"Socially, I feel that the emergence of cyberculture as typified by the mainstream media is as unlikely as the goth culture having a real insight into Satan's couture."
-- Loss Pequeño Glazier
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9. Who can/will/or should preserve new media work and how might they do so?
Glazier: *We* should. That is, organizations such as the ones you mentioned in question 6 above. One of the earliest motivating factors in establishing the EPC, for example, was the number of problems that had arisen with attempts to archive various early electronic poetry magazines. There did not exist at the time, for example, a complete archive of even the best known of these. Similarly, it was impossible to find some of these journals classified anywhere as poetry, even thought that is what they contained. (Archivists contended was that if it didn't look like poetry, it wasn't poetry.) Many other texts were going uncollected and postings to crucially important early discussion lists, such as the Poetics list, edited by Charles Bernstein, were not being archived anywhere. They were considered so ephemeral that computer people didn't even think of archiving them! It was aggressive action, learning how to work in the new online environments, and carefully thought out editorial and collecting policies that turned preservation from an idea into a reality. It is also helpful to see how an institution such as SUNY Buffalo can support such activities; it is part of their mission to serve the public and to foster intellectual change. Such institutions, when guided by active participants who intensely feel the need to save such resources, can allow projects to outlive individual personalities and the limits of personal resources, a collaboration that fulfills an important aspect of their mission.
Judy Malloy: That sounds good! We are all working in this area and more of us are needed!
Drucker: I've had the opportunity to see some of the research initiatives in this area shaping up. Mellon Foundation, Cornell University, the University of Virginia, and a consortium of libraries, museums, and archival organizations with professional commitments to this question are working on the technical issues. John Unsworth is about to (all forces willing) launch a serious research and implementation experiment here to take seriously the problems of durability, robustness, and exportability in a long-view approach to this question. There are many more technical obstacles than folks realize, and one of the biggest myths of electronic technology is that it is a good storage medium. Wrong. Not in its present form. Data are vulnerable, mutable, unstable, and unlikely to last. A book is a much better bet, if what you're after is accessibility to an unpredictably distant posterity. This will change, but the issues are complex.
Amerika: Loss is right, *we* should. This *we* is growing and thanks to new funding opportunities, this *we* is beginning to get a handle on the scope of the archiving process, although I fear we may have already lost some important work early in the process.
Some of the institutional models innovating preservation programs are the organizations mentioned above in #6, but also, for example, The Rhizome ARTBASE and the wonderful work Steve Dietz is doing at the Walker Art Center's Gallery 9 project. Museums and other organizations are also going to have do more than collect the data, that is, they are going to have to start archiving the hardware and software the work was intended to be displayed on (yes, a PowerPC running Mac OS 8.0 and Netscape 3.0 needs to be archived too). **
Lastly, the artists themselves are going to have think through issues of archiving. For instance, how flexibile is each artist going to be when it comes to upgrading their work so that it essentially becomes another version? My GRAMMATRON project, which was Cool Site of the Day in the summer of 97, already looks and feels old. Should I allow my future collector or museum sponsor make arrangements to have it upgraded for AOL/XML 5.0 come 2020?
10. The period from 1995 to the present marked an incredible proliferation of new media work on the Web, most of it completed and 'published' without traditional funding. How might creators and publishers of new media work generate income in the future? Or is the issue more one of "attracting attention to their work so as to build their audience share in the electrosphere," as voiced by Mark Amerika?
Glazier: I believe that increasingly the "electrosphere" will become the public sphere. In other words, as access to the multiple resources made possible by computers expands, digital media may not remain a niche predominantly defined by its medium. Instead we may find ourselves drawing readers from more logical relations to the content of digital media: digital poetry from readers of innovative poetry, online scholarly articles from traditional scholars, cybercultural projects from readers of other cybertextual media. Indeed, the electronic can no longer be seen as a separate sphere. You can't watch a football game without being expected to real-time stats online and instant e-mail surveys are now a part of traditional newscasts. The idea of "audience share" is a little troubling since it almost suggests that we are competing with television and other mass media. Though I don't dispute the relevance of such measures, it might be that who reads New Media work and to what extent they read it may be more important than numbers. As far as generating funding, I am highly cognizant of the importance of such needs. On one hand, projects with certain ideological leanings will probably always receive more funding than most projects. It is not a simple matter. The truly innovative always has difficulty in this regard, unless they are producing a commodity. As to individuals, if we are designers, there is income to be had. If we are artists, it is less predictable.
Malloy: We need more funding sources such as Creative Capital, which couples their funding with helping the artist recipients develop ways of income generation.
