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Digital art has expanded, challenged, and even redefined notions of public art and supported the concept of a networked commons. The nature of agency within online, networked "systems" and "communities" is crucial to these developments. Electronic networks enable exchange and collectivist strategies that can question existing structures of power and governance. Networks are public spaces that offer enhanced possibilities of interventions into the social world and of archiving and filtering these interventions over time in an ongoing process.Networked activism and tactical response as well as artistic practice that merges physical and virtual space and augments physical sites and existing architectures are among the practices that are important to the impact of digital public art on governance.

Digital technologies and new media art have expanded, challenged, or even redefined concepts of what constitutes public space, the public domain, and public art. Today's culture is to a large extent revolving around flows -- of data (texts, images, and sounds), technologies, communication, and interaction -- and supports the concept of a networked commons, which raises questions about agency, control, and governance. As David Garcia (1998) has pointed out, "these flows are not just one element in the social organization, they are an expression of processes *dominating* our economic, political, and social life."

This essay will examine how digital art has used electronic networks to redefine the notion of public space by enhancing possibilities of various kinds of interventions. These interventions can take the form of an archiving and filtering of public contributions; a merging of physical and virtual space; an augmentation of physical sites and architectures; social softwares, or collectivist and activist strategies and tactical response.

In this context, it is necessary to consider artistic approaches to the mass media in general, as well as possibilities of understanding the networked commons in relationship to concepts such as authority, control, and governance.

Electronic networks have brought about formal redefinitions of what we understand as "public" and opened new spaces for artistic intervention. So-called "public art" has a long history, and the term has traditionally been used for art that is displayed in public spaces existing outside of a designated art context (in this sense, the museum and gallery are not a public space); or for public performative events. Public artworks range from Michelangelo's ceiling for the Sistine Chapel to murals and sculptures in public spaces created by artists including Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, or Claes Oldenburg. Public art is usually authorized and sometimes financed by the government or authority administering the respective space, and has frequently been used by totalitarian regimes for propaganda. However, there also is a history of "guerilla" public art -- often taking the form of graffiti -- that is executed without permission, most notably in the case of some of Keith Haring's early works. Other public art forms are meant to be ephemeral and consist of site-specific interventions by art movements such as Fluxus or the Situationist International (SI). The SI, a political and artistic movement, emerged in the late 1950s through the fusion of several smaller groups, among them the Lettrist International and the London Psychogeographical Association. While "situationism" was meant to refer to the theory or practical activity of constructing situations (in public space), its practitioners deliberately tried to avoid definitions and a doctrine of interpretation. As part of their concept of "unitary urbanism," the Lettrist International developed the idea of psychogeography, which was further promoted by the London Psychogeographical Association, a fictional association created by absurdists. Psychogeography -- the study of the effects of the geographical environment on individuals' emotions and behaviors -- experienced a revival in the art of the 1980s and 90s and is particularly relevant to many site-specific mobile media projects, which will be discussed in more detail later in this essay.

An important element in all public art is the varying degree of audience participation and agency. Agency manifests itself in the possibilities for influencing, changing, or creating institutions and events, or acting as a proxy. Degrees of agency are measured by the ability to have a meaningful effect in the world and in a social context, which naturally entails responsibilities.

In "The Artist as Ethnographer," Hal Foster (1996) has outlined one of the inherent dangers of "public art" practice: that an artist engaging communities or sites outside of an art context might simply appropriate a community in the creation of a personal or autobiographical narrative of the artist's identity. The worst-case scenario being that a colonizing and romanticized appropriation of a community ultimately becomes a representation that the public identifies with the community itself.

The fact that digital art is inherently interactive, participatory, or even collaborative and -- in its networked manifestation -- potentially open to exchanges with trans-local communities, makes questions surrounding agency and the authority of authorship a central element of new media art practice. In media art, any form of agency is necessarily mediated. The degree of agency is therefore partly determined by the levels of mediation unfolding within an artwork. The agency of the creator / user / public / audience is also highly dependent on the extent of control over production and distribution of a work, which has been a central issue of the discourse on mass media.

It will be a decisive programmatic point of the social ecology to guide these capitalist societies of the age of mass media into a post—mass medial age; I mean that the mass media have to be reappropriated by a multiplicity of subject—groups who are able to administer them on a path of singularisation. [1]

Affordable software and hardware, the Internet, and mobile devices such as PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants such as Palm Pilots) have brought about a new era for the creation and distribution of media content. The utopian promise of this era is "technologies for the people" and a many—to—many (as opposed to one—to—many) broadcasting system that returns the power over distribution to the individual and has a democratizing effect. The Internet promised immediate access to and transparency of data and, in its early days, was dominated by research and educational institutions and a playground for artistic experimentation. The dream of a "network for the people" did not last long and from the very beginning, it obscured the more complex issues of power and control over media. While the Internet is hailed as a "global" network, only a portion of the world is connected to it. At a time when the traffic on the information superhighway was consistently increasing in the U.S., many other countries weren't along for the ride, largely due to the lack of local access and fees charged by telecommunications companies; wide areas of the world do not have access to the Internet and some countries have been subject to government—imposed access restrictions. The Internet itself quickly became a mirror of the actual world, with corporations and e—commerce colonizing the landscape. The burst of the "dot com" bubble ended a great deal of hype surrounding the Internet economy and led to a more realistic appraisal of e—commerce. However, the industry of digital technologies is very much alive.

The potential of a shift to many—to—many distribution networks was recognized much earlier and artists had started to expand the possibilities of the one—to—many broadcasting media at a time when the concept of many—to—many distribution systems was hardly recognized by the public in general. In the 1960s, Max Neuhaus defined new arenas for music performance by staging sound works in public arenas and experimenting with networked sound as a form of "virtual architecture."In the first installment of his project Public Supply (1966),he established a connection between the WBAI radio station in New York and the telephone network, implementing a 20—mile aural space around New York City, where participants could intervene in the performance by making a phone call. The use of sound for organizing social space and action is further examined in an essay by Jonathan Sterne's (see

Many—to—many distribution also was one of the dreams of video art,the "new" media of the late twentieth century. When Sony portapaks became available in the late 1960s, artists and activists used this portable recording power for establishing alternative media networks,addressing issues of documentation and representation in the context of control over media distribution [2].However, the attempt to establish distribution systems for the public at a larger scale ultimately failed. Apart from the fact that media systems can only be reconfigured with the combined creative endeavors of many individuals, earlier technologies such as video also still required far more complicated processing and distribution facilities than today's new media do.

