Museums and the Web 2005

Reports and analyses from around the world are presented at MW2005.

Participation, Flow, and the Redistribution of Authorship:
The Challenges of Collaborative Exchange and New Media
Curatorial Practice

Sara Diamond, Banff New Media Institute, Canada


Despite the continuing attachment of galleries and museums to the single author, several factors create apertures for the exhibition of collaboratively created and participant-driven new media in the gallery world. Curators working with living artists are engaged in an inherently collaborative practice - effective exhibition expects an engaged relationship with the artists, their method of working, as well as their final works. Artists themselves work closely with each other, scientists and audiences, blurring lines of creative control. This paper explores the challenges of collaborative exchange and new media curatorial practices.

Keywords: collaboration, new media, participation, authorship, redistribution


Despite the continuing attachment of galleries and museums to the single author, several factors create apertures for the exhibition of collaboratively created and participant-driven new media in the gallery world. New media art is no longer a specialization but instead a wide range of practices. As new media becomes ubiquitous, many media and visual artists are engaging with this art form, and the curators working with them are responding to this reality. For example, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's The Paradise Institute, commissioned by Wayne Baerwaldt, and then presented together with the Plug In ICA, Canada, at the Venice Biennale, won La Biennale di Venezia Special Award in 2001. The prize was bestowed for "involving the audience in a new cinematic experience where fiction and reality, technology and the body converge into multiple and shifting journeys through space and time." Paradise Institute "borrows from installation, video projection," as well as digital audio and video and by fusing "sculpture and performance, the artists effectively function as movie directors, screenwriters, composers, and radio play producers."  (, 2001, 2005)  One can also argue that curators working with living artists are engaged in an inherently collaborative practice - effective exhibition expects an engaged relationship with the artists, their method of working, as well as their final works.

This essay will discuss issues surrounding collaborative exchange - as they relate to artistic and cultural production, shifts in the understanding of authorship, as well as the cultural contexts of communities - and the consequences of these issues for curatorial practice. Some new media works emerge from highly collaborative practices, where isolating one individual artist-leader is not desirable and works against the grain of the work and its processes. More and more curators, as well as outreach departments at institutions, acknowledge the importance of direct engagement with the development process of art for sustaining audience interest and raising awareness of the discursive and contributory qualities of new media creation and distribution. Access to and active use of the Web is moving from marketing departments, to education departments and now, finally, to curators (Cook and Diamond, 2004).


Collaboration makes all roles in the creative and presentation process more discursive, demanding more openness, consciousness of process, and acceptance of less predictable results. These conclusions stem from numerous presentations and discussions at the Participate! Collaborate! Participatory Design Summit at The Banff Centre, Banff New Media Institute (BNMI), September 30th to October 3rd, 2004.  They are also reinforced by discussions on the Web site of the New Media Collaboration Studies Network, the Banff Centre administration research Web site.  Hence, the role of curators is constantly questioned - they are commissioner or producer, and arguably contributor; they shape the artwork during its production process, rather than creating context for completed works (Cook, 2005). Net artists directly challenged the role of the curator by arguing that the Net, combined with self-organization by artists, was a replacement for an obsolete intermediary role of the curator. Early net artists and their groups, such as Amex, Backstreet, Technologies to the People and , held listserve text debates, intervened into on-line environments where they disrupted commercial hierarchies and redirected search engines, or undertook software hacks. The environment that provided them with the material for their artistic practice also was the space in which this work was 'exhibited.'

In 1998, at the Curating and Conserving New Media conference held at the Banff New Media Institute, Vuk Cosic, Heath Bunting and others declared that net art was dead, in part because of curators' newly focused interest in this practice. On the other end of the spectrum, the fact that Barbara London, media arts curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, had herself begun to use the Web as a diary in planning her exhibitions, may have been equally provocative (Ditta, 1998). London documented her travels through China and her curatorial musings on these well before blogging became an acceptable practice for professionals. Over half a decade later, curator Sarah Cook routinely used blogs, instant messaging, and mobile communication to plan with a group of artists a highly collaborative show about re-enactment. Their dialogues are culled and published as part of the "re-enactment" of the exhibition itself, revealing the emergence of a coherent exhibition strategy that relies on debates and dialogues. The show will open at The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, UK, in 2005 (  Artists' works and interventions into the Internet remain consistent. Curatorial new media practice has continued the trend of the last two decades, during which curators have increasingly worked as non-hierarchical teams in the contemporary art world.

Collaboration also manifests itself in the numerous artist/engineer or artist/scientist dyads that produce work together, among them Jocelyn Robert and Émile Morin or Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen. In 2001, I commissioned Morin and Robert to create La Salle des Noeuds III, a video relay and early Global Positioning System (GPS) art work that was coupled with a second commission, n-Cha(n)t by David Rokeby (which eventually won the Golden Nica at Ars Electronica), for a show entitled Computer Voices/Speaking Machines.  This show is elaborated in the catalogue for Computer Voices/Speaking Machines, Walter Phillips Gallery and Banff Centre Press, 2001 and documentation remains on the site at (Diamond). The exhibition suggested that the voice is our fundamental means of communication. It proposed that voice is one of the most enduring human technologies, expressed through speech and music. The artists involved made use of video surveillance and relay technologies, GPS data and tracking, voice recognition and artificial intelligence. They transformed voice, speech, and song. La Salle des Noeuds III used electrical relays to transmit sounds and images from the Internet within an elegant sculpture of strings that play and move with these signals. In La Salle des Noeuds III, GPS weather patterns drive a player piano, and a real-time video relay is improvised between artists in Quebec and Banff.

In n-Cha(n)t, David Rokeby created a networked community of language-capable artificial agents that make their own associations as punsters, poets, and experts. The chorus of computers chants from the database and adapts to the input given by audience members speaking into the computers' microphones, gradually reconciling their multiple voices. In both works, the audience's voices drove the actions of the machines, which performed in a semi-autonomous way, suggesting the limits of human agency and the eerie and eloquent voices of computers. These works reconstituted concepts of voice, identity, and free speech at the same time as they addressed the threat of the loss of voice at the turn of the Millennium. The show worked well in a gallery context because it beckoned, intrigued without interaction, and then was raised to yet another level of meaning when audiences "completed" the works.

Creating with technology demands both deeper levels of specialization and greater levels of collaboration between people with creative and technical expertise. For example, the Bridges Consortium, a joint project of the USC Annenberg Center for Communication and the Banff New Media Institute, worked based on the belief that the great challenge of convergence is not technology, but communication between people (, 2001). Just as technology further enables global multi-cultures and economies, the challenges of communication become even more urgent. Differences in work and communication styles, priorities, educational principles, institutional frameworks, temperaments, and fundamental beliefs and values have the potential to become either obstacles or stimulants to effective collaboration. Bridges pinpointed collaboration itself as a skill to be identified, studied, and learned, and proposed practical strategies for including it as a vital component in education, creation, and research. Collaboration identifies best practices, amplifies networks and provides a means of communication for those engaged in the reality of research across disciplines, borders, and cultural contexts. While increased philosophical support for interdisciplinary practice is part of the rhetoric of businesses and universities, cross-disciplinary collaborators across the arts, social sciences, and sciences still struggle to achieve recognition for and understanding of their research and creative work together. Moving away from rhetoric into realization still requires much work on the part of the gallery and museum.

