Douglas Davis’ World’s First Collaborative Sentence


World's First Collaborative Sentence

In 1994 Douglas Davis created the first piece of artwork conceived for the World Wide Web. It was called the World’s First Collaborative Sentence. Davis was originally a video artist who would create work with the intention to demassify the media (Baumgartel 62). Davis was commissioned by the Lehman College Art Gallery to create the work, which he viewed as the world’s first collaborative sentence. The City University of New York City (CUNY) provided a server for Davis to host his work. The work was launched on December 7, 1994 as a canvas for viewers of Davis’ work to provide sentence segments to this never-ending fragment (The World’s First Collaborative Sentence). The art piece is interactive in the sense that viewers can come on to the Web site and add whatever he or she would like to the sentence. The only stipulation to the project is that a viewer cannot add a period to the end of his or her completed thought. Davis said that when he was commissioned to create this work he thought about the keyboard and how the Web had provided a new avenue for interaction that was separate from video or other artistic media (Baumgartel 60-62). Currently there are over 200,000 additions to the sentence, which as technology has spanned in the almost 15 years since its conception, now includes links and various other ingenious caricatures that viewers have used or developed to detour the no period rule. The sentence now features color text, embedded video, java and many other technological advancements. When the Web site was first launched in 1994, the sentence was simply black and white with the occasional use of capital letters. The aesthetics of the piece have changed drastically over time but the idea behind Davis’ art to create a sounding board and a place where people could express whatever they desired is still present. In 1995 the work was donated to the Whitney Museum of American Art where it still exists as an active art piece where users still support daily. Davis has said that he initially chose the Internet as his medium because he felt that the “Internet is the ultimate means of getting a really intense response from people” (Baumgartel 62). As the World’s First Collaborative Sentence continues to exist and could possibly exist until eternity it seems like the artist’s intention have panned out.

The world’s first art piece for the World Wide Web provided a springboard for future artworks that used interactivity and collaboration by aid of the Internet to exist. Many other artists, since 1994, have created work for and because of the Internet. With the advancement of technology, the idea of how art is viewed and consumed is different from fifty years ago. Artwork is not necessarily viewed as artifacts anymore, but rather as momentary imprints of pieces in a certain place and time. Art can change and the Internet progresses that.  


~ by netart2web on 04/28/2009.

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