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<nettime> New Interfaces, New Softwares, New Networks (fwd)

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Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 14:55:03 +0100
Subject: Galloway/Rhizome: New Interfaces, New Softwares, New Networks (fwd)
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Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 14:57:18 +0100 (MET)
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[this article first appeared at RHIZOME. info about free subscription
available at]

From: alex galloway (
Subject: New Interfaces, New Softwares, New Networks

An artist isn't just an artist any more. These days, with new
technologies, it seems that an artist must also be a designer, and a
programmer, and a business person, and a publicist.

Nowhere is that more true than on one particular fringe of the
mini-genre of new interfaces, new softwares, new networks inhabited by
"art works" like Paul Garrin's project and I/O/D's Web
Stalker. In fact, much of this work is so unlike traditional works of
art that one might miss it on first glance.

Or maybe it's the *definition* of art that is morphing, and not art
itself. As we witness the internet change, expanding its complex digital
mass, we see that the web itself is a type of canvas--a base for myriad
artistic projects. It is a space in which the distinction between art
and not art becomes harder and harder to see, and a space which offers
itself up *as art*. First it was the objectification of the interface
(web site interfaces have already been sold to museums as art), now it
is the web itself.

The cluster of servers that make up the alternetwork--a web
within the web that uses a different, more flexible (not to mention
cheaper and non-monopolistic) addressing scheme--are a perfect example
of this type of "new networks" art (see or, if your
system already understands addresses, go directly to Control over naming is crucial for architect
Paul Garrin who considers it a type of poetic subversion to break out of
the com/edu/net address suffix scheme. In a nettime interview Garrin
writes: "one of the main concerns in my work has been the notion of the
public vs. the private. Territory. Security. Privacy"
( As a vast alternetwork is both an artistic and tactical success.

Is really *art* when its primary goals are political rather
than aesthetic? The answer is yes, but only because art and politics are
inseparable in this instance. is a strategic intervention
within the structure of the web. In fact Garrin calls an
"independent tactical network," with the goal of insuring that there
will always be "a home for free media and alternative voices and visions
on the ever changing internet." As a sculptor views her raw materials, views the web--an object that is constructable and mutable.

I/O/D's hacker politics have been implemented well in the Web Stalker
( As a new type of "browser" the Web Stalker
offers a completely different interface for moving through pages on the
web. The user opens a URL, then watches as the Stalker spits back the
HTML source for that URL. In a parallel window the Web Stalker
exhaustively maps each page linked from that URL, exponentially
enlarging the group of scanned pages and finally pushing an entire set
of interlinked pages to the user. The pages are never displayed as they
are in a conventional browser (Netscape/Explorer)--the closest
comparison might be Lynx, the text only browser--rather, they are
diagrammed or mapped in a deep, complex hypertextual relation.

The Web Stalker, then, takes the idea of the visual browser and turns it
on its head. Instead of showing the art on the web through interpreting
HTML and displaying in-line images, it shows the web *as* art through a
making-visible of its latent structure. As the authors write, "the Web
Stalker is the first internet application designed by artists. It is a
unique example of artists re-visualizing data-space at a deep level"

I am still trying to adjust to the Web Stalker. Outside of its artistic
appeal, it is not clear to me if the Web Stalker is simply a computer
science project or a real tool. It certainly would be a helpful tool if
one needed to gather all the source code for a particular site, like
say... the documenta X site! However, the Stalker doesn't ever give you
any information about a remote site that you can't already get with a
normal browser. So no extra hacking leverage here, just speed and

Another potential alternative to the conventional browser is
PerspectaView (download from hypertext on VRML
steroids. The user literally *flies* through information with this
interface. Although visually impressive, PerspectaView comes up short
with a limited number of PerspectaView "spaces" available to browse
(many of which seem to dead end in some sort of commercial venture) and
a clear disinterest in the interface as artistic object. For better
schooling in that category, check out work like Knut Mork's excellent
piece of language morph poetry, "Solve et Coagula" (

The artistic focus on new kinds of interfaces and new softwares will
strengthen and redefine its relation to politics. But does that
mean that the web itself is art, or that the web is political? Perhaps
what really is happening is that the tactical media, in this case and others, are, in certain contexts, being interpreted as
giant art projects, i.e. there is an aestheticization of politics going
on in netspace. (Woops! Didn't Benjamin in "Art in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction" call that particular phenomena "fascism"?!)

Add the Thing's Connector 2.0 interface ( and take away
the fascism. The new look at the Thing (New York) is an extensive
interface that focuses on allowing communication between users. It
requires a login, but Thing accounts are free and non-commercial
(despite their claims of using users's statistical data for "world

The Thing's Ricardo Dominguez thinks his interface [coded by Max
Kossatz] is an aesthetic experience pure and simple. This experience
combines both art and the idea of community--"in other words a PARTY
that could overturn the frame of art and life--into a politics of
everyday life," Ricardo noted in a recent email.

With a focus on connectivity between users, The Thing allows you to
*see* in real time all the other users who are online, identified
through their handles or simply as numbered guests. This is my favorite
section of the Thing interface. It reveals what normally is hidden.

And here's the RHIZOME scoop on what users have to look forward to in
the Thing Connector 3.0, the new interface to be rolled out for '98:
"3.0 will allow members access to areas that guest won't have such as
private chat, thread access to a meta-nettime yak scene, a 'temporary
network' discussion between Blast and nettime, an INFOWAR discussion
group, a FIKAFUTURA round table, a WestCoast scene line, a propaganda
scene..." Blah, blah. I'm still hooked on the Thing's paging function,
available now, where you can send messages instantly to any of the other
users online. Brilliant!

Alex Galloway
Associate Editor


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