Networked Projects
in the Formative Years of the Internet:

Judy Malloy: Working Report No. 1

".. new communication platforms do not determine some inevitable 'end,' whether that be democratization or destabilization. What people collectively and individually decide to do with those technologies as professionals and as audiences, and what kinds of culture people produce and spread in and around these tools, is still being determined. Those media scholars, industry practitioners, and active media participants who care about seeking an inclusive, equitable, and robust media landscape cannot accept the evolution of media platforms and content creation as if it were the unalterable consequence of technological developments... -- Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York University Press, 2013. pp. xiii-xiv

aitiani E xpressed when the project was launched in April 2017, the mission of the Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet project is:

"As social media platforms become a core part of -- some would say dominate -- the contemporary Internet environment, a focus on enabling creative voices in social media is an important component of Internet policies that seek to enrich the Infosphere. In this respect, narratives of pre-web social media projects created by artists, arts organizations, researchers, and community networkers not only contribute to the archeology of social media but also nurture innovation in contemporary social media."

Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet is a web archive created to accompany the book Social Media Archeology and Poetics MIT Press, 2016 (SMAP). In the book, the words and work of creative computer scientists writers, artists, musicians, historians, and digital humanists -- from engineer Lee Felsenstein in Northern California (Community Memory), to critic Annick Bureaud (Minitel) in Paris, to digital humanists Alan Liu in Santa Barbara and Julianne Nyhan in London; from artists Hank Bull in Vancouver, B.C. and Wolfgang Staehle (THE THING) in New York City to Community Networkers Randy Ross (Ponca Tribe of Nebraska and Otoe Missouria) and Madeline Gonzalez Allen in Colorado; to researcher/artist Judith Donath in Massachusetts -- bring different histories and perspectives. Their chapters not only demonstrate how social media evolved from both individual and collaborative efforts but also document the affordances for creative work that these platforms pioneered. And, in narratives, such as Arts Wire's odyssey from a text-based conferencing system to a GUI (graphical user interface) system, this book also documents how some artist-centered social media platforms adapted to the World Wide Web.

The papers in SMAP have a primary focus on platforms. Now, realistically conceived as a five-year project, Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet will compliment SMAP, both by highlighting artists projects implemented on these platforms and by documenting artists projects and small platforms that existed independently of the platforms documented in SMAP.

Concentrating on vision and mission, as expressed in individual and small collaborative projects, Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet is researching and documenting pre-web telematic projects. With research and documentation, Networked Projects will add significantly to the study of early projects in the cultural sphere. In addition to artist-created work and projects (such as Joe Davis, Dana Moser, and Charles Kelley's Nicaraguan Interactions, Artur Matuck's Reflux, Karen O'Rourke's City Projects, DAX Dakar d'Accord, and Wendel White's Small Towns, Black Lives), Networked Projects also seeks to include projects created/facilitated by ARPANET-era researchers (such as Yumyum and SF-Lovers); projects created on arts-centered platforms (such as NewMusNet on Arts Wire and Manifesto on THE THING); projects created/facilitated by humanities scholars (such as NINCH-Announce and Postmodern Culture); alternative approaches (such as Peter D'Agostino's Proposal for Qube); as well as contributions from arts writers, curators, critics, and innovators. It will also review other core sources of documentation, for instance Heidi Grundmann's Art Telecommunication, Roy Ascott's Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art, Technology, and Consciousness, and Lynn Cherny and Elizabeth Reba Weise’s Wired Women.

With sadness and respect for his work, Networked Projects notes the July 2018 death of black cyberactivist Art McGee, who was to document early Black BBS platforms for this project.

