Stacy Horn is the founder and president of Echo, a thriving electronic salon of over 4,000 professional and amateur artists, filmmakers, writers, and other participants. Unlike many communal spaces on the Internet, it is nearly 40 percent female. Echo features permanent forums hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art, Ms. magazine, The Village Voice, and High Times magazine. Horn teaches a course at New York University entitled “Virtual Culture” and is the author of The Electronic Mask (Warner Books), a book about the nature of identity in cyberspace. We asked about her media diet.
What magazines do you read?
People. And The New Yorker, but only their People-style articles, like the recent one about Lewis Carroll, and the one about finding the remains of the Romanovs. This is the direction I am going as I get older: I only want biography. However, I did just read an issue of something called DoubleTake, which I really liked. It features wonderful photography, and most magazines don’t let people write such long and heartfelt articles.
What books have you enjoyed recently?
I read a lot of fiction. Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson (I read everything she’s written again and again), Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories by Joseph Mitchell, anything by Raymond Carver. I saw the movie Shadowlands, about C.S. Lewis, in which there was a great quote that went something like “We read to know that we are not alone,” which is definitely true for me. That’s also what I like about the online world: I prefer activities that remind me that I am not alone.
What CD-ROMs do you use?
None. They’re all awful and slow, except some that are in development by a colleague of mine named Joe Rosen, including one that’s about the movie The Blob. I’m also really hopeful about a new, independently produced CD-ROM called The Mutant Gene and Tainted Kool-Aid Side Show by M.R. Petit, a performance artist whose work I greatly admire. Maybe it won’t be as lifeless as all the rest.
What Web sites do you visit regularly?
Again, none, really. Nobody’s doing anything the slightest bit compelling, as far as I’m concerned. At first I thought it was because only computer programmers were designing home pages, but now there are all kinds of artistic, talented people funded by big organizations designing Web pages that are every bit as lame. Everybody is treating the Web as archival storage rather than as a new medium in and of itself. Also, if someone used sound effectively on the Net—and by that I don’t mean just using a great piece of music on their page, but using sound as part of the thing, as part of the point—they would have a site that blows all the others away.
Which on-line activities most amuse and intrigue you?
Sure, the Internet is useful for getting information, but that isn’t much of an experience in and of itself. Anything that enthralls people, whether it’s a happy thing or a crisis or some simple day-to-day ongoing dialogue about nothing in particular, is what I like online. What’s the point otherwise? Flirting is fun!
Which current trends in the media most trouble you?
It’s too bad that most people do not understand how hard it is to represent anything accurately, and it’s too bad that the media like to tell the Big Stories when we all know that life is like a Seinfeld episode, and the stories that really absolutely take up most of our time and attention are very little stories, and if they were well told and presented they would be much more entertaining than O.J. And we’d get more out of them because it would, again, remind us that we are not alone.
What are the sources of your best and most original ideas?
Where do you find inspiration?
Success is very inspiring but I would keep going even if everything I did failed. Fear of death, maybe? The promise of sex?
What are your most creative spaces?
Home and the office, picked very carefully. When I was in a really low period I used to walk and walk for hours, always in the same deserted, time-tripping parts of New York, places I had found accidentally. I live and work in those spots now.