Cyberspace is no longer a place we go to through our desktop or laptop screens, but an overlay on top of our physical reality. In fact, the most fertile ground for experimentation is where the real and the virtual blend together. As a card-carrying “futurist,” one of my favorite places to look for experiments that point to where things are headed is within the world of art. Artists tend to push on the questions that we’ll all be asking years later. And in the process, they often grapple with emerging technologies in unpredicted ways. With that in mind, here are four classics of Internet art:
The Telegarden (1995)
by Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana
A pioneering work of telerobotics, the Telegarden enabled Internet users to tend a real garden via a robot controlled through the Web browser. A dynamic community of gardeners emerged who planted seeds and watered the soil for the nine years that the system remained online.
Stock Market Skirt (1998)
by Nancy Patterson
According to old Wall Street lore, the lengths of womens’ hemlines is affected by the Dow. The better the market, the more leg shown. In this kinetic sculpture that makes data tangible, software scrapes stock prices from online quote pages and determines whether a hidden system of motor and pulleys should raise or lower the skirt.
by Eric Paulos
Ambient displays are devices that translate data into representations that can be understood at a glance. A provocative example of an ambient display, Limelight uses a Web connection and onboard sensors to scan for indicators of increased “local and global threat conditions” — online news of possible terrorist attacks, for example. The raw data is analyzed and summarized in a glowing color on the device. If it’s red, you should probably hide under your desk.