While artificial intelligence may be possible, we should never allow computers to make important decisions because computers will always lack human qualities such as compassion and wisdom. Or so said Joseph Weizenbaum, the late professor emeritus of computer science at MIT and creator of ELIZA, a computer artificial intelligence program in 1965, in his influential text, 'Computer Power and Human Reason.' Weizenbaum makes the crucial distinction between deciding and choosing. Deciding is a computational activity, something that can ultimately be programmed. Choice, however, is the product of judgment, not calculation. It is the capacity to choose that ultimately makes us human. Human judgment encompasses complex non-mathematical factors, such as emotions and the value they play in our emotional society. Weizenbaum also once said that “history makes us human,” citing it as the sum of our experiences. This interrelationship — between history and humanity — forms our identities, charts both our conscious and unconscious paths through life, and, in the process, creates a mental model that remains beyond the grasp of technological advancement.

Hearing Weizenbaum’s skeptical take on contemporary artificial intelligence just before his death in the 2010 documentary Plug and Pray, I saw a man afraid of a technology he helped to create. I realized that I was part of the last generation that would ever know a world without the Internet, and that the formative years of my youth were spent in a still emerging space that has fully consumed and nurtured me into adulthood. My position and my future here are both by choice and, I might argue, need. Computers and the Internet have shaped my identity from such a critical age that I cannot seem to separate my online and offline experiences, my history there from my history here.

What has identity become, now that our social selves are laid bare online? How is identity established within the form-fields of Facebook? Our connections are tagged and bound to our profiles. These digital networks have not only transformed our societal structure, they have also re-shaped our internal selves.


At its core function, the Internet is a tool for the communication of information, whether factual or fictional. It has allowed us access to knowledge we would have otherwise never known, at a rate that we could have never achieved with printed materials. Each tool that we have developed to spread information has exponentially increased the speed at which it travels, leading to bursts of creativity and collaboration that have accelerated human development and accomplishment. The wired Internet at broadband speeds allows us to consume content so fast that any delay causes us to balk and whine. Wireless Internet made this information network portable and extended our range of knowledge beyond the boundaries of offices and libraries and into the world. Mobile devices have completely transformed our consumption of information, putting tiny computers in our pockets and letting us petition the wishing well of the infoverse.

Many people say this access has made us impatient, and I agree. But I also believe it reveals an innate hunger. We are now so dependent on access to knowledge at these rapid speeds that any lull in our consumption feels like a wasted moment. The currency of the information appears at all levels of society. From seeing new television shows to enjoying free, immediate access to new scientific publications that could impact your life’s work, this rapid transmission model has meaning and changes lives. We have access to information when we are waiting for an oil change and in line for coffee. While we can choose to consume web junk, as many often will, there is also a wealth of human understanding and opinions, academic texts, online courses, and library archives that can be accessed day and night, often for free.

We are hungry for more. Does our over-consumption of material goods stoke our appetite? Has our obsession with physical objects changed into an obsession with ideas? It is certainly easier and faster to consume content than things. And this information is infinitely recyclable; it isn’t used up once discarded. Both code and files can become outdated and out-versioned, leaving files and web pages inaccessible, corrupt, or “errored out,” the information contained lost to obsolescence. We have consumed and passed on and traded texts for centuries before and after movable type and digital printing, but even those technologies degrade. Now e-books and PDFs have become the new texts we circulate and archive in our libraries. Our informational experiences are mediated by machines that have changed both the structure of our society and the way we think.


The cognitive process of the computer user is shaped by the architecture of the software with which they interact, whereas its conceptual structure --and its nested storage system of drives, folders, and files — has shaped the collective organizational structure of the user. The new conceptual structure of the Internet has obliterated the contained structure of the single machine.The links between bits of knowledge have been represented visually online, creating a thought pattern that is reproduced ad infinitum in the minds of Millennials throughout the world. The network is embedded in us.

