“The contemporary is witnessing the emergence of a new technological imaginary following upon the unexpected and unregulated global expansion of the new communication and information technologies of the Internet.”— Alex Alberro via Hal Foster ¹
“This story is about the death of the centre and the development of commercial and political life in a networked system. It is also the story about the coming power of the networked individual as the new vital unit of effective participation and creativity.”— Johnny Ryan
“A History of the Internet and the Digital Future”
what is the Internet? how does it work? does anyone own it? who makes the rules? who’s in control? why do i have to pay for it? who’s making money? the answers to these questions will set the stage for the conversations we will be having in class; the aim of which is to create a broad understanding of the culture, technology && politix of the current information age so that we can produce work that meaningfully comments on our contemporary networked condition.
as with anything, the story of the Internet changes depending on who u ask. we will be surveying these parallel historie[s] ( complimenting + contradicting ) to get a sense for how the Internet’s core technologies developed ( decentralized network, packets, protocols, etc. ) from specific circumstances which embedded within these technologies a set of principles/ethics. these have become core themes of the ( centrifugal + user driven + open ) networked culture.
at the 2011 Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference Steve Jobs announced, “we’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud”, but what xactly is “the cloud” && are we sure we want to move our “digital life” there? we’re going to be learning FTP ( file transfer protocol ) && how we can take control of over our own “clouds.” we’ll be using a specific FTP client called Fetch.
from Vannevar Bush to Ted Nelson to Tim Berners-Lee to u. we’ll discuss what the world wide web is && how it came to be as well as discuss the concepts of “hyper” media broadly. we’ll learn the fundamentals HTML ( hypertext markup language ) && how to use code editors ( in our case SublimeText ) in conjunction with browsers ( in our case chrome ) to make web pages.
we’ll be learning CSS ( Cascading Style Sheets ) which is the language used to ad form to the functional elements of a markup language ( ie. HTML ). CSS lets u specify rules that determine how the content of a page will appear, for ex: the color, size && typeface of your text.
J.C.R. Licklider ( one of the Internet’s founding fathers ) said in 1968 that "life will be happier for the on-line individual because the people with whom one interacts most strongly will be selected more by commonality of interests and goals than by accidents of proximity", we’ll discuss how different communities formed/evolved on the Internet from phonephreaks to BBS to the Well to 4chan to Reddit.
we’ll survey remix, gifs, memes + a random sampling of some of the more viral visual culture online && discuss its unique characteristics && impact. we’ll continue to learn HTML && how to apply other forms of media ( beyond text ) into these hyper-frameworks.
we’ll be surveying “canonical” Artists who have used the Internet ( and specifically the web ) as a medium and/or subject of their work since the 90’s. we’ll discuss the themes && aesthetics && context of these early net artists as well as the state of Internet Art today. we’ll also continue to learn CSS.
the Internet’s “Protocols” ( && there are a few ) are the standardized rules for how information/data is sent from one part of the Internet to another. the details can seem technical && mundane, but their history is xtreamly political. understanding them can grant u agency as an Internet user ( ie. Encryption && Privacy ) as well as broader insight on issues concerning artists ( ie. maintaining attribution/identity on the sharing-free-4-all wwweb )
we’ll continue to discuss what “programming” is && how the artifacts of this process affect our world from a broad political perspective. we’ll continue to learn the basix of programming, specifically the concepts of “loops” and “conditional statements” ( ie. decisions ) && how in combination these can be used to write “algorithms”, in our case for the specific purposes of creating generative drawings.
we’ll be discussing some of the larger contemporary political issues facing the whole of the Internet, from the efforts of special interests to control how/what data is transmitted across the surface of the web to the deeper darker ( nearly impossible to regulate ) activities of the “deep web.”
there’s a blurry line between a concept known as “crowdsourcing” and participation. we’ll be looking a what this means broadly ( economically ) online as well as specifically in participatory art. we’ll also learn how to make our generative art become participatory by learning how to program interactivity.
today the Internet doesn’t only exist on the browser, more && more of our physical world is getting networked. similarly ( && in response ) there are many contemporary artists producing work that has everything to do with the Internet and not always with code or computers.
now that we’re digitally literate netizen artists, where do we go from here?