On April 19, 2018, the New Museum hosted author and musician Claire L. Evans for a conversation about her recently published book Broad Band: The Untold History of the Women Who Made the Internet.
Broad Band outlines women’s experiences in computing history from the Victorian Age to the collapse of the dot-com bubble, countering the accepted history of technology as one of men and machines, garages and riches, alpha nerds and brogrammers. For this event, Evans will be joined by two of the women profiled in the book: Stacy Horn, the founder of EchoNYC, one of the oldest continuously operating online communities in the world, and Jaime Levy, a pioneering interactive designer whose “electronic magazines” on floppy disc anticipated the interactive design possibilities of the web. Graduates of the same class at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, both Horn and Levy were major figures of New York’s mid-1990s Silicon Alley scene, and were part of the generation of “Early True Believers” who brought cultural sophistication to early internet and web technologies.
At a time when women made up a tenth of the entire online population, Stacy Horn’s community, Echo, had a 40 percent female user base, making it one of the earliest spaces online to be truly hospitable to women, although Stacy always resisted the idea that she created Echo as a safe space for women online. “Bite me,” she wrote in 1998, “I wanted to get more women on Echo to make it better.” Jaime Levy was an early Echo user—she posted as “Kurt’s Brains”—and a host, in her East Village loft, of the part-rave, part-hackathon “Cyber-Slacker” salon. She went on to become the creative director of Word.com, an influential early web publication that showcased the web’s creative capacities through interactive design: chatbots, games, and graphic hyper-text were fixtures of the site, which would influence a generation of online publishers.
Evans, Horn, and Levy shared some of the stories from this secret history of technology that abounds with female hackers, hypertext designers, programmers, online community builders, and interactive media pioneers.