1. Foreword

Dear reader,

I remember the first sunshine through the bedroom window at 5:30 am. It was Friday, August 11th, the day of the inaugural Naive Yearly conference. I hadn't slept all night, but I wasn't tired. My mind was spinning and my heart was racing. In a few hours, 150 people would meet at the National Film School of Denmark for an entire day's celebration of the quiet, odd, and poetic web.

For weeks, Copenhagen had been covered in clouds. I was monitoring the weather forecast like a kid wishing for a white Christmas. It was summer, but until this morning, it felt like Danish autumn: cold, rainy, and windy. I was counting on using the outdoor courtyard at the film school — instead of post-talk Q&As, participants and speakers would converse during breaks — so when those first sun rays reached our bedroom it felt like a gift.

I kissed my sleeping family goodbye and left our temporary home. There was hardly anyone outside. A few dog walkers, runners, party-ghosts, sleep-deprived dads with strollers, and of course those working critical jobs, including the driver who stared at me as I climbed onto the bus with a giant bouquet of sunflowers resting on my shoulder.


The sunflower was the symbol of the day. In my opening remarks, I reflected on its meaning: In the language of flowers, sunflowers represent loyalty and adoration; they turn their heads to face the sun. It is also the national flower of Ukraine, and with its yellow petals and dark center, it is reminiscent of an eclipse, symbolizing both the end and the beginning of an era.

As I entered the film school, I realized something that had never occurred to me about sunflowers: they are heavy. I had been thinking about sunflowers metaphorically, and neglected them as literal, physical flowers. It was an ironic moment; in my conversations with the speakers, I had asked them to talk in first-person. I didn't want concepts or abstractions: I wanted figurative paintings of their lived experience. If they, like Ben, had created a local internet, I didn't want a guide for replicating the project, but to hear how he experienced the server as it hung on the tree in the meadow, and to understand what motivated him in the first place.

My own motivation for creating Naive Yearly came from a lack of commercial work. My family and I had moved from Copenhagen to Athens. We weren't sure if it would be permanent, so we didn't put our son into a kindergarten just yet. My partner is a photographer with several clients in Greece, so while she was working, I took care of our son. I'm grateful for our time together. We were in a bubble and grew closer. We forgot about time outside of thirst and hunger, sunrise and sunset. But I still longed to apply myself to something besides care work.

Commercial work was not an option: my free time was scarce and the day unpredictable. Inspired by how Rhizome grew from a mailing list and XOXO from a blog, I started to play with the idea of hosting a gathering as an extension of Naive Weekly, my weekly newsletter. I had been sending it since 2018, writing about people whose practices I admired, many of whom had become internet-friends, including the speakers: Chia Amisola, Benjamin Earl, Maya Man, Marty Bell, Alice Yuan Zhang, Tiana Dueck, Elliott Cost, and Laurel Schwulst.

If Naive Yearly was seeded from the absence of commercial work, it was nurtured by a desire to create room for the web I love. I wanted to connect people who were also interested in a more experimental internet. I wanted to make a stage for the people who I look to for the types of idiosyncratic perspectives that are mostly missing in the discourse about the web. I was interested in talks that were more quirky than didactic, political without being cynical. Mostly, I wanted to celebrate the web as a medium for creative expression, self-representation, liberation, belonging, kinship, and living — and to help birth another language for the web.

We didn't record the talks. I didn't want to distract the speakers with the presence of a video camera, reminding them of a potential audience situated somewhere else, somewhere later. I had asked the speakers to experiment with form and felt it was my responsibility to create a safe environment where sharing was limited to the eyes and ears in the room. At the same time, I wished for their stories to connect beyond the walls of the film school. So I was happy when Are.na agreed to make this publication.

It is a publication about the day, but not about what you missed if you weren't there. It consists of excerpts and additions to the talks, but no replications. We encouraged the speakers to think of what would work best in this medium, as an airborne memento, searching for channels and environments to take root. Instead of writing about what happened, I will tell you about what didn't happen. About the other absences Naive Yearly formed itself around.

The most glaring absence was the lack of internet. Just before we were set to start, the wifi stopped working, and we never managed to get it back. Most of the time it didn't matter. During the talks, we were sitting as sunflowers in a darkened cinema with our heads turned towards the speakers, and during the breaks, we were eating and chatting at table-settings. The only time when the lack of internet became apparent was when the videos in Marty Bell's presentation didn't load, causing Marty to improvise live alt-text video descriptions.

That's the thing about the web, it's not separate from the physical world; each affects the other. And likewise, a celebration of the internet is not immune to real life leaking in. Other absences that day were felt ones: One of my best friends spent the day at the hospital because of a family emergency. Another friend missed the day because he was home with a massive hangover. A poetic internet caretaker in Sweden wasn't able to make it because all trains were cancelled from Stockholm. Meg, Wietske, Moa, and Laurel missed the first minutes of the day waiting for a water taxi to take them across the harbour that separated their hotel from the film school.

Chia Amisola, who was first on stage, almost didn't make it at all. As a Filipino artist, their passport is given access to the fewest countries in the world, and it was only because of last minute help from the Danish Cultural Institute in New York that Chia received their visa. This near-absence made me understand how important the open web is for them finding their place in the world.


I wonder if sunflowers feel lonely; they might not even notice each other standing in a field of flowers. They are too busy trying to see and be seen by the sun. Chasing the light, not unlike how we chase visibility, failing to recognize those around us, and those absent. This publication is both for those who I met at the film school and those who weren't there, because you are also part of the network. Naive Yearly is not just one thing: one offline event, one group of people. It's also the newsletter, and the community around it, and these pieces, and anyone who engages with them. It spreads and erodes. Just like the internet, which is also multiple: productive, extractive, colonial, monolithic, capitalistic, but it is also full of poetry, wonder and care.

I'm happy it happened, and that the adapted talks are published here on Are.na. It is the site that opened my eyes to the wildflower fields outside of the walled gardens and reconnected me with hundreds of people with a similar love for the web. Thank you to Are.na for making the publication happen, and to Meg Miller for editing this text and the other talks. Thank you to the speakers for their dedication to the open web. And thank you to everyone else who made the day possible. I'm okay with the life of a sunflower.

With care

2. Speakers

3. Credits

Naive Yearly was organized by Kristoffer Tjalve. This website and documentation was edited and organized by Kristoffer and Meg Miller.