Introduction to 404Void.iq

The development of these three phases of the Iraqi web are forced by shifting convictions, beliefs and power relations. Every time a new shift occurred, it seems to have cut through the existing websphere, amputating or even destroying its former sphere. With the help of historical web footage and standard Web-state forensic metrics, these cuts (invisible lines within an invisible matrix of powers) can be traced back. This study discloses a fragmented, shattered and isolated webspace, lacking interconnectivity of the different webspheres and characterized by anachronistic forms of code and design. This isolation is also evident by the lack of backlinks to Iraqi websites from elsewhere on the Web.[1] One can conclude that these strategies of amputation, that could be understood as censorship, expressions of denial, repression of memory or just as digital erosion didn’t end with the downfall of the Saddam regime and the new installation of the Interim Iraqi government in 2004, but still seem to form an integral part of whole Iraqi websphere, including the new .iq domain.

My project, which I named 404Void.iq, can be understood as an attempt to collect (elements of) the .iq websphere. These representations however, will always be interwoven by a notion of absence, brokenness and loss (as is illustrated by the list of disappeared urls in appendix 2). The history of the Iraqi web cannot be presented as a whole because it will never be a totalized product. There is no permanent history, but a history that shifts and is actively written and rewritten by acts of censorship, restructuring and developing of the .iq domain (and other Iraqi webspheres). From this point of view, the Iraqi web contains a paradoxal tension between linearity and non-linearity. on the one hand the Iraqi web answers to the intrinsic qualities of the link that structures the web as non linear and on the other hand the web is structured via strict lines of power, boarders, laws and many more lines that cut it.
404Void.iq creates a place for dialogue and space for more than one history of the .iq sphere. It can be understood as intentionally ruined. This ruined state of the archive is a repercussion of the cutting lines of power of the Iraqi websphere as a whole. In this context the concept ruin is to be understood as both a noun and a verb, a process and an object. Ruin thus means a mode of working but also simultaneously, underlines the constructedness of 404Void.iq, a constructedness in which the surfer can participate actively.
404Void.iq is a place where history becomes embodied, like in a monument. To commemorate the impossibility of actually ‘being there’; it really ‘stands in’ for the past. The monument pays attention to the past-ness of the past, or acts as a reminder of absent content, domains and websites.[2] Unlike many monuments, 404Void.iq doesn’t glorify its content, but commemorate an unimaginable past of breaking powers. I would therefore like to connect 404Void.iq to what Andreas Huyssen calls an anti- or counter monument.[3]

In S/Z (1970), Barthes described an ideal text that consists of that are linked to each other with different paths or series and which are open ended. In this text, the networks are many and interact, without any one of them being able to surpass the rest. The text is a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one; the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can reach, they are indeterminable […]; the system of meaning can take over this absolutely plural text, but their number is never closed, based as it is on the infinity of language.[4]
In this text the reader can construct his own meaning, by choosing his own path through a maze of different possible paths. Therefore, the constructed meaning (of for instance the architecture) is never ‘true’. To Barthes, the goal of the ultimate text is not to be consumed, but to be produced.[5] A writerly text, in which the reader can produce meaning.[6] If we accept Huyssen’s suggestion of ‘the city as a text’, we could also try to understand the Iraqi websphere as a text. Barthes’ concept death of the author could be transformed



[2] Stead, Naomi. The Ruins of History: allegories of destruction in DanielLibeskind’ Jewish Museum. Open Museum Journal Volume 2: Unsavoury histories, August 2000. p.1.
[3]
Huyssen, Andreas. ‘Monument and Memory in a Postmodern Age’, in: Young, James E. ed., Holocaust Memorials. The Art of Memory in History. Munich
-New York: Prestel, 1994.
p. 15.
[4]
Barthes, Roland. S/Z. Paris: Seuil, 1970. p. 5-6.
[6]
Barthes, Roland. S/Z. Paris: Seuil, 1970. p. 5-6.

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