In 1996, a “dog’s age ago” in Internet time, POV launched one of our first websites entitled “Re: Vietnam | Stories Since the War.” It was conceived as a companion website to the POV/PBS broadcast of the Academy Award-winning film, Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. On the site’s homepage, a quote from Maya Lin expressed the ethos of the site:
The site’s producers aimed to contribute something new to our collective understanding of the Vietnam War by offering people who lived through that wrenching period the opportunity to talk about Vietnam’s legacy and enduring impact on society. They hoped that twenty years after the war’s end people were finally “ready to listen to each other’s stories.”
This fall, I’m excited to announce that POV’s interactive team has begun work on relaunching “Re: Vietnam” as a new site entitled “Regarding War.” We plan to include conversations and stories about all wars — particularly our current deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan — and to update the site with a new look and functionality that combines community features, social networking opportunities and the ability for users to share their own stories, images and video with the click of a mouse. (The original site encouraged visitors to share their stories and images, but the options were via email, telephone, fax or the mail — as in, the U.S. mail!)
“Re: Vietnam,” conceived by former POV Executive Producer and Founder Marc Weiss and designed and coded by Picture Projects was truly groundbreaking. Going through the site these past few weeks, I’m amazed at how forward thinking and prescient it was. It was an early test of the potential of the Internet as a vehicle for community building and open exchange. Many of the activities that have become commonplace today — blogging, commenting, user generated content — were there, albeit in a nascent, exploratory form.
During it’s active run (1996-1998) “Re: Vietnam” was very well received, racking up over 6,000 submitted comments and stories. And the archived site continues to be one of POV’s most popular, consistently ranking among our most-trafficked sites every year. It’s commonly cited in Vietnam resource listings and included in many lesson plans. Contributors called it a “site of healing,” and, as one participant said on the occasion of the 1998 closing of its discussion boards, “There are literally hundreds of different experiences written up here that would otherwise have been lost to this world. Marc Weiss and the others who conceived of and maintained this site can be proud of their accomplishment — this is unparalleled in our nation’s experience, and should provide a lot of material for many purposes over the next century.”
With that in mind, we will be preserving the archived site on our servers so people can explore this Web artifact for years to come. For those interested, we’re working on a feature that will take a look back on the site’s development, achievements and place in Net history.
In the meantime, we are working away on the new site content and community features. We’re reaching out to veteran and military groups to learn what they and their members would like to see included on the new site, as well as to former site visitors, participants and producers.
The centerpiece of “Regarding War” will be a group discussion blog where participants will contribute their unique perspectives around war-related issues. For the months of November and December, to coincide with the POV broadcast of The Way We Get By, the topic for the Dialog blog will be Coming Home: Veterans Readjusting to Civilian Life. Writers — including veterans, family members of veterans, psychologists, administrators from support organizations and others — will offer insights on the challenges facing returning veterans, and provide tips and resources on the kinds of support that families, friends and communities can offer veterans.
We would love to hear from “Re: Vietnam” visitors, veterans, and anyone who is interested in a community site focused on war stories to tell us what you would like to see on the relaunched Regarding War website. Please tell us in the comments section below.
I’ll post updates — including more detail on the community features — on our progress in the weeks to come.