Archive for the ‘text’ Category

Michael Gibbs essay (full text)

June 18, 2007

Web 2.0
Michael Gibbs
2007

Several commentators are declaring that the Internet is evolving from an information-based medium to a participatory social network. Dubbed Web 2.0 in 2004, it is seen as embodying a new and revolutionary digital democracy that enables everyone to be seen, heard and read, that allows information to be shared and that facilitates communication between communities of friends. Tim Berners-Lee, however, the original inventor of the World Wide Web, points out that that this has always been the way that the Internet operates. But perhaps the espousal of Web 2.0 is actually an attempt to re-hype the Internet after the disastrous dot.com crash at the beginning of the millennium. And what better way to do this than to tout its presumed democratic credentials and, in the process, to restore faith in its commercial prospects? The success of YouTube, MySpace, eBay, Second Life and Wikipedia prompted Time Magazine to declare ‘You’ as their 2006 person of the year, mediated, it is true, by a computer monitor which was represented on Time’s cover as a mirror. Everyone is now dreaming of being ‘discovered’ on the Net, of having their 2 minutes of fame, making a killing on Ebay, their blog rantings being taken seriously and their home-made video viewed by millions. Broadband Internet access means that the field is wide open – everyone can be a receiver or a broadcaster and there are hardly any censorship or time/space restrictions to contend with.

In Second Life, the virtual world operated by Linden Laboratories, you can construct an avatar for yourself and do things you’ve never dared to do in RL (Real Life). If you’re an artist you can open your own gallery and try to sell your work, although, judging from the results so far, you’re only likely to succeed if your work is either sci-fi or erotically oriented; conceptual art, it seems, is rather too rarefied for the instant pixel-recognition factor demanded by the digital environment.

Since digital video has become almost ubiquitous then maybe you’d like to try your luck on YouTube. Type ‘art’ into YouTube’s search function and you’ll get 163,000 hits, some of which have been viewed over a million times. The top-ranking items seem to be mostly examples of street art, ‘speed painting’ and computer animations, but if you search deeper (and especial;y by name) then there are several gems to be viewed, including early videos by Bruce Nauman, short Fluxus films and vintage films by Dali. Sometimes you’ll find that someone has simply gone to an exhibition, copied a video film or installation on their own digital camera and then uploaded it to YouTube.

A far more useful archive of artists’ films and videos can be found at ubuweb.com. Inaugurated in 1996 an an online archive of visual, concrete and sound poetry, UbuWeb has been growing rhizomatically and now offers a veritable cornucopia of historical and contemporary material in freely downloadable streaming MP3, MOV and RealVideo formats. Rare film and video footage has been converted to digital files, so now you can view important work by the likes of Vito Acconci, Yves Klein, Gary Hill, Pipilotti Rist, Chris Burden and Robert Rauschenberg, just to mention a few names. Much of the material is accompanied by useful explanatory and background essays and interviews. One of my favourites is the video clip produced by Joseph Beuys in 1982 in which he sings an anti-Reagan song with a pop group backing. Rock on, Joseph!

If the Internet is being increasingly used as a depositary of shared files, what has happened to Net.art? Will it too find a place in the historical archives of the future? Some Net artists, it seems, are already focussing their attention on Web 2.0. Blogspot by JODI and Cory Arcangel, recently commissioned by the Impakt Festival in Utrecht as part of their ‘Net.art is dead, long live net.art!’ project, cannibalises Web 2.0 services like Blogger.com and the slide show sharing site Slide.com and reprogrammes them into abstract streams of illegible data. If JODI’s deconstructions are now seeming a bit predictable (after all, they have been doing this sort of work regularly since the mid-1990s), then perhaps we need to look elsewhere for more radical and subversive forms of Net.art. Ubermorgen.com, for example, was created in Vienna in 1999 by Hans Bernhard and Liz Haas as a platform for hardcore radical activism aimed at big corporations. Their latest project, GWEI – Google Will Eat Itself, managed to fool Google (for a while, at least) by serving Google text advertisements on a number of dummy websites and then using a software hack to trigger automatic clicks. Since Google pays website owners a small fee for every click on one of its advertisements, Ubermorgen was able to collect this money and use it to buy up Google shares. The idea is that Google would eventually be paying for its own demise. So far GWEI has been able to purchase 292 Google shares and despite threats of censorship the project has already received a number of awards and been exhibited in Tokyo, Berlin, Paris and Seoul.