Using "new technology" such as video and satellites, artists in the1970s also began to experiment with live, networked performances that anticipated the interactions now taking place on the Internet and through the use of streaming media. The focus of these projects ranged from the application of satellite technology for extending the mass dissemination of a television broadcast to the aesthetic potential of video teleconferencing and the exploration of real—time virtual space that collapsed geographic boundaries. At Documenta VI in Kassel,Germany, in 1977, Douglas Davis organized a satellite telecast to more than 25 countries, which included performances by Davis himself, Nam June Paik, Fluxus artist and musician Charlotte Moorman, and Joseph Beuys. In the same year, a collaboration between artists in New York(Liza Bear and Willoughby Sharp) and San Francisco (Sharon Grace and Carl Loeffler) resulted in Send/Receive, a 15—hour, two—way,interactive satellite transmission between the two cities. Also in1977, what became known as "the world's first interactive satellite dance performance" — a three—location, live—feed composite performance involving performers on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States — was organized by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, in conjunction with NASA and the Educational Television Center in Menlo Park, California. The project established what the creators called an"image as place," a composite reality that immersed performers in remote places into a new form of 'virtual' space. In 1982, the Canadian artist Robert Adrian, who had begun working with communication technology in 1979 and created various projects involving fax,slow—scan TV, and radio, organized the event The World in 24 Hours,during which artists in 16 cities on three continents were connected for 24 hours by fax, computers, and videophone and exchanged and created 'multimedia' artworks. All of these performative events were first explorations of the connectivity that is an inherent characteristic of networked digital art.

Digital networks finally allowed a fairly fluent and broader implementation of this many—to—many model. While it would be problematic to forget about the limitations of access to the Internet or digital technologies that still exist in large parts of the world,today's networking capabilities by far extend the reach that any of the previously mentioned artistic projects achieved. However, digital technologies are deeply embedded in various layers of commercial systems, and media control does by no means fully lie in the hands of the individual. At the same time, it is the nature of digital technology itself that makes the boundaries of industrial,governmental, and legal control more porous and has redefined traditional systems of media control.

In order to trace the promise and reality of digital technology's potential to reconfigure these systems, it seems opportune to take a look back at past evaluations of this type of technological promise,most notably the exchange that took place in the 1970s between Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Jean Baudrillard on the then "new" media.

Hans Magnus Enzensberger's landmark essay "Constituents of a Theory of New Media" (2003) — originally published in the New Left Review in 1970 — offered a perspective on the new electronic media of the time that in retrospect seems remarkably visionary and dated at the same time. Informed by an essentially Marxist perspective, Enzensberger saw the media of the '70s as a major reconfiguration of the production process: "For the first time in history, the media are making possible mass participation in a social and socialized productive process, the practical means of which are in the hands of the masses themselves." [3]

Enzensberger sees television or film as media that prevent rather than enable communication since they allow no reciprocal action between transmitter and receiver but reduce feedback to a lowest common denominator. As he points out, this limitation of the communication process mostly is not inherent to the technology itself, which would allow for the reconfiguration of the transistor radio from a receiver into a potential transmitter by circuit reversal. Media equipment is therefore both a means of consumption and production, and the boundary between the distribution and communications medium is a fluid one. The division between receiver and transmitter, as Enzensberger [4] makes clear, reflects the one between producer and consumer.

Revisiting Enzenberger's essay today, it often is easy to forget that he was not writing about digital networks or the World Wide Web as communications medium, where the division between transmitter/receiver and producer/consumer becomes increasingly blurred. Other conclusions he draws, however, come as a surprise — among them the assumption that the great advantage of a switchable network is that it can no longer be centrally controlled [5]and thus undermines authoritarian, top—down systems. In the age of Echelon and packet—sniffing — the monitoring of network traffic and"eavesdropping" on the information exchanged — by federal agencies, it is hard to imagine that Enzensberger could not see that control itself can rely on decentralized systems (as Baudrillard would point out in his reply).

The most debatable assumption Enzensberger makes may very well be that "The new media are egalitarian in structure." [6]As Jean Baudrillard (2003) points out in his reply to Enzensberger's essay, "Requiem for the Media" (originally published in 1972), "the media are not even, somewhere else or potentially, neutral or non—ideological." Particularly in the context of today's new media, it is crucial to be aware of the encoded agenda — political, commercial etc. — of any hardware or software, which has become a prominent topic in software art.

While Baudrillard appreciates Enzensberger's attempt to go beyond a"dialectic" of transmitter and receiver, he is fundamentally criticalof the concept that the media allow mass participation in a productiveprocess: "The mass media are anti—mediatory and intransitive. Theyfabricate non—communication — this is what characterizes them, if oneagrees to define communication as an exchange, as a reciprocal space ofa speech and response." [7]

Baudrillard's main criticism concerns the very structure of media itself, the transmission—reception process, which — in his opinion —does not allow for response or an exchange of speech. This process,according to Baudrillard, makes a message impossible since it would only exist within the categories of "emitted" and "received.""Terrorism of the code" is how Baudrillard [8] describes this condition since the code — at least in his model — becomes the only agency that speaks.

In the context of today's networked exchanges (be they e—mail,real—time chat, or any other from of communication), Baudrillard's argument at times becomes difficult to follow. Apart from the fact that these exchanges allow for an immediate, real—time response, it is debatable whether the process of "encoding" applies only to technology.One could argue that verbal human exchanges are highly reliant on codes(be they linguistic or social) and therefore are encoded and decoded on the speakers' and listeners' end. The ambiguity of the "pure," verbal message is not erased through technological transmission but the latter adds further layers of mediation, which very often increase ambiguity.The seeming need for the so—called emoticons in e—mail messages is one indicator of the insecurities surrounding the proper reception of a message.

