[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: <eyebeam><blast> The Museum of the Future

Thanks to Michael Rees and Stephen Linhart for their thoughts on the
Variable Media Initiative.

Stephen Linhart <Stephen123@aol.com> 04/06/98 08:56AM:

"I think it has now become clear that HTML documents are with us to
stay....Whatever future browsers do and look like, they will support
HTML also.  There are hundreds of millions, soon to be billions, of
public documents written in HTML all over the world (and billions more
private documents)....Hiring someone to produce an HTML browser on a new
piece of hardware would cost a few thousand dollars, and in practice it
would probably be free....So my solution is to produce work for the

Stephen has a good point in that the sheer number of html pages now
being produced encourages the likelihood that the information they
contain will still be accessible in the future. The question, I think,
is: accessible in what form?

If some form of html survives, it will be precisely because html itself
is already a variable medium, designed to communicate verbal and
quantitative information over a network. Different users can set their
browsers to different page sizes and background colors, default
typefaces and sizes, even whether to display images at all--while still
accessing the same ascii data. To me, however, this variability of html
makes it all the more likely that it will evolve into something else in
the future. I don't see any reason that the millions of
information-based Web pages now being produced around the world can't be
ported to some future network protocol, much as we now translate old
databases like dBASE into newer formats like Access.  The process of
conversion will not capture everything, but the average user will--and
should--push for that conversion because it will offer her new features. 

The problem, of course, is that the features that would likely be lost
in such a conversion would be exactly those features on which Web
artists currently depend. Most art projects now being made for the Web
rely not just on a specific collection of verbal or quantitative
information, but on a carefully controlled visual design or play on the
medium that enframes them. What will become of an artist's precisely
rendered 800 x 600 pixel bitmap if screen resolution jumps to 10,000,000
x 10,000,000? It will degenerate into either a tiny image in the middle
of an otherwise blank screen, or a big image with appallingly low
resolution. My point is, your work for the World Wide Web will survive
in its current form *only if* you have the imagination to conceive of it
as a variable medium in the first place.

Of course, as Stephen points out, there's nothing to prevent an artist
or curator in the year 2020 from running a Web project locally. They'll
just need to unearth a fossilized Pentium and copy of Netscape, or hire
a programmer to write an html emulator on a state-of-the-art desktop
computer. But those are local solutions. If direct distribution over a
global network wasn't important to your artwork, then was your art
really made for the Web in the first place?


a critical forum for artistic practice in the network
texts are the property of individual authors
to unsubscribe, send email to eyebeam@list.thing.net
with the following single line in the message body:
unsubscribe eyebeam-list
information and archive at http://www.eyebeam.org
Eyebeam Atelier/X Art Foundation http://www.blast.org