Ubermorgen was also involved in Amazon Noir, an attempt at hijacking more than 3,000 books (including, appropriately enough, Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book) from Amazon’s digital library by using the company’s “Search Inside the Book” function which enables users to search for keywords in about 250,000 books and then to download the single page in which that word appears. Amazon Noir sent thousands of requests per book and then reassembled the books into pdf format and distributed them through peer-to-peer networks. After threats of litigation the matter was settled out of court in October 2006 with the sale to Amazon of the Amazon Noir software for an undisclosed sum. Interestingly, the project was financed by a 10,000 Euro stipend awarded to Hans Bernhard by the Oldenburg-based Edith Russ Site for Media Art.

Digital activism and corporate media hacking represent the front line of the contemporary European ‘techno-fine-art avant-garde’. Web 2.0 is likely to be just as vulnerable a target, so it would not be surprising if services like YouTube and eBay are next in line for attack.

Michael Gibbs is a writer based in Amsterdam. ‘Web 2.0 Google Will Eat Itself’ was originally published in Art Monthly, issue 306, May 2007, p40. http://www.artmonthly.co.uk

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Anne Wollenberg – reprint from the Guardian Online

June 6, 2007

I really liked this small piece from the Guardian newspaper last week, sadly I can’t reprint it in full…

Technobile: As if dating were not hard enough, social networking sites add another layer of anxiety to the process

Anne Wollenberg
Thursday  May 31, 2007
The Guardian

No one ever said that dating was easy. But when I signed up for MySpace and Facebook (and admit it, you have, too) I didn’t realise that I was subscribing to a culture of uncertainty even more likely to induce a cold sweat than an unanswered text message.These social networking sites masquerade as the singleton’s new playground. It’s kind of like browsing Amazon, but with people. But it’s a bit mad. If the woman sitting next to you on the bus asked you to be her new friend on the grounds that you were reading an article about a band she once listened to, you’d just feign deafness and swiftly move seats. In the world of MySpace, this sort of irrational networking is perfectly acceptable.

Keep reading the article here

Tom Sherman Essay (full text)

