Preface anD acknoWleDgMents
A small painting of a postcard of the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island Ferry,
which is listed in the “Postcards” category, highlights a series of lessons and
methods from eBay.1 It is difficult to understand what is being auctioned be-
cause the shape and color of the ferry depicted in the postcard is similar to
the yellow ruler that is at the top of the image. Such rulers are a typical part of
eBay auctions and illustrate the problems conveying the aspects of objects. In
this case, the ruler is difficult to read because the numbers are upside down,
almost cropped from the image, begin before the six- inch mark instead of
at zero, and are part of a painting of an eBay listing rather than a postcard.
The artist Conrad Bakker, who uses the eBay id untitledprojects, auctioned
a series of these paintings at the “original” listing price of the postcard.2 He
titled the listing “Staten Island Ferry Statue Liberty 1980’scolor postcard: an
untitled project: eBay/postcards/indiana” to reference the quirky
spelling, uppercase and lowercase typefaces, punctuation, and spacing that
eBay sellers deploy. Typographical errors and eccentric textual elements are
common and conceptually important aspects of Internet content and are
thus referenced by people like Bakker and quoted in this book. Through his
project, Bakker proposes methods for thinking about Internet texts, consum-
erism, the ways things are categorized, the aspects and limits of the objects
that are listed on eBay, and the terms of eBay selling. Images like Bakker’s
series, the people who produce them, and colleagues and friends have helped
me understand the processes and critiques of eBay.
I began using and thinking about eBay in 1997. This was about the same
time that I was considering dissertation research on “virtual museums,” which
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