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NETWORKED PUBLIC SPACES:

An Investigation into Virtual Embodiment
PhD thesis
by

Victoria Vesna

July 21, 2000






DECLARATION:
This work has not previously been accepted in any substance for any degree and is not concurrently submitted in candidature for any degree
Signed:

Victoria Vesna

Date:

_____________________________________________________________________


STATEMENT 1:
This thesis is the result of my own investigations, except where otherwise stated.
Other sources are acknowledged by footnotes giving explicit references.

A bibliography is appended.


Signed:

Victoria Vesna

Date:

_____________________________________________________________________


STATEMENT 2:

I hereby give consent for my thesis, if accepted, to be available for photocopying and for inter-library loan, and for the title and summary to be made available to outside organisations.

Signed:

Victoria Vesna



Date:

_____________________________________________________________________


NB: Candidates on whose behalf a bar on access has been approved by the University (see Appendix 2), should use the following version of Statement 2:
I hereby give consent for my thesis, if accepted, to be available for photocopying and for inter-library loan, after expiry of a bar on access approved by the University of Wales on the special recommendation of the Constituent/Associated Institution.
Signed:

Victoria Vesna

Date:
NETWORKED PUBLIC SPACES:

An Investigation into Virtual Embodiment


Summary vii

Acknowledgements viii

Prologue ix

Introduction xii

Methodology xvi

SECTION I: BREAKING WITH TRADITION


Chapter 1: Setting the Stage 1

Concept and Happening 2

Fluxus Internationalism 4

E.A.T 6


Chapter 2: Emergence of Telematic Culture 9

Early Telematic Arts Experiments 11

Telematic Subculture 15

Chapter 3: Emergence of Net Art 20

Physical Interfaces to the Web 23



Virtual Concrete 27

SECTION II: DISTRIBUTED IDENTITY

Chapter 4: Avatars on the Net 34

From Cyborgs to Avatars 36

Breaking the Metaphor. 37

Descent of the Avatar 38

Descent of the Graphical Avatar 41

Earth to Avatar 42



Chapter 5: Database Aesthetics 46

Information Architecture and Knowledge Production 47

"Guinea Pig B" and the Chronofile 48

Libraries/Museums, Text/Image Databasing 51

Memex and the World Brain 53

Xanadu 55

Digital Library Projects — Ghost of Alexandria 56

Corbis Image Library 58

Archiving the Internet 60

Bodies as Databases — The Visible Human Project 61

Human Genome Projects 63

Database Art Practice 65



Chapter 6: Bodies© INCorporated 72

Body Construction 72

Architecture 74

Exhibition in Physical Spaces 77



SECTION III: VISUALISING THE INVISIBLE

Chapter 7: Mapping and Information Architectures 83

Tensegrity and Fuller shapes 85

Discovery of the third carbon molecule: Buckminsterfullerene 89

Network Topologies 92

Topologies of networked social spaces 95

Chapter 8: Datamining Bodies 99

Site: Coal Mine 99

Remote Collaboration 101

Structure

Physical Installation

Online Version



Chapter 9: Construction of the Information Personae

Non-human agents

Antonymous Agents

Agents on the Net

Multi-agent Systems

Advisory Agents

Military Agents

e-commerce Agents

Social Agents

Beginnings of “Intelligent” Networks

Art Agents: Towards an Information Personae

Information Personae Development

Conclusion

Illustrations

Figure 1. Drawing of the first connection 9

Figure 2. Installation view. Virtual Concrete. Huntington Beach

Art Center, 1995. 27

Figure 3. Aerial view of the collapsed freeway interchange between

I-5 and the Antelope Valley Freeway (State 14 28

Figure 4. Detail view of Virtual Concrete 29

Figure 5. Screen captures of remote audience via CU-See Me 30

Figure 6. Installation view: Audience member walking on

Virtual Concrete 31

Figure 7.Logo of Bodies© INCorporated 73

Figure 8. Screen capture of “Auditory” 74

Figure 9. Screen capture of “Limbo” 75

Figure10. Screen capture of “Home” 76

Figure 11. Screen capture of “Necropolis” 77

Figure 12. Installation view, San Francisco Art Institute, 1997 78

Figure 13. Installation view, Art House storefront gallery, Dublin, 1998 79

Figure 14. Screen capture of ZKM Bodies 80

Figure 15. Screen capture of the chat window 81

Figure 16. Buckyball 89

Figure 17. Front view of the building at Zeche Zollern II/IV, site of

the installation 100

Figure 18. ??????

Figure 19. Installation view, Zeche Zollern II/IV, April 13, 2000

Figure 20. Screen capture of level 1

Figure 21. Screen capture of “descend” from level 3 to 4

Figure 22. Screen capture of level 5

Figure 23. View of mining “control” table with trackball



Appendix

From Virtual Concrete to Bodies© INCorporated: selected requests for

body deletion:

Bodies© INCorporated - Random quotes from dead philosophers:

Bodies© INCorporated - Body textures

Bodies© INCorporated - Requests to see “bodies”

Text of Datamining Bodies



Bibliography

Summary
Networked Public Spaces: An Investigation into Virtual Embodiment is an exploration of issues surrounding networked public spaces in relation to three artworks created by the author between 1995 to 2000: Virtual Concrete, (1995); Bodies© INCorporated (1996-2000); and Datamining Bodies (initiated in 2000). All three works have several key things in common: each exists on the Internet; each is conceptually connected to the idea of online identity and virtual embodiment, and each required extensive research to inform and inspire the creative practice. The projects are presented within three main sections, each of which attempts to link personal experience and history to a larger cultural context within which the works were produced. The first section, “Breaking with Tradition,” provides an overview of historical events that have influenced the changing relationship between artist and audience and argues that the foundations for networked art were laid largely by conceptual artists working during the 1960s and 1970s. The second section, “Distributed Identity,” examines the emergence of identity in online public spaces, focusing specifically on issues surrounding the appropriation and use of the term “avatar,” and the current cultural preoccupation with databasing and archiving. The third and final section, “Visualizing the Invisible,” explores the various efforts to map cyberspace, particularly paying attention to the implicit intersection of network data visualisations and biological systems, and the popular trend toward developing more “intelligent” networks through use of autonomous agents.
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