Net Art 2.5 private beta

Apropos of my participation in the Net Aesthetics 2.0 panel with Rhizome this Friday, I typed out some words on why I think it’s a bad idea to version art periods. It’s just a couple paragraphs. Hopefully at the panel I’ll be able to flesh out my thoughts off-the-cuff.

Please don’t version art periods…

Oh, alright. I’ve resigned myself to using the term “Net Art 2.0” to refer to the current state of net art. But before I completely give in, I need to put up a bit of a fight.

The main problem with using a software versioning paradigm to distinguish art periods is the implied progression. When a developer delivers new versions of their software new features are added or enhanced, bugs are fixed, new problems are identified and addressed, formats are upgraded and interfaces are streamlined.

Some will say that the progression, though implied, isn’t what people mean when they use the term “Net Art 2.0.” But, when O’Reilly versioned the web with their Web 2.0 conference in 2004 (would there be a Net Art 2.0 without Web 2.0?) it was done specifically to denote that an improvement was happening in regards to business practices on the web. “The pretenders are given the bum’s rush, the real success stories show their strength, and there begins to be an understanding of what separates one from the other” (What is Web 2.0?). So when we describe the current state of net art as Net Art 2.0, the idea that it’s somehow an improvement to artistic or aesthetic practices on the net follows.

But, is so-called Net Art 2.0 a progressive upgrade? Does it add any new features? Does it solve problems that previous net artists ignored? Are there hidden regressions? Is it correct to even think of art history in terms of progression?

If we really want to give net art a number, just call it Net Art 2 — as in the sequel. Otherwise, M.River and I are going to launch Net Art 2.5 in a private beta, and you’ll need to email us for an invite.

(note, there's already a touch of discussion about this over on AFC)

Pall Thayer June 5 2008 15:40Reply

ps. shouldn't the version you plan to release be NetArt 2.0b5?

Pall Thayer June 5 2008 15:54Reply

one more ps. I agree that art shouldn't be "versioned" as software is but art follows contemporary culture and referring to something as "2.0" is a direct reference to the contemporary culture that this is a part of. So in that sense I'm fine with it. I think it carries with it the idea that netart today involves, as was mentioned in the AFC discussion, different concepts and ways of thinking. It's not qualitatively better, just different, in part because networks have changed the world so much since the time of earlier forms of netart. It doesn't really do either justice to lump them all together.


T.Whid June 5 2008 16:01Reply

Hey Pall,

Perhaps Net Art 2.5b or Net Art 2.5 RC1 :-)

I understand that there is a shift in techniques, forms, subject and content, I just don't like the label. And it does imply progression just as it's business practice counterpart (Web 2.0) does.

The metaphor is broken so I argue against it.

L. Cornell June 5 2008 16:07Reply

If you're referring to the upcoming panel, Tim, I see your point. We titled the original panel Net Aesthetics 2.0 in '06 with a fair bit of irony as the term was becoming a ubiquitous way to describe the web. This panel should have been 3 or 2.1, or something of the sort, but we kept it the same mainly to keep it simple – i.e. to focus the conversation on the art not the categorical heading. But, I have a feeling another panel like this might be warranted in the future, so a re-envisioning of the 2.0 'brand' would be welcome :) L

T.Whid June 5 2008 16:08Reply


Having said all that, I'm more or less resigned to it as well – mostly because I can't think of anything better :-)

It is just a quibble after all. I've officially lodged my complaint and am hoping it'll be noted.

Pall Thayer June 5 2008 16:11Reply

We could follow the trend of things like digg, reddit and twitter and call it nettart.


MTAA June 5 2008 16:14Reply


Hey Lauren,

I seem to remember that the first 2.0 panel was named with a bit of tongue in the cheek, but since then it seems to have been take seriously. I wasn't directly referring to the panel, just to the fact that it's common in net art circles to call the current state of net art "2.0."

I was thinking that we should be peg the net art version to the current version of the Flash player. That would make it Net Art 10.0 :-)

T.Whid June 5 2008 16:17Reply


We could always call it neen.

L. Cornell June 5 2008 16:41Reply

Neen is taken ;) But – 10.0 sounds nice. Critics have said art follows technological innovation - 10.0 would turn that assertion on its head.

Magdalena Sawon June 5 2008 16:56Reply

its good to bring it up but I am with Pall on this - its just a calling card for a different phase of net art - and it is different, and inevitably there will be the next phase - at certain point names go beyond semantic/source interpretation - look at postmasters - we are cursed with it for 20 something years now.

patrick lichty June 5 2008 17:44Reply

I hope you all take this in the ironic spirit in which it is intended.
Here it comes again:
The Alpha Revisionist Manifesto.

Have been writing a sequel for the past 2 years, but I almost feel like we're ready for a trilogy by now.
It's funny… staking out the turf with revisions is very nice, perhaps even Neen.

