Journal article Open Access
This article critically interrogates key assumptions in popular web discourse by revisiting an early example of web 'participation.' Against the claim that Web 2.0 technologies ushered in a new paradigm of participatory media, I turn to the history of HotWired, Wired magazine's ambitious web-only publication launched in 1994. The case shows how debates about the value of amateur participation vis-à-vis editorial control have long been fundamental to the imagination of the web's difference from existing media. It also demonstrates how participation may be conceptualized and designed in ways that extend (rather than oppose) 'old media' values like branding and a distinctive editorial voice. In this way, HotWired's history challenges the technology-centric change narrative underlying Web 2.0 in two ways: first, by revealing historical continuity in place of rupture, and, second, showing that 'participation' is not a uniform effect of technology, but rather something constructed within specific social, cultural and economic contexts.