Eventually, Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet will be compiled in a dynamic web-based archive of approximately 40 works. Since the project began last year, nine works have been documented. Many more statements are forthcoming. Meanwhile, in this interim report, documentation for the first nine projects is summarized/excerpted/linked to. They are:

Marcello Aitiani: Nave di Luce (Ship of Light)
Olivier Auber: Poietic Generator Interview with Olivier Auber
Serge Guilbaut, Joni Low, and Pan Wendt: Hank Bull: Connexion
Anna Couey and Judy Malloy: The Arts Wire Interactive Art Conference
Robert Edgar: Memory Theatre One
Heidi Grundmann: Art Telecommunication: in retrospect
Tom Klinkowstein: Early Telematic Works: Interview with Tom Klinkowstein
Nancy Paterson: Stock Market Skirt
Fred Truck: Independent Work: 1985 to 1995

Although it is only a beginning, the cumulative impact of Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet both augments the known history of pre-web creative work on the Internet and strongly suggests the potential for new creative projects to enrich the contemporary social media infosphere.

Marcello Aitiani:
Nave di Luce (Ship of Light)


M arcelo Aitiani's telematic installations, that have explored the convergence of traditional media and new technologies, include Nave di Luce (Ship of Light); Spirale di vita vermiglia. Immateriale sulla Piazza (Spiral of Vermilion Life), which created a poetic triangle with vertices in Naples, Milan, and Florence; and Esse/Sibilla (in collaboration with Francesco Giomi; event by the Giuseppe Morra Foundation). Inside the Sibyl's Cave in the acropolis in Cumae, in 1988, for Esse/Sibilla, with allusion to the Cumaean Sibyl's prophesies -- written on oak leaves; sometimes wind-scattered, allowing passers-by to reassemble them and discover new meanings -- Aitiani positioned twelve computers to form an "S", the first letter of the word "Sibyl".

In his Networked Projects essay, Aitiani reflects on his telematic artwork Nave di Luce, that -- documented in a 1991 Leonardo paper (by Aitiani and the work's composer, Francesco Giomi)-- was created/composed using audio, video, visual art, and networked data to simultaneously connect and perform music with related installations in Florence and Siena. For example, a digitally coded score, based on Gregorian chant, was transmitted via computer from the Consevatorio di Musica in Florence to Santa Maria della Scala in Siena and then was played/interpreted by an organist. "The process", the authors explain, "was based on structures that allowed varied possibilities and produced different and unpredictable formal results".

Aitiani observes in his Networked Projects essay that:

"From an artistic point of view, the Ship of Light illustrates certain conditions of our historical period: paroxysmal acceleration of our way of living with shortening effects of space and time to almost zero and moreover, an increase of entropy, due to excess information; the expansion of global virtual communications; and a diminution of real-life intimacy between people -- engendered by conditioning and control."

Olivier Auber:
Poietic Generator
Interview with Olivier Auber

Poetique Generator 2017

I n 1987, when he was working with Tod Machover and Catherine Ikam in the staging of VALIS -- Machover's opera which premiered at the Pompidou Center in 1987 and was based on Philip K. Dick's work of the same name -- French engineer Olivier Auber conceived and designed the Poietic Generator. First implemented on the Minitel, in Auber's words Poietic Generator (PG) is:

"...a social network game which may be envisioned as a 100% human « Game of Life« , that is to say a cellular automata where every single cell is manipulated by a single human being. It allows everybody (10, 100, and one day 1000 or more people), all together regardless of his/her language, culture and educational background, to participate in real time (with a PC or mobile device) in the process of self-organization at work in the continuous emergence of a global picture."

The Poietic Generator is a canonic work that is of both historic and contemporary interest. Following its debut on the Minitel, PG has been installed at venues that include the Centre Georges Pompidou; Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie; Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications (now Télécom ParisTech); a campground in the South of France during the summer of 1990; an urban display on the Rue du Chien Marin, Brussels, 2013; a large installation at Shanghai Institute of Visual Art (SIVA), 2015; and many other places.

Anna Couey and Judy Malloy:
The Arts Wire Interactive Art Conference:
A Conversation

A nna Couey

...At the time we started Interactive, Internet access was not widespread. Most people still accessed online content by logging into discrete systems – bulletin boards, or conferencing systems. Some systems were free to use; larger ones typically charged a subscription and use fee. You could access information and conversations within these systems, and you could exchange email with people on other systems. You could also share documents with people over the Internet using tools such as Gopher. The Web was pretty new at the time we started Interactive, and the online environment was text-based. 