Drucker: Linda Gardiner, head of the Women's Review of Books, recently described the British Public Library system's approach to royalties. They keep track of the number of times a book is checked out. The author gets a "use-fee". I think some form of use-fee or license makes good sense. Read a book the way you go to a movie. I'm in favor of offering a free sample/trailer -- as in the pay-per-view aspect of video. These fees could be very low, and a system of e-exchange in which one built credits and then spent them could be put in place to equalize income inequities.
Amerika: What I meant by suggesting that artists must also work on "attracting attention to their work so as to build their audience share in the electrosphere," is that the publishing paradigm has been reversed: we no longer have to worry about getting published so that our work can get distributed. That's the Gutenbergian model, and it empowers readers (God bless them). Nowadays, getting published is no longer an issue. Anyone can get published. In fact, Random House will publish your work for free at their Xlibris site. What matters, is getting distributed or, to put it another way, locating a distributed audience.
In this regard, I would strongly advocate distributing most of your work for free. Get it out there. Let it do its thing. If there is income to be produced out of that process, then it will come, as it has for many net artists, myself included, in the form of grants, commissions, trips around the world, invitations to perform/speak, or a complimentary beer at the local pub. Writing is surviving. The process itself is what sustains us as artists.
11. Given the rapid evolution within the field of new media work, how do we educate students, emerging creators and interactive-participants about its early history?
Glazier: Hopefully, those New Media artists who work in schools and universities can help disseminate this information. Such histories provide excellent opportunites to both get the word out and to invigorate education! In the course I am teaching this semester, for example, what makes innovation happen -- and the free investigation of new terrain that ensues -- is more relevant than the medium in which it occurs. The class looks at such events as they occur in print and online, and it makes for some very energized sessions. New Media artists can also disseminate such information in books and print media that might reach people who are not as yet plugged into the fire wire. This is one of the goals of my Digital Poetics book, forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press in 2001, a documentation of where we are, how it came about, and what some of the possibilities are. I feel that it is important to get some of these matters on the record. It also would be appropriate to have panels and special programs that focus on these early histories at digital conferences and festivals such as at the Digital Arts & Culture conferences and at the E-poetry 2001 Festival mentioned above. If one of the readers of this round table wished to propose such a panel, it would be great!
Malloy: As an artist/writer who has been working online since 1986, it is depressing to go to lectures billed as the history of Internet art and have the speaker say that net art began in 1994.
But there *are* comprehensive printed and/or Internet-housed resources available. Just to name a very few:
LEONARDO has been publishing papers about art and technology for many years. There was a special issue of Leonardo edited by Roy Ascott and Carl Loeffler on art and telecommunications (v. 24: no 2, 1991) which covers a fair amount of the early work in this field.
The EASTGATE SYSTEMS web site is an excellent source of information on the development of hyperfiction.
MAKING ART ONLINE (which I edited) was one of the first art web sites (originally on the ANIMA SITE hosted by CSIR in Vancouver) and is a database of artists words about working online before the web. Participants including Howard Rheingold; Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz; Anna Couey and Lucia Grossberger Morales; Tim Perkis; Jeff Mann; Jim Rosenberg; Pavel Curtis; Carolyn Guyer and many others.
For many years, on the Interactive Arts Conference on Arts Wire, Anna Couey and I hosted a series of conversations with pioneers in Interactive art, such as Hank Bull, Robert Kendall, Nancy Paterson, Sara Roberts, and Fred Truck. Many of these conversations are available on the Interactive Arts Conference Web Site.
WOMEN IN NEW MEDIA (which I edited and is currently in press from MIT Press) includes artist-centered essays by Margaret Morse, Lynn Hershman, Sonya Rapoport, Christine Tamblyn, Abbe Don, Sara Roberts, Char Davis, Brenda Laurel, Carolee Schneemann, Nell Tenhaaf, Troika Ranch, Steina Vasulka, Pauline Oliveros, Frances Dyson, Joan Jonas, Judith Barry, Dara Birnbaum, Pamela Z, Zoe Sofia, and many others.
Others in this group have worked on resources/could add to this list.
It is important that we all keep observing, documenting, editing, curating, and working, as this forum does, to provide platforms for new art and new art documentation.
Drucker: THANKS for all those wonderful references, Judy, they are great, and I look forward to your MIT press book, it looks like it will make a good contribution. I know Noah Wardrip-Fruin is working on an anthology in this area as well. And I think that a number of other younger scholars, such as Matt Kirschenbaum and Eddie Shanken, are making really significant contributions. More will come. I'd love to teach a course on Pioneers of Digital Media that cut across disciplines -- as a way to educate myself, first, and then see if there's a project there. Maybe someone else will be kind enough to do it first and put the anthology together. Two of my favorite references to cite here are Jasia Reichardt and Melvin Pruitt. Both worth investigating if early visual digital media are of your interest.