Blurring the Lines

What happens when project teams extend beyond the dyad? The contribution of scientists and engineers deeply influence the final artwork. Some works double as scientific research and artistic research. Attribution can defy grasp; roles stretch, and romanticism can enter the picture. What then, is the role of the technologist, engineer, or computer scientist within the collaborative team? New terminology is needed to acknowledge, when appropriate, the fundamental role that technologists play in their collaboration with artists. Scientists claim artistic identities and artists scientific ones. This is not necessarily a wise strategy at all times. Instead, acknowledging the role that each field of knowledge plays in creation may be wiser, more accurate, and ultimately more useful as a map of the creative process. These collaborations at times do shake hierarchies that consistently place science on top. At other times, they decorate science. The organization ASCI (Arts & Science Collaborations, Inc.) tries to provide a forum to talk about art and science (not just new media) collaborations and extract systems that work from positive examples (, 2005). The key point is that leadership shifts between the artist and the technologist. Artists are often afraid of admitting to this shift because they come from behind in their relatively low position of authority compared to the technologist. They fear invisibility.

In many of the collaboratively produced projects, the pieces are ultimately completed in collaboration with the audience. Medulla Intimata, video jewelry created by Tom Donaldson and Tina Gonsalves as part of their recent Clutch project, was shown at ISEA 2004 (Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts) and then at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London. Clutch is a co-production with The Banff Centre that emerged through matchmaking - joining the artist and the engineer in a creative team and even suggesting the object of research. Since that time, with ongoing financial and critical support from Banff and other funding agencies, they have created different iterations of the project and tested its presentation in public contexts. This piece relies on audience interaction with the wearer. The ICA placed the team in three different contexts in their club. The first was a casual bar night, the second a music night, and the third a film and video night during which the wearers (Donaldson and Gonsalves) worked the room. The jewelry switches layers of poignant and personal video images embedded in it based on the voice tone of the interacting audience and the wearer. This artwork is simultaneously performative and responsive, and the wearers are as vulnerable as their inter-actors (once they realize that they are affecting the video image of the jewelry). Their sense of presence or boredom, their alienation or attraction to their interlocutor, as well as the rhythm of the conversation, become visible – engagements with others intensify or fade quickly.

Within engineering practice, scientists often test the technologies that they create, either in their research team or in more formal usability tests. It is of interest that Donaldson, an engineer, uses the term engineer / artist in his credit, in part, because he is featured in the video imagery and becomes a performer of the work. How does the vulnerability of engineers or scientists in an experiment, rather than their assumed objectivity, shift the outcomes of scientific practice and the technologies that they are part of designing? How does the usability testing of wearing the necklace in a performance influence engineering design? How does it differ from usability tests conducted in an engineering context? Where can the concept of usability testing float in curatorial concepts? How does this dialogue fit into the discourse that the curator constructs around the artwork? What negotiations would an artist need to undertake to receive an engineering credit on such a project, were it submitted for scientific review?

Authorized Authors

Historically and traditionally, curators authorize objects, guaranteeing their authenticity, and placing them within a trajectory of cultural value. According to the US Department of Labor (2003),

Curators oversee collections in museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, nature centres, and historic sites. They acquire items through purchases, gifts, field exploration, inter-museum exchanges, or, in the case of some plants and animals, reproduction. Curators also plan and prepare exhibits… Their work involves describing and classifying… Increasingly, curators are expected to participate in grant writing and fundraising to support their projects… Some curators maintain the collection, others do research, and others perform administrative tasks… In small institutions, with only one or a few curators, one curator may be responsible for multiple tasks, from maintaining collections to directing the affairs of museums… Most curators use the Internet to make information available to other curators and the public.

Museums collect, and hence, contain both the aura of objects and individual humans' creative lives. Curators have the onerous task of providing back-up for the historical significance of their choices through the designation of historical movements and tendencies. Despite the incredibly fragmenting force of post-modernism, museums primarily continue to frame the artist as a unique and creative individual, somehow able to channel the future as well as the moment. Art history and exhibitions rely on descriptions and categories; the curator's job is also to analyze and create genre. While audiences are of vast importance to museums, the idea of their participation in actually making the artwork is antithetical to the traditional division of labor between producing artist and reading / receiving audience.

Yet curators inside the gallery and museum systems continue to work with new media artists who favour collaborative forms as well as audience participation in their own practice. The transient nature of the object, its tendencies to emphasize process over product, its dependencies - more than other art works - on the lateral, shared quality of authoring offer challenges to the role of museums to establish values. This brings instability to new media programs in museums, as seen by the unfortunate dissolution of the Walker's excellent new media program and the loss of other media arts exhibition venues (the National Gallery of Canada no longer has a dedicated media arts curator, for example.) However, significant museums such as the Guggenheim, the Museum of the Moving Image, the Whitney, the Barbican, ICA London, the Tate, all continue to experiment with the challenges of exhibition and collection posed by participatory new media.

Exhibitions also take place in numerous venues devoted to new media arts worldwide. In 2004, ITAU Cultural in Sao Paulo, Brazil, organized the third 'Emoção Art.ficial 0.3,' the Brazilian Media Art Biennial - a production, exhibition, and conference presentation of The Itau Lab (part of Itau Cultural), led by Marcos Cuzziol, Guilherme Kujawski and André Lemos. Unlike previous versions of the exhibition, the 2004 show layered new media and participatory design with socially engaged art and coding practice from Brazil and other contexts. Eight of the exhibition projects were commissioned new works from Brazil. The show was popular with a wide range of audiences and demanded and received hours of engagement.

Productive Exclusions

The idea that creativity, prescience, vision, and aura could reside with a group is still challenging to visual art. Design by committee, or central committee, seems to be feared by an art world that bases market value on individual achievement. Yet notions of the collective are fundamental to the post-war American understanding of the artist and avant-garde. The movements of the 1930s, such as surrealism, may have had leaders - André Breton to be specific, John Heartfield before him - but operated as cohesive collectives with shared aesthetics, methodologies, and projects. Artistic ventures into emerging technologies have had a collaborative immanence, from the Futurists to General Idea and the video collectives of the last century.

The 1990s saw a wave of change that shifted the role of the curator in the contemporary art context. Jobs in institutions were sewn up, and new graduates from art history and contemporary criticism programs had to survive on the periphery. An educated new breed of curators perhaps even preferred to work outside of the traditional institution, opening an alternate world of presentation in artists' centers, new galleries, and inventive public locations. When they at last went to work for the museum, they brought a critically engaged practice to the inside of the institution, investigating its assumptions. They also brought an interest in the periphery to the centre (Lunenfeld, 2000). This periphery would begin to include new media art by the second half of the 1990s.

In a sense, shifts in curatorial understanding set the stage for collaborative new media projects to enter the more traditional art world. Curators built themed exhibitions, drawing from and building on critical theory; the curator's text at times became as important as the artworks themselves, or the artists. Many curators saw and still see their interventions in exhibition space as a practice as creative and central as the artwork. This fits well with a collaborative approach to exhibition commissioning, design, and dialogue. Exhibitions were and are a discursive space. The boundaries of the artwork were blurring, softened by the dialogue that swirled around them. The artist, the critic, the curator, sat on each other's laps. Authorship had become a negotiated space. Reception theory in particular underscored the experience of the audience; but it was not the audience alone who was engaged in the active space of making meanings (or remaking them).

Not all museums were open to the invigorating demands that media art exerted on audiences and resources in the 1990s - particularly when it came to engaged and activist media art. It would be curators that would pull net art into the museum and Biennial context, into Documenta, the Venice and Sao Paulo Biennale, and the Whitney Biennial. In Naming a Practice: Two Steve Dietz, Victoria Vesna and I discuss the problem of authorization. Some saw the inclusion of net artists Vuk Cosic and Heath Bunting in Documenta X  as gratuitous (Diamond, Dietz, Vesna, Townsend, 2003; Thomas, 2002). The Internet and then the visual Internet - the Web -  had attracted artists from the get go, and projects / groups such as the Electronic Café International set the stage for exchanges between locations and groups of performers, writers, and visual artists.

