The Deleted City


In 2011, Richard Vijgen created The Deleted City. It is an interactive piece that uses the 650-gigabyte backup of Geocities. Geocities was a free webhosting provider that was set up like a city, where users were free to upload information about a topic of their choosing. Users were provided with a “free piece of land” in the Geocities. This piece of land was to be their “digital home” where they would publish their information. Their digital home was located in a neighborhood, and the neighborhood users were placed in was based on the subject matter of the digital home. At its peak the Geocities was the third most visited site on the Internet and millions of users had contributed to its massive database. Unfortunately, in 2009 Geocities was shut down. But before it was shut down and deleted, it was backed up. The back up was then used to create The Deleted City. [1]

In its time Geocities was impressive because of the high level of user participation. In some ways, this user participation is similar to collaborations themes discussed in Art & Electronic Media (AEM). AEM emphasizes through examples such as, E.A.T/9 evenings: theatre & engineering that with the collaboration of different disciplines there is a greater possibility of innovation and breakthrough. [2] Without Geocities allowance for a wide range of topics the website would not have been nearly as popular.

The Deleted City is a historical piece, a “digital Pompeii”, that allows the viewer to interact with a piece of Internet history [3]. In todays world things are fast paced, especially on the Internet, The Deleted City is interesting because it takes a relic from the past and forces the participant to reflect on what was, and how far the Internet has come. By interacting with the piece of history the participant is also reminded of what the Internet is today. Geocities was eventually abandoned and shut down because users were leaving the site for social media. Perhaps it is possible in the future a piece much like this one could be installed using a back up of Facebook or MySpace.


This piece reminds me of the piece Glyphiti by Andy Deck. The pieces are similar in that Geocities and Glyphiti’s success were dependent on user contribution. However, despite this similarity there is an interesting contrast. Like a real city, Geocities was dependent on the continuous growth of user contribution and data. While Glyphiti was dependent on user contribution as well, the piece demanded that users build on top of each other’s work. In this difference the two pieces communicate different themes of ownership and permanency. Geocities’ exponential growth, followed by its memorial in the form of The Deleted City, conveys a message of permanence. Though the Geocities is no longer present on the internet its legacy continues in The Deleted City, and so the users ownership of their digital home is continued as well. Glyphiti demonstrates a completely different message. The fact that users must build their own work on top of the works of others conveys a complete lack of permanence, demonstrating that nothing lasts.  

[2] Edward Shanken, Arts & Electronic Media, 2009 p 182

3 thoughts on “The Deleted City”

  1. this is a great sounding
    this is a great sounding entry, and a really nice art piece. I like the idea that you are proposing of technology as a way of archiving memory; and art as a way of re-interpreting them. It would be nice to see this mentioned in the body of your entry and expanded upon. What is a more salient character of Glyphiti? In this context is it not that the user is allowed and encouraged to overwrite and thereby erase traces of the previous user? this seems like a more interesting contrast to the Deleted city (than just comparing visual and informational data), where the notion of authorship and ownership is nostalgically revered.

  2. I think there might be some
    I think there might be some angles in here that relates this piece to Second City, the online multiplayer game that Paul Berger talked about the other day. Both can act as an archive for some sort of social archeology.

    And aside from Facebook or MySpace, another interesting online service to put in this format would be Pinterest. From what I know, it is a rather popular place where users aggregate information from all over the internet, and group them into categories. Compared to Geocities, where each entry is an expression of individuality, or at least an attempt to do so, Pinterest is an all-out scavenger hunt for the internet. Many of its 70 million users proactively weaves together a narrative from their individual viewpoints, which may overlap and collide with one another to create a different narrative (source of stat:

  3. It is interesting to think
    It is interesting to think about using the internet as a way to archive the internets past and reflect on it through artwork. Being able to perhaps go back on Facebook and Twitter and look at historical events and landmarks made in social media and see how it is affecting the current state of things. Also, the idea of Geocities is interesting because it is a sort of precursor t0 ‘liking’ pages, artists, movies, books and activities on Facebook. No wonder people left it though for Facebook because of its multiple social functions bringing together the idea of gathering information and personalizing it to yourself and interacting socially over the internet.

Leave a Reply