What Baudrillllard proposes as a solution is a "symbolic exchange relation," in which there is a simultaneity of response: "The symbolic consists precisely [...] in restoring he ambivalence of meaning and in demolishing in the same stroke the agency of the code." [9] Interestingly, Baudrillard seems to see graffiti (a fairly static "response") as such a form of symbolic exchange.

In today's digital societies, it is hard to imagine how to escape the trap of controlled communication, be it on a technological or symbolic level. In contemporary theory, both humans and machines are frequently understood as "coded devices." In the context of digital technologies, agency has become distributed in terms of location, and as interconnected with code as with natural language. There seems to be no escape from code (in the broadest sense) and while its agency is much discussed today, it is neither perceived nor examined as a form of terrorism.

In the networked digital world, one layer of control and authority consists of the multiple protocols that enable and determine exchanges.In his book Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization,Alex Galloway (2004) describes protocols — the sets of rules that govern networked relations — as based on two opposing technologies: one distributing control into autonomous locales, the other centralizing it in defined hierarchies, with the tension between the two creating the conditions for protocological control.

Among the many protocols that control network relations are those enabling data transmission over the Internet, such as TCP/IP(Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol); the Domain Name System (DNS), which handles Internet addresses; and, the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (http), which enables the retrieval of documents over the World Wide Web. The tension between autonomy and hierarchy on the Internet becomes obvious in the difference between client—server relationships (allowing a client to retrieve information from a server via a personal computer) and peer—to—peer ones (providing a direct link for exchange between computing devices). Peer—to—peer as opposed to client—server becomes a philosophical as well as political issue: peer—to—peer is the promise of the liberation from the server as a hierarchical structure.

It would be a misconstruction to understand digital networks as either democratizing and empowering the consumer or completely determined by control mechanisms and the technological industry. The reality is closer to a "both/and." The existence of networks has opened up new spaces for autonomous producers and DIY culture, as well as the industry of market—driven media. The same technologies can often be applied to very different ends and effects, as the project Carnivore by Alex Galloway and the RSG (Radical Software Group) perfectly illustrates. Inspired by the packet—sniffing software DCS1000 (once nicknamed "Carnivore") that is used by the FBI to perform electronic wiretaps and search for certain "suspicious" keywords, Carnivore consists of an application that performs packet—sniffing on a specific local area network and serves the resulting data stream, as well as the"client" applications created by numerous artists, which interpret the data in visual ways. The project makes the source code of the software available to anyone interested in using it — as opposed to limiting its use for the purpose of surveillance — and defies an easy categorization of surveillance as either positive or negative.

In Empire, Hardt and Negri (2000) argue that the new paradigm of the global world order is configured as a dynamic and flexible systemic structure that is constructed horizontally — a"governance without government" that subsumes any "actor" (and, one would assume, agency) under the totality of the order of the whole. The supreme authority of the ordering effectively integrates everything and at the same time calls for more central authority. Hardt and Negri think of this "governance without government" as a machine that predetermines the exercise of authority and action across the entire social space where every movement can find its designated place only within the hierarchical relationship imposed on it by the system itself.

While one can understand Hardt's and Negri's imperial world order asa unique mode of economic, political and cultural organization ingeneral, it seems harder to apply it to the technological network ofthe Internet in specific. The previously mentioned "both/and" structureof the Internet certainly involves numerous protocols but at the sametime, every module or protocol in this structure inherentlyencapsulates the possibility of both command and control and isconfigurable: what constructs control and authority also encapsulatesthe possibility of undermining and dismantling it. In the context ofthe networked commons, the concept of "governance without government"could also be revisited in terms of the interplay between openness topublic participation vs. rules and mechanisms of access.

In its original meaning [10],the term "commons" refers to land or a public area that is open to common use, the group of the commoners or their parliamentary representatives. In 2001, the founders of the Sarai New Media Initiative in Delhi published a reader on the public domain and introduced the term "Digital Commons."

The idea of the digital or networked commons obviously requires a reconsideration of traditional definitions: the public space here is not a shared territory but a non—locality consisting of global communication systems that, while subject to protocols and regulations,largely exist outside of a single nation's or state's jurisdiction; the"commoners" also can not be defined strictly in terms of physical location but often are communities of interest that share ideas and knowledge and are dispersed around the world.

The concept of the (networked) commons is also inextricably interconnected with the notion of the public domain, which — as asocial and cultural space — can be understood as a shared site of ideas in the broadest sense. In 1998, the Society for Old and New Media (DeWaag, at in Amsterdam started a research project titled "Public Domain 2.0," which was an attempt to reassert public agency in the information age and"address the conditions of the unfolding era of global information and communication systems." (Boeschoten, al., 2004) The goal of the project is to design future public spaces in digital media environments that are monopolized by neither commercial interests nor a state and driven by active public participation.

The narrower, juridical and computing definitions of the public domain are rooted in notions of property right and copyright and point to the complex legal issues raised by digital technologies and networks and their inherent capabilities for appropriation and sharing [11].

In "Constructing the Digital Commons," Eric Kluitenberg (2003)refers to writer and policy strategist David Bollier's argument that the concept of the public domain and the commons should be differentiated from each other. Bollier distinguishes between the public domain as a passive open space that can be shared by anyone and everyone, implies no boundaries and ownership and therefore does not require responsibility for resources. He sees the commons as a space of shared resources (land, means of production, information) that is collectively owned by a more or less well—defined community and therefore implies boundaries: "There are rules and mechanism of access,and limitations on use that are defined by the shared values of the community sharing these resources." (Bollier, n.d.)