The obstacle still represented by the museum itself provided an opportunity for artists to flow around the institution, constructing a practice independent of the traditional art world - one that relied on social and technological networks. See the Creative Commons at for a sense of how this plays out with copyright.  Not surprisingly, artists centers such as SAT (Society for Art and Technology) in Montreal, Back Street in London, Eyebeam Atelier in New York City, C3 in Budapest and InterAccess in Toronto, continue to serve as central reference points for event-based new media practice that demands ongoing participation (Pringuet, 2004). Increasingly critical is the necessity that informal and artists' contexts be links in a network of presentation that binds together the gallery, museum and alternate space.

Network - Metaphor of Flows

Artists' networks have existed since long before the Internet, but the Internet has amplified them both in terms of deployment and metaphor. Artists created alternative networks comparable to artist-run centres for both visual and media art in Canada (such as the Independent Film and Video Alliance) and in the UK (through the media workshops of the 1970s and 1980s, many of which then formed the backbone of Channel Four).  Networks play a crucial role in collaborative art works, either in the expression of the actual artwork or in its facilitation. Networks vacillate between the local and the a-geographic, and the latter cannot be contained by traditional boundaries of nation state, or even medium and hierarchy. Some network formations are stable although the cast of characters may shift. This has been the case with Rhizome and the nettime mailing list. On the part of curators and galleries, this fluctuation requires a collaborative approach to networks, which are collective crucibles for artistic production as well as databases of work and discourse; this is also outside the purview of many galleries. Finding a means of expression and description for network-based artwork remains an elusive task.

Networks infer flow, whether of information, goods, or knowledge. These flows can be disruptive as well as rational. Flows move around obstacles, creating new, unexpected representations and relationships. Networks are a fantastic and frustrating space where the signifier and signified illustrate their ability to float away from each other. Scale and proximity structure networked collaborations - with tiny sets of relationships affixing to others, like a coral reef made up of many crustaceans. Any kind of flow implies power and its movement through a system. Csikszentmihalyi proposes that there are sources of reception and of transmission (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993). In the case of peer-to-peer technologies, of course, the same points (i.e., servers) double as both sender and receiver. Peer-to-peer technologies make every computer a server, or source of original information over the network. This potentially eliminates centralized servers and allows for file sharing between individual computer owners, sharing that is difficult to trace. On principle, peer-to-peer is a model that brings back the original nimble capacities of the Internet. Peer-to-peer returns to the distributed nature of the original Internet and leans its structures contra hierarchical organization (centralized servers, with thin clients, relying on the center) (Oram, 2001). Mobile technologies and their increasingly ubiquitous use give texture to a layer of constant communicative exchange between individuals and groups.

Csikszentmihaly also describes flow as a state of deep creative expression. Flow infers smoothness, a never-ending well of pleasure, of pure source. In similar ways, artists' collectives have flowed around obstacles of funding and territoriality. Deep collaboration amongst individuals located at distinct points on a network can have an ecstatic feeling of collective and individual empowerment. The New Media Collaboration Studies Network site, is designed to enable discussants to describe the power of play, the sense of suspension of individual agenda within equitable collaborations (

Time is a key component in how relationships emerge within the network, with synchronous and asynchronous experiences providing very different feels, intimacies, forms of consciousness, yet piling up on top of each other in ways that allow social relationships and expressions to become a thick texture of condensed time. These different time zones have varying relationships to presence. Participatory works by artists are a means of pinning down this endless movement, of building identifications and communities. Victoria Vesna's NoTime screensaver project is an example of a participatory work that builds an aesthetic for investment of time and the search for information on the Internet – a work where the layers of parallel identities emerge only with multiple participants contributing a profile that then maps their ongoing interests and participation on the Web. The endless real-time redrawing of patterns and the relative autonomy of each agent is compulsively fascinating (Vesna, 2003).

Despite utopian thinking, networks are also exclusionary, with hierarchies of access. Networks do not distribute their contents evenly; nodes and sub-networks reference each other. There are many sub-networks buried inside the Internet that are password-protected, walled gardens or simply buried. Even in these, there may be the appearance of flow; but filters and levels may be oblique (Malina, 2002). The technologies and systems that artists invent for networks are often disruptive, resulting in different kinds of experiences and even inventions, far distanced from their original purpose and sometimes hacking through security barriers. Nortel Networks disrupted itself by its inability to predict the development of the technologies it developed, despite having a group called Disruptive Networks whose job was to think strategically into future uses.  Nokia has a similar group. Distribution, finding content and providing some sense of original context, as well its transformation over time, could be deemed the curatorial prerogative.

Participatory Artworks in a Participatory Context

Participants consistently transform media objects – contributing to projects in exhibition venues or on peer-to-peer sites or to Wikis.

Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit Web page content using any Web browser. Wiki supports hyperlinks and has a simple text syntax for creating new pages and crosslinks between internal pages on the fly. Wiki is unusual among group communication mechanisms in that it allows the organization of contributions to be edited in addition to the content itself. Like many simple concepts, open editing has some profound and subtle effects on Wiki usage. Allowing everyday users to create and edit any page in a Web site is exciting in that it encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by nontechnical users." (, 2005)

The role of the artist as originator is as subject to challenge as the role of curator is. Common wisdom holds that there is an explicit rejection of all middle positions on the part of the public. The conditions of exchange of file sharing create the perception that more value is being created and not that a theft of artists' intellectual property is occurring (Shirky, 2001). Open source and free software are now permanent features of computational life. The mobile revolution reinforces these trends, with its chatty context and rejection of push media, at least in North America and Europe. (Push media is a term used to describe content that is sent to technology users without their asking for it (pull is when you request content).  Most phone users are hostile towards the idea of content being pushed at them. For one thing, they would have to pay for it!

The notion that every computer on the network can give each participant the capacity to create and distribute content may fundamentally change ideas of a restricted, single creative source and authorship, even if users do not take advantage of this opportunity. The new media art world continues its romance with peer-to-peer technologies, blogging and game mods, seeing these shifts as embodying democracy, and seeing open source as both heroic and emblematic of an anti-authoritarian stance. Early works such as Open Source by Vivian Selbo prefaced this trend. The CODE Conference, at Queens College, Cambridge, UK, April 5-6, 2001, organized by the Arts Council of England, was a means of exploring the prevalence of open source in artists' practice. See also Jamie King's extensive writings for MUTE magazine and for Kingdom of Piracy (2002) ( ) for articulate debates about software knowledge as fundamental literacy. 

The open source movement was built on the history of the free software movement. See (, 2005), for a discussion of the philosophy and methodologies of the Free Software Foundation. The latter believed that software was a fundamental resource and should be freely available, not owned. The open source movement is a less radical version of this. It believes that collective minds are necessary in the development of tools and complex systems. Programmer / collaborators co-own the software they develop. Versions must be credited and, if commercialized, paid out down the line. Arts organizations such as the V2_Organisation Institute for the Unstable Media, Netherlands or the C3 Center for Culture & Communication, Budapest, Hungary, all hold to the open source credo, and most artists who develop software choose to open-source it. Simon Pope is among the very few who have pointed out that open source is a very masculine culture, where competition for the best code drives production and where collaboration is less present than might be imagined. Simon Pope gave a paper at the Bridges Two Summit at The Banff Centre where he pointed out the masculinist biases of open source. This position was hotly debated. Still, the culture of programming increasingly demands collaboration.

