Mary Flanagan is an artist, scientist, and humanist who directs the Tiltfactor research laboratory at Dartmouth College. Her electronic literature and critical studies have been published as essays and as books, including re:SKIN (2007) and Critical Play (2009). She studies how games, social issues, and data intersect.
Digital art’s constant flow of information raises questions about “origin, authorship, immediacy, and community” (93). Artists are both interpreters and interventionists–just as the best planners are–in both “traditional” (e.g. gallery) and “native” (e.g. Net) spaces. Also evoking planning, Net art’s conceptual structure is the network and so we must observe the system’s operability in totality, and not the single user’s aesthetic experience.
Just as public space, per Lefebvre (1991), is a social construction, so is the Net a “political space of constructed relationships” (98). Therefore, per artist and roboticist Simon Penny (1995), we should not be so quick with the computer-is-the-key-to-utopia mantra. For one, access does not equal liberation. Second, public access, while democratic, isn’t mass. And third, networked art operates on colonialist assumptions regarding communication, in doing so, illustrating global, hegemonic power structures.
Still, “the Web is a public domain of sorts, a privatized public space for interaction–permeable, shareable” (97).