On the World Wide Web, everyone's documents are as accessible as anyone else's. Amerika understands that writing by an individual, such as himself, can be as instantaneously chosen as commercial material from a large corporation, such as Time-Warner.

"That changes things significantly," he continues. "The one value added that the mainstream publishers have had, what gives them their reign of terror, is distribution. Now with network publishing, what's happening is a more level playing field.

"You're able to grow mid-range audiences of point-to-point distribution, niche audiences. You're able to amass large audiences. I no longer need to depend on CNN for my news. I no longer need to depend on PBS for my alternative political discussions. That [web] site in Winnetka, in someone's basement, where a guy tries to hide out from his neighbors, has got its audience, his 25,000 people in the world who are checking into his network."

Of course, finding a public so rapidly only heightens the forces between a publisher and his or her readership. When large numbers of readers, however distributed they may be, exert their will upon a publisher, they carry a mainstream force. To Mark Amerika, this may be either a tension or an opportunity. "The old avant-garde's tendency was to dissociate themselves from as much of the mainstream as they could because they didn't understand," he says. "They believed in art for art's sake. They put themselves in a corner. Now you want to get into the mainstream almost like you were a virus." He muses, "What if Alt-X and 'avant pop' become household words? In a way they already are, but in 25,000 households."

The net does not by itself differentiate between text, image, and sound. Still, Alt-X readers come generally from the literary community. As Amerika says, "People are attracted to the net for e-mail who were not writing letters before. I'm back in touch with people because e-mail is cool.

"Right now Alt-X is primarily text-based. It's known because there's an international network of writers contributing to it. As people get to download multimedia, that'll be the direction in which we'll head. Eventually we'll be in this expanded writing as Joseph Beuys said about expanded art - and active mind creating a social experience.

"What's interesting about the avant-pop phenomenon is that it's opening itself up to people who would otherwise not have access to that writing. It's attracting people from the fringe: the zine scene, the sci-fi scene, the cyberpunk and horror scene, the fringe sex and psychedelic scenes."


next page