preface: this little text started out very casually, then grew a bit larger
organically. i attempted to polish, but i'm not a great writer.  it now seems
to be uncomfortably sitting somewhere btw tossed off email and a serious
attempt at commentary.

Subject: when Google has achieved the net art masterpiece, what are the 
artists to do?

reading this story in the nytimes recently:

"Postcards From Planet Google"

from the article:
"AT Google's squat headquarters off Route 101, visitors sit in the 
lobby, transfixed by the words scrolling by on the wall behind the 
receptionist's desk: animación japonese Harry Potter pensées et poèmes 
associação brasileira de normas técnicas.

The projected display, called Live Query, shows updated samples of what 
people around the world are typing into Google's search engine. The 
terms scroll by in English, Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Japanese, 
Korean, French, Dutch, Italian - any of the 86 languages that Google 

Stare at Live Query long enough, and you feel that you are watching the 
collective consciousness of the world stream by. "

this article, like many tech-related articles i read, got me thinking 
about the two worlds in which many of us on this list exist: the worlds 
of art and technology. how they're different. how they're the same. how 
are their functions evolving?

in a world where a technology company can display 'the collective 
consciousness of the world'(1) as a backdrop to their reception desk, 
essentially a marketing ploy for their services; when they can collect 
this data, sit on it and ruminate on how to 'monetize' it; when it 
takes a fully capitalized, profit-driven corporation employing some of 
the brightest engineers around to achieve such fascinating data then 
what is left for the artist to do?

it used to be that it was the artist's job to capture the 'collective 
consciousness' either through intuition, genius, or dumb-luck. the 
artists were the ones who told humans what humans were thinking about, 
obsessing over, loving, hating. we no longer need intuition, genius or 
even dumb-luck. we've got hard data and more is coming in every 

thinking about google's Live Query™ (check out google's zeitgeist for a 
taste: (2)) i start to 
imagine what an artist might do with the information. especially if the 
artist could get the info in a realtime stream. but, then, i think 
about most of the data visualization projects i've seen (Carnivore 
clients as an example) and they don't do all that much for me. they are 
simply formal exercises which, though are interesting in their 
random-seeming behavior, don't have a visual richness to command my awe 
(a limitation of screens and projectors) and don't possess a depth 
conceptually to make me go, 'aaahh'.

what could an artist add to the Google™ Live Query™? How could one make 
it any more sublime than it is? the artist could add nothing. when the 
data-set ITSELF is so conceptually fascinating there is no more to do. 
any sort of visualization would simply be distraction. simply KNOWING 
that the data is flowing in and stored on some magnetic media somewhere 
is enough for me. it's fun to see it stream-in i suppose, but the 
knowledge of it's creation and archival is much more than fun; it's 

Google has achieved the net art masterpiece. there has not been 
anything created in net art that comes close to it and i don't foresee 
anything coming from the arts that could rival it. the arts are 
underfunded. the arts don't have access to the same resources. the 
technologists will always win in this game of art and tech. i feel that 
we've strayed to far into their world in some areas; we can't compete 
when it comes to the 'awe' factor. sure, we can 'comment', 'criticize', 
and 'tweak,' but it mostly comes out thin compared to our market 
cousins: the Googles, the Ids, the Pixars, the Rockstar Games. we 
simply don't have the tech that they play with and will always be 
behind in that area; we can't compete FORMALLY with the commercial 
side. though our projects my be much deeper conceptually, the form or 
aesthetic allows people to step into the work, if it doesn't stack up 
against the commercial counterpart, it's easy for the audience to 
ignore it.

To be precise, there are a few areas where artists are going to be 
hard-pressed to compete. Those areas are 3D gaming, 'virtual' worlds 
and 3D animation; and realtime data visualization and manipulation.

The worlds created in the Sims, Grand Theft Auto, Toy Story, Quake and 
etc are complex and exciting in ways which their artworld counterparts 
can't match up. They are larger, easier to navigate, more exciting to 
interact with, have more sophisticated visuals, are more entertaining, 
and are surprising in their level of freedom to interact (the audience 
has more options). And why shouldn't they be more interesting? They've 
got large teams of developers working on them, they can test the 
interaction in focus groups and have almost unlimited pools of capital 
to draw from. What individual artist could compete with that?

in realtime data collection and manipulation, IMO, the strength of the 
work comes from the intriguing data. the visual representations of this 
data should help us comprehend interesting data. if the data isn't 
interesting, neither is the piece no matter how interesting the visuals 
may be. Research firms, search engines, polling companies create 
interesting and therefor very valuable data to the market. There will 
always be a technological advantage fueled by capital to the market 
technologists as opposed to the artists. They have the capital to put 
together interesting data in ways that artists can't compete with.

One area where the artists and the industry can compete head-to-head is 
in *web art*(3), this is an area where artists are ahead of industry, 
IMO. Web *presentation* technologies (CSS, XHTML, DHTML Flash, 
Director, etc) are more readily available so this makes sense. It's an 
area where artists are able to achieve technological parity. It's also 
the area that is the most similar to traditional art practice; it lends 
itself to the individual creator working with limited means.

So what should  be done? More funding for the arts is one answer. 
Collectives of pooled technology and economic resources would be a 
great way to go. Korean immigrants in NYC join credit clubs where 
everyone pays into a central pool and they can then receive loans to 
start businesses. This model could work for artists working in 

it will be very hard to compete it some of these areas however. if 
there is no pay-off in the end, capitalists won't put money behind 
projects. public funding is almost non-existent, subject to it's own 
opaque rules, and wouldn't be enough to achieve technological parity in 
any case.

(1) i know, i know, it's not the entire world, but it seems to me that 
the sample is large enough that searches wouldn't change much if you 
added EVERYONE to the mix.

(2 ) Looking over the google zeitgeist makes one a bit sick by it's 
heavy tilt toward USAian pop cultural obsessions. They may be filtering 
the data for this page to suit western viewers. Or perhaps lots more 
USAians use Google.

(3) I make this distinction btw net art and web art: net art needs to 
use a network as an integral part of the medium. if one takes the 
network out of the piece, the piece ceases to function either literally 
or conceptually. web art simply uses the web for distribution (ie one 
can run it without a network connection and it works fine), is 
presented through a browser (most of the time), and/or uses web 
technologies (HTML, Flash etc).

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