The Early Internet Memories project explores personal and public archives that contain web materials made by young people throughout 1994-2005 through qualitative, online semi-structured interviews.

It is part of Katie’s dissertation research and a sub-project of the SSHRC-funded Partnership Grant “The eQuality Project” (2015-2022), which looks at privacy and equity online with the goal of informing digital economy policies and debates. The “Early Internet Memories” project asks young adults (23-38) about their earliest memories of being on the internet to explore themes in personal experiences of web history and digital privacy. It explores: the changing nature of online anonymity; memories of employment online as a young person (and associated risks); memories of self-expression, freedom and community; barriers to access, lack of access at school or in public spaces. There is also a compelling variety of experiences young Canadians were having in the late 1990s-early 2000s with networked computers: reasons for belonging to an online community are far-reaching (Western Canada, racial identity, gender identity, creative interests, skills-based); memories of early website design and aesthetics vary in detail; foundational experiences around freedom, creativity and safety; and reactions and/or feelings about archived web pages are visceral and indicate either a great desire for permanency or an eagerness for deletion.

The goal of this research is to contribute oral histories of the web, as it is remembered by people who were young when they were first experiencing being “online”. It also reveals how relationships with digital technology have developed alongside the evolution of networked spaces and technologies, and explores the role of regulations and restrictions at home or at school might have played as remembered by the young people it was affecting.