FLEXIBLE NETWORK AESTHETICS: RESEARCH
A networked research project in progress
on flexibility, support, and generosity.
A sea or stretch of water containing many islands.
An archipelago is an interesting system because it operates in three parts. First, there is the individual island: it contains its own unique ecosystem with plant and animal life that only inhabit that particular location. Second, the water that surrounds the island: this defines the island's borders, it grounds everything that lives and grows on it. And third, the totality of the archipelago itself, which is only possible through the contributions made by the sum of the islands that define it. By breaking an archipelago down to its component parts certain qualities emerge that can be applied to Network Culture. I have observed that, by nature, an archipelago is only able to thrive through the flexibility, support, and generosity that the individual islands contribute to the whole.
Paul Baran, the pioneer of network theory, defines a distributed network as a computer network that is spread over multiple nodes in order for all nodes to contribute to the completion of complex computing tasks. Therefore, like an archipelago, each node within a distributed network exudes similar flexible qualities. It is important to note that Baran developed the distributed network with full intention of it being used within the context of information technology, more specifically as a security system for commercial servers; however, only recently have the qualities of the distributed network become relevant within the context of contemporary culture. As the Internet has made the shift from a novelty to a utility, peer-to-peer services like Bitcoin, Uber, BitTorrent, and Open Garden have encouraged this type of flexibility to move beyond a technology and more into a social structure. As the affects of Network Culture continue to permeate throughout society it is important for the artist to acknowledge this paradigm shifts in culture and produce work in response to it. Flexible Network Aesthetics uses the archipelago as the entry point to discuss the potential of producing artworks and exhibitions that not only operate as standalone entities but also, through acknowledging their surroundings, respond to, support, and give to the other objects, people, and spaces that operate within that particular network. Flexible Network Aesthetics lends itself to creating a total experience that is built upon the foundation of multiple objects; be it an node within a network, an island within a archipelago, or an artwork within an exhibition. The result of this approach is a more socially concerned practice that not only reflects our cultural consciousness but also allows for certain aesthetic decisions to be influenced by the cultural context of that particular artwork or exhibition.