In his new book Software Takes Command, Lev Manovich makes it clear that the graphical user interfaces of the machines we interact with today mask the actual computer system behind with visual metaphors. We are removed from the processing structures and algorithms, which are invisibly executed behind the screen. We understand the metaphor of the machine through software, and this visual metaphor is now a site of creative acts, and have co-opted this form of figuration for creativity. We create machines to compensate for our deficiencies and software to translate our ideas into the language of machines.


I have an intricate system for sorting my files on my machine, clear only to me, with groupings and categories that are referential to the meaning I have given the contents themselves. The same group of files can be endlessly sorted by another user in additional configurations, based on the conceptual or literal categories they identify. This personal taxonomy provides a loose structure by which our content is physically represented on our personal computers.

In the cloud, however, the taxonomy is more dispersed, while the common language between media is translated between separate systems and metaphors. An image can be tagged in one manner on Flickr and another way on Instagram. Certain systems poach the taxonomical structure of others (see: the new Facebook tags derived from years of Twitter users, the @ identification system for tagging friends) to provide continuity across services. But the ecosystem itself is disjointed and awkward. I can share all of my tweets to Facebook and vice versa, creating an endless loop of content fed through multiple channels, flooding friends and followers with replicas of replicas of ideas.


The persona of an individual is rooted in the group. The persona exists for an audience, whether public or private, and gains context and meaning through its relationship, active or reactive, to this audience. The persona is not the inward self, but part of the public presence. It is the outward-facing schema of our identity.

Facebook has rapidly cemented the concept of the persona in the public realm. Alternate identities, or 'alts,' serve a function for users to achieve a goal otherwise unattainable through their true identity. Some of these alts exist for a single day for a single purpose, an avatar culled for work from various web-sourced materials. Others exist for years, a nom de plume of the computer age. Works and oeuvres may exist under completely fictional identities.

Style is the visual layer of the self, extending to ocular and vocal style, both the pictorial and linguistic representation of an identity. Online, it is the documented 'physical' embodiment of the identity, whether true or alt. The message of identity is corroborated by images and other media. This package of language and image creates a viable context for the persona. From there, the alt reaches out into the social sphere, starting conversations and providing commentary on real accounts. Style facilitates action, providing contextual cover for the troll. This alt identity is the cloak the troll wears to work.

Think about how we describe our life online; we talk about our ‘Internet presence,’ as though our digital comments and posts make us present in another place and time. While we wait in line for coffee or sit on the toilet, we project our Internet presence outward, with no specific relationship to the activity we are physically engaged in. This disembodied projection extends the conceptual reach of the self beyond what a non-connected individual might feel.


Our world depends upon a completely variable concept: the identity. We need driver's licenses and identification cards to prove our existence. We need photo ID and documentation that we were born into the same world in which we attempt to live. Our names vary between groups. To the government, I am “Krystal Rose South,” but to many I am “KSOUTH,” or various other nicknames based on my identity within these groups. This name is our introduction to most people, a piece of data we put forth countless times to connect with other individuals. In the physical realm, it is a handshake and an offering of the name. Online, the name may be all we know about someone who has reached out to us or that we noticed on the Internet.

This name, whichever and however we choose it, creates an opportunity for a new identity, whether it is rooted in our physical self or not. This is how we remember the early Internet, when users created handles that became their new selves and allowed them to speak freely, disconnected and sheltered from their IRL interactions.


Rafaël Rosendaal

Identity is a word now used loosely as a synonym for brand. The 'brand identity' is the look, feel, voice, and message of a brand, one disseminated into the world as the public-facing persona of the corporation. Once measured in sales and stock value, a brand identity can now be measured in social analytics and web metrics. The brand's identity is cemented in the market by feeling, the relationship of a user to that specific identity. Brand affinity and loyalty are in relationship to the brand's stories and narrative arc.

With the rise of social media, the personal brand has become attainable for anyone. In the 'open' space of the Internet, individuals have access to the same tools that marketers use to control the brands of giant companies. The Internet is our airport; we are all going through the same security checks and gates. Our collective knowledge of these marketing and advertising tactics has led users to turn the methods onto themselves. Now, digital artists, business owners, and zealous personalities can create Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and YouTube channels to disperse their generated media into the world under the moniker of a personal brand. They use the same tactics to raise engagement, CTR, and viral sharing. The goals of the individual may differ from the goals of large companies, but the methods and outlets are essentially the same.


