[ISEA2010] Paper: Camille Paloque-Bergès – Proto-Spam: Early Forms of Spam as Vernacular Performance on Usenet


As a form of unsollicited advertisement, spam relates to offline media strategies. But spam has its own vernacular archeology, rooted in the folklore of the pre-Web Internet. Identifying proto-spam needs not searching for the first ever spam, but researching its primal media language forms and practices, at the level of discourse and software, context- and community-related, preinstitutional – i.e. a vernacular use of the Internet. We research sub-cultures from the depth of the pre-Web Internet (especially Usenet) on the stage of interpersonal communication, while questioning “Vernacular [as] crucial to [an] interest in power; in a community’s vernacular discourse are in-sights into its conception of itself, its negotiation of its identity, and its interactions with other com-munities” (Flores, 2009). With the help of a Media Archeology approach (Ernst, 2006), we dig out the experimental layers in the history of spam.

  • Camille Paloque-Bergès (FR) is a Ph.D. candidate at the Université of Paris VIII. Her thesis, researching Internet folklore and network communication, is due for 2010. She teaches Internet history and Net art, and has published a book on the “poetics of programming” (at Archives contemporaines, 2009).

Full text (PDF) p.  366-368