[artinfo] Art on the Internet and the Digital Public Sphere, 1994 - 2003

Cornelia Sollfrank cornelia at artwarez.org
Thu Jun 28 23:36:17 CEST 2018

Art on the Internet and the Digital Public Sphere, 1994 - 2003
Author(s): Driscoll, Megan Philipa
Advisor(s): Kwon, Miwon	(2018)


This dissertation narrates the development of 
internet art, a diverse set of practices united 
by their interrogation of the technological, 
social, and/or political bases of computer 
networks. Covering the period from 1994, when 
internet art coalesced around the rise of the 
World Wide Web, to 2003, when both internet art 
and internet culture writ large began to respond 
to the rise of social media and web 2.0 
technologies, the dissertation homes in on 
specific net art projects that variously engaged 
or challenged this period's most persistent 
claim: that the internet is a new, digital public 
sphere. By studying how these artworks critiqued 
this claim, the dissertation uncovers three major 
models through which net art has asserted the 
publicness of computer networks-as an 
interpersonal network that connects or unites 
strangers into groups; as a virtual space akin to 
physical spaces of public gathering, discourse, 
and visibility; and as a unique platform for 
public speech, a new mass media potentially 
accessible to all.

Claims for the public status of computer networks 
rest on their ability to circulate information 
and facilitate discussion and debate. This 
definition of publicness is rooted in the concept 
of the classical public sphere as theorized by 
Jï¿1Ž2rgen Habermas. The dissertation thus 
reviews Habermas's model of the classical public 
sphere, and its most significant critiques, in 
order to interrogate the terms of a digital 
public sphere. The dissertation also engages 
Michael Warner's work on the formation of 
publics, counterpublics, and the mass-cultural 
public sphere; Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge's 
analysis of shared experience as the foundation 
of the formation of public spheres and the role 
of mass media in this process; Henri Lefebvre's 
articulation of the social production of space; 
and Gilles Deleuze and Alexander Galloway's 
respective analyses of the role of network logics 
in systems of control.

As a whole, the dissertation provides an 
historical account and critical analysis of 
internet art that encompasses not only its 
technological evolution but also its 
confrontation with the claims of publicness upon 
which our understanding of computer networks, and 
the art made on and about them, are founded.

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