Net Art Diagram by Kevin Bewersdorf

The Internet is a mirror which we gaze into to find new ways of identifying and recognizing ourselves. Whether the goal is communication, consumption, or education, we get out what we put in. Our experiences online are mediated both by the machine and language; the eye and the mind. This is not terribly different from the systems established by previous media, such as film and television. What is radically different—and what has completely transformed our lives— is that we are no longer just consuming. We are putting forth, creating and contributing, and participating in systems from which we receive feedback. These loops of feedback are part of the core structure of computer systems programming, generally, and have become equally integral to the construction of our online society.

But what is feedback? There is the response: you put an idea, let’s say a Facebook post about your artwork, into your social stream. Your friends respond with comments about how nice your artwork is and ask if you have seen another artist’s work. You, in turn, respond. This is a direct feedback loop, one that is essentially the same as real life. A less direct loop is when someone “likes” your art post. You receive a little red notification on your page that excites you. You decide to post another piece of artwork to earn more likes. Another: your friends share your artwork with their friends and now users outside of your immediate network are seeing and liking your work. But to remain in the loop, you must like or comment your own work on this page to keep receiving notifications about who is looking at your work.


Internet users share a physical relationship, one that works off of the network created between machines. These networks have various inputs and points of contact. Some of these relationships are cursory and loose, based only on a shared interest or idea, while others are long-lasting and fruitful relationships that continue to deepen over public or private online interactions. While no physical media may be exchanged, these relationships are often founded on the exchange of information. Whether original content is created — such as words, images, or other media — or the dispersion of information generated by outside authorship, this new economy of information is, at the peer-to-peer level, a mutualistic system, with each individual deriving specialized individual benefits.

While these relationships may not have physical outputs, the input to the system always requires some physical mediation. This may change in the future, but, for now, we are (mostly) in control of our machines. They require us to tell them what to do and, while the language of computers is not always visible to us as users, they understand our commands because we taught them to.We have imposed our language onto the machines, but, despite this, we have also slowly adapted our language to speak more clearly to them. An example: I used to Google a word and then ”definition” to bring up a dictionary website. I then learned that I can input ”define: word” to ask Google to present the definition to me. Now, Google itself has adapted both methods to produce almost identical results. We are adapting the systems and the systems are adapting to us.


Think of the posture you assume as you gaze at your device. At the computer, we sit and shift for hours on end, hunched and staring, making only tiny gestures as we surf. I move my fingers to control a virtual space that extends far beyond the planar limits of the screen. We extend our dominant hand through the finger, onto the mouse or trackpad. Our physical reach extends into the screen through this cursor.

We hold our smartphones at arm’s length and sometimes squint to see content that is not scaled for human consumption. Our thumbs and forefingers graze the screen, swiping, tapping, and zooming through the software space. Our bodies are always on alert, waiting for the next notification to pull our attention back to the screen. Our dominant arms tire from constantly holding our phone up to our faces.

We feel phantom vibrations in our pockets or as we drift off to sleep at night. We hear an alert and we all check our devices to see who got the message. The sounds are ubiquitous and we allow them to interrupt our most private moments. We are always connected, always listening, always watching for the next piece of feedback that brings us back into the loop of our virtual selves.

These are not the postures of communication. We lose the hand gestures and facial expressions of speaking face-to-face, supplanting them with emoticons and emojis that attempt to bring our feelings back into the mix. We adapt written language to try and get our thoughts across. Extending the shape of the word, repeating letters, CAPS LOCK, excessive punctuation—all these strategies help pick up the slack of our emotionally deficient text-based communication. While we have the ability to cause affects with language, there is a corporeal disconnect between hearing the words “I love you” spoken aloud versus seeing them in 11-point type in a word bubble onscreen.