In the last fifteen years, new media artists have invented tools that facilitate collaboration – on-line, on a personal computer or a the gallery space. Artists  invent in order to critique existing technologies, to make a gadget to run their show, or to genuinely create at the source. Examples include Mary Flanagan with her games and self-analysis software, Technologies to the People, and many others. Artist tool-developers such as Sher Doruff's team at the Society for Old and New Media create software like Keystroke to enable artistic exchange; at times the software and its applications merge as reciprocal art works. In Pagan Poetry, by InsertSilence and Björk, the player redraws the already luscious animations of strange machines and bodies by stroking the screen while reveling in the music. InsertSilence are as proud of their code as they are of its visible content; this artistic practice has resonance in the world of software design. Some software architects have always considered themselves artists or writers.

Collaborative exchange also occurs within the curatorial context, as in the case of CRUMB (Curatorial Resource for Upstart Media Bliss), the curatorial forum created by Beryl Graham, together with Sarah Cook, which attracts over 500 curators on a regular basis (Graham, CRUMB, 2005). CRUMB supports and analyzes collaborative curatorial ventures, with an emphasis on the new media context. Both Graham and Cook note that one of the challenges for curators is the fact that the opening of a show is intended to be the point of revelation, the theatrical narrative pinnacle of their practice. Yet the very nature of collaborations often requires that concepts and plans be divulged throughout the process of making the work. This obviously is antithetical to the theatrics of opening night. Sarah Cook spoke about this at Participate! Collaborate! Participatory Design Summit at The Banff Centre, Banff New Media Institute (BNMI), this September. (Cook, 2004)

Opening night is now seldom the end of the artwork, nor is it the beginning. New media art works that are based on audience participation change throughout both the duration of their exhibition and the collaborative endeavours to create them - getting communities in place and thinking through presentation strategies starts well before the opening. Transformation can include form, content, scale, and even focus; for example, in the cases of George Legrady's Pockets Full of Memories, Sher Doruff's Wiretap 7.04, or Lynn Hershman's Synthia, all shown at the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival (DEAF) in 2003. On the most banal level, participatory works demand resources. At DEAF, intensive participation brought down the network when the multitude of external on-line participants continually crashed the streams that were so essential to many of the projects. This tenuousness of technology is a typical characteristic of many collaborative systems:   even market-ready software is often in a beta-test state. It can be difficult to judge the success of an artwork when the contingency of the technology and its characteristics are so liminal to the nature of the art experience.

Participation in collective production opens a different space for the audience, enabled by peer-to-peer technologies. Some artists invite the audience to remix originals and are eager to see their work mutate. Reception theory suggests that audiences perform their relationships both to technology in general and to the specific artwork. In installation work, some viewers assume the role of performer / actor themselves, while others are spectators, similar to the audience / player roles played in gaming arcades. Players anthropomorphize technologies - a quality that is exaggerated in public spaces. See an excellent discussion by Richard Lachman, Software Project Lead, on how we make technologies human in CodeZebra: The Making of Software Video, 2002. Excerpts of the discussion are at in the software section(CodeZebra 2004).

Cumulative or generative works engage not only individuals, but also entire communities, who can write themselves into a media existence through artworks on the Internet. In Subtract the Sky by Sharon Daniels, Mark Bartlett, and Raja Guhatkakurta, audiences create personal maps that function as diaries with scientific data from the Keck Observatory as well as other mapping materials, such as genome data or GIS (Global Information Systems) tracks. Each self-portrait is filed with many others, developing a collective portrait of the visitors to the piece. Different mapping tools reflect varying cultural contexts, such as Native Hawaiian traditions, and provide different views of space / time / history / community (, 2004). Another example of the engagement of local communities is Patrick Clancy's The Weather Machine, which uses weather patterns from various locales as a means of writing semi-automatic poetry based on local stories for visitors to his Web site. Visitors submit their own stories that are rewritten through the weather program.

Probing Performances

The ephemeral qualities of some participatory new media works bear similarities to video art or performance work, and make them difficult to collect and preserve. From its beginning, the Internet was characterized by performance activity. Participants could have alternate identities: they engaged in role-playing, first in MUDs and MOOS, then in IRC, avatar chat worlds and games, where first-person players build and control worlds. They interacted with computer agents or each other. Preoccupations in performance art resonate in Internet works. What is the body in space? What is the process of discovery? How can technologies be inverted? MUDs are Multiple User Dungeons (or Domains); text-based, on-line multi-user environments modeled after early Dungeons and Dragons computer games such as Zork Zero. MUDs are Multiple User Dungeons or Domains; MOOs are Object-Oriented - that is, a more sophisticated version of the text-based, on-line multi-user environment of the MUD, based on object-oriented programming. IRC is Internet Relay Chat. Avatar chat worlds are chat worlds in which participants can choose or create an avatar - a graphic representation and alter ego; the term originates from Hinduism and means 'descent’. Computer games distinguish between a first-person point of view, where players control and experience the game from their own perspective, and a third-person point of view, where players control a graphic representation of themselves within the environment.

Bruce Barber proposes performance as an engaged and committed task of acting on culture: "The task becomes restorative and critical." (Richards, Robertson, 1991) For a long time, telematic performances faced the challenge of getting the technology to work, raising the stakes for gallery hosts. If, miraculously, it did work, the simple recognition of human presence was all that could be mustered. In the mid-1960s, Allen Kaprow, the father of The Happenings, linked five sites in a television event appropriately entitled, Hello, Hello. In 1980, Roy Ascott, in Terminal Art, mailed portable terminals to artists in California, New York, and Wales in order to allow them to collectively generate ideas from their own studios or public spaces. Shanken states that this was Ascott's contribution to Robert Adrian's The World in 24 Hours, an electronic networking event at Ars Electronica in 1982. (Shanken, 2003, Ascott, 1984, Adrian, 1984, Grundmann, 1984). Hole in Space - created and produced by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz in 1980 - engaged larger publics and was a step forward for these practices. It connected malls in New York and Los Angeles over three evenings. Head-to-toe, life-sized television images of the people on opposite coasts appeared. They could see, hear, and speak with each other as if on the same sidewalk. The first event was followed by an evening of intentional word-of-mouth rendezvous, and then by a mass presence of families across the continent.

Content followed. In Canada, the Western Front organized fax events. Artists all over the world contributed a part of a drawing, or a bit of a story, creating an exquisite corpse. Pirate Radio forums began at the Western Front in the mid 1980s, led by Hank Bull and Eric Metcalfe, later dovetailing into Internet Radio. In 1988, The Nowhere Men with Sylvia Scott et al. created Speaking Pieces by using videophone technology and telephony to accumulate contributions from international artists. The World Tea Party celebrated the rituals of tea with tea ceremonies and tea drinking, linking Tea Parties in remote locations. Collective forms of performance flourished in relation to technology, despite the tendency towards individual creative acts in live events. Canadian poet laureate b.p. nichol was part of the Toronto Research Group that created events exploring The Language of the Performance of Language. General Idea held the Miss General Idea Pageant to explore the impossible future.

Another stage of on-line activity could be described as "Mirror, Mirror" -- matching a signal from one place with the bit rate of another, thus enabling dancers to contact improvise together, and musicians to play in synch. Artists hoped they could defy both the speed of light and packet rates. In 1977, NASA developed the Satellite Arts Project: A Space with No Geographical Boundaries. Mitsuko Mitsueda danced at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, and Keija Kimura and Soto Hoffman responded in Menlo Park, California. Their electronically composited, satellite image appeared on monitors at each location.

