “avoid nostalgia and technological utopias, but use the internet and open protocols to invite us to see the world anew in the present tense.”  The talks would take a different turn than most conference presentations — less portfolio review and more meandering essay or lecture score, with a central topic for ideas, references, and works to cohere around. Kristoffer thought it would be nice to publish these talks in some way after the conference, and he thought Are.na Editorial would be a natural fit. 

Here’s where I admit that conferences are not my favorite way of ingesting information. Even when interesting, I find multiple talks in a row and Q&As and daylong bouts of socializing to be overwhelming and exhausting. But after attending Naive Yearly in August, I came away feeling energized and curious, akin to how I feel after reading a good book or watching a film that introduces me to a whole new genre of works. I’ll attribute that to a few different factors: the breaks, which took place around long tables set up in the school’s outdoor courtyard and were the same length of time as the talks, giving everyone a chance to converse meaningfully and on the same level. There was also the location, a dark circular theater at the film school where we could watch websites with the same enormity and definition as a movie at a film festival. The mood echoed Kristoffer’s laid back demeanor, care, and generosity. And of course there were the talks, which spanned topics like handmade websites; permacomputing; the infrastructure of the internet, networks, and community; language and naming; poetry; belonging. They were rooted in the personal, and took spiraling or fragmented forms. Elliott’s was a poetic video performance, Maya’s a “eulogy.” Tiana and Chia “performed the browser,” in Chia’s parlance, with websites that guided and accompanied their speaking. Ben, Laurel, Alice, and Marty took us through their recent thinking with such depth and description and flow that they already felt essayistic to me. 

Outdoor courtyard during a break, courtesy Ana Santl. [Outside of a concrete and glass building, people sit on long benches at a long table, conversing. The image is framed by green grass below and an archway of green leaves above.]

After seeing everyone speak, it felt like a shame to just publish all the talks as essays on the blog as previously discussed. I didn’t want to flatten their performative or interactive elements onto the page, and I wanted them to all live in close relation to each other, so the connections across and between them would be clear. Plus, after talking to Kristoffer and some of the speakers, it seemed like there was an appetite for extending the talks back onto the internet (web → film school → web) in a way that played with what the medium of the web affords, rather than simply replicating the IRL talks for a broader audience. So we decided to create a publication in the form of a microsite, which incorporates websites, more traditional essays, and a mixture of the two. 

Doing a digital publishing project with this group is a dream. I’m very proud to be publishing these artists, designers, technologists, and organizers whose work and thinking illuminates, challenges, and expands what the internet is and could be. Thank you to Kristoffer Tjalve, Chia Amisola, Elliott Cost, Benjamin Earl, Tiana Dueck, Laurel Schwulst, Marty Bell, Maya Man, and Alice Yuan Zhang for the work you put into this, and to Charles Broskoski for building the site. Please have a look

Meg Miller is editorial director at Are.na.