We set up Interactive as a conference within the Arts Wire conferencing system, which meant that only people with an Arts Wire account could participate in our conversations. After logging into Arts Wire, subscribers would "go" to Interactive. This is the screen they would see when they arrived:

Interactive logon screen

Judy Malloy

Yes, when we began our Interactive Conference in 1993, Arts Wire was using Caucus, the text-based conferencing software developed by Camber-Roth. At that time, Anne Focke was the founding Director of Arts Wire, and, as Arts Wire's first network Coordinator, you coordinated the implementation of Arts Wire's initial conferencing system on the Meta Network. Although there were differences, Caucus worked in somewhat the same way that PicoSpan worked in the Well.

Initially, the Interactive Art conference was primarily discussion among Arts Wire members, as well as the associated documents that we mention. My recollection is that there was an interlude in 1994 when "name is scibe" was created, and then, to focus discussion and bring in new voices, we began hosting conversations with invited guests in 1995.

Anna Couey

Yes, the guest artists who participated as "virtual artists in residence" on Interactive covered a broad range of approaches to interactivity. The artists were David Blair, Ben Britton, Bill and Mary Buchen, Hank Bull, Tim Collins and Reiko Goto, Abbe Don, Robert Edgar, Jeff Gates, JoAnn Gillerman, Lucia Grossberger Morales, Eduardo Kac, Robert Kendall, Nancy Paterson, Tim Perkis, Ian Pollock and Janet Silk, Sonya Rapaport, Sara Roberts, Jim Rosenberg, Henry See, Bonnie Sherk, Patricia Tavenner, Fred Truck, Stephen Wilson (most of these conversations are archived on the web at While many of them considered interactivity as a process of engagement with an audience, this was not a universal framework...

Judy Malloy

....Thus, in our conversations on Interactive, in addition to computer-media works, we also talked about interactive processes that were not necessarily computer-mediated...

We took turns hosting the interviews, including choosing the guests (although there was usually some discussion about this). I don't think we always precisely alternated; rather we worked with each other's schedules. So, in some interviews my voice is dominant and in some interviews your voice is dominant. At other times, Arts Wire members with expertise in the field joined, not as audience but as active participants in the discussion... 

As you emphasize, the web began taking off in 1994, and by the fall of 1994, Arts Wire had its own home page, much enhanced by Tommer Peterson's interface graphics. At that time, Arts Wire also acquired its own domain name. Arts Wire's GUI-based conferencing system, that ported the underlying Caucus conferencing database onto the Web, was developed under the direction of the new Director, poet Joe Matuzak, and unveiled in 1995...

Robert Edgar:
Memory Theatre One

detail from Presenting Memory Theatre One

Robert Edgar is a pioneer in creating computer-mediated works of art that with aesthetic graphic interfaces explore philosophical contexts, and issues of memory, information, and avatar. His work includes Memory Theatre One (1985), Living Cinema (1988), Sand, or How Computers Imagine Truth in Cinema (1994), and Simultaneous Opposites (2008 - present).

With reference to 16th century Giulio Camillo's Theatre of Memory, in Memory Theatre One, which Edgar discusses in his statement for Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet, the user explores a series of 27 architectural spaces and metaphors. The work was created for Apple 48 and 64K systems and programmed in Paul Lutus' GraFORTH. In Edgar's words:

Memory Theatre One (MT1) was a 20th-century cosmology on two floppy disks. With its limited graffiti-like graphics, I realized that it had to refer rather than contain. Its predecessor -- the small one-person theatre by the sixteenth-century Giulio Camillo -- contained heavily symbolic paintings paired with drawers containing explicative texts. The pairs were architecturally arranged both horizontally and vertically around the seated viewer, who was both the audience and the player of the theatre’s content. This was perfect: The Large Glass and The Green Box. And so I created a virtual ring of 12 pairs of rooms (high and low) that rotated around a central atrium, with a library of texts on one side, and a room with a two-dimensional depiction of the ring on the other.