June 6, 2007

Flying in the Face of Abundance and Redundance
Tom Sherman, 2005

We are entering a period of time when people will have access to unprecedented quantities of data and prepackaged information. The Net is just the beginning. Every time we turn around we are offered a new information appliance connected to a new source of data. Screens and speakers and transceivers link us with networks and databases and everything can be downloaded and saved in memory to be manipulated and reformed at our leisure. Skyscraper-scale memory is available in minute packages. Data can be stored, shuffled and reformulated in any number of attempts to create information. As the great generalist Gregory Bateson said, information is any difference that makes a difference. Everyone has a responsibility to find the differences they need to distinguish themselves in an era when similarities are the rule. Relative chaos looks the same, whatever your point of view.
The artist has a role to play in our societies and that role is to remind people of the value of difference. Somehow the artist must highlight difference at a time when people crave coherency and uniformity. The broadest public seeks conformity and order, fields of data that march in-formation. You can see this in the 200-channel television universe where there is so much redundancy that basically there is nothing to watch. News and current affairs, movies, music videos, sports, game shows, celebrity exposé’s, animals-in-action and reality, reality, reality ad-nausea, are strung together like the teeth on a comb. Such vertical programming makes for a bumpy, difficult terrain. There are lots of ‘choices,’ but little difference. What’s more alarming is we’ve gotten to the point where ‘reality’ is a format.
If television as an experience is bumpy but as predictable as a dirt road, radio has become flat and as slick as a newly frozen pond. Scan any AM or FM dial and the talk and canned music are smooth and seamless and flat in the emptiest way. Flatness and horizontality can denote a decentralized diversity and healthy irregularity, but with radio today we’re talking about a featureless, horizon-line flatness. Most people choose radio for ambient sonic landscaping, background sound, when they are commuting by automobile or peeling potatoes in the kitchen sink. Now satellite radio is poised to bring cable television-like ‘diversity’ to radio listeners everywhere. Soon radio will feature news and current affairs, the soundtracks of movies and music videos, sports, game shows, celebrity exposé’s, growling animals-in-action and reality, reality, reality (code for more phone-in shows).
The artist has to watch and listen to this crap, just like everyone else. With movies, audiences sit in the dark as their collective fears and aspirations are tweaked at maximum levels of sensory input. Computer artists are airbrushing the action film headfirst into an exploding vista of violent kitsch. Giant screens and surround-sound systems deliver motion picture entertainment, the collision of canned drama and video game violence. They say that computer games are actually eclipsing movies in terms of market share. Interactivity locks the players in an exciting, addictive state of total immersion. In reality, the violence is better when you are in control and can apply it in excess. The sex is not as good as it is in the movies, yet, but with video games the violence is definitely better.
If artists are involved in pushing different kinds of experiences, then artists must be interested in innovation, in doing things differently. Everyone thinks they are creative these days. But let’s face it, there are very different kinds of artists and several shades or degrees of art and innovation. There are artists, and then there are artists. Creating the appearance of art is easier than making art. The public will embrace art that looks and feels like art, because they know that culture needs to be pushed and refreshed by art. Things that appear to be art are often stimulating and amusing. This is why art is featured in the entertainment section of the newspaper.
At this time, in the first decade of the 21st century, making any difference that truly makes a difference is extremely difficult. Producing information and making art are roughly equivalent acts in an information age, a time governed by an information economy and by social-psychological states defined by statistics, demographics and audience share. In other words, a lot of people are trying to make a difference these days, but the stage is crowded and it’s hard to get much attention. The multinational corporations that control the entertainment industry and simultaneously write and deliver the news persist in promoting their own products and politics through a deluge of empty messages. Consumption is guaranteed through force-feeding and appetites are refreshed by the constant evolution and introduction of networked technological devices (so-called information appliances). The public loves the new gear and although bloated and constipated by overdoses of vacuous, industrial culture pumped into them at obscene volume and pressure, they still somehow heroically try to buy more, hoping someday to be satisfied for more than ten minutes at a time. Just try to push challenging art in this environment.
To make things more problematic, increasingly difficult-to-please audiences share control of the creation of information, in the act of reception. Data can be configured in a wide range of form and content, but ultimately only differences embraced by audiences will determine the value of any exchange of data (and in this process, the creation of information). This can be the creation of art. The more unlikely the connection between people exchanging differences, the greater the information conveyed. In all acts of communication where information is created, the receiver has an equally important role as the producer and transmitter of the data. Artists have known for a long time that audiences determine the meaning of their work. Unfortunately, audiences today are largely busy, distracted, and tired.
Artists are adept at managing and organizing data. Artists still make statements, where they issue declarations of difference, but their main day-to-day routines are focused on data processing. At this time artists are not looking very sexy, as they are stooped over laptops, locked in primary, somewhat inanimate relationships with their machines. Berets and paint-splattered pants have been replaced with the nerdy look. Eccentricity is now defined by degrees of nerd chic, a lifestyle that says computers and phones and mp3 players are our best friends. The skin is a nocturnal shade of pale. Wires are rare, usually adorning the neck, as wirelessness is the ideal. Eye contact between individuals is fleeting as so much time is spent checking tiny liquid-crystal screens for messages or looking away from camera-phones, striking cool poses for surveillance-like portraits. Private conversations are highly coded for transmission in public. Phrases are standard and contact-is-contact no matter how empty, unnecessary or awkward. Messages are counted, filed, saved, responded to, and often ignored. Text and voice are expanded through digital pix and video clips. Patterns of data transmission and consumption hold more interest than individual images and sounds.
Artists and their potential audiences share a media environment that’s crowded, noisy and challenging. In order to negotiate an environment characterized by abundance and redundance we need hardware and software extraordinaire to cut through the jumble. We need memory, organizers, filters, mixers, highlighters and zappers. These devices must be integrated and powerful, yet miniature and portable, and these tools must interface with our eyes, ears, and fingers and maybe most importantly interface through speech. As a species we love to talk. Our voices respond quickly and issue commands efficiently and give us a sense of presence immediately.
We welcome an avalanche of mediated reality through the ports of our personal telecommunications gear. Media culture is thus thrust relentlessly upon us as an add-on to our animal nature. We have evolved into creatures still needing one foot in the physical world while the other explores the virtual space beyond our screens, speakers and networked devices. At this point there is no respite from augmentation. Instruments are part of our lives and the instrumentality of our personalities goes a long way toward defining our differences. As wired, bodiless intelligences we have a far more impressive palette of colours and amplitudes. Our augmented dynamic range is downright scary. There are advantages to being connected through broadband digital telecom.