Sometimes all we know of someone is their name. From the name, we attempt to locate more information. At our fingertips, we have access to a giant public database that we can query for more information. Using special qualifiers, we can drill down to search for exact information from specific sites, include or exclude certain data or periods of time. These aren't as widely known as the simple act of putting quotes around a name. The more unique the name, the easier it may be to pinpoint the target, but the more difficult it may be to cull information. The more general name posits a different problem of too many unwanted results, which then need to be filtered by additional keywords tied to known information: location, age, handles, etc. Each known bit of data leads to more data that can be found. This process, called “doxing,” is sometimes referred to as stalking. I see it as informed information gathering generally linked to contact by the individual.

Aware of these methods, many people have chosen to never post personal information online, while others attempt to delete the information that already exists. But information and images can make it into the world without your consent or knowledge. More importantly, they can be used in unintended ways, without your consent or knowledge.

Compounding these challenges, a user’s image or name can be used to create an identity that they have no knowledge of. This second self, whether true identity theft or the appropriation of an avatar and name by a net bot, can generate its own content under your name, perpetuating an existence completely separate from you, and completely out of your control. This darker side to the control that we have over our internet identities can have impact on our offline lives.


We see this come up quite a bit in the realm of online games. Online gaming has been taking place since the dawn of the Internet, with text-based MUDs evolving into graphics-based MMORPGs. These games allowed users a flexible identity associated with their gameplay. If a player was banned from the system, he or she could create a new identity and start fresh. Stemming from “Dungeons and Dragons” and similar role-playing games, they were generally linked by their structure and goals. Though I am no expert on the history of these games, two games stand out in my mind as breaking this model.

The first is “The Sims,” a PC game that made the leap to the Internet in 2002. The goal of “The Sims” is to create a virtual human avatar which you clothe, feed, send to work, and perform other basic actions for (including going to the bathroom, showering, and sex). You just have to keep your Sims alive and happy, and they reward you Simoleons, the Sim currency. Now available on almost every platform, this is the best-selling PC game of all time.

The second, released in 2003, is “Second Life,” an online game that allows users, or ‘residents’ as they call themselves, to create avatars that navigate endless worlds. There is no goal beyond exploration, socialization, community formation, and the trade and sale of user-generated 3D objects to modify the game world itself. By 2010, 21.3 million “Second Life” accounts had been created, but Linden Labs, creators and maintainers of the game, don’t publish statistics on active users.

Both games involve the transference of identify into a virtual space that, in effect, mirrors our own. The control of the user is complete; he or she can create, manipulate, or destroy their characters without consequence to their real lives. They can engage in play and socialization that may be restricted in their real lives, providing cathartic experiences that are free and open-ended. They push the idea of escape, present in all media consumption, to an active role over which they have control.

The players of these games have developed extensive and active communities. While they may never meet in real life, they play with each other online for years or decades. A large part of “Second Life” seems to be the satisfaction of fetishes in a 3D virtual world, with users developing characters that play out their fetish role in the space of the game. For example, users can act out their desire to copulate with a unicorn in this space or conduct virtual orgies through their avatars and text-based chat.

The artist Jon Rafman conducted virtual tours through “Second Life,” taking people on voyeuristic journeys through the anonymous, sexualized spaces of the game and showing non-players some highlights with the tour guide of Kool-Aid Man, the avatar that Rafman created for himself. The availability of these virtual selves to act on fantasies which are distanced from reality – for instance sexual experiences with mythical creatures, bestiality in general, vorarephilia, flying, etc.– allows a disassociated catharsis. Rafman likens this online experience to a return to an amniotic state, a desire to be completely immersed, similar to full immersion in an online life.


Another Internet feedback loop was recently covered very well by artist, writer, and educator Brad Troemel. In his essay, “Athletic Aesthetics,” published online via The New Inquiry, Troemel examines the dispersion methodologies employed by Internet native artists, as well as the competition for the increasingly scarce resource of attention that now controls our interactions.