Heidi Grundmann:
Art Telecommunication:
in retrospect

P ublished in 1984, long before the social-media infused infosphere became a part of everyday life, Art Telecommunication, with its multi-lingual text, conceptual black and white and shades of gray images, and its combination of artist's statements, original documentation, and the words of critics, is an iconic work that --- with seminal theory, futurist prediction, and the lineage of networked art practice -- supplements immersion in contemporary social media.

Robert Adrian X at La Mamelle/Art Com Edited by cultural critic Heidi Grundmann, producer of KUNSTRADIO-RADIOKUNST, and published by Western Front in Vancouver, B.C. and BLIX in Vienna, Art Telecommunication (also known as Art + Telecommunication) epitomizes the aesthetic of late 1970's and early 1980s networked projects. Primary essays in this book are by Eric Gidney, Roy Ascott, Tom Sherman, and Robert Adrian X. In addition to their own work, their statements describe works by other artists, including the SEND/RECEIVE Project, Tom Klinkowstein's Levittown, and Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz' Hole in Space.

"... Everybody is asking questions. But what I think is very important, if one is interested at all in culture and what culture is, that strategies be developed for different groups forming again and again for the purpose of realising different projects or whatever you may call the different frames from which people work, certain aspects of the question 'how is our culture changing now?'." -- Heidi Grundmann in an interview with Josephine Bosma

Heidi Grundmann's Art Telecommunication does not provide a simple answer to the issue of documenting contemporary social-media based narrative in a different era of art practice. Nevertheless, in addition to its iconic representation of 1970's and early 1980's creative networked projects, it opens a door to innovative documentation and in the process suggests contemporary strategies. Given the central role of social media in contemporary lives, exploring the possibilities not only of creating but also of documenting social media-based works of cultural significance is an important issue.

Serge Guilbaut, Joni Low, and Pan Wendt
Hank Bull: Connexion

Catalog image "What this midden offers is an analogue of our networked presence -- and its fragmented, irregular social formations and communications, which we are only beginning to understand. Immersed in a cacophony of information, media, and interactions daily, we must intuit what to focus on, derive meaning from, and connect with -- and engage with the world on that basis" -Joni Low in Hank Bull: Connexion

T he exhibition, Hank Bull: Connexion was based on Vancouver-situated artist Hank Bull's archives, collected beginning in the early 1970's and displayed by the artist himself in 2012 at the artist-run center for contemporary art and new music, Western Front. In 2015, curated by Joni Low and Pan Wendt, Hank Bull: Connexion was installed at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. From January 20 to April 6, 2017, Hank Bull: Connexion returned to Vancouver, BC, Canada, where it was installed at the Burnaby Art Gallery.

The catalog situates material from the exhibition in a click-bait-reminiscent array of entryways to Bull's work that suggests multiple interpretations and in the process, explores the roots of social networking in artist-centered communication circles. Beginning with the HP Dinner Show, (radio, with Patrick Ready, 1976-1984), in the catalog, an "Illustrated Chronology" by Bull himself sets forth projects such as Telephone Portraits (Taki Sekiguchi and others, 1977); Canada Africa 1.1 (conceived by Robert Filliou,1983); and Weincouver IV (Robert Adrian, Hank Bull, and others, 1983).

In "Style de vie", the concluding section of Hank Bull: Connexion, Joni Low, Alex Muir, and Pan Wendt arrange a series of images and lexias (in both English and French) that ground the exhibition and catalog in conversations in Hank Bull's apartment at Western Front during the years that led up to these events.

The wind dislodges and breaks Yuxweluptun Lawrence Paul's wooden sculpture (made for the roof of Western Front at Hank Bull's request), and the sculptor’s surprising reaction is remembered; noise makers of all kinds are strewn on top of a piano, eliciting discussions of noise, music, and telematic communication; "Stories intermix and misunderstandings become openings for reinterpretation. Humans, like vessels, hold and spill stories along the way, sometimes accidently, other times deliberately. Follow the clues..."

