Net Art 2.0--What an Honor

Some of the first generation Internet artists have knickers in twists about the term "Net Art 2.0" for online art in the era of blogging, YouTube, and social bookmarking.

"Art cannot be versioned!" cries one. "It doesn't really communicate anything except a suggestion that Net Art 2.0 is in some way an improvement over Net Art 1.0," wails another.

But... but... Historians do make value distinctions among movements. Monet's and Seurat's Impressionism benefited from increased understanding of optics and color theory, improving on the stale classicism of their peer William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Renaissance perspective leapfrogged over the crude schema learned in Gothic form books. Greek statuary grew more lifelike than Cycladic totems, and so on.

The first generation of Internet art consisted of a small inner circle furtively communicating on ListServs, doing online versions of Douglas Huebler style conceptualism, spouting Frankfurt School quotes at each other, and boasting about their programming skills. The current generation is trying to wrap its collective head around an ungovernable explosion of online content and doesn't have time to worry about grabbing history by the neck in the way of those earlier, frightened scolds.* The present movement is bigger, broader, more porous, and more generous. It uses "defaults" unashamedly, taking advantage of improved media platforms and increased bandwidth. With greater interconnection and connections to the world outside the art world, new hybrid forms are blossoming.

But... but... As far as naming this better, happier moment, "Net Art 2.0" can only be ironic. How often is a software upgrade a real advance over the prior version? Usually it's just minor tweaks because capitalism demands new models coming off the assembly line each fall.

Whereas the difference between first and second gen Net Art is more in the nature of a Kuhnian paradigm shift. More on this as we go.

*Eloquent descriptions have been made of the new work but until the present post they have lacked a movement-aware, defensive tone. The present post is the result of being put on a panel where mad dogs were expected to fight (we didn't) and a couple of horrible subsequent weeks trying to reason with the squawking on the Rhizome discussion boards. (Surf clubs called "teenage goth nerds," bloggers compared to George Bush because they aren't open source enough, etc. One member of the old guard offered this helpful suggestion--not an actual quote but how I translate it: "Net Art 2.0 makes me sound dated, but I like 'post-Net Art,' which you makes you sound late getting on the bus.")