Artists and regular folks are looking more and more like each other these days. With technology-based art there was once a time when access to special tools and processes and knowledge was enough to distinguish artists from everyone else. For instance, electroacoustic musicians and composers once used big, mainframe computers and elaborate configurations of loud speakers to produce their art. Electronic music was easily recognizable as something different than the symphony or string quartet or pop music vocals. It was the music of the future. It was all about machines and the space only they could render. In parallel developments in the visual domain experimental filmmakers worked with super-8 and 16mm film to make art with motion picture technology that clearly distinguished itself from commercial cinema and far exceeded the potential of painting and photography in scale and movement and duration. Such serious music and experimental film could be integrated and presented together to immerse and assault people who were looking for something different. In the 1950s, there was a clear notion of a technological avant-garde working to produce a stimulating array of sensations designed to challenge and alter the perceptual reality of small but dedicated audiences. Modern artists and their audiences knew their work was nothing like popular culture. This was the beginning of an elite unpopular culture, an underground.
In the mid-20th century, tech-based unpopular culture was exotic because computers and film technology were generally inaccessible to the broadest number of artists. The commitment of time and resources necessary to work with digital and photochemical media limited the accessibility and popularity of these forms. Computer music and experimental film were embraced by technological and artistic specialists, and their audiences had to work very hard to understand what they were experiencing. Fifty years ago there wasn’t that much art being authored with contemporary, cutting edge technology.
Today we inhabit a far more complex techno-cultural environment. The experimental film with computer music is just one of many options for today’s contemporary artist, just another formal genre like colour painting or photolithography. Furthermore the evolution of digital technology makes it possible for the broadest number of people to produce their own photography, music and moving pictures. The arsenal of digital media tools in the average household in the developed world is astounding. Most people have their own computers and also pack digital still cameras, video camcorders and digital music devices. Wireless phones play music and take pictures and stream video and television, and send and receive text messages in addition to their remarkable conveyance of voice. People are connected to networks where they can access data-streams in parallel to the pre-packaged information they can get via radio, television and various print sources. They can download software and a ton of raw material for mixing and constructing their own cultural productions. These productions can be described as vernacular, unpopular culture.
Today’s unpopular culture is different from the unpopular underground culture of the mid-20th century, when underground or avant-garde was the place to be. Unpopular culture today is not just unpopular because it flies in the face and is a rejection of the values of pop culture. Unpopular culture today includes tens of thousands of producers who remain unknown and unrecognized despite trying to crack the mainstream. Contemporary unpopular culture and art is made by all different kinds of people who have the production tools they need, but simply don’t have the distribution channels or exhibition venues to reach significant audiences in terms of numbers.
Artists have always had the primary option of being unpopular as they are largely self-serving and often completely uninterested in catering to public taste. Artists offer their audiences what they themselves find interesting and valid. In contrast, the entertainment industry cultivates audiences and studies them to find out what their audiences will embrace, and then they package it and sell it to them. Education has to compete with entertainment, so educators give their captive audiences, their students, the kind of programming they think they’ll absorb. Educators have to learn how to attract and hold the attention of their student-audiences while they give the students what they need, not likely what they desire.
Unpopular culture sounds like a failure, but misery loves company and it is easier than ever to be unpopular today. The corporate power that drives today’s hit-based culture concentrates its efforts on delivering the movies, television shows, music, sporting events, books, magazines and the news that ‘everybody’ desires. 21st century celebrity culture is shaped by statistics and demographics and is continuously updated and refined through feedback. The audiences for popular culture commit their divided but still measurable attention through networks to larger-than-life spectacles. The entertainment machine is designed to deliver mega-stars to a global audience connected via satellites and fiber optics and through an increasingly wireless array of data-processing devices. For those in the spotlight, there is nowhere to hide. For everyone else, well, we’re just unpopular and invisible. Reality programming has been introduced to give us hope. It serves as a conveyor belt for delivering ordinary people to the spotlight for their 15 minutes of fame, just as Andy Warhol had predicted. But there is nothing natural about reality anymore. Philosophers have always known that reality was a construction of the mind. Now the rest of us are learning this the hard way.
It is nice to be a player, to be able to produce and exchange messages in a range of contemporary media, but being in the unpopular cultural sector fosters considerable self-doubt and anxiety. In an information economy where value is measured in degrees of attention, it can be frustrating when audiences are small and fleeting. Artists find themselves competing with highly skilled professional amateurs: independent producers of images, movies, animations, music and news. Budgets may be modest or non-existent, but today’s standards of production are at a very high level. Artists are confined to an amateur status, as their resources will seldom permit a lifestyle free of a time-consuming day-job. The digital revolution has certainly leveled the playing field.
The institutions that used to support and showcase traditional alternatives to popular culture, the art galleries, museums and exhibition centres, have put all their eggs back in the basket of physical objects. If an institution has invested a fortune in bricks-and-mortar architecture, what sense does it make to get wired and go virtual?
Artists have responded predictably by firming up their virtual offerings and returning to the physical domain; film and video is installed as image-based sculpture, and computers are used to control material objects in demonstrations of physical computing. The underlying structure is conceptual, but ideas are rendered in wood, plastic, metal and paint or in bacteria, food, earth and water.
Performance is another possibility in the unpopular sector. What could be more honest than to simply make appearances doing interesting things as a strategy for attracting and holding attention? Performance is not a very good option for the psychologically fragile individual, as personal appearances are necessary and performers are subjected to critiques of their body types, hair, faces, teeth, sexuality, clothing, posture—you name it. Costumes are good for distracting audiences from the body. But no matter how much cover or camouflage is employed, ageism, sexism, racism and lookism are sure to rear their ugly heads.
Audiences starting out in pop culture and migrating into unpopular culture are particularly brutal in their rejection of the ordinary. None of us want to feel ordinary. So we are driven to perform amazing feats. Artists are then rejected for standing on their heads and trying too hard to be different. Crazy work is deemed artificial and contrived. Novelty is sought until it is found and then it wears thin very quickly. Artists are damned if they do and ignored if they don’t.
Making any difference that makes a difference is hard in this time of ‘information’ abundance and redundance. Data is organized with the goal of making a significant difference. Audiences co-create information at the point of reception. Radical shifts in meaning are possible only within small numbers of individuals, in one-to-one exchanges or communication between small, willing groups. Producing information and making art is not a mass media enterprise.
From the perspective of audiences, raw and cooked data swirls around them and blows through them in blizzards of signals, messages and noise. Layer after layer of popular and unpopular culture build and disintegrate as audiences’ collective attention-spans flicker in and out of consciousness. Many artists aim to please, some to displease, but all attempt to create information-yielding differences. When one is in the business of creating and sending out attention-seeking messages into an unpopular and hard-to-read sector, any feedback is much appreciated. The first question is always the same. Is anyone out there?