Tom Klinkowstein:
Early Telematic Works:
Interview with Tom Klinkowstein

Tom Klinkowstein T om Klinkowstein was already communicating with email, when he began creating Telecommunications Performance via Facsimile, a 1981 networked performance with Robert Adrian that linked the Mazzo Club in Amsterdam and the Blitz Bar in Vienna. Klinkowstein's telematic projects have also included Levittown at the 't Hoogt Cultural Center in Utrecht; the Fast-Food installation, Breda, 1983 and More Service for More People, San Francisco State University and Ars Electronica, 1982. He is currently President of Media A, a design and consulting group, as well as a Full Professor with tenure at Hofstra University on Long Island, NY, and an Adjunct Professor with part-time tenure at Pratt Institute in New York City.

In his early telematic work, Klinkowstein took his graphic designer's background and used it to deconstruct/construct graphic design elements. And in the process, he pedagogically introduced iconic cultural/pop cultural graphic design elements into the fledgling medium of telematic art.

Among other issues, in this conversation he documents the difficulties in producing early telematic works and the merging of persona, news, and location in his work of this era.

Judy Malloy

"...Your reference to the difficulties of constructing a networked condition should be emphasized in this era of instant connection!" (Referring to "Telecommunications via Facsimile") "

Tom Klinkowstein

In the late 70's and early 80's, establishing the network (the capabilities for a performance using telecommunications for instance) was daunting. It was a labor of love requiring quasi-missionary zeal. Although McLuhan had coined the term, "global village" a decade and a half earlier, creating a network connection where none had already been constructed for practical and/or commercial purposes and within an artist's budget, was not to be lightly undertaken.

-I needed to convince the management of the Mazzo nightclub in Amsterdam that a performance with fax machines was technically viable (telecom installations in those times were a highly technical and state regulated activity, and often did not work without major tweaking).
-I needed to convince Mazzo that a fax-performance was the right sort of "entertainment" for a late night, “new wave” audience.
-I needed to find a partner to be on the other side (eventually Bob Adrian in Vienna).
-Once found, I needed to coordinate with Bob. (Phone calls were wildly expensive in Europe across national boundaries in those days. We supplemented calls with the primitive, email-like ARTEX network on the IP Sharp system (itself an ordeal, billed per character and using an "acoustic modem coupler" and a Texas Instruments portable computer terminal).
-I needed to procure sponsorship from the Dutch state telecom authority for the (for then) pricey "telecopier" (fax) hardware (4000+ Dutch Guilders or about $2000 in 1981-era funds), and the additional telecom lines to be used during the performance, all to be installed in an all-black-painted nightclub known for its questionable late night activities."

Judy Malloy

...In addition to the works discussed in your paper -- Levittown at the 't Hoogt Cultural Center in Utrecht; the Fast-Food installation, Breda, 1983 -- what are other works you were involved in that you consider particularly important?"

"And did the locale from which each work originated play a role in the shaping and performance of each work?"

Tom Klinkowstein

I created upwards of 15 telecom-facilitated works between 1979 and 1990. They were always a fuzzy triangulation between what was going on in my life and what was going on in the world, with the product of the work being a synthesis of the two in the form of a persona based on personal facts and memories and, "the news" -- composed on the screen or in faxes, always a within some networked connection, sometimes performed live and sometimes recorded and edited for later viewing.

I moved back to the United States in 1986, after nearly 10 years in Europe. The work I did after that reflected my adjustment to being back in the U.S.A. and the questions I had.

Nancy Paterson:
Stock Market Skirt

bicycle tv Nancy Paterson is a Canadian electronic media artist, working primarily in the field of interaction design. A pioneer in interactive and Internet-based art, Paterson has been working on the Internet since 1982. In 2009, she received a PhD from York University.

She is currently an Associate Professor at OCAD University in Toronto. Her research interests include Internet infrastructure visualization, network studies, and exploring the differences among how contextualized knowledge, information, data, and code are written in and through media.

In addition to Stock Market Skirt, profiled in her essay for Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet, her early work included The Meadow, where, as visitors moved through an installation of video monitors, each showing different aspects of a meadow, viewer movement triggered changes of seasons and audios of voices; The Machine in the Garden, in which when the viewer pulled the slot machine arm, a custom-designed casino slot machine displayed scrolling video imagery; and Bicycle TV, where a 1950's bicycle, with a color monitor mounted in front, empowered an interactive rider-controlled video