While Bollier's distinction is helpful and makes an important point,the boundaries between the public domain and digital commons can stillbe fluid. When it comes to art in the public space of networks,concepts such as passive vs. active space (agency), collective owner—and authorship, as well as rules and mechanisms of access are a complexinterplay between technologies, software, authors, and users.

Networked new media art existing in the public space of networks —be it internet art or art involving mobile media such as cell phones and PDAs — can be understood as a new form of public art. Compared to more traditional forms of public art practice, Internet art, which is accessible from the privacy of one's home, introduces a shift from the site—specific to the global, collapses boundaries between the private and public, and exists in a distributed non—local space. As opposed to public art in physical space, artworks in the public space of networks are largely not regulated and sponsored by the government but often develop their own systems of governance.

As other manifestations of new media art (such as networked installation or virtual/augmented reality works), net art can support varying degrees of interaction, ranging a from trigger-response interaction within a closed system or a relatively preconfigured database of elements; and, participation within parameters set by artists; to the creation of these parameters and rules by the audience itself. These models of interaction obviously imply different degrees of agency, from relative closure to complete openness.

Fostering audience agency is an activist goal for many artists, and digital technologies have at least increased the technological possibilities for agency, even if these possibilities are not necessarily fulfilled. In the context of technological environments,one always needs to consider the respective degrees of agency of authors and participants, software, and systems.

Art in the networked space enables various kinds of interventions,which will be discussed in the following with regard to the idea of amany—to—many broadcasting system that erases boundaries betweenproducer and consumer, as well as the concept of shared production andinformation resources in the digital commons.

Digital technologies offer enhanced possibilities of archiving and filtering public contributions over time in an ongoing process, which has become an underlying mechanism of many net art projects. In these cases, the creation of meaning is obviously dependent on both public participation and the respective filtering mechanisms of the software created by the artist.

Margot Lovejoy's Turns (Figure 1), for example, invites visitors to share personal stories of life turning points. On the Website, stories are represented as pebble—like shapes that can be opened and returned to the narrative pool. The stories can be browsed according to 12 categories (such as education, relationships, health,trauma, family or war) and can be filtered according to gender,ethnicity, or the time at which the turning point was experienced.While the individual stories may be of varying quality or interest,they become a more complex social memory through the relational filters and lenses. The site becomes a reflection on the ways in which new media are influencing and changing notions of the individual in asocial context.

A very different type of filtering unfolds in Warren Sack's Agonistics — A Language Game(Figure 2), which creates a space of interactive, graphical objects and dynamics inspired by the concept of "agonistics" (the science of athletic combats, or contests in public games). Theorists such as Chantal Mouffe have been interested in the democratic potential of agonistic contests, using metaphorical images and actions to describe verbal contests as a language game. Sack's project draws on these ideas and applies them to online discussion forums.

Using any e—mail program, players can post to online, publicdiscussions (for example, Usenet newsgroups or the Rhizome mailinglist), and the project then translates players' messages into agraphical display where participants are represented by thumbnailimages. Players are assigned a position on "fields" depending on thecontent of their message and are placed in relation to the otherplayers who posted a message on the same theme. After each new messageposted to the discussion, everyone's position is algorithmicallyrecomputed. By posting a message to the discussion that voices aspecific opinion about a theme, players can move themselves closer toor farther away from certain other players. Even though Agonisticsis technologically "encoded," the project constitutes a reciprocalspace for speech and response. The project also explicitly points tothe codes embedded in the game of natural language.

While both Turns and Agonistics enable participation and filtering on the basis of rules that are established by the artists (and the algorithms they use) and can be performed by participants, they create an enhanced awareness of an individual's"positioning," be it in a social context or in the ways they express their opinion. Both projects are public artworks in which participants are both the active producers of content as well as its recipients."Systems" and "communities" are traditionally understood in opposition to the privileging of the individual but systems can create narratives that highlight relationships between individuals.

As Sharon Daniel (forthcoming) has argued, the increasing reliance of culture(s) and social systems on networks of exchange and economies of relation has induced a shift in art practice from individual authorship to models based on self—organizing systems. However, the openness of so—called self—organizing system still varies considerably.Katherine Hayles (1999) has pointed out that such systems are still often "informationally closed" since they respond to stimuli based on their own, internal self—organization. Both Turns and Agonistics can be considered systems that organize themselves on the basis of artist—created software. While they are open to outside information,they still establish a certain degree of closure in that contributions are organized on the basis of specific parameters that cannot be changed by participants. This is not meant to say that the quality of an artwork increases with its degree of openness; the decisive factor remains what an artwork requires in order to most effectively communicate its content. The transformation of a system through input from collaborating participants occurs in the acts of interpretation,translation, manipulation, contribution, and recombination of data.

The shift from individual authorship to a collaborative creation process can manifest itself in various models, ranging from public contributions to systems established by artists to the collaborative creation of the underlying system for the artwork itself. An example would be Natalie Bookchin's agoraXchange, an online community for designing a massive multi—player global politics game aimed at questioning violence and inequality of present political systems and exploring issues of government and governance. The project was commissioned by Tate Online and launched on 15 March 2004. The project explicitly invites participation by individuals, groups, classes, or organizations and the development takes place in a collaborative virtual space called the "Game Design Room." It is interesting to note that agoraXchange establishes certain governing rules by asking that proposals must be consistent with the four Decrees of the project (citizenship by choice, not birth; no inheritance; no rules for kinship relations established by a state; no private land rights). In terms of the concept of a digital commons, the project consists of shared resources, but the rules and mechanisms of access are not entirely determined by the community.

Issues similar to the ones addressed in agoraXchange are explored in the online simulation game NationStates, which was not conceived as an art project but as a promotion for Max Barry's (2003) novel Jennifer Government,on which the game is based. While the book is set in an ultra—privatized world, the game allows players to create any type of nation. They are asked to choose a name, motto, national animal, and currency for their nation and then have to answer a short questionnaire about their politics. The questionnaire determines the type of nation,for example authoritarian or permissive; left—wing or right—wing;compassionate or psychotic. Once a day, players are faced with an issue — written by the author or a player and/or edited by a moderator — and need to make a decision about it, which in turn determines how the nation evolves.