——

Tom Sherman <twsherma@syr.edu> is an artist and writer and professor in the Department of Transmedia at Syracuse University in New York. His latest book is Before and After the I-Bomb: An Artist in the Information Environment, Banff Centre Press, 2002. Sherman’s writing and voice work is currently featured on a weekly radio series, Nerve Theory’s H5N1: there is no privacy at the speed of light, broadcast on the Austrian national broadcasting system. Nerve Theory is the collaborative identity of Tom Sherman and Bernhard Loibner, a Viennese media artist. Listen on-line: for mp3 and podcast access check out: http://www.kunstradio.at/2006A/H5N1en.html

Interview with co-curator Sarah Cook on WMMNA

June 6, 2007

Regine Débatty of we-make-money-not-art.com has interviewed Sarah Cook and asked about the exhibition – an extract follows:

Regine Débatty: Together with Sabine Himmelsbach, you curated the exhibition “My Own Private Reality” at the Edith Russ Haus for Media Art in Oldenburg (Germany.) The works selected reflect the phenomenon of social communities on the Internet and its democratisation. What is your view on these issues? Critical? Openly enthusiastic?

Sarah Cook: I have what could be called an irrational aversion to the myspace.com ‘phenomenon’ because (of Murdoch but also because) I have what could be called a nostalgic snobbish adherence to earlier, better made, smaller, smarter versions of just about everything (depending who you ask I’m either old before my time, criticising that ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ or I exhibit the all-consuming enthusiasm and desire of the early adopter). I think that some so-called web 2.0 technologies are the corporate world’s way of creating dependent consumers and thereby discouraging alternative peer-to-peer computing from flourishing. Which is why I love Cory Arcangel‘s work BlueTube which just serves to remind viewers of the infrastructure which they so mindlessly meld in to. But I equally believe that these softwares (and especially the open source ones, which allow you to learn a little, and share, and to move beyond the generic template) make possible meaningful activity, through the social communities they encourage, which deserves a look in. It is interesting to see how having an alter-ego online, being a part of a community on the web, has come full circle – from in the early 90s putting yourself online, to in the late 90s and early 00s being someone else online, or someone you can’t be in your offline life, and now in the late 00s to a mix of those modes. Being part of an online social network is now an enhancement of your offline life. People are still learning the nuances and social manners and etiquette of this new hybrid existence.