Initiated by Galloway and Rabinovitz, Electronic Café International (ECI) began as an artists' network during the 1984 L.A Olympics. It continues to this day, with thirty affiliated international franchises. ECI uses the performing arts, creating 'contexts' to support the emergence of new forms and content. Technologies such as analog telephone lines, digital ISDN lines, video and Internet networking are combined to link performers who act simultaneously in various locations around the world. ECI is an example of collaborative curatorial practice and an alternate venue that stepped in when there were no institutions able to facilitate new media performance.

ECI networked diverse cultural groups who were otherwise unwilling to communicate.

In designing such spaces, we look not only at their qualities and aesthetics, but how people communicate when they are disembodied and their image is their 'ambassador'... The absence of the threat of physical harm makes people braver. Virtual space diminishes our fears of interaction (Galloway and Rabinovitch, 1993).

Ulysses Jenkins, an African-American musician and performance artist, created poetry and music conversations between communities in Oakland and Los Angeles. White women poets from Beverly Hills and black, male spoken-word artists became on-line artistic collaborators and then, finally face-to-face colleagues. Jenkins came to The Banff Centre as part of the Nomad project (1993-4), which included a series of early Internet exchanges and on-line events using text and video phones.

Internet performances can provide culturally challenging contexts because of their short-term nature. Since 1990, Orlan, a French artist, has undertaken a series of cosmetic operations to become a hybrid of Venus, Diana, Europa, Psyche and Mona Lisa. In a 1993 on-line co-production, the Centre George Pompidou in Paris, the McLuhan Program in Toronto, and The Banff Centre featured the operating theatre in New York, tied to other locations. Audiences debated the nature of femininity, narcissism and masochism, considered identity alteration, argued literary theory and feminism, and viewed the performance. This process of gathering artists, theorists and audiences in diverse locations, with activity occurring on-line and in situ, is a consistent form of Internet art, located somewhere between a forum, a curated art work and a publication. Another example of this type of event  is LiveForm by Michelle Teran and Jeff Mann, who created a telekinetic dinner table. The piece included live video streams, a tele-robotic talking fish, mass gourmet cooking, media mixing on the spot with Keystroke software, wine-pouring machines, a magic show and telematic toasts across the ocean.

The demanding relationship between audience and mediating technology has carried over into Internet performances. Coco Fusco and Ricardo Dominguez have collaborated on several performances, among them Life Under Surveillance / Dolores from 10am to 22h -- based on the story of a woman worker in the free trade zones accused of troublemaking at her job. The project was developed with Kiasma, Helsinki's Museum of Contemporary Art. It was also simultaneously broadcast at the Art in Motion Festival in Los Angeles, the Galerie Kapelika in Ljubjlana and iNIVA in London. It was re-played at Artspace in Sydney during the Sydney Festival in Feburary, 2002.. Dolores' boss locked her in an office without food or water or a phone and tried to force her to sign a letter of resignation. When she refused and sued the company, her boss and fellow workers insisted in front of the judge that the events had not occurred. The intention of the performance was to use surveillance technology over a twelve-hour period in order to show a re-enactment of this coercive situation, recreated as a docudrama, and to allow Internet audiences to determine Dolores' fate:

There will be three surveillance cameras recording me and the performance can be seen as a direct Internet broadcast. None of my bodily needs will be attended to, in other words, I will not be able to leave to use the bathroom, wash, eat or drink. None of my emotional or social needs will be met either - my calls to the guard will be unanswered and I will be unable to use a telephone to notify anyone of my situation… We are trying to develop a critique of Survivor and people's obsession with it. Half the world thinks invading people's privacy on-line is great and erotic, while the other half is trying to get cameras away from them, out of their lives, their neighbourhoods, schools and prison cells. I don't think most privileged hypermedia-oriented people have any idea of the social and political implications of the normalisation of surveillance, of accepting the right of others to stalk you, to invade your space, to keep track of your habits, note your faults, etc. (Vanhatalo, 2003)

Fusco notes that audience members, mostly male, were not empathetic to the victim, but rather escalated her abuse. They instructed the male performer to hurt and humiliate the victim in explicit detail. This project underscores the power of Internet performance and the capacities for museums such as Kiasma to play a role both in the presentation of controversial issues and the mediation of the results through publications, symposia, and dialogue. Kiasma created a public forum to discuss the performances as well as the publication of the debates; Juha-Pekka Vanhatalo interviewed the artists. Galleries and museums are often better equipped to fulfill this function than festivals with their smaller resources and episodic nature. Perhaps Kiasma was comfortable with leading this project because Finland has a strong history of intensive and rigorous critical debate about controversial issues, as well as a leading role in the creation of on-line virtual worlds, Internet drama, mobile experience design and controversial and rich cultural content on its public television.  They had the resources to create a multi-point broadcast. The performance was documented and then recreated as a video work. An example of artists whose work reinforces these tendencies is Blast Theory (; also see Matt Locke's interactive dramaturgy work that is discussed on, Issue 4, Touch.

Collaborative Community Practice and Cultural Contexts

Reliance on collaboration is often particularly pronounced in communities that are marginalized and/or have a long tradition of cultural heritage. Collaborative artistic work emerging from these communities raises valid questions regarding both the role of technology and the understanding of specific cultural contexts. Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew is a Cree Metis - his ancestry represents the racial mixing of French and Cree peoples.  With Lynn Acosse, he took early aesthetic strides forward in creating Aboriginal new media works that made use of the capacities of the technology of the time (1996-97) - graphics, text and audio - as an envelope for a form of story cycle. The piece Speaking the Language of Spiders engaged fourteen Aboriginal artists, writers, and composers in the development of a time cycle that stretches from the beginning of time to infinity and then back to the beginning. Isi-pîkiskwêwin-ayapihkêsîsak concentrated on the experiences of people who have been consigned to the fringes of urban street life and their sources of joy, grief and intense humanity. It is a story cycle that occurs in the round, with artists contributing elements such as song, image, poetry in the circle of creation, destruction and regeneration; as they leave the streets and become survivors, so goes the larger history of Aboriginal cultures. The work took the efforts of The Banff Centre, Dunlop Gallery Canadian Native Arts Foundation and the University of Regina, Film and Video Department, Canada Council, with presentation by curator Anthony Kiendl at the Dunlop Art Gallery. This project was developed through the collaborative influence and the creative participation of the following artists: Lynn Acoose, Cheryl L Hirondelle, Joseph Naytowhow, Greg Daniels, Elvina Piapot, Sheila Urbanoski, Sylvain Carette, Mark Schmidt, Russell Wallace and Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew. Richard Agecoutay and Anthony Deiter also made important contributions.

The powerful work speaks of the life cycle and different ways of living through experiences - immersed, contemplative, suffering, and filled with hope. It is a beautiful, multi-layered yet simple interactive experience that sustains its power many years later as the viewer navigates through layers of images, stories, poems and song.

"Aboriginal Collaborations" by Christine Morris an Adjunct Research Fellow for the Australian Key Centre for Culture and Media Policy explores these questions.  She is a member of the Kombumerri and Munaljahlai clans of South East Queensland, Australia. She has also participated as an expert panelist on issues relating to indigenous media and genetic engineering for the Convention on Biodiversity. Christine Morris stresses the relationship of new media experience, respect for elders and the land or, as she calls it, The Law. She suggests that we must

fully comprehend that technology is subordinate to the culture and especially the Law. If you do not see the power of the culture you will never understand the place of technology  (Morris, 2002).

 On the one hand, access to information deriving from a traditional culture requires that participants earn the right to the information through their behaviours within a larger physical community. On the other hand, it is imperative that Aboriginal people represent themselves with the new tools, as Morris puts it,

In one of the most remote regions of the Australian continent and the world, Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara [PY]. Media faces the day-to-day challenge of using the latest tools and techniques of communication to preserve and enhance the culture of the people of the Pitjantjatjara Lands so that that culture may endure and continue to grow as a vital part of the global community (Morris, 2002).