Artists now can (and do) create artworks that they immediately disperse through their social streams to their audience. They take part in the above feedback loop which transpires within social networks. But something else starts to take place: the criticism of this work also takes place immediately, creating an extremely rapid critical response to works. These critics distribute their ideas in many of the same venues of the artist themselves, as well as the artwork. The work, artist, audience, critic, and criticism all coexist in the same network, transmitting to and from each other in an ever-widening loop of feedback. What Troemel points out about this process is that it “...has reversed the traditional recipe that you need to create art to have an audience. Today’s artist on the Internet needs an audience to create art.“

The idea of attention is also key to Troemel’s point about the ‘aesthlete,’ in that our often shallow and overwhelmingly numerous online interactions are all fighting for the same attention. This means your foodie pics and someone’s artwork are appearing on the same Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter/YouTube/etc. stage. His essay contains great insights on the effect this attention economy has on the work and the identity of the artist, and another essay, The Accidental Audience, which also appeared in The New Inquiry,further explores this topic through a project Troemel, et al, executed on Tumblr, called “The Jogging.”

For the project, Troemel looked closely at the Tumblr platform as a distribution method for artworks. The format of Tumblr allows users to post media (image, text, video, etc.) in a stream that can be viewed on their Tumblr page as well as on the Tumblr dashboard by followers. Users/followers can then “like” these posts, as well as “reblog” them to their own pages. This method enables extremely rapid dissemination with attached metrics for tracking the vitality of the post. What Troemel points out is that, while the audience of the original blog may be aware of the context in which the image is presented, the more the image is reblogged, the more obfuscated the meaning may be to the audience it reaches. While the images on “The Jogging” were created with an artistic intent and purpose, that may be stripped and confused as the image travels further down the Internet rabbit-hole. But new meanings are developed; users can attach their own comments to the image, presenting a new context while reaching a new audience of followers.

The question Troemel presents is: What happens to the art? Is it changed by these shifts? Does it retain the same power? “The Jogging” is a perfect test for this, as the works presented , at their core, challenge the nature of images and authorship. Composed of found and remixed product photography, the images on “The Jogging” are charged with new meanings, which, according to Troemel, fills an important role in the Tumblr ecosystem: “On a social network flush with recycled posts, there’s a premium on delivering original content for others to share.”

Tumblr has also given rise to the popularization and bastardization of the word “curation.” Once used solely within the context of art, as a practice of organizing and arranging works within an exhibition space, the word now denotes any collection of images or things in a single place. The popular web application Pinterest has become a form of ”curation,’ with users creating thematic boards to which they pin their collection of sugar-free desert recipes or summer wardrobe selections. No longer about identifying a common thread among disparate works, the term has completely lost its grounding in an art context. While many Tumblrs and Pinterest boards do retain some part of the word’s original meaning, hearing mothers and business people use the term in relationship to tagging disparate content has surely soured in the mouths of those with master’s degrees in curatorial studies.


“We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed.”

--Michel Foucault, Other Spaces

Since the beginning of the Internet, there has been a lot of talking. Not strictly speaking, but chatting. In 1550, to ‘chat’ meant “to converse familiarly.” It has remained in steady use with consistent meaning since that time. While it makes sense that this term was used in the early Internet days, it does surprise me that it still endures, since its more contemporary meaning equates to vapid, passive conversations between acquaintances. AOL gave birth to an accessible chat interface that became incredibly popular and culturally familiar. Before that, chatting online still required deeper computer knowledge on Usenet, IRC, and BBS, with some understanding required to set up the network and join rooms and boards.

America Online started as an Apple BBS in 1989, then was released for DOS in 1991. In 1993, with the release of Windows 3.1, America Online (and other ISPs) became available to the millions of people buying personal computers for the first time, making Internet chat a much more common occurrence. A language already established by earlier systems propagated into AOL. These rooms allowed up to 23 people, keeping the communities small and the conversations manageable. Users could privately message each other or conduct their conversations in a public space, returning back every day to engage with their community in various rooms. But you had to know what rooms to join and then establish the identities of the users without any concrete evidence that what they told you was true.