I think curating is about challenging yourself and your beliefs, assumptions, and contradictions, so that’s a reason I took the approach I did. I also wanted to curate this show because I knew of a lot of great art projects which are about the using the web to talk about the social impetus in all of us and I wanted the chance to think about that work all together in a space – works which embody both of my views on the technology itself. Working with Sabine and her team at the Edith Russ Haus was fantastic; it’s so vital to have spaces like that in the world where there aren’t the pressures of a museum collection to maintain or enormous spaces to fill and instead there are artists in residence making new work for consideration (in our case Hans Bernard/Ubermorgen and Annina Rust).

The entire interview is available online here.

Opening night speech by Sabine Himmelsbach

June 6, 2007

Excerpts from the Opening Speech of Sabine Himmelsbach
Artistic Director, Edith Russ Site for Media Art

Meine sehr geehrten Damen und Herren,

ich freue mich, Sie heute Abend zur Eröffnung unserer Ausstellung MY OWN PRIVATE REALITY begrüßen zu dürfen. …

MY OWN PRIVATE IDENTIY stellt die Frage, wie sich unser Umgang mit dem Netz im Vergleich zum ersten Internet-Hype der 1990er Jahre verändert hat und gibt dabei einen Überblick über die Entwicklung der letzten 10 Jahre. In der Ausstellung sehen sie künstlerische Werke, die die Architektur des Netzes, seinen kontinuierlichen Fluss von Daten visualisieren, wie die Arbeit von Thomson & Craighead, sie sehen Arbeiten die zum Mitmachen anregen und das generationsübergreifende Potential des Internets deutlich machen, wie die Arbeit „What’s Cooking Grandma“ der britischen Design-Gruppe Human Beans, die die Tradition der Überlieferung – in diesem Fall Kochrezepte – um die Möglichkeiten der Darstellung durch Ton und Bild bereichern und sie sehen Werke, die die Einflüsse des Internets auf unsere Kultur widerspiegeln, die beispielsweise die Bilder von Olia Lialina & Dragan Espenschied, die die neuen Ikonen des Web 2.0 zu Bildsujets ihrer Malerei erheben.

Zwei Projekte unserer Stipendiaten im letzten Jahr – Annina Rüst und die Künstlergruppe ubermorgen.com – waren Ausgangspunkt für diese Ausstellung, die beide jeweils ein Netzprojekt hier in Oldenburg entwickelt haben. ubermorgen.com ist mit der Arbeit „Amazon Noir – The Big Book Crime“ in der Ausstellung vertreten und was sie sehen, ist die Dokumentation eines Medien-Hacks. ubermorgen.com haben eine Software entwickelt, mit deren Hilfe es möglich war, Bücher mittels der manipulierten Suchfunktion auf der Website des Online-Buchladens Amazon.com komplett aus dem Netz zu laden und auf dem eigenen Rechner wieder zusammenstellen zu lassen. Annina Rüst hat eine Software entwickelt, mit der es möglich ist, in Funknetzwerken mit vernetzten Computern gemeinsam Musik zu machen. Hier in der Ausstellung ist sie mit einem Projekt vertreten, das ein konspiratives Online-Netzwerk mit dem Namen „Sinister Social Network“ präsentiert, das auf amüsante Art und Weise die Idee der sozialen Online-Gemeinschaften ad absurdum führt und welches dem Besucher erlaubt, die Struktur von Netzwerken auf potentielle Verschwörungstheorien hin untersuchen.
Diese Arbeiten waren für Sarah Cook und mich der Anlass, eine Ausstellung zu entwickeln, die einen Überblick gibt über die Produktion netzbasierter künstlerischer Arbeiten der letzten Jahre. Wir haben Werke zusammengetragen, die nicht alle netzbasiert sind, die aber die Veränderungen und Auswirkungen thematisieren, die das Internet auf unsere Kultur hat. Die Auswahl reicht dabei von Arbeiten, die mit einer gewissen Nostalgie auf die Entwicklungen der letzten Jahre zurückblicken bis zu listigen Manipulationen von bekannten Webportalen, wie beispielsweise die Website Subvertr.com der italienischen Künstlergruppe Les Liens Invisibles, die das Fotoportal Flickr.com imitieren und dabei mit falschen Begriffszuordnungen die Frage nach der Verlässlichkeit von Informationen im Netz deutlich machen.