David Vadiveloo, a convergent media artist, works in Alice Springs, Australia, with Aboriginal youth who design tangible objects such as bicycles as well as interactive graphics and video environments that afford dialogue and play-acting. The emerging works consist of powerful hybrid images that hover between the spaces and historical time zones of Australia.

Collective cultural identity is built on the basis of a shared archive which requires the development of databases that incorporate our histories as well as tools that allow for navigation. Databases are deep repositories or encyclopaedias of knowledge written on silicon. How do navigators evaluate the quality of content and make decisions? In response to this problem and to their own observations, numerous artists have created local data navigation tools and search engines dedicated to picking out cultural references. The UK-based artist collective Mongrel, for example, created a search engine tool titled Natural Selection that was aimed at eliminating all documents on the Internet promoting racism, nationalism, and eugenics (by creating 'mongrelized' pages of these documents that would make the information look unreliable and obliterate the credibility of the originals). Search engines are hierarchical, structured through an economy of use and positioning, with contingent meanings and identities drawn through associations. The database is leveled, without an inherent hierarchy of story; yet it is, in actuality, never neutral. Users engage in a process of authoring by selecting from given sources; the story is re-authored again through each searching and threading of the database; the narrative is collective by its very nature (Manovitch, 2001). Mongrel's authoring solution for creating a collectively assembled database is the 'social software' Nine(9) - a continuation of their project Linker. Nine(9) is an open-source software structure that allows individuals and communities to 'map' their experiences and 'social geographies' in collective knowledge maps. The system allows for the easy structuring and assembly of a database by communities of interest through the linking of images, text, and sound.

An extension of this type of work was the ambitious Container Project, now in its fourth year, led by Mongrel member Mervin Jarman and Camille Turner. Mervin and his team ship a basic computer learning/creation facility into a community, train a local group and community, and either leave the technology there or find a local source of supplying it. The learning, creation, and presentation situations are structured as community experiences; groups gather to work and experience the results. They finance their ongoing work by training future users in the technology, the design systems, and basic programming. These services are paid for by government agencies and local councils. Mongrel has developed a method for community engagement that shares models of pedagogy, infrastructure creation, intervention and curatorial practice. While they construct the larger context, the local community develops micro practices as a result, hopefully with enough skills to continue once Mongrel leaves.

This combined modality is visible in other projects in the 'majority' world or within marginalized cultures in the West. The use of digital networking technologies for community development has become a major force in art activism. Hermani Diamanti - a Brazilian artist, activist, academic and forceful blogger - sees the blogging world as a recombinatory space where knowledge is exchanged and where the fundamental hybridity of Brazilian culture melds with techno theory from all over the world. He describes the current cultural moment as a 'linkania', a good name for a new state, but this one a globalized, lateral state of constant discursive transition and emerging relationships capable of moving from the virtual to the physical and local. He and colleagues have created collaborations with groups in the favellas, finding discarded digital technology, redesigning and painting it, and building collaborative centers. The communities involved are abandoned by all authorities and use technology for educational, cultural, and economic purposes as well as self-organization. (See for Linkania discussions and blogs.)

Another successful model for the integration of new media and collaborative community practice is the work of Carlota Brito, an architect and artist of Aboriginal descent from Belém (Pará), Brazil. Brito also has a background in anthropology and works at the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi. She created a remarkable CD-ROM about the Ticuna Indians (Magüta Arü Inü). It was made with the indigenous group, while carefully guarding access to their sacred information, and clearly communicated the process and duration of ritual. A beautiful, accessible and ornate design work, the CD will be used in the museum and within the community as a learning tool. Brito is also the technical coordinator of a CD-ROM about the scientific research of the Goeldi Museum, Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi: An Amazonian Museum, and is involved in an artistic project that uses Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) and investigates indigenous codices and symbols based on the collection of indigenous art at the museum. There are several differences between this project and many museum products:- Brito's intensive self-integration into the communities that are part of the CD-Rom, the community's sense of control over the final representation of their culture, and the subsequent aesthetic eloquence that results.

The following examples suggest a framework of distributed curatorial practice in which the artist is also the curator and, to some extent, the technology developer. In the last decade, the Banff Centre developed Radio 90 - led by artist /activists Heath Bunting, Yvonne Faught, Susan Kennard and Cindy Schatkoski. At first, Radio 90 concentrated on issues of workplace organization as well as the development of an alternate music culture. For the streaming media festival Net Congestion in Amsterdam, Radio 90 commissioned pieces from all over the world, including Croatia, Latvia, and other sources in the former Eastern Europe. The Radio 90 team also provided training in Internet radio, helping to create a station in Morley, a reserve between Banff and Calgary; they collaborated with Shane Breaker from Siksika First Nations to create a Blackfoot channel; they worked with the Aboriginal Arts Programs at the Banff Centre to create Sleeping Buffalo, a Banff indigenous station. Radio 90 provides community news and entertainment and, thanks to the Internet, can program for more hours each day, allowing a connection with Aboriginal stations around the world. In order to better share programs, the team created a piece of technology that is a scheduling program entitled the World Service Scheduler. This technology allows stations in any location to place their two hour program on-line in a given time slot and/or to fill their calendar with the programs of other international Internet radio stations who are a part of the service.

Radio 90 also concentrates on work in areas where there is little or no radio access. In 2001, the group, with its Aboriginal companions, attended an event organized by eLab (rixc) in the forest of Latvia at a former Soviet Space station. (See  for project details.) For the space transmitter they created audio pieces that addressed issues of globalization on earth, and they trained former Soviet army personnel, abandoned in these remote forests of Latvia, in basic computer communications and net radio so that they could renew their link to their families and the world.

For Aboriginal groups in Canada, wireless, and Internet technologies have been the key way to communicate their issues in confrontational contexts. Internet Radio has helped to create a virtual sense of community. The movements enabled by these technologies are part of a fabric of local interventions and at times, technology development becomes a necessary companion to content and context creation. While radio stations have programmers, not curators, their role again often spans pedagogy, outreach, creating their own programs and organizing others to create their own work.  These structures are very similar to the artist/curatorial formations of the 1980s and 1990s that provided an  exhibition and production forum for media art. As well, many artists double as curators, initiating projects and then expanding these to include other artists. As is evidenced in the radio examples and in the work described below, a key aspect of Aboriginal curatorial and programming work has been the decision to redefine the site of curatorial practice either outside of the gallery and within the community or poised between gallery and community.  Cheryl l'Hirondelle describes interactive works as an extended form of story telling, as a transactional process for Aboriginal people,

As Aboriginal people, we need to remember that our stories convey vital cultural and ceremonial information; they remind us about the laws of nature, how communities must work together, and that we are keepers of the land, songs, dances, narratives, and everything they inspire. It is our role and responsibility as artists to use, develop, and share this information appropriately, for the survival of all.  (L'Hirondelle, 2004)

In a performance entitled cistêmaw iyîniw ohci, Savage , bringing the wild back to the west, at Makwa Sahgaiehcan Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan Cheryl L'Hirondelle re-enacted the history of Cistemaw inyiniw, a runner who brought stories and news across the reserve, running from home to home. (See for project documentation and for links to other projects.) Women on the reserve created a moccasin telegraph where they signaled that L'Hirondelle was about to arrive; elders retold the story; and artists Louise Halfe, Cheli Nighttraveller and Joseph Noytowhow, who l'Hirondelle curated into the project, interacted with the community. Through soliciting the community, these artists arranged for the water syllabic to be placed on homes, indicating to L'Hironelle, who was running around the twenty-five km reserve, that these homes would welcome her for water and food. The other artists provided a means of community engagement through photo essays, story circles, and radio streaming. In a more recent collaboration with Candice Hopkins, L'Hirondelle worked with Morley reserve youth to create videotapes and radio documentaries as well as hip hop performances about their lives. This work is part of the ongoing legacy of Internet Radio at Morley. L'Hirondelle was extending an analogy between rez radio (reservation radio) and piracy.  New technologies always pose the threat of cultural leakage and loss at the same time as they signal potential empowerment. She says:

For Indigenous people around the world, this task is not as simple as it sounds, especially when it comes to embracing new media forms as a means of outreach. One limiting factor relates to concerns about intellectual property and cultural appropriation. Many Aboriginal communities are extremely sensitive and cautious about sharing cultural information too widely, thanks to a long history of intellectual and government infiltrations and abuses. Yet it is my belief that, as Aboriginal people, we should be investigating contemporary open source philosophies and methodologies as an alternative to both time-honoured cultural protocols and binding corporate and governmental laws around intellectual property and copyright. I say this because I think that our abilities to share and adapt are essential to our continued survival. (L'Hirondelle, 2004)

A related direct challenge for Aboriginal artists and writers who wish to work with digital tools to express participatory culture - as well as for the curators working with them - is the issue of native languages, which need to be kept alive in order to keep the culture alive. Aboriginal practitioners such as Cheryl L'Hirondelle, Candice Hopkins, and Luanne Neal underscore the ways in which language shapes the telling of the story, its mode of expression, as well as its content (Graham, L'Hirondelle, Hopkins, 2004). These pieces elucidate the role of community engagement and debate in creating new media works, as well as the function of traditions of collaborative storytelling (Hopkins, 2004). In order to tell Aboriginal stories in contemporary cultural forms, a project needs to remain embedded in its language of origin with all its richness, nuance and modality (Hopkins, 2004). It is language that structures an overarching notion of group identity and ego, rather than the notion of the individual. Cree, for example, is an Aboriginal language spoken across the West of Canada and has sixty words for love and sixty words for suffering. Cree, Inuktitut, and other languages use visual syllabic forms of expression  which offer an exciting connection to visual graphic languages.

The CREE ++ project -- conceived at the 'Skinning Our Tools: Designing for Culture and Context' summit at the Banff New Media Institute (BNMI) - links Aboriginal artists and linguists, as well as computer scientists and designers from various cultures who are interested in rebuilding tools from the linguistic concepts of extant Aboriginal and other minority languages. After L'Hirondelle, Hopkins, and I worked in Dakar during the summer of 2004, the project expanded to include non-Canadian Aboriginal languages, such as Wolof from French Africa. Wolof is the trading language that bridges across French Africa and is rooted in the original languages of Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, and other West African nations. The BNMI, Dak'Art Lab, Aboriginal Arts at the Banff Centre and the University of California at Irvine are currently developing strategies and alliances to launch this research program. Rather than individuating consumer culture, these artistic practices and collective societies are pressing to have technology  redesigned for collaboration. Important questions will emerge with this work. Can these culturally specific new media linguistic pieces find a mode of communication to a broader community?  What is their appropriate mode of presentation? These are issues that interest the artists and curators from within these communities as well as those on the outside looking in.

In Summary: Collaboration and Agency

Agency is the fundamental construct of collaboration, of building a sense of participation. Collaboration and collective action - whether they entail writing, speaking, remixing, moving, or interacting - are inherently performative. We construct our identities through roles and transactions, and new technologies implicate us into a network of pre-existing structures while allowing us to invent new cultures and  identities, and remap the network itself. How can the nuances of these transactions cross cultural space and barriers? This particular moment in time offers a challenging terrain for collective creation - a creation that recognizes complexity, self-organization, and unpredictability.

At the very basis of this collective creativity lies the ability to freely access and share and thus build upon software and technological tools. In June of 2004, The Banff New Media Institute co-created a new media laboratory (running on the Linux platform) with the Dak'Art Biennale. At a meeting about creating ongoing new media research, young computer programmers spoke about their skills as hackers and open source programmers. The lack of resources - cars are belted together with old parts, engines re-fabricated, music is melded from the old and the new - combined with the need for cultural commitment to improvisation had already created a positive attitude about engineering from machine language up if necessary. All software was pirated, downloaded thanks to Hotwire, and shared amongst colleagues. Skipping continents, a different kind of open source friendliness has been formalized in Brazil by Lula, its president, who has made Linux the new official language of Brazil, requiring that all government departments run on open source software. This was a conscious move to undermine American multinational control over information in Brazil,  to encourage the use of computer technology and media into all classes of Brazilian society, and to make Brazil economically competitive.

According to presidential Chief of Staff Minister José Dirceu, it is the fruit of a collective effort that began in the Electronic Government Executive Committee to disseminate the culture of free software, the universalization of information, and digital inclusion in the country. Software is one of the priority areas of the industrial policy announced by President Lula. According to information from the Secretariat of Logistics and Information Technology, in the Ministry of Planning, Brazil as a whole, between the government and the private sector, spends around US$ 1.1 billion annually on licenses for the use of proprietary software (Cardosa, 2004).

 Linux is still based on traditional computer science, but the support of collaborative, open-source technological invention is a first step in trying to build technologies and cultural expression from the ground up. Alliances of programmers, curators and their institutions, and cultural producers can lay the groundwork for creating technologies and the related collaborative artistic experiences across continental divides.

While the historically privileged position of the curator may have become unsettled, it still continues to remain relevant. This relevance is clearly apparent in two contexts - the role of the curator as context creator and as broker within the gallery and museum system. There remain many barriers to the exhibition of collaboratively authored or participatory new media works within the gallery context. Artists and curators continue to reach towards festivals, the Web itself, mobile consortia, and alternative venues in order to circumvent these obstacles. The gallery space in its traditional form may not be the best location for some kinds of new media work, but galleries and museums can and should have roles to play in the context of participatory culture. This applies to both physical installations that deploy new media and Internet art. Museums remain very anxious about their capacity to support new media works:  coping requires brokerage and  trained staff, as well as ongoing resources. Curators need to be familiar with the technology and network needs of the pieces they want to exhibit. They are crucial links in the network, creating circuits and enabling flow. When galleries and museums embrace the Web as a meaningful space, they can support deeply creative works and large-scale participation. The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, with Steve Dietz at the helm, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, with Christiane Paul, have both led in the development of discourse about art and the Web. Both have found effective ways to show new media, including Web-based pieces, in the gallery context. New media offers a multiplicity of roles for curators as well as artists. The creation of a space that enables people to move with agility between these roles and to work in collaborative ways is one of the big achievements of new media.


ABC (2004). Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Programming Media Release, Aboriginal Life Stories Gain Funds to Enter Digital Domain, May 7, 2004.

 Adrian, Robert. Communicating and The World in 24 Hours. In Heidi Grundmann, Ed. Art + Telecommunication. Vienna, Austria: Shakespeare Co.1984.

Annenberg/Banff (2001,2005). Bridges, International Consortium on Collaboration in Art & Technology. A joint project of The USC Annenberg Center for Communication & Banff New Media Institute

ASCI (2001-2005). Art & Science Collaborations, Inc. (ASCI)

Ascott, Roy (2004), "Art and Telematics: Towards a Network Consciousness," and Robert Adrian, "Communicating" and "The World in 24 Hours," in Heidi Grundmann (ed.). Art + Telecommunication. Shakespeare Co.: Vienna, Austria, 1984, p. 28.

