Field Notes: MySpace
Archaeology is the study of human behaviour, culture, and values through the excavation of physical sites and artefacts. Can human traces on the Internet be explored in the same way? MySpace was a social networking platform that rivalled Facebook at its peak. Sadly, in 2019, MySpace reported that it lost over 12 years of user data in a server migration, of which included photos, videos, music, and posts. In a new and refined digital era that carries few traces of the once DIY Internet, this field notes booklet of the 2005-2009 era of MySpace tries to document the experience of being a MySpace user at the time through real and archived artefacts.
At the start of this MySpace excavation, I wanted to follow real field note standards in archaeology. I looked at the Parks Canada guide and discovered that it was actually quite difficult to translate the practices of physical excavation to a digital one. For example, visuals in traditional field notes are labelled with specific media (e.g. film photo, sketch), specific site numbers assigned to geographical locations, and specific employee numbers related to the investigators in the team. Nonetheless, the function of the field notebook remained the same: to be the primary touchpoint to record new data and observations of an investigation.
As part of the research for this book, I interviewed two people who were users of Myspace between 2005-2008. They had different backgrounds: different generations, different countries, and different uses for social media. These interviews filled in the gaps of the static artefacts I found, explaining how people navigated MySpace and found each other on a platform not really designed for discovery. The original handwritten notes from the interviews have been imposed over the content of the book, similarly to how a real field notebook would be used to record primary observations.
This book is printed on acid-free archival paper according to Parks Canada field notebook standards. It was also important to me that it was printed on a risograph to emulate bright, saturated RGB colours. Using almost fluorescent pink, blue, and lime green and handwriting across the images, I tried to replicate the shock factor of typing in a URL and having bright GIFs and autoplay music start the moment you open the page.
© Benya Sutyanyong 2022