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The Independent Culture
Brixton On-Line Community Network


This long-awaited project calls Brixton a "better barometer for Britain than either Westminster or Islington". Culturally and technically assertive, the site wants to be everything: a business directory and database, entertainment guide, Internet "empowerment" resource and online magazine. A tall order, especially just a few days after launch, but most of it is already in place, from close-up maps of the area, club and cinema listings, and the phone number of the Brixton Road 7/11, to an overview of the history of black people in the UK going back to the Libyan-born Roman general Septimus Severus. An article called "Guiding the Ghetto" offers a scathing view of bureaucratic intervention in the area's problems: self-definition is the theme here, and the project's success is ultimately in the hands of the local contributors it aspires to serve and encourage.

Vote for Art


Members of the public are here asked to choose a winner from a range of artworks created by students at Central St Martins College of Art and Design. The chosen piece wins pounds 1,500. What sounds like a rather dangerous concession to popular taste is actually a market research exercise, part of an ongoing collaboration with the Research Business International agency, which sponsored the college's 1997 degree show. The project aims to develop the use of the visual arts as a research tool, on the grounds that "sometimes you need a catalyst for discussion. And great art is the best projective material in the world." There's a signed copy of the winning print for one lucky online voter.

Private Eye


Lord Gnome's esteemed organ now gets the full-dress Microsoft Network treatment, with animations and music, but more Shockwaved than shocking as of yore. For the hardcore libellous stuff you still have to go to the newsagent (or subscribe to the print mag from the site), but there's lots of fun to be had here, with The Yobs (et al) in singing-and-stomping animated form, a Slap-a-Spice-Girl ripoff with Richard Branson as target, and a Britpoppy "Blairzone" with one of the most cringeworthy jingles on the Web. The Eye was never about production values, though, and the punchlines can lose something in the download time. But the online version remains free of charge (unlike Slate, say) and Gnome has denied charges of monopolistic practices and anti-competitive conduct.

Tea Leaves


A heady brew of darjeeling and adult-oriented rock, this site invites visitors to click on the online tea mug to obtain New Age wisdom and quotes from the Classics. Ignore it and you could end up in dire straits, since this turns out to be part of David (brother of Mark) Knopfler's site. David also takes the opportunity to flog his CDs and his contribution to "A Bluffer's Guide to Rock". For another weird beverage site try Coffee Art and Prints (http://www.coffeeart.com), where artist Rebecca Jacob, denied coffee during pregnancy, channels her craving into art. The medium of choice here is also the message: coffee itself - Kenyan or Sumatran - is used to create vignettes of cups and croissants. And no, the site doesn't use Java.