Im Untertitel der Ausstellung ist von der Generation Internet die Rede, die erwachsen geworden ist. Gemeint ist damit sowohl das World Wide Web, welches lange Zeit als rein kommerziell und konsumorientiert galt und inzwischen wieder ein sozialer Raum geworden ist, in welchem sich Menschen aus aller Welt begegnen und Meinungen und Erfahrungen austauschen – sei es über persönliche Selbstdarstellungen, Fotos oder Videos. Damit scheinen sich die Utopien der Netzpioniere doch noch verwirklicht zu haben. Tim Berners Lee, der Erfinder des World Wide Web, sprach in frühen Statements von der sozialen Dimension und dem prozessualen Charakter des Netzes, der ihm immer wichtig war: „Das Web ist eher eine soziale denn eine technische Schöpfung. Ich habe es erfunden, damit es soziale Auswirkungen hat, nicht als irgendein technisches Spielzeug.“
Neben dem Netz selbst haben sich aber auch die Nutzer des Internets emanzipiert und sind erwachsen geworden. Immer mehr Menschen haben teil am Gestaltungsprozess im World Wide Web. Sie sind nicht mehr nur Konsumenten, sondern vor allem auch Produzenten.
Amateure, die in mediale Produktionsprozesse eingreifen, gab es auch in vor-digitalen Zeiten. Mit dem sogenannten Web 2.0 ist allerdings die Teilhabe am Gestalten von Inhalten im Internet so einfach geworden, das es immer mehr Medienamateure gibt, die sich in den neuen sozialen Foren des World Wide Web zu neuen starken Gemeinschaften zusammenschließen.
Die Wochenzeitschrift DIE ZEIT spricht von der „Humanisierung des Netzes“ und trägt damit dem Phänomen Rechnung, dass heute der Einzelne im Netz im Vordergrund steht.
…. Gerade die eigene Persönlichkeit herauszustellen ist das Anliegen von Onlineportalen und Plattformen, die der eigenen Selbstdarstellung im World Wide Web dienen – beispielsweise den Profilseiten wie Friendster oder MySpace (wohl im Moment die populärste Community), auf denen man sich mit Bildern, Texten, Musik, Videos und den Verknüpfungen zu anderen Nutzern präsentiert, mit Fotoportalen wie Flickr.com, auf denen Bilder eingestellt und verschlagwortet werden können oder nicht zuletzt der Video-Plattform YouTube, die das Einstellen von Videos ermöglicht. Die Ausstellung zeigt auf, welche Bedeutung die Medienkulturen, deren Grenze zwischen Populärkultur und kommerzieller Kultur immer fließender wird, für die medialen Selbstdarstellungsstrategien haben.

…. Die Handhabung der neuen Werkzeuge will gelernt sein, denn die Stärken der neuen Technologien zeigen sich in ihren Auswirkungen auch außerhalb des Netzes. …. Der Medienwissenschaftler Thomas Burg, der das Institut für Neue Medien an der Donau-Universität Krems leitet, spricht von einer neuen Kluft, die sich auftut und warnt eindringlich davor, nicht den Anschluss zu verpassen. Gerade auch in diesem Sinne ist es ein Anliegen der Ausstellung, Entwicklungen und Veränderungen des Internets der letzten 10 Jahre aufzuzeigen, Projekte zugänglich zu machen und Lust zu wecken, teilzuhaben an den Potentialen der digitalen Welt.

Opening night speech by Martin Schumacher, Head of the Cultural Department of the City of Oldenburg

June 6, 2007

Excerpts from the Opening Speech of Martin Schumacher, Head of the Cultural Department of the City of Oldenburg

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

ich freue mich, Sie heute Abend im Edith-Ruß-Haus für Medienkunst zur Eröffnung der Ausstellung „MY OWN PRIVATE REALITY“ begrüßen zu dürfen.

Mit dieser Ausstellung widmet sich das Edith-Ruß-Haus einem hochaktuellen Thema – dem Phänomen, dass sich das Internet dank neuer Technologien immer mehr zu einem sozialen Raum entwickelt hat, der von Millionen Nutzern selbst gestaltet und ausgefüllt wird.

