Two Thousand Lightyears from Home
In the summer of 1997 I attended Polar Circuit, a digital arts camp organised by Tapio Makela, and housed in Tornio at what is now Tornio-Kemio University of Applied Sciences, on the edge of Finnish Lapland.
In the summer of 1998 I attended Polar Circuit 2, and there I decided that one of my personal projects would be to compile an online web diary. This was much more unusual than it might now appear. According to Wikipedia:
The term “weblog” was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The short form, “blog,” was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May 1999. Shortly thereafter, Evan Williams at Pyra Labs used “blog” as both a noun and verb (“to blog,” meaning “to edit one’s weblog or to post to one’s weblog”) and devised the term “blogger” in connection with Pyra Labs’ Blogger product, leading to the popularization of the terms.
2000 Lightyears from Home did not therefore have any ready-made format or template to use or borrow from. It took the form of a pop-up window with its own navigation arrows. Inside the window I posted a continuous narrative of my adventures in Tornio, with digressions into various observations about life in Finland as a foreigner.
The project was popular both inside Polar Circuit and outside. It gathered a collection of regular readers during the two months it was published.
The title of the piece was originally 3074 Miles From Home, which was derived from a misreading of an early online map. The real distance between London and Tornio is 1,303 miles or 2,097 kilometers.
If you actually travel 3074 miles from London, you will find yourself somewhere such as Riyadh in Saudi Arabia or Cancoom in Nigeria.
After the event, I decided that the title was not only inaccurate but clumsy, and changed it to 2000 Lightyears from Home, derived from a largely-ignored Rolling Stones song.
The original files for 2000 Lightyears from Home still exist but they are currently stuck on a disk that needs to be read by an old Zip Drive. At some point I will make a determined effort to free them from their digital prison; and then I will add css style sheets to the files and refurbish them with HTML5.
One day, with some luck and free time, and to nobody’s interest at all, 2000 Lightyears from Home will be visible again.