Digital Methods Initiative, August 2007.

The Digital Methods Initiative is a contribution to doing research into the "natively digital". The focus is on how methods may change, however slightly or wholesale, owing to the technical specificities of new media.
The initiative is twofold. First, we wish to interrogate what scholars have called "virtual methods," ascertaining the extent to which the new methods can stake claim to taking into account the differences that new media make (Hine, 2005). Second, we desire to create a platform to display the tools and methods to perform research that can, also, take advantage of "web epistemology". The web may have distinctive ways of recommending information (Rogers, 2004; Sunstein, 2006). Which digital methods innovate with and also critically display the recommender culture that is at the heart of new media information environments?[1]
Project: Diagnosing the Condition of Iraq: The web view.[2]

'Diagnosing the state of Iraq: The web view'

Within the project ‘Diagnosing the Condition of Iraq: The web view’, we tried to diagnose the social conditions of Iraq via a web analysis. The Iraqi websphere consists largely out of news, blogs and commercial and governmental sites. In an early stage of our analysis it became clear to us that there is no evident interlinkage between these different Iraqi sites, and that they form isolated webspheres. This is a result of the history of the Iraqi web, which has been formed within three periods.
The first pre-war period can be situated in the late 1990s, when the internet started operating in Iraq. In this period the UN imposed trade sanctions that made it very hard for Iraq to get the technical equipment it needed. Also, all the media, including the Iraqi websphere were under strict control of Saddam Hussein, who denied Iraqi citizens internet access points in their homes. Furthermore, the sole internet provider was, which was owned by the Ministry of Culture and Information (and thus under strict supervision). In this period Saddam Hussein waged a war not only physically but also digitally, opposing not only freedom of speech, but also blocking access to the internet and implementing strict censorship policies.[1]
The second phase of the Iraqi web can be indicated through the mid-war expansion of the Iraqi internet to international servers, official sites to .org's and .com's and the cleansing of The well known Baghdad based blogger Salam Pax is an offspring of this period. But even though Iraqis obtained more ways for practicing their freedom of speech, the Iraqi government still practiced censorship in case content was “contradictory to Iraqi law”.[2] After the collapse of the former Iraqi regime, partial traces of these websites can be found on the Internet Archive, and in nostalgic recollections of former Iraqi forums. But still, both before and during the war, the small number of Iraqi Websites is striking.[3]
The third and current period started on the 5th of August 2005, when ICANN appointed Iraq’s National Communication and Media Commission (NCMC) as the new controller of the country coded Top Level Domain .iq, which had been frozen for years.[4] While the NCMC now has sole responsibility for the licensing and regulation the Internet in all of Iraq, the commission still falls under the supervision of Parliament.[5]
This new development was welcomed very positively by Iraqi officials:
“In today's online era, the two-letter code at the end of a Web address is as important as a flag in lending a sense of legitimacy and pride”.[6]
A sentiment that can be easily recognized within the .iq websphere, since the majority of the sites host the national colors, symbol or flag on their index page.
Nevertheless, 2 years later it is evident that almost the whole of the .iq domain can be adequately caught within only one simple Google and Yahoo query ( This could be a result of the lack of criteria for obtaining a license for .iq domain, which are rarely issued. With the help of the Whois database we were able to make a database of the .iq web. It is striking that of the 18 indexed .iq sites non are actually registered in Iraq. The fast majority (16 out of 18) are registered in the US, on 8 different addresses, while one url is registered in the UK and the final one in Turkey. Apparently still only a little percentage of the Iraqi websphere is hosted within the .iq domain. One could argue that the real domain of Iraq is not based within its country code Domain, but in any url that contains either iraq or iq, anywhere in its string.

Introduction to

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, 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. 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, a constructedness in which the surfer can participate actively. 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, doesn’t glorify its content, but commemorate an unimaginable past of breaking powers. I would therefore like to connect 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.
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.
Barthes, Roland. S/Z. Paris: Seuil, 1970. p. 5-6.
Barthes, Roland. S/Z. Paris: Seuil, 1970. p. 5-6.