This space of open and private talk mirrored real-life conversations in all of their excitement and boredom. Chatting became a way of life for many users who spent their time on computers anyways, now accompanied by a steady real-time stream of chatter to be consumed or ignored. AOL chat became AOL Instant Messenger, a service application downloaded and used by millions. Users created avatars and handles like in AOL chat rooms, but now had the ability to keep a list of buddies that did not have to be part of the same room to engage in conversation. This direct mode of messaging made it much easier to keep tabs on friends and to see who was online and offline at any given time.

The identity of the chat user could be formed on the fly, with separate names and logins to form different identities. One could give as much or as little information about themselves as they wished, and go so far as to lurk — that is, to never engage but occupy space and observe the conversations of others. The practice of verbalizing your identity in text, rather than speech, surely changed the way that many computer users thought about themselves. One could expose only the positive aspects of one’s personality or only the negative, forgetting to mention spouses or children or parents, slightly changing your own age, appearance, etc.

Sexualized chat, or “cybering,” became a new form of eroticism and adultery. Real-time text-based chats of explicit nature between two unknowns, exciting two bodies composed entirely of language in a virtual space. Users could invent a new sexuality online, severed from their social body, engaging in thoughts and ”actions” that might cause problems in their day-to-day lives. The foundation of the Internet is all fetish, an exploratory space for people to connect on fringe interests of both sexual and the most banal subjects. Communities are formed around common interests and goals, and the many fetishists of the world were able to find themselves online and explore their feelings in a safe, private space, building a community of like minded individuals with whom they did not have to feel ashamed.

What I am getting at is that these were not just chats such as what you have with the coffee shop guy, these were heavy conversations dealing with the deepest, darkest, most intimate parts of human identity, and these conversations happened with individuals of unknown authenticity. But this did not negate their power or their meaning. The medium of chat became just another vessel for humanity, and all of the darknesses and joy contained therein.


Now commonplace, the language of chat and other text-based communication has completely changed the level of rigor in our use of words. I know that I can get a point across quickly and easily with the use of acronyms that may or may not be understood and other casual effects that make up the new Internet-English LOLspeak we are most likely familiar with today. While many may see this cyberspeak as a degradation of language, I consider it almost a necessary evolution, however annoying it may be in the midst of maturing. Obviously, we have always adapted language to fit new contexts and times. If we spoke Old English with incredible formality, we would all go crazy. The Internet has leveled the playing field in language, allowing anyone to take on the terminology that once only served niche groups and audiences. “LOL” is a great example of a term that has lost some meaning, even over such a short span of time. When used, it is most likely that the user is not genuinely “laughing out loud,” but more that the acronym has come to represent laughter in any sense. You can spend five minutes on Facebook and find it used in comedic or negative situations with the same effect. Where the number of “ha’s” in a “haha” used to denote how “funny” something was, LOL now replaces it with a general symbol of amusement in any situation.

Is this sort of language really about efficiency of communication? Or is it about being in the know, able to translate the slang type of the new Internet world order? There is a kinship to be found in communicating with secret languages. We see these dialects of language develop around sports, food, art, or music, and Internet-speak has long been cliquey and exclusive, back to 1337 speak, an orthographic language of the very early web. These modes of speaking feel, for a period of time, indecipherable to the outside, protecting the speech of the users under this mask. The language of the community keeps the group tightly bound 2gether.


Alfred Binet, a French psychologist, proposed that fetishes were either founded in ‘spiritual love,’ rooted in the mind, or ‘plastic love,’ rooted in the body or object. Psychology is full of reasoning about the source of these fetishes and whether they should be nurtured or abandoned. There is a rule that exists about the Internet: if you can imagine a fetish, such as dumping yogurt into trousers for autoerotic purposes, it exists in some form online. Since its beginnings, the web has been a place of connection for niche interests, whether it pertains to training a cat to shit in a toilet or more explicit human shit curiosity. Whether it is finding images that depict the fetish or meeting individuals willing to participate in a fetishistic act, the Internet has become a network serving these communities and the emotional needs that gird them.

