John Wall’s Organic Interpretations of Nature on GeoCities
Located in the forgotten corners of the internet, once prevalent and vivacious GeoCities pages ranging from sports statistics, finance advice, and holiday vacations sit dormant. The vacant neighborhoods that once pulsed with life and interaction have been abandoned. Now, only the excavation of these pages, frozen in time, is able to expand on their meaning and purpose. By using the Circuit of Culture framework, GeoCity pages are able to be analyzed for cultural relevance and community building through different aspects such as production, identity, representation, and consumption.
While searching through the vast expanse of GeoCities, I found myself walking down the streets of Yosemite. Reserved for topics of “Hiking, rafting, and the great outdoors,” this city, added in 1996, was home to all things wild. I was immediately captivated by a lone cabin still standing after all these years. Behind its cover page, John W. Wall’s website was untitled, only offering visitors a warm message, “Greetings, Earthlings!” This digital cabin deep in Yosemite’s wilderness has no need for a confining title. Like its feral surroundings, the site establishes itself organically through its content. Each addition built onto the last like a winding forest path with new discoveries around every corner.
The lack of a title is fitting when analyzing the rest of John Wall’s page. Never sticking to a single subject, this GeoCities website embraces a fluid form of self-expression. The Latin quote on the homepage reads “Ars longa, vita brevis,” which means “art is long and life is short,” expressing the author’s resistance to easy categorization allowing the creator’s ever-changing passions to be accepted. By covering various topics including hiking trips, road trip diaries, animal tracks, personal reflections, and watercolor art, this GeoCity deliberately decided to embrace whatever inspired John Wall in the moment. John Wall chooses curiosity over conformity, giving his website a unique identity that is able to engage all different types of visitors.
By far the most interesting way John Wall chooses to engage with the consumers of his content is in his Animal Tracks guessing game subcategory. This game allows for users of the GeoCity to guess different tracks Wall had found in the wilderness. Appealing directly to internet-goers familiar with the great outdoors, the game reveals a specific target audience identity that has previous knowledge of the backcountry. This game possibly creates a “us v.s. them” culture of who enjoys the sticks and who has actually been there. Regardless, Wall’s game engages users with various forms of consumption that allow all knowledge backgrounds the chance to learn through his helpful tips and careful analysis. By incorporating participatory elements like this animal track guessing game, the GeoCity facilitates engaged consumption through interactivity, allowing media consumers to become active co-producers.
The community created through this website is very impressive as you dive deeper. Not only does John Wall produce vast amounts of his own content, collaborations with other outdoorsmen/women expand the identity of this digital address.
For example, Wall once featured and thanked Kristin R. Patterson for identifying various types of fungi from his pictures on the Botany Trail. By featuring her expertise, the site’s scope grows beyond a single person’s perspective. Similarly, by displaying his wife’s watercolor paintings of plants seen on Bobcat Hill Trail, varied creative visions are incorporated into the site which helps expand its identity and allow different types of consumers to engage with its diverse content.
By using both factual and creative examples of nature the site’s identity is represented in various ways. While some sections of the page include scientific data and descriptive language, others touch on nature’s reflection in the arts.
The website offers its visitors a multifaceted picture of the vast outdoors by fusing factual material with artistic interpretation. The GeoCity is able to portray nature as something that can be researched, categorized, and measured in addition to being felt, enjoyed, and imagined because real and artistic components of nature are allowed to coexist. The complexity of the relationship between humans and nature is reflected in this diversity of expression in John Wall’s GeoCity.
The collaborations between multiple creators enriches the content of the site by expanding its communal space. By encouraging engagement through multiple avenues, the site builds its nature community by sharing assorted forms of knowledge. Connecting back to the site’s lack of a title, Wall has crafted a community that is exempt of rules and able to organically grow into a place of shared learning. With a strong identity of community contribution, Wall’s lone cabin is home to endless possibilities.
Wall, John W. geocities.restorativland.org/Yosemite/Cabin/3067/Index.html. Accessed 19 Oct. 2023.