The WebZine Scene
Digging out from the underground...

Jennifer Bort Yacovissi, Communications and Systems Specialists, Inc.

The Internet is a powerful force for creating and galvanizing communities of interest. E-text "zines" and their emergent multimedia progeny ("WebZines") have become critical tools in this process, particularly among Generation Xers and counter-culture types.

Underground and counter-culture publications, of course, have been around for years, from the days of the college radicals in the 60s. With the advent of desktop publishing the movement experienced a collective technology rush, as self-publishers gained a new set of tools for reaching their coterie audiences. Today the Net and the Web have added yet another level of empowerment, and suddenly self-publishers with the proper equipment can reach out to audiences all over the world, and do so in a mixed-media key to boot.

An important irony here: global range doesn't necessarily mean big audience numbers. But WebZine impresarios generally couldn't care less. WebZine publishing may be the nineties correlative of Andy Warhol's fifteen minutes of celebrity.

On a global network that's slowly embracing commercial elements, the zines are decidedly --and often stridently-- non-commercial. ZineWorld is a wondrous, ever-changing scene. With a few prominent exceptions, WebZines are transitory monuments to mutability itself. More often than not, they're published irregularly. Some are born amid great fanfare, only to fade away before a second issue appears. Editors come and go; indeed sometimes it's coherence and focus that come and go while the editor stays the same.

No doubt about it: zines are always irreverent, almost always self-indulgent, frequently self-contradictory, and --about half the time-- amateurishly bad. If you're saying "So why bother?" at this point, you just don't get it. And odds are you're no Generation Xer, no matter what your driver's licence may indicate.

Thirty-something Jennifer Bort Yacovissi is almost sure she gets it, and will set out to survey the electronic periodical landscape of ZineWorld, with an eye for the multimedia gems that glisten there. But more importantly, Jenny will discuss what these "through-the-looking-glass" multimedia endeavours, good or bad, tell us about the process of Web-empowered e-publication in general, and what they may mean for its future in more seemly, though arguably less vibrant, initiatives.

Jenny's paper on this topic can be accessed here. To contact her by e-mail, click here.