Online, Underground: The History of Messageboard Subculture

Mehan Jayasuriya

Online, Underground is a written history of the first social media revolution, chronicling the culture and technology of online messageboards, from the dawn of computer networking to the present.

The aim of this project is to record the history and evolution of online messageboards, tracing the paths by which long-forgotten communities have shaped the way that we communicate online today. Through research, interviews and analysis, I hope to give voice to secret histories, establishing a lineage for online asynchronous written communication. One of the key components of this project is a collection of oral histories of various messageboards, recounted by those who actively participated in those communities. The finished project takes the form of a "book prototype," consisting of four sample chapters and a detailed table of contents.

Research for this project consisted of a literature review of existing texts/research in the field of online communication as well as interviews with messageboard users. Texts that were particularly useful include Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community, Michael and Ronda Hauben's Netizens, Marshall T. Poe's A History of Communications and Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody.

The final version of this thesis project consists of four sample chapters (totaling over 20,000 words) a bibliography and a detailed table of contents.