NationStates functions on the basis of three main scales:personal, economic, and political, which each can be authoritarian(moral, or restrictive) or libertarian (liberal, or laissez faire). On each of the three main scales, nations are ranked as having high,average, or low amounts of freedom (or permissiveness). On the basis of the rankings, nations are assigned one of 27 possible labels by the U.N., the world's governing body that proposes and votes on resolutions, which are then binding on all member nations.

There is no way of "winning" the game per se although making it onto the top rungs of a United Nations report certainly is a measure of success. The reports, which rank nations on anything from economic strength to the most liberal public nudity laws, are compiled once per day, one for each region and one for the entire world. While NationStates relies on ultimately very simple rules and governing systems, and gives players only limited control over the design of the system itself, it is an interesting take on the interplay of freedom and control (and governance without government).

As opposed to NationStates, which asks contributors to submit to an established system (that gives limited influence over shaping its framework), agoraXchange increases the degree of agency by allowing participants to develop the system itself. In Enzensberger's terms, there is a socialized productive process that is in the hands of its participants. This form of distributed creativity obviously raises questions regarding authorship and crediting, particularly in an art context, which traditionally favors the "single creator" model. A project addressing these issues is The Pool (Figure 3), developed by Jon Ippolito, Joline Blais and collaborators at the University of Maine's Still Water Lab.

The Pool was specifically designed as an architecture for asynchronous and distributed creativity and documents the creativeprocess in different stages: the "Intent," a description of what the artwork might be, an "Approach" to how it could be implemented and a "Release" of the artwork online. The architecture also includes a scaling system that allows visitors to the site to rate any given project. The Pool supplies descriptions of projects' versions, reviews of the projects, as well as relationships to other works in the database. Tags to contributors make it possible to credit all the artists who have worked on a project at any given stage. The Pool illustrates the shifts in the paradigm of culture production induced by the digital commons where a whole culture can be built upon seed ideas and different iterations of a particular project. The project is also interesting to consider in terms of Baudrillard's "agency of the code": The Pool makes the development of code transparent and reveals the stages in which human "intent" becomes encoded in software projects.


Within the networked commons, public space can take several forms.On the one hand, one could consider the whole Internet as a public space — governed by multiple layers of protocols and providing different levels of access. Within this macrocosm, individual projects and sites can again create public spaces, dependent on their openness to public contribution. As in physical public space, these environments allow for different kinds of interventions, ranging from activist ones(public protests and civil disobedience) to more aesthetically oriented approaches (similar to the public performances by Fluxus or the Situationists). Interventions in virtual space often take place in gaming environments, which often support a fairly high level of agency due to the openness of their architecture. In her essay in First Monday (at, T.L. Taylor further examines the forms of governance occurring in massive multi—user online games.

In 1997, for example, a naked riot was staged in the popular game Ultima Online in order to demand bug fixes and server upgrades. Another famous online protest was the "adbusting" campaign Big Mac Attacked (Walsh, 2002), which took place in the online version of the game The Sims. The intervention was prompted by the fact that Electronic Arts, the company who created The Sims,incorporated McDonald's kiosks in their online game. This form of deeply integrated marketing led to an organized protest that asked players to picket McDonald's kiosks and tell visitors what they thought of McDonald's food and business strategies; to order and consume virtual McDonald's food and then use The Sims's "expressive gestures" feature to emote vomiting, sickness, or fatigue; or, to open an independent restaurant and ask other Simians to support small business people instead of McDonald's franchise—machine.

Another critical intervention in an existing game is the activist art project Velvet—Strike(Figure 4) by Anne—Marie Schleiner, Joan Leandre and Brody Condon,which was conceptualized as a direct response to President Bush's Waron Terrorism. Velvet—Strike is a collection of graffiti that can be "sprayed" on the walls and rooms of the shooter game Counter—Strike,a multi—user game that allows participants to play members of either aterrorist group or counter—terrorist commandos. Putting the "weapon" ofpublic opinion back into the hands of the players, Velvet—Strikeenables users to spray their anti—war graffiti (one of them reads"Hostages of Military Fantasy") onto the walls of the game environment.The project led to massive protests and hate mail campaigns by thedevoted players of Counter—Strike.

An online art project less focused on public protest but intended as a parody of different forms of popular entertainment and their respective "territories" was Joseph DeLappe's Quake/Friends (Figure 5) performance series, in which he staged episodes from the TV sit—com Friends in the online shooter game Quake III Arena. DeLappe describes the work as "a temporal occurrence of clashing inanities."

The first Quake/Friends performance took place on 18 October 2002. Seven performers connected to the same Quake III Arena game server online and — instead of participating in the 3D game — recreated an episode from Friends by logging in as one of the characters from the show, and then using the game's online messaging system by typing, while at the same time reciting lines from the show. The performers were constantly killed and reincarnated to continue the performance. A few days before the second performance was to take place in front of a live audience on 8 March2003, at the Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery of the University of Nevada in Reno, DeLappe received notice from the Warner Brothers' legal department that they were concerned over possible copyright infringement over the use of Friends material in his performance works. Warner Brothers (WB) requested that the artist would cease to use Friends material in his work and remove all copyrighted Friends material from his Web site. DeLappe considers his work parody and thus protected by "fair use" standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court but reached a compromise with WB: he agreed to not perform a new script from the Friends but use the same episode that was previously performed.

Similar projects are Joseph DeLappe's readings of selected works of WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon in the online WWII war game Medal of Honor and Adriene Jenik's and Lisa Brenneis' Desktop Theater where the artists "invade" the online chat environment The Palace and use their avatars — graphic representations of themselves — to stage performances, such as an adaptation of Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

While the projects mentioned above essentially use the same strategies and methods as protests and performances in public space,they sometimes directly disrupt or "rewrite" a commercial software environment. This scenario of actively rewriting and changing an environment obviously would not be possible in physical space. What enables this form of intervention is the openness of the digital architecture of many multi—user spaces, which are based upon the possibility of collaborative exchange and reorganization of space. As previously mentioned, it is the architecture of digital media itself that inherently allows for the reconfiguration of command/control modules and protocols.

