[iDC] Off Topic: Defining networked art

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Fri Dec 17 16:44:09 UTC 2010

In technological networks one distinguishes the following dimensions for 
- topology: star, ring, mesh
- scale: local, wide, global, virtual/overlay
- connection: wired, wireless, RF, IR
plus other factors such as security or speed.

These "tags" do - at least to some degree - apply to most digital art, 
but are not synonymous with "the net" (aka Internet) as they are much 
more abstract. While technical in nature, they may also be transferable 
to non-digital artifacts and art allowing some of the technical analysis 
to be transposed out if its common use. For example the "star network" 
has - technically speaking - some advantageous properties (good 
performance, node isolation, simplicity) as well as disadvantages (hub 
dependence, size limitation, expensive network). I believe that it would 
be quite interesting to apply such concepts outside its normal 
engineering space to gain insights into the networked artistic processes 
and might help add to your work on a "definition".


On 12/15/10 10:18 PM, Heidi May wrote:
> *What is network and/ or networked art?*
> The main question is quite simple, but as you will see I have been
> delving into philosophy and art history to get to a better
> understanding of the meaning of "network" in art: *
> *
> For the past several months I have been thinking deeply about this. I
> spent the summer working on comprehensive exam papers for my current
> PhD program, in which I defined for myself a definition of networked
> art that I felt was perhaps a challenge to the mainstream notion of
> “network”. Without getting too much into the literature I based this
> on (ie. Jean-Luc Nancy), I argued that by using the word network, the
> Internet itself is predominant over any other associations we might
> have (see Sack, 2007 on “network aesthetics”) and that if artist
> educators focus more on what emerges within the relations and
> processes of a network, such as with Internet art, then we can perhaps
> gain new understandings of network culture that reflect more the
> sociocultural aspects as opposed to just the technological aspects. I
> refer to Fluxus practices, most specifically mail art, and the ideas
> explored by George Maciunas and Robert Filliou, connecting this to
> later relational art and participatory art practices. My interests
> pertain to aspects of what I am calling “relational learning,” thus I
> see these networked forms of art to be significant...yet not just in
> terms of individuals collaborating, but most importantly on the
> emergent knowledge that occurs in these processes.
> Within my recent writing, I suggest that we need to expand our
> understanding of networked art in order to obtain new understandings
> of network culture. I have been defining “networked art” as the
> following:
> “...practices not based on art objects, nor digital instruments, but
> on the relationships and processes that occur between individuals
> (Bazzichelli, 2008; Kimbell, 2006; Saper, 2001)....Networked art,
> sometimes described as participation art (Frieling, Pellico, &
> Zimbardo, 2008), consists of multiple connections made through
> generative processes, often, but not always, incorporating digital
> technology. In many cases, the production and dissemination processes
> become the artwork itself.”
> “....New understandings of network culture may require us to
> understand that technology enables social and economic activities, as
> opposed to something that determines society (Castells, 2001). This
> research will examine how art addresses aspects of network culture, in
> terms of it being a sociocultural shift that is not limited to digital
> technology (Varnelis, 2008)...By employing a broader understanding of
> the notion of network within analysis of networked art, this research
> aims to provide deeper understandings of network culture...”
> But after sitting with these ideas for awhile now and being confronted
> with needing to write a research proposal, I’m in the doubting phase
> that I think all graduate students go through. Is it really possible
> to use the term “networked art” in the way I would like to without it
> immediately conjuring up digital practices alone? (even though I
> acknowledge this in my argument) Am I just confusing things by saying
> that I am indeed interested in Internet art practices but only aspects
> I have defined above, and particularly in cases of artists who
> are interdisciplinary vs. strictly “digital”? Do people think about
> the differences between “network art” and networked art” the same way
> they might have distinguished between “net art” and “net.art”? In my
> writing, I opted to go with “networked” over “network” because there
> is more emphasis on being within a process (verb. vs. noun), but now
> I’m starting to regret that, thinking that “networked” might clearly
> imply dependence on an electronic system whereas a “network” might
> allow for more human connection. (For those who are familiar....I am a
> bit torn between Craig Saper’s (2001) use of the term “networked art”
> and Tom Corby’s (2006) use of the term “network art”)
> To make matters somewhat worse, I've been told by someone I respect in
> this area that the notion of "network" is not heavily dependent on
> "internet," considering the long history of network associations
> before the internet. But this is someone who is quite knowledgeable of
> network notions in academia and English literature, and I question if
> those outside of academia feel the same way today. Speaking as an
> artist who teaching art at universities and college, I feel that
> "networked art" is immediately associated with digital and new media.
> Thoughts? Opinions?
> thanks,
> Heidi May
> ..................
> http://heidimay.ca
> http://postself.wordpress.com
> http://heidimay.wordpress.com
> Instructor, Emily Carr University of Art + Design. 
> http://www.ecuad.ca/people/profile/14163
> PhD student, University of British Columbia. http://edcp.educ.ubc.ca/
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