Sorry for my silence, after this Spring, I woke up and realized I had been on a barbecue grill for too, too long. Well done. I'm trying to take a bit of the Summer off…

But I love the versioning and revisioning not dying. It shows me that we're still groping for the future, or trying to stake out the presents, if we're to apply McLuhan's take that living in the present looks like speculating on the future to everyone else.

T.Whid June 5 2008 17:45Reply


Maybe post-net art is a good name :-)

Vijay Pattisapu June 5 2008 18:20Reply

Net Art and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Lee Wells June 5 2008 18:57Reply

NICE !!!!

Lee Wells June 5 2008 19:02Reply

I find it funny that folks on Rhizome are constantly trying to brand and re-brand artwork on the web yet discussion remains very distant in relation its place in and juxtaposition to contemporary art or even art history in general.

T.Whid June 5 2008 19:10Reply


Please elaborate – I'm not catching your meaning.

Steven Read June 6 2008 13:00Reply

I agree the 2-OH name has stuck and is past just being funny. However it was not 'artists' who coined "web 2.0" - yes Pall interesting that the art moniker itself is a web culture consumption. I doubt there will ever be another version number art period, at least not for a while. Nonsensical seems a likely direction, or utilitarian, as suggested with "neen" (names/domains not yet taken strategy which is soooo Web 1-OH haha). Hopefully at least something not obviously tied to web fashion/trends. I want a web art movement that has little to nothing to do with the web. I am ready for post 2.0. I want more, its never enough. As soon as it comes though I would likely defect back to 1 or 2 OH when my HDD or CPU isn't big enough.

No panel for me, no new yorkie yorkie. Maybe in the future these panels have some awesome cheesy web/video conferencing capabilities with big monitors all over the place. Patrick, will read your article once I snatch a little more time… BBQ grill? Kansas City style? Texas BBQ? Mmmmmmmmmm

T.Whid June 6 2008 13:56Reply


I'm with Vijay, we're in the Crystal Skull Period of net art.

Lauren Cornell June 6 2008 15:04Reply

Steve, it is being webcast. But off a laptop :)

Steven Read June 6 2008 18:48Reply

Niiiice, very cool, will be 'there'

Joe Edit June 7 2008 01:18Reply

is post-impressionism impressionism 2.0?
We could rewrite commonly held historical periods from a software angle.
That would be impressive, and easier to categorize on
making the history of art more machine friendly.

Vijay Pattisapu June 7 2008 16:26Reply

Is a me-too Wikipedia?

Joe Edit June 8 2008 03:37Reply

No, it's based upon Tim Berners Lee vision of a semantic web. Wikipedia displays knowledge in direct references, without having planned how that knowledge fits into the larger knowledge branches. There are links, but they are based on subject and are all bottom up, which is an optimistic approach.
Wikipedia is accumulative, whereas Freebase is distributed and designed around patterns defined by the community.
The "what" (using xml schemas to define properties) of knowledge is described before the data is added.
That ensure a global knowledge tree that follows abstracting up and accross.
see and example of an app that uses the freebase data and schemas for a interesting visual demo:
([ ]

Vijay Pattisapu June 8 2008 17:25Reply

Interesting. What would be a fun heuristic is using an LF or similar parser to automatically scrape Wikipedia articles and dump them into said categories @ Freebase. Or just use raw stats from latent semantic analysis, etc. It would be messy as fuck but fun to try. I toyed around with stuff like that at Microsoft, helping build MindNet:

(currently thinking about potential artistic projects therefrom…)

Domenico Quaranta June 9 2008 08:07Reply

Hi dears,

I looked for some Net Art 2.0 in Basel during the last weekend, but I didn't find any.
Indeed, I found out some Net Art 1.0 (01.ORG, UBERMORGEN.COM, Olia & Dragan, Shulgin, Cosic) - or, if you prefer, its commercial offspring - but it was far to gain the space it deserved.

And since I'm a guy who wants to learn something from everything, I learned 2 things in Basel:

1. That Net Art 2.0, even if more gallery-friendly, more eclectic and less medium-specific than Net Art 1.0, wasn't that able to jump on the big bus indeed.

2. That if we don't stop discussing about names, brands, specific features and so on, and if we don't start to step up the game in some way, our little, darling art movement will have on the art and culture at large less impact than its previous release.


> about Pall's manifesto: … not … dynamic… cannot function without an active network connection… may or may not be interactive… may or may not be accessible on-line… must appeal to at least one of the human senses… reflects contemporary culture… is not epic… is not science… is historically grounded… cannot function without electricity… automated… not virtual… not dependent upon The World Wide Web…

damn… isn't this a good definition for contemporary art?

> about the term Net Art 2.0: was a play with software and domain names, and was funny. net art was a purely technical definition, and was boring. Net Art 2.0 is a nice mix indeed. But it's not an upgrade. IMHO, Net Art 2.0 is to what Vista is to XP, or, if you prefer, what Mannerism is to Renaissance


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