Network technologies have become all pervasive and it would be problematic to understand the Internet and networks in general as a purely virtual territory that has no connection to our physical environment. Wireless networks and the use of "nomadic devices" such as cell phones and PDAs, in particular, have blurred the boundaries between the non—local and locative, and locative media has become one of the most active areas in new media art.

A number of projects have focused on mapping and enhancing existing physical spaces and architectures. PDPal(Figure 6) by Scott Paterson, Marina Zurkow and Julian Bleecker, for example, is a mapping tool for recording personal experiences of public space, more specifically, the Times Square area in New York City and the Twin Cities, Minnesota. The tool is available on the Web and can also be downloaded to one's PDA. Users create maps by marking locations with little graphic symbols and giving them attributes and ratings.While the categories for mapping are relatively preconfigured, the prescription of certain categories or meta—tags also allows a more effective mapping of all the contributions. PDPal is inspired by the idea of emotional geographies — as opposed to a traditional cartography based on static sites — and the Situationists' concept of "psychogeography," which is frequently referenced in the realm of locative and mobile media.

Similar works are MapHub™ — developed by members of the media arts and writing collective Carbon Defense League and supported by the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University — and Q.S. Serafijn's D—tower, an art piece commissioned by the city of Doetinchem in the Netherlands and co—developed by V2_lab. Exploring the idea of shared urban storytelling, MapHub™, currently only available in Pittsburgh, allows users to place people, places, events,or notes on an interactive map and attach audio, video, or images.People can also use their mobile phones to call into the system and add a note. D—tower maps the emotions of the inhabitants of Doetinchem in a more specific way than PDPal by concentrating on happiness, love, fear, and hate. In D—tower human values and feelings become networked entities that also manifest themselves in physical space. The project consists of a physical tower,a questionnaire, and a Web site. Participants receive four questions every other day and the project translates their answers directly into a graph. The Web interface consists of "landcapes" that, respectively,represent an accumulation of all answers and the answers to every single question in the form of peaks and valleys. All results are connected to the map of the city of Doetinchem according to the zip codes of participants and show where in the city people are most scared or in love, and for what reason. The physical tower (Figure 7),designed by NOX, is a structure (36 feet—high) of geometries formed by polyester surface that has been computer—generated through CNC milling.The four emotions charted in the projected are represented by four colors — green, red, blue and yellow — which determine the color of the lamps illuminating the building. Driving through the city, people can see which emotion is most deeply felt on that particular day.

In different ways, all of these mapping projects create a virtual,public repository for information that supplements physical sites. In terms of the definition of the commons, they consist of shared information resources that are collectively built by a more or less well—defined community and involve boundaries established through rules and mechanisms of access. In the case of PDPal, the information can also be accessed at the physical site itself and in D—tower,a physical structure is transformed through the virtual repository. In terms of the concept of psychogeography, these mapping projects strive to create a new awareness of the urban landscape as a space inscribed by human perception and emotion.

The enhancement of physical sites also unfolds in the form of locative media projects that provide public access to location—specific information via wireless networks.

At this point in time, there are relatively few artworks that have attempted to merge virtual and physical public space, creating a one—to—one relationship between the spaces or a so—called mixed reality(which has been explored mostly within a gaming context). An example of this type of artwork would be Blast Theory's mobile game Can you see me now?(Figure 8), which essentially takes the form of a chase where online players navigate their avatar through the streets of a city map in order to escape from "runners" in an actual city who are hunting them.The runners — equipped with a handheld computer cum GPS tracker that sends their position to online players via a wireless network — attempt to "catch" the online players whose position is in turn sent to the runners' computers. The virtual players can send text messages to each other and receive a live audio stream from the runners' walkie—talkies.The game is over when runners "sight" their virtual opponents and shoot a photo of them (which obviously just captures empty space). The game achieves a noteworthy level of merging and collapsing physical and virtual space and raises profound questions about embodiment in these different sites. Blast Theory's project operates on the boundaries of tele—presence and —absence: through networking, absence creates a presence in its own right that is absurdly documented in the sightings photos. Photography, an established mode of technological representation, becomes obsolete in the face of a presence — unfolding through virtual movements — that leaves no physical trace. As its title indicates, the project questions the very process of seeing itself,suggesting a form of perception independent of embodiment. At a time where GPS technology and "networked cells" are mostly associated with destructive or negative potential (surveillance, war machinery, and terrorism), Blast Theory emphasizes the creative possibilities of the human and technological network.


A connection between the physical and virtual also occurs in the numerous tele—presence or tele—robotics projects that establish connections between remote locations or allow users to intervene in a site—specific installation via the Internet. Examples would be the"Relational Architecture" projects by Raphael Lozano—Hemmer, among them Vectorial Elevation, which allowed the public to transform an urban landscape by means of more than a dozen robotically controlled gigantic searchlights that could be positioned via a Web site; and, Amodal Suspension(Figure 9), a large—scale interactive installation developed for the opening of the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (YCAM) in Japan in2003. Using a cell phone or Web interface, people could send short text messages to each other, which were encoded as unique sequences of flashes by 20 robotically controlled searchlights, which created a giant communication switchboard in the sky around the YCAM Center and transformed the materiality of text messaging. Messages were removed from the sky if someone would "catch" them with a cell phone or the 3DWeb interface.

A classic of these tele—robotic projects is Ken Goldberg's and Joseph Santarromana's Telegarden(Figure 10) installation, which was accessible online from 1995 until August 2004. The work, which was originally located at the University of Berkeley and then permanently installed at the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria, consists of a small garden with living plants and an industrial robot arm that could be controlled through the project Web site. Remote visitors, through moving the arm, could view and monitor the garden as well as water it and plant seedlings. Telegarden explicitly emphasizes the aspect of community by inviting people around the world to collectively cultivate a small ecosystem. Survival of the ecology is dependent on a remote social network. Telegarden is particularly interesting to consider in the context of the commons as "a piece of land subject to common use" since it transcends the temporal and spatial continuity that is characteristic of agriculture.