Outside of the sexualized fetish, the computer and the Internet, though not an object in the strictest sense, have also become fetish objects. These objects of desire, the objet petit a of our virtual times, serve as a medium between our desires and the actions that they execute for us. While the Internet can provide us with places to buy creature comforts online, it cannot actually deliver these comforts in any direct sense. And while we continually place our trust in our machines to organize important data that we wish to remember, these machines are not immediately accessible to our memories. We must always use the mechanical mediator to access these things and information, even if it is deeply personal in nature, something we see as part of ourselves.

Buying the fastest, most efficient machines makes us feel faster and more efficient ourselves; we see these objects and processes as extensions of our own ability. Our thought processes have become more and more structured around access to these machines at any moment. I don’t need to write down the list of addresses for the events I plan on attending; I know I can get them from Facebook and use the mapping capabilities of my iPhone to find the way. And what happens when we run out of power or drop our device into the toilet? We feel lost. We are afraid that we won’t know when someone is trying to reach us. We are disconnected.

Figure 1: Andrew Norman Wilson, The Inland Printer - 164, part of Scan Ops, 2012. Inkjet print on rag paper, painted frame, aluminum composite material.

Figure 2: Andrew Norman Wilson, Why is the No Video Signal Blue? Or, Color is No Longer Separable From Form, and the Collective Joins the Brightness Confound, 2011, HD Video, 10 minutes.

Figure 3: Stephen Willats, Meta Filter, 1973-75. Painted wood, Perspex, computer, slide projector and problem book. Collection of Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris. See also.

Figure 4: Ryder Ripps, Internet Therapy, 2010, website and audio.

Figure 5: Petra Cortright,, 2011, YouTube video.

Figure 6: Parker Ito, Parker Cheeto: The Net Artist (American Online Made Me Hardcore), installation view, 2013.

Figure 7: Anthony Antonellis, Facebook Bliss, 2012, website.

Figure 8: Daniel L. Williams, Sweet Treatz, 2009, YouTube video.
Embedding disabled by request.

Figure 9: Jon Rafman, 9 Eyes, Ongoing, website.

Figure 10: Jeremy Bailey, Don't Mouse Around, 2006, YouTube video.

Figure 11:
Dina Kelberman, I'm Google, ongoing since 2011, blog.

Figure 12: Jon Rafman,Kool-Aid Man in Second Life-Tour Promo, 2009, online video.

Figure 13: Eva and Franco Mattes, No Fun, 2010, Online Performance.
This video was banned from YouTube.

Figure 14: Claire L. Evans, Digital Decay, 2007, video animation.

Figure 15: AIDS-3D, OMG Obelisk, 2007, Younger Than Jesus @ New Museum.

Figure 16: Bunny Rogers, Pones, ongoing, digital photographs.


There is a system, and there are people within this system. I am only one of them, but I value deeply the opportunities this space grants me, and the wealth contained within it. We must fight to keep the Internet safe and open. Though it has already lost the magical freedom and democracy that existed in the days of the early web, we must continue to put our best minds to work using this extensive network of machines to aid us. Technology gives us so much, and we put so much of ourselves back into it, but we must always remember that we made the web and it will always be tied to us as humans, with our vast range of beauty and ugliness.

I only know my stories, my perspective, but it feels important to take note during this new technical Renaissance, to try and capture the spirit of this shift. I am vastly inspired by the capabilities of my tiny iPhone, my laptop, and all the software contained therein. This feeling is empowerment. The empowerment to learn, to create, and to communicate is something I’ve always felt is at the core of art-making, to be able to translate a complex idea or feeling into some contained or open form. Even the most simple or ethereal works have some form; the body, the image, the object. The file, the machine, the URL, these are all just new vessels for this spirit to be contained.

The files are beautiful, but I move to nominate the Internet as “sublime,” because when I stare into the glass precipice of my screen, I am in awe of the vastness contained within it, the micro and macro, simultaneously hard and technical and soft and human. Most importantly, it feels alive—with constant newness and deepening history, with endless activity and variety. May we keep this spirit intact and continue to explore new vessels into which we can pour ourselves, and reform our identities, shifting into a new world of Internet natives.


The people who make up my internet community.