In recent years I’ve more often been the interviewer than the interviewee, but I had a chance to be on the other side of the “hot seat” recently, when I was the subject of a thoughtful and interesting interview by University of Copenhagen student Søren Bjerrum (who just happens to share the first name of one of my favorite philosophers). I enjoyed answering his questions so much, I asked his permission to reproduce excerpts from our interview here. Below is the history (and pre-history) of this very site. How “meta”!
When, and why did you start the platform?
I’ve had a personal website for over 20 years now. I was always interested in the potential of sharing my ideas and philosophies over the internet. I first started as a college sophomore in 1995, when only colleges and universities were connected to the internet. It was the very early days of the World Wide Web, back even before Google or Yahoo. There were no search engines so websites had to be shared by word of mouth. At the time I was dabbling in philosophical fiction so I started a site called “Story Web.” It never got a huge amount of traffic, but I discovered some interesting stories that way. There are a few I reposted not long ago that are still favorites of mine, by a writer named Mark Jason Dominus. He went on to become a well-known programming guru, but at the time he was experimenting with philosophical hypertext at a site called the “Universe of Discourse.”
Interestingly enough, one of my classmates, who lived in the same dorm as me, is widely recognized as the world’s first blogger, Justin Hall. His “Links from the Underground” site was a funky mix of his favorite sites on the internet and his own sexual autobiography. At the time we all thought he was completely crazy for exposing his personal kinks in such a public forum. Now we know he was just ahead of his time. The title of his site, of course, is a reference to a classic work of philosophical fiction, the great Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s existentialist novel, “Notes from the Underground.”
Over the years my own website went through several iterations. One of its most influential versions was called “Christian Existential Humanist Web,” and for a while it had a very high Google Page Rank, back when Google was still relatively young. Later it became Kitoba.com, and for a while it was “Kitopedia,” as a take off on “Wikipedia.” When I first converted it into a blog, it was called “Yes and Other Answers,” and it presented a serialized version of the philosophical book I was working on at the time.
I started “Pop Culture Philosopher” about three or four years ago. It was a conscious effort to build an audience and a platform with material that was a little less challenging and confrontational. I always had an interest in pop culture, so the site started with a number of pieces I had written over the years on books, movies and art. One of the centerpieces was my “Reconstructivist Art” theory, which is one of the more influential things I’ve ever written (in terms of the number of people who have cited it or linked to it). It was the first version of the site where I paid a lot of attention to aesthetics. It has never gotten a huge amount of traffic, but it averages about 150 visitors a day. The vast majority of theme, however, are here for “Jedi Philosophy,” a piece I wrote quite a long time ago about the real world philosophies behind the “Star Wars” movie. It gets a boost every time a new “Star Wars” movie comes out!