The concept of the networked commons also features prominently in so—called "artware," that is, alternative models for media systems and tools that are "not just art" but proposals for the restructuring or critique of existing media systems.

The inherent hope and promise here is that software production can be seen in the broader context of cultural production or, as Pit Schultz has put it, "that writing code has more meaning than making a program run or crash or sell." (Alexander, et al., 2003)Software always has to be seen as cultural construct, and the creation of artware addresses this construct from various angles, including the enhancement or re—engineering of existing software products; the creation of alternative, community—driven platforms of exchange; and,the examination of agency, autonomy, or political agendas in software.

A wide area of artware consists of "social software" — tools that are aimed at providing platforms for community—based exchanges and publishing. An example of this type of project would be Nine(9) by the British collaborative Mongrel. Nine(9) is a continuation of Mongrel's project Linker and was created by Mongrel member Harwood while he was artist—in—residence at the Waag Society Amsterdam. The project is an open—source software structure that allows individuals and communities to "map" their experiences and "social geographies." Nine(9)consists of a server—based application that can incorporate 9 groups x9 archives x 9 maps = 729 collective knowledge maps. An important part f the project as "social software" is an ongoing dialogue between users and programmers in order to transcend standardized social relations. Nine(9) obviously plays with limitations — in structure or functionality, respectively — to test and explore possibilities of software.

Other projects, such as Liken by criticalartware (Ben Syverson, Jon Cates, Jon Satrom and Blithe Riley — core developers)investigate community—driven interfaces for social software. Liken is a Web interface (with various different manifestations) to criticalartware's database of shared resources that present themselves as self—connecting nodes to which users can contribute. The pathways connecting the nodes change on the basis of usage, with more "traveled"paths growing stronger and paths attracting less interest fading away. Criticalartware's approach is that of hybridization, a self—reflexive crossbreeding of interfaces and connected threads that becomes a social document in itself.

An excellent portal for exploring free software tools for collaborative networking and media production is the DIVECD—ROM, which was created by <KOP> (Kingdom of Piracy) andcommissioned by the VirtualCentre-Media.Net and FACT, UK. The CD—ROMincludes projects such as Mongrel's Nine(9), Radioqualia's Frequency Clock, and LAST.FM, a peer—to—peer network for streaming customized selections of music.

Social software can be considered a subcategory of activism, which has a long history in art and has continuously addressed issues such as support of underrepresented communities, racism, gender roles, and the control of media and information. The possibilities of exchange in the networked commons have revitalized collectivist strategies by providing new ways of interconnecting individuals and groups, as well as new means of challenging established structures of governance and power.The philosophy of free data and information exchange is a driving force behind the open source (and Copyleft) movement, which promotes unrestricted redistribution and modification of source code (provided that all copies and derivatives retain the same permissions).

The growing importance of control over information, privacy, and data protection and the public debate surrounding these issues have made activist art a new force that the art world cannot afford to ignore and several art exhibitions have been dedicated to activism,hacking, and open source in the information age [12].The presentation of this type of work in an institutional context obviously raises its own set of issues since the work itself may run counter to what an institution represents or create legal conflicts that museums are not prepared to face.

Among the artists' groups that have critically examined authoritarian culture as it manifests itself through the use of media are the Surveillance Camera Players — who have staged performances in front of surveillance cameras — and the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE).The charges brought against CAE's Steve Kurtz and his continuing legal battle perfectly illustrate both the U.S. authorities' sensitivity to critical investigations of policies and the restrictive authoritarian logic governing the current political climate [13].

Activist art collectives addressing issues of control systems and mechanisms obviously also have to pose questions regarding their own internal organization. As McKenzie Wark (2002) has pointed out, the internal structure of these groups can easily come to reflect the power relations of the outside world; a more "external" problem might be that a group attracts media attention and is pushed into merely reacting to their own media image. As Wark rightly states, avant—garde groups of the past — Dada, Surrealism, the Situationists, the Living Theater, Art& Language — have often had a fairly troubled history when it came to their internal structure, relying on hierarchical or even dictatorial practices, or exhibiting a "Warhol syndrome of factory production with underpaid laborers." (Wark, 2002) CAE, for example,prefer to work in cellular structures with a floating hierarchy rather than a "community," which still often has a hierarchy of representatives.

Activist projects in the realm of digital art are frequently using strategies such as appropriation, remixing, and the cloning of Websites, or employ digital technologies as "tactical media" in order to reflect on the impact and control mechanisms of these technologies. A popular strategy is to turn the technology back on itself, as the Institute for Applied Autonomy does in its iSee project. iSee is a Web—based application that creates maps of the positions of closed—circuit television surveillance cameras in urban environments.The maps allow users to find routes through the city that avoid thesecameras and to choose "paths of least surveillance."

Activist interventions occasionally take the form of hacktivism, a method of engagement that uses hacking — the breaking, reformatting and re—engineering of data and systems — as creative rather than merely destructive strategy. The spectrum of hacktivism encompasses projects that are harmless pranks and interventions that operate on the border of legality. The Electronic Disturbance Theater, for example, frames its actions as "electronic civil disobedience" and has staged a number of virtual "sit—ins" in support of the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas, Mexico, by using self—authored Web—based software called FloodNet for disrupting the service of targeted Web sites (such as the sites of the president of Mexico and the U.S. Department of Defense).

Etoy as well as the artists collective ®TMark are examples of artists group that use corporate strategies and a corporate image to frame and construct their "intellectual product." ®TMark uses a mutual funds model to raise funds for and support project ideas suggested by Internet users. The projects are usually aimed at undermining or providing a counterbalance to corporate interests. Corporate models in activist art point to the fact that the Internet radically reconfigures contexts and boundaries of the physical world: on the Web, every artist's project is always embedded in (only one click away from) the context of corporate sites and e—commerce.