„Web 2.0“ ist das Schlagwort, das die Veränderungen im globalen Netzwerk umschreibt. „Mitmachen“ lautet die Devise. Inhalte werden nicht mehr nur zentralisiert von den traditionellen „Medien“ erstellt und an ein breites Publikum übermittelt, sondern auch von einzelnen Internet Benutzern, Amateuren, die sich untereinander vernetzen. Typische Beispiele für diese Entwicklung sind die Bild- und Videoportale, wie das bekannte YouTube, aber auch die unzähligen Online-Tagebücher und Tauschbörsen, in denen Menschen sich austauschen und ihre Meinungen einer weltweiten Öffentlichkeit kundtun. Die Nutzer spielen die Hauptrolle: Aus passiven Konsumenten sind aktive Produzenten geworden. DER SPIEGEL betitelte entsprechend einen Leitartikel zum Thema mit den Worten „Du bist das Netz!“ Das „Du“, dass im amerikanischen TIME MAGAZINE auch zur Person des Jahres 2006 gekürt wurde.

Der als Marketing-Schlagwort eingeführte Begriff „Web 2.0“ hatte großen Widerhall in den Medien. Die Bezeichnung kommt aus der Software-Entwicklung und ist angelehnt an die Entwicklungsstufen von Computerprogrammen und Software-Versionen, die in immer kürzeren Zeitabschnitten verbessert werden. Der Begriff steht auch für den Hype, der sich in den letzten Jahren zu diesem Thema entwickelt hat und der an die Internet-Euphorie der 1990er Jahre erinnert – vor dem Zusammenbruch der Dotcom-Blase. … Spektakulär war im letzten Jahr der Verkauf der Videoplattform „Youtube“ an Google für 1,6 Milliarden Dollar. Von null auf 1,65 Milliarden in 20 Monaten, nur so lange existierte „YouTube“ zu diesem Zeitpunkt – nur das Internet beschleunigt Karrieren so rasant.

Aus technischer Sicht bezeichnet “Web 2.0” oft eine Kombination der bereits Ende der 1990er Jahre entwickelten Techniken, die durch die große Zahl breitbandiger Internetzugänge erst jetzt großflächig verfügbar sind. Lange Zeit schätzten sehr viele Menschen das Internet als ein nicht ganz einfach zu gebrauchendes technisches System ein, mit dem man vor allem Daten, Informationen oder Medien verbreiten kann. Zum einen gab es „Bearbeiter“ (Leute, die Inhalte fürs Web erstellten bzw. Informationen bereitstellten, teils kommerziell, teils privat), und zum anderen „Benutzer“ (Konsumenten, die meistens nichts anderes taten, als sich die bereitgestellten Inhalte anzusehen bzw. anzuhören, und die vor allem gar keine andere Wahl hatten, als fremde Informationsangebote entgegen- und aufzunehmen). Dies hat sich im Web 2.0 grundlegend verändert. Anwender mit kaum mehr als durchschnittlichen EDV-Kenntnissen stellen eigene Beiträge ins World Wide Web (Schlagwort: User Generated Content) und verlagern dabei zunehmend das Private ins Öffentliche. Durch vereinfachte technische Anwendungen kann jeder durchschnittlich befähigte Nutzer, selbst wenn er nicht programmieren kann, viel leichter als bisher aktiv an Informations- und Meinungsverbreitung teilnehmen (Schlagwort Soziale Software ). …
Teil der Entwicklung dieses neuen Internets, in dem das Mitmachen zum A und O gehört, ist auch die Online-Plattform „Second Life“, in welcher sich inzwischen mehrere Millionen Menschen eine neue Wirklichkeit geschaffen haben und täglich werden es mehr. Sie schlüpfen in erfundene Identitäten und leben in der virtuellen Welt ihre Träume und Fantasien aus.

Inzwischen herrschen wieder Pioniertage im World Wide Web so wie Anfang der 1990er Jahre, als die Menschen das Internet für sich entdeckten. Mit 16 beteiligten Künstlern … gibt das Edith-Ruß-Haus für Medienkunst einen Einblick in die vielfältigen Angebote des World Wide Web der letzten 10 Jahre, die auch Spiegel unseres veränderten Sozial- und Kommunikationsverhaltens sind.