Amerika: New media or digital arts education must work its way into established educational institutions immediately. Where this will actually begin to take place is really up for grabs. At first I thought it would be a place like Brown, and it may still happen there, but my old Alma Mater is falling behind in these areas. Whereas at a place like the University of Colorado, we have a campus-wide technology initiative called ATLAS that investigates the use of digital information technology across the curriculum. Out of ATLAS we have created a program called TAM, Technology Arts and Media that gives students from a diversity of backgrounds and majors a chance to take these new media courses in different areas of the university. So, for example, students from Journalism, Computer Science, Creative Writing, Fine Arts, etc., can take courses like my "Histories of Internet Art" seminar or "Digital Narrative" workshop. My hope is that these students will be challenged enough to actually begin interacting with the various histories and narratives being created on the WWW and will, ideally, become committed practitioners willing to experiment with the networked environments these histories and narratives take place in ("Nothing will have taken place but the place itself.").
I think it's also important that we find ways to create greater opportunities for those in society who, for the most part, have been left out of the process. ATLAS has just received a large grant from the National Science Foundation to study factors that influence the participation of women in IT educational programs. We are also trying to address concerns about the current underrepresentation of women in the IT workforce nationwide. One positive sign of our progress to date is the excellent success of TAM in attracting women students to its certificate program.
12. What do you think will be the major new media developments in the next five years (both aesthetic and technical)?
Glazier: We are presently in a decompression chamber between two historical periods. Though New Media writing is upon us, we are constantly referring to the technology of the book to orient ourselves. How long will it take us to get out of the old mold and be able to experience the new one for what it is? A decade? Fifty years? If we look at 1980 as one beginning point, it has been twenty years. Yet we still talk about Web "pages", electronic "books", browser "bookmarks", and other print-influenced conceptions. These terms prevent us from seeing the potential of where we are, a field that is much more fluid, expansive, and procedurally charged than most people seem to suggest. Our attempts to envision this new textuality, especially in terms of the cyberculture seem inadequate. Socially, I feel that the emergence of cyberculture as typified by the mainstream media is as unlikely as the goth culture having a real insight into Satan's couture. The merging of text and image that New Media makes possible does not mean it is easy; it should take some time, maybe over a year for every 300 x 300 pixels, just like the miniatures mentioned earlier. I think that New Media offers extraordinarily powerful, innovative, and compelling possibilities for us to explore. I believe the pleasure of making art has all the freshness of any new era in technology, like the possibilities of the discovery of fire (clay pots, casting metal). I think it is important to warm our hands by that fire (multimedia, programming) and stare off into the blackness of night, to contemplate the possibilities, to be open to things we might not have expected, to allow previously unexplored possibilities to enter our imagination.
Malloy: As we all -- visual artists, writers, dancers, musicians, theatre people, architects, critics, editors, curators -- inhabit/share the same Internet platform, there is an incredibly enriching cross pollination. I cannot predict all art outcomes of the impending postcolonial Renaissance, but surely it is coming. I look forward....
Drucker: The integration of aesthetic and technical solutions will provide seamless interface, almost transparent, capable of temporal, spatial, and visual modelling in a user-friendly interface that is intuitive, low-threshold and high-ceilinged. Collective and participatory sites and production modes will transform the still hierarchical modes of creating and acquiring knowledge, though really imaginative work is likely to be the provenance of individuals, the effects of participation will alter the experience of a broad base of users. The full potential of new media, to be immersive without requiring specialized gear and to augment our senses and cognitive processes, will be enriched by our self-conscious and imaginative use of human-made artifacts. The history of human thought provides models of creative engagement that have yet to be articulated in a metalanguage that can enable the next visions of imaginative production. But we are on the verge of this research, enabled by the insights that this technology, in its requirements for rendering explicit our implicit assumptions, is forcing upon us. In return, we will ask the technological capabilities to evolve in at least a simulacrum of intuitive processes. At the point of synthesis, a fully dynamic environment for creative work will begin to emerge and forms of experience, as well as the possibilities for its representation, will find new aesthetic parameters.
Amerika: I see more hybridized offline/online collaborations or what I am now calling network performances. These network performances will be greatly enhanced by bigger bandwidth, more openmindedness to team-networking, improved technical skills, and a growing comfort level with what the new media environment can actually produce for the culture-at-large. I think we will also see artists/writers further blurring the lines between art, entertainment and what the industry-types like to call content. I would also expect there to be all kinds of backlashes and conceptually-provocative moves toward low-tech minimalism and easy to digest electronic textuality. When Flash becomes perceived by some as all Flash and no substance, when Digital Cinema is experienced as just more bad community TV, and when the latest self-proclaimed art collective looks more like a dot-com wannabe / web design company, where will the sophisticated audience go? What will they be searching for?
[the work] [diner] [dialogue] [theory & practice] [opportunities] [archives] Volume Two, # Two ©1999 - 2000