The alternative space of the Internet resists our traditional,physical model of ownership, copyright, and branding. As an open system and archive of reproducible data, the Web invites or allows for instant recontextualization of any information. The virtual real estate of a company or institution can easily be copied ("cloned") and reinserted into new contexts, a tactic that many artists, net activists or hacktivists have pursued. When Documenta X decided to "close down" its Web site after the end of the physical exhibition, the artist Vuk Cosic cloned the site, which remains available online until today. Cosic also created 7—, mimicking the Web site of the popular American convenience store to create a "convenient" platform for exchange among artists. The project Uncomfortable Proximity by Mongrel's Harwood, the first piece of net art commissioned by the Tate Museum for its Web site, is a perfect example of shifting institutional contexts:reproducing the Tate Web site's layout, logos, and design, Harwood tells a history of the British art system that may be less than comfortable for an art institution.

Due to their focus on control and authority, activist art practice and tactical media in the public space of the networked commons allow for issues of governance to surface most prominently. The networked commons has certainly redefined notions of what "public art" is and can be, particularly when it comes to the notion of space, which becomes a distributed non—locality. One can argue that a networked environment increases the public's agency in several respects — for example through enhanced distribution, filtering, and archiving mechanisms that give importance to an "individual's voice;" through the fact that intervention is not necessarily bound to a geographic space any more;and through a largely decentralized rather than hierarchical structure.This obviously does not mean that authority itself has been eliminated.As Charles Bernstein (2003) has put it, "Authority is never abolished but constantly reinscribes itself in new places. ... Decentralization allows for multiple, conflicting authorities, not the absence of authority." In general, agency has become considerably more complex through the process of technological mediation.

One of the most fundamental differences between the degrees of control and agency in analog and digital media lies in the nature and specifics of the technology itself. Media such as radio, video or television mostly relied on a technological super—structure of production, transmission, and reception that was relatively defined.The modularity and variability of the digital medium however constitutes a far broader and more scattered landscape of production and distribution. Not only is there a plethora of technologies and software, each responsible for different tasks (such as image manipulation, 3D modeling, Web browsing, etc.) but due to the modularity of the medium, this software can also potentially be manipulated or expanded. As a result, a certain singularization occurs in the numerous potential points of intervention for artistic practice.In this respect, the "new media" may not completely redefine connections between art and media but they certainly have opened the field for artistic engagement, agency, and conflicting authorities.

M. Barry, NationStates,

Blast Theory, Can you see me now?,

M. Breidenbruecker, F. Miller, M. Stiksel and T. Willomitzer, LAST.FM,

N. Bookchin, agoraXchange,

Carbon Defense League, MapHub™,

V. Cosic, Documenta Done,

Critical Art Ensemble,

Criticalartware, Liken,

J. DeLappe, Quake/Friends,

Electronic Disturbance Theater,


A. Galloway and RSG, Carnivore,

K. Goldberg, J. Santarromana and project team, Telegarden,

Harwood, Uncomfortable Proximity,

Institute for Applied Autonomy, iSee,

A. Jenik and L. Brenneis, Desktop Theater,


M. Lovejoy, Turns,

R. Lozano—Hemmer, Vectorial Elevation, Amodal Suspension,

Mongrel, Nine,, Linker,

S. Paterson, M. Zurkow and J. Bleecker, PDPal,

Radioqualia, Frequency Clock,


W. Sack, Agonistics — A Language Game,;

A.—M. Schleiner, J. Leandre and B. Condon, Velvet—Strike,

Q.S. Serafijn, D—tower,;

Still Water Lab, University of Maine, The Pool,

T. Walsh, Big Mac Attacked,

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1. Guattari, 1994, p. 64.

2. Cooperatives and collectives such as PaperTiger Television, Downtown Community Access Center, Video In(Vancouver), Amelia Productions, Electronic Café International, and theWestern Front established and used public video production facilitiesand telephone networking, media training initiatives, and cable accessfor the creation of alternative media networks, linking artists andcommunities.

3. Enzensberger, 2003, p. 262.

4. Enzensberger, 2003, pp. 262—265.

5. Enzensberger, 2003, p. 262.

6. Enzensberger, 2003, p. 272.

7. Baudrillard, 2003, p. 280.

8. Baudrillard, 2003, p. 285.

9. Baudrillard, 2003, p. 287.

10. Main Entry: common
Function: noun
Date: 14th century

  1. plural : the common people
  2. plural but singular in construction: a dining hall
  3. plural but singular or plural in construction, often capitalized
    1. the political group or estate comprising the commoners
    2. the parliamentary representatives of the commoners
  4. the legal right of taking a profit in another's land in common with the owner or others
  5. a piece of land subject to common use: as
    1. undivided land used especially for pasture
    2. a public open area in a municipality

"WWWebster Dictionary," at, accessed 30 March 2005.

11. Juridical Definition:

  1. land owned directly by the government
  2. the realm embracing property rights that belong to the community atlarge, are unprotected by copyright or patent, and are subject toappropriation by anyone (Date: 1832)

"WWWebster Dictionary," at, accessed 30 March 2005.

Computing definition:
(PD) The total absence of {copyright} protection. If something is "inthe public domain" then anyone can copy it or use it in any way theywish. The author has none of the exclusive rights which apply to acopyright work. The phrase "public domain" is often used incorrectly torefer to {freeware} or {shareware} (software which is copyrighted butis distributed without (advance) payment). Public domain means nocopyright — no exclusive rights. In fact the phrase "public domain" hasno legal status at all in the U.K.
"Free On—line Dictionary of Computing," at, accessed 30 March 2005.

12. Open_Source_Art_Hack, curated by Jenny Marketou and Steve Dietz, New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York,; Kingdom of Piracy, Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria (2002) and FACT, UK (2003),; I Love You — Computer_Viren_Hacker_Kultur, curated by Franziska Nori, Museum for Applied Art, Frankfurt, Germany,