Why zweitgeburtsort? Warum zweitgeburtsort?
Zweitgeburtsort translates to "second place of birth". It is German but people would not recognize it as a proper word. I registered the domain zweitgeburtsort.de around 2002. The internet had been around for a while and it had become clear that it would not go away. Yet, it was still common belief that sources from the internet could not possibly be reliable, let alone reputable. Browsing had been introduced as a word. For many it equalled a waste of time. Relationships that had started on the internet surely were no equivalent to "real life".
Assessments like these implied a differentiation between "virtual" and "real" living environments – the former being an ephemeral fantasy, the latter true and valuable. To me this differentiation always masked something: Technologically mediated experiences are real. They impress us. We express ourselves, mediated through technology. The internet plays a role in how we (are allowed to) form our identities.
Other than our place of birth which is invoked all our life as an identification mark, we are free to enter the internet and explore this part of our living environment. I registered zweitgeburtsort.de to remind me that the internet helps us become who we are.
The meaning of the text above ...
... has changed for me over time. Young people today do not even know browsing as a word anymore because being online is the norm now, being offline the exception. I hardly ever hear people refer to "virtual" and "real" as an opposites anymore. At the same time possibility of anonymity – one of the conditions for fearlessly testing, exploring and forming our identities online – continuously vanishes on the internet. So while the artificial degradation of the internet as a less valuable context for social experiences is less prominent today than it was ten years ago, the internet only partially can live up to the hope that it would be a new space for creativity and self-empowerment. Today, I regard zweitgeburtsort.de as a memory for the purely positive, maybe utopian connotations that the internet was charged with for me in that time.