Celebrating Jaime Levy
New Yorker has an excellent piece on Jaime Levy's work in the early days of net culture. Those around at the time are guaranteed to get rather misty-eyed at it, and it's great to see Jaime's work celebrated in this way.
In the early '90s, Jaime Levy, a punk-rock hacker chick from Los Angeles, marched into the Tisch Building at NYU without an appointment. The move was part bombast, part desperation: She wanted to join the university's Interactive Telecommunications Program, but didn't think she could have gotten an interview if she tried. She wandered around the fourth ﬂoor until someone led her to the office of Red Burns, the program's venerable chair, a bristly redheaded matriarch some called the Godmother of Silicon Alley. Jaime was intimidated, but she had only two days in the city, so she told Burns she wanted to tell stories using computers. Burns took a shine to Jaime — a kid with only a skateboard and an Amiga to her name — and gave her a full ride.
Jaime spent her years at NYU experimenting with interactive media. For her master's thesis, she combined the do-it-yourself ethos of punk with the emerging possibilities of desktop publishing, producing an electronic magazine, Cyber Rag, on ﬂoppy disk. With color-printed labels Krazy Glued onto each "issue," Cyber Rag looked the part of a punk-rock fanzine. Loaded onto a consumer Mac, its stories came to life with images pilfered from the Village Voice, the Whole Earth Review, Mondo 2000, and Newsweek, collaged together onscreen as though they'd been xeroxed by hand. Cyber Rag was the first publication of its kind, built with Apple HyperCard and MacPaint. Along with her animations, Jaime added edgy interactive games (in one, you chase Manuel Noriega around Panama), hacker how-tos, and catty musings about hippies, sneaking into computer trade shows, and cyberspace.Claire Evans