b y   J a n e z   S t r e h o v e c,  P h. D.

Today, the traditional media, such as the print, film, radio and television, co-exist with the new interactive media (the Internet being the leading one), which are not only opening up possibilities of global information saving, real-time data transfer and of on-line communication, but also have numerous anthropological, aesthetical, cultural, social and political implications. These media are also a means of forming new cultural contents and means of establishing manners and approaches of how these contents are accepted, which has quite an impact on contemporary art, on life styles, fashion and design. Internet culture is an integral part of a wider concept of cyberculture, its essential concepts being interactivity, (total) immersion and participation as role and identity switching, dematerialization of the object and decentralization of the subject, however, it has also other specific features that will be dealt with in this research.

Its aim is to explore the specificity of the Internet medium in two fields, namely

a) Internet (web) art and

b) Internet textuality (in particular, the literarily coded one).

These two will also provide a starting point for research of wider cultural implications of the Internet medium (even in the field of new politics). These cultural implications namely often come along with net artists' hacking and cracking activities directed against data monopolies of power centers. It is particularly important to stress the specificity of the Internet medium, because the making of Internet contents is often accompanied by misunderstandings that are connected to the naive copying of data from the given reality into the Internet medium. This, namely, leads to simplified duplifications, which can be called "virtual mimesis". Similarly, the Internet is much too often being used as a striated and hiearchical space of static placements (for example in the form of web pages), and less as a smooth space for unpredictable "cross-overs" and the medium's very own activities.

My basic hypothesis concerning net art is that such artistic activity destabilizes the traditional concepts of artwork as stable entity (with "Kunstwerk" character), and directs to artistic liquid and performing processes, situations, events and "inscenarios". The traditional concepts of author, creativity, expression, form and originality are being abandoned and replaced by new concepts, among which collaborative authorship or even anonimous authorship occupies a very special place. Web art is a creative field, intertwined with other, non-artistic contents on the World Wide Web (links from artistically coded web pages often lead to them), which makes it differ from modern art that makes a clear distinction between artistic and non-artistic fields. As a result of this distinction modern art is being locked up into white cubes of galleries. After dealing with the specificity of web art will follow the analysis of its major effects in a broader area of cyberculture. Part of my research will be dedicated to the artistically formed virtual communities (MUD and MOO), to the question of techno-formed reception of data objects and also of political implication of the Internet-based artistic activities (especially in the form of the so called Internet civil disobedience)

My basic hypothesis regarding Internet textuality is that it presents a means of forming new ways of communication, based on altered text organization, its multimedia design and on the concept of word-image-body. Internet textuality is a medium that cannot be translated into printed form without significant loss of its specific features. The medium of its authentic articulation is a computer screen or screens of mobile Internet devices (mobile telephones, palms, pocket computers). Influences, crucial for this sort of textuality, are trendy visual and audio cultures (for example the placement of textuality in music videos), computer games (its special textual features), commercials, comics and graffiti; of vital importance, however, is also the changed perception of word-image-body. It is no longer a matter of words, printed or written on paper in such a way that they have a firm tie with their carrier, but it is a matter of word-object, a 3d-data unit in a computer screen, which can be (interactively) manipulated, touched from a distance and viewed from a deteritorialized perspective (a term coined by G. Deleuze). The verbal medium, also, has mutated within the framework of cyberculture and has been adjusted to the demands of digital morph and real-time communication. Internet textuality has also laid foundation for the Internet-based literarily coded objects and other types of web literary forms (for example hypertext fiction, web novels with collaborative authorship and literarily coded text-based virtual communities). Web literary objects (such as cyberpoetry by Komninos Zeros, visual web poetry by Loss Pequen Glazier and Mark Amerika's textscape "Grammatron") represent a new medium, which cannot be explained by means of "common-use" theoretical devices of classical literary theory. Invention of new concepts in various fields of new-media theories is therefore called for and this is also one of the objectives of this research.

Of crucial importance for my methodological approach is the application of methodology, developed within traditional American and British cultural studies, complemented by approaches and theoretical devices of general philosophical aesthetics and by the application of the phenomenological method (for example in the thematization of approach in the field of Internet textuality, which requires bracketting of traditional reading/perception forms of printed textuality).

I will also touch upon the results of trend research in the field of techno science (genetics, molecular biology and medicine, nanotechnology and theories of artificial life), because my field of research has also witnessed a significant shift to the "bio" paradigm. The Internet, too, will within this paradigm gradually cease to exist "on the outside" - on computer hardware and its software, and will start reaching under the user's skin, into the physical body. My analyses will be based on on-line documents of Internet culture and Internet textuality and on the most recent achievements of theories of the Internet and new-media cultures. I will also focus my attention on the theoretical conceptualization of a (trendy) individual as a user as well as a creator of the Internet culture. It is important to know that the user is no longer a passive receptor of information, transmitted by the big, traditional media, but is actively involved in data environments, immersing into them, assuming roles in their processes and adopting standpoints regarding their perspectives. The most of my attention will be devoted to the question of the techno-formed sensitivity within the Internet culture, for we have been witnessing new forms of "virtual sensitivity" (virtual viewing, hearing and touching and a virtual sense of telepresense and remote activities).



net art