Actually, I’m not exactly sure of Barger’s whereabouts; when his popular and still active Robot Wisdom made Barger something of an early Internet celebrity, he was living in Rogers Park; later he moved on to New Mexico and then the Bay Area (where he carried a panhandling sign that read Coined the term ‘weblog,’ never made a dime).
Barger’s real gift to the Internet was helping to establish the concept of a blog as a 21st-century Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, an observation made by pioneering cyberjournalist Julian Dibbell in a wonderful essay from the late, lamented Feed magazine, an influence that can be seen in essential blogs like kottke and BoingBoing. Barger’s approach to mining the Internet arises from his studies in artificial intelligence as well as his love of James Joyce, whose later work, particularly Finnegan’s Wake, was itself an assemblage of cultural errata. One of Barger’s most well-known projects is an “online shorter Finnegan’s Wake.” Inevitably, Barger also developed a fine Pynchon resource page.
Incidentally, Barger was not the first blogger; tough to say who it is, but Chicago native Justin Hall is one of the names mentioned. The Reader‘s own Harold Henderson has staked a claim to the title, although if you’re feeling adventurous you could go back as far as Martin Luther or Walter Benjamin’s uncompleted Arcades Project; locally, let me suggest Ben Hecht’s 1001 Afternoons as an influence.
*”Killer Fact!” concept shamelessly stolen from Chase me ladies, I’m in the cavalry.