The advent of the digital age has brought along with it new tools and forms of social interaction. Douglas David’s World’s First Collaborative Sentence highlights the early development of online interaction. As an artist, his work provided the canvas for others to contribute their own part in creating a collaborative sentence.
The World’s First Collaborative Sentence came out during the early rise of the internet in mainstream use – as such, it comes from a time before Google was ubiquitous, Reddit didn’t exist, and Facebook wasn’t even conceptualized. Writely, one of the first online word processors wouldn’t be out until about 2006, wherein it would be bought by Google. As such, the process of making the sentence was a completely new form of online interaction in that time.
Much like a clean wall, David’s work serves as a canvas for others to contribute to, but the result may not be cohesive or sensible, just like graffiti tends to turn out – many people add their own works to the wall, but it doesn’t necessarily work hand-in-hand with other creations. The sentence reflects that – with many people leaving repeated greetings, or ramblings in a foreign language – there is no overarching, unifying factor in the sentence besides the fact that it was created by many, not just by a single artist.
The sentence reflects a factor of online interaction – anonymity. The incoherence and sheer randomness of the sentence is almost akin to 4Chan, which usually has far less benign content than the sentence. David’s work highlights online noise, yet at the same time, shows us what the internet is capable of – it bridges physical distance and makes it possible for all people to work together towards a common goal, whilst featuring a stream of consciousness not possible without anonymity.
Today, with the multitude of social media users and posts, it feels like the internet itself is a macrocosm of the sentence – everyone has something to post, some posts we make have no connection to our previous posts, and everyone wants to share what’s on their minds in the internet’s collaborative story.