Ascott, Roy. Art and Telematics: Towards a Network Consciousness. In Heidi Grundmann, Ed. Art I. Vienna, Austria: Shakespeare Co.1984.

AudioHyperSpace (2003-4) The Online Magazine of SWR2 RadioART: Hörspiel

Banff (2002). Bridges: International Consortium on Collaboration in Art & Technology.

Banff Center (2004). Aboriginal Arts at The Banff Centre

Banff New Media Institute (2005) New Media Collaboration Studies Network.

Bradner, Erin and Gloria Mark(200). Social Presence with Video and Application Sharing. Department of Information and Computer Science, UC Irvine, Presence Research, October, 2001, .

Brooks, Martin (2002). Access Grid. vcom list serve.

C3 (2005). C3: Center for Culture & Communication, Budapest.

Cardosa, Mauricio (2004). How Do You Say, 'Bye Microsoft' in Brazil?

Clutch_Medulla Intima (2004) Tom Donaldson and Tina Gonsalves

Cohen, Kris (2002). Applying Collaboration Theory to Social Spaces. Banff: Bridges Conference Proceedings.

Cook, Sarah (2005). Prototypes from Other Disciplines. Proceedings New Ways and New Technologies Conference. Calgary: University of Calgary.

Cook, Sarah and Sara Diamond (2004). Scholarship and Creativity Proceedings New Ways and New Technologies Conference, Calgary: University of Calgary, October 13-15th, 2004.

Creative Commons (2005) The Creative Commons.

CRUMB (2005). curatorial resource for upstart media bliss. Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook.(eds.) University of Sunderland. Gallery 9 (2004). Walker Art Center, Gallery 9.

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1993). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. NY: Perennial: 1993.  

Daniel, S., M. Bartlett and R. Guhathakurta (2004) "Subtract the Sky: a Prototype "Collaborative System".

Diamond, Sara (2001). Computer Voices/Speaking Machines. Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery and Banff Centre Press.

Ditta, Su (1998). Report: Curating and Conserving New Media Conference. Banff: Banff New Media Institute.

Erickson, Thomas (2002). Social Translucence: Designing Social Infrastructures That Make Collective Activity Visible. Communications of the ACM, April 2002.  Volume 45, Number 4.

Galloway, Kit and Sherrie Rabinowitz (1993). Welcome to Electronic Café International. In Linda Jacobson Ed. CyberArts: Exploring Art and Technology. San Francisco: Miller Freedman, Inc.

GNU Project. (1996-2005) The GNU Operating System.

Graham, Janna Graham, Cheryl L'Hirondelle and Candice Hopkins (2004). Sounding the Border: Echoes and Transmissions from the Morley Reserve. FUSE Volume 27, Issue Four.

Hopkins, Candice (2004). Aboriginal Story in Digital Media., Issue 17.

Hopkins, Candice (2005). How to Get Indians into an Art Gallery. Banff: The Banff Centre Press. King, Jamie (2002) Kingdom of Piracy.

ICA (2004).  Medulla Intimata, Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Insert Silence (2004) Demonstration Site of Automatic Drawing Tools,

ISEA 2004 (2004) Catalogue and Program of Baltic Sea Events,

Isi-pikiskwewwin ayapihkesisak: Speaking the Language of Spiders (1997) A first nations art web

Itaulab (2004) Emoção Art.ficial

L'hirondelle, Cheryl (2004) Curricullum Vitae Descriptions and Links to all projects cited

L'Hirondelle, Cheryl. SubRosa., Tell. Issue 17.

Lachman,Richard (2004). CodeZebra: The Making of Software Video.

Latour, Bruno (2001). Thought Experiments in Social Science: from the Social Contract to Virtual Society.

Law, John and John Hassard (Eds) (1999). A.N.T, and After. London: Blackwell.

Legrady, George and Brigitte Steinheider (2002). Pockets Full of Memories: The Collaborative Construction of A Digital Archive. ISEA Proceedings.

LiveForm Telekinetics (2004), Jeff Mann and Michelle Teran

Lunenfeld, Peter, Ed. (2000). The Digital Dialectic - New Essays on New Media.  The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Malina, Roger. (2002). Toward a Cultural Connectionism Keynote Address. ISEA 2002. Nagoya, Japan.Symposium Proceedings.

Manovich, Lev (2001). The Language of New Media. Cambidge, MA: The MIT Press.

Mary Flanagan (2004) Media Projects, Publications and Tilt Factor

MetaComunidade - Testando o futuro(2005)

Mongrel (2004) Projects, Software Nine(9)

Morris, Christine (2002). Indigenising the effects of Media Globalization at the ABORIGINAL COLLABORATIONS: Within and Between NATIONS, within and Between CULTURES session. Bridges Summit 2002.

Netime Mailing List (2004) Mailing lists for networked cultures, politics, and tactics

Notime: A Network Screensaver (2003) Victoria Vesna

Oram, Andy, Ed. (2001). Peer-to-Peer: Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies. San Francisco: O'Reilly.

Orlan: Carnal Art (2005)

Packer, Randall, and Ken Jordan (2001). Multimedia, From Wagner to Virtual Reality.  NYC: Norton.

Pringuet, Virginie (2004). The SAT Odyssey. In, Issue 11;

Radio 90 (2003) Radio 90 World Service Editor and Programmes

Rhizome, NetArtNews (2005)

Richard, Alain Martin, and Clive Robertson (1991). Performance in Canada 1970-1990. Toronto: Interdictions and Coach House Press.

Shanken, Edward A. (2004). Technology and Intuition: A Love Story? Roy Ascott's Telematic Embrace.

Shirky, Clay (2001). Keynote Address, Human Generosity Project: Tools that Enable Collaboration,.Banff: Banff New Media Institute.

Smith, Jonas Heide (2002). The Architectures of Trust, Supporting Co-operation in the Computer-Supported Community. University of Copenhagen.

Star, S.L., and J.R. Greisemer (1989). Institutional ecology, 'translations' and boundary objects: Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907-39. Social Studies of Science 19: 387 - 420.

Stone, Allecquere Roseanne (2000). Boundary Stories about Virtual Cultures. In Ed. Michael Benedikt. Cyberspace: First Steps. Boston:  MIT Press

The Banff Centre for the Arts New Media Institute

Thomas, Catherine, Ed. (2002). The Edge of Everything: Reflections on Curatorial Practice. Banff: The Banff Centre Press.

Townsend, Melanie, Ed. (2003). Naming a Practice, Two,.Banff: The Banff Centre Press.

Turkle, Sherry (2002).  E-Futures and E-Personae. In Neil Leach, Ed.,. Designing for a Digital World. London: John Wiley & Sons.

U R on ndn land (2004)

US Department of Labor (2003). Archivists, Curators, and Museum Technicians,

V2 Institute for the Unstable Media (2004)DEAF (1995-2005)

Vanhatalo, Juha-Pekka (2003). Coco Fusco, Life Under Surveillance. Kiasma Magazine.12/01

Wakeford, Simonne Nina, and Elizabeth Churchill (2001). Framing Mobile Collaborations and Mobile Technologies. In  Barry Brown, Nichola Green, and Richard Harper, Eds. Wireless World: Social and Interactional Aspects of Wireless Technology. London: Springer, Verlag.

WhatIsWiki (2005)

 Whitney Artport (2004). The Whitney Museum of American Art Portal to net art,

World Tea Party (2003) Community University Research Association.

Writing Machine (2003) Patrick Clancy

Cite as:

Diamond, S., Participation, Flow, and the Redistribution of Authorship: The Challenges of Collaborative Exchange and New Media Curatorial Practice, in J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds.). Museums and the Web 2005: Proceedings, Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics, published March 31, 2005 at