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Facebook LogoAnother way that early net art has affected the Internet is through social networks, specifically, Facebook. Mitchell stated in his essay “Replacing Place” that the Internet can be viewed as a virtual city where the user can explore and maneuver through by clicking links. When Mitchell wrote his essay in 1999, the “city” of Facebook had yet to exist but many of his assertions still hold true today. Mitchell questioned what made people want to stay in the virtual worlds that they would encounter (Lunenfeld 125). His answer to his question was the idea of persistence. “If you know that your environment will be there, as you left it, the next time you log in, then you have some motivation to invest time and resources in improving it” (Lunenfeld 126). Facebook now has over 200 million active users, with over 100 million logging in at least once a day (Facebook). These users return to the Web site because they are comfortable with their environment and the set up of their page. This familiarity draws users back into the social networking world because it is like meeting up at the local hang out. Mitchell also stated, “If there is some social capital in the association that you have formed with fellow inhabitants, then you will think twice about ditching them and moving on” (Lunenfeld 126).

            Facebook, in many aspects, has many faces, where it can be seen as a purely social world, or a purely professional tool, or a mixture of the two. Harvard Professor Yochai Benkler, believes that people can “use their network connections to loosen social bonds that are too hierarchical and stifling, while filling in the gaps where their real-world relations seem lacking” (Bruns 317).  The Internet creates an easier situation for people to connect, reconnect or disconnect. While this holds true for all users, it has also become very important for the networking of artists.Facebook Book Page

Facebook is officially described as “a social utility that helps people communicate more efficiently with their friends, family and coworkers. The company develops technologies that facilitate the sharing of information through the social graph, the digital mapping of people’s real-world social connections” (Facebook). Artists began setting up their Facebook profiles soon after the 2007 requirement lift, which made it unnecessary for members to be affiliated with education institutions. The flow of artists onto the social media site was slow and it was not until late 2008 that more artists began to join because of Jerry Saltz, an influential art critic for New York Magazine (Butler 1). It was the first time that artists could see someone reputable within their community join the network and like with any peer-influenced decisions, a snowball affect ensued and other artists followed. Now with many artists on Facebook the way art is promoted, made, and bought has changed. The most useful tool on Facebook for artists is their ability to market themselves and to connect with other known and unknown artists. In many ways Facebook could be seen as a gallery within itself. Artists can promote their work thorough posting pictures in their photo albums, or by linking to their blogs through notes, or even creating an event for an actual gallery showing. The layout for Facebook is also intriguing in the art world. Artists now utilize Facebook applications like photo albums as places to display their work, the status bar as a way to headline an idea or upcoming even, the widgets to add flair to their page, and even using the news feed to see what other artists are doing. All of these tools can culminate in a creation of their own canvas, a constantly changing art piece that is updated frequently.  These widgets and applications provide the paint for these artists to personalize and transform their profile pages into a reflection of their own work.

One of the many ways that users can personalize their pages is through commercialized applications, and one significant application that can be seen as a connection back to early net art is My Garden. My Garden was created by Tim Saberi and Greg Thomson and has over 22,600 active users. The application description is: “Grow your own virtual garden! Send flowers to your friends for free, and let them send them to you as well. Put your virtual garden on your profile page for everyone to see” (Facebook). In many ways, this application is very similar on the surface to the idea of Goldberg’s Telegarden. While this application is completely commercial idea of being able to control a pure asset of reality, a garden, virtually is still there. My GardenWhile Goldberg’s work was a questioned for its validity, the application, and its users are fully aware of the virtual characteristics of  My Garden. According to Mitchell, Goldberg’s Telegarden created “a sense of accountability for one’s actions, and people keep returning because they want to see how their garden is growing and changing, and because they have personal stake in it” (Lunenfeld 126). Still today, nearly 14 years later, the Internet user is still controlling a virtual garden. The user still logs in every day because regardless of the lack of reality, they still feel accountable for their actions.

The parallels seen between My Garden and the Telegarden is an example of the changes that can occur when an idea from art is transferred to a more commercial use. The change is significant and affects how each piece is viewed. Goldberg created his piece in an attempt to get his viewers to question the state of reality. TheTelegarden Internet provides another dimension for people to interact and live on that is very different from the physical world. On the Internet, different realities and worlds can be tested and experienced. Goldberg used this ability to help lead his viewers through several art pieces that further questioned reality. Once this idea was transferred into a commodity, the goals and experiences behind the piece diminish greatly. My Garden can be seen as a purely entertainment commodity created to please the user rather than question them. The design is based off of ideas that condone a positive reception from the user and the upkeep is maintained to ensure continued use by them. The immersion of commodity with art often strips the work of its meaning and directs it towards full control of the user. If a commodity is not well received then it will not survive in the market. The merits of the commodity do not matter to the consumer. The merits could be nonexistent but if it is attractive to the consumer, the product will thrive. An example of this view can be seen in how  early video art influenced contemporary reality TV are often similar on the surface but completely far a part in intention.

In a New York Times articlepublished in 2001, Michael Rush discusses the connections and absolute disconnect between video art and reality tv. “The earliest days of video art in the mid- to late 60’s had a motley mix of video sculptures (Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell), feedback systems (Mr. Gillette, Ira Schneider, Peter Weibel, Valie Export), alternative television and documentaries (Jean-Luc Godard, Skip Blumberg) and conceptual performance tapes (Joan Jonas, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, John Baldessari)” (Rush 1). In 1969 Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider Wipe Cycle created a video art piece called “Wipe Cycle” for the Howard Wise Gallery in New York. The piece consisted of nine video monitors where four played pretaped material and five played live and delayed images of viewers of the gallery. The reactions from the viewer were shock and awe because they couldn’t believe that they were being taped live. Their aim for the piece was to “integrate the audience into the information” (Rush 2). Interestingly, reality shows in the 21st century in many ways integrate real, nonprofessional actors, into real life situations. The main difference though is that he people are not shocked an awed anymore but rather prepared and commercialized for their appearances on television. The concept behind the piece is lost and the commodity has made it entertainment. The parallels in how video art was immersed into television are the same parallels seen in net art and its immersion with freeware and Internet widgets.  

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~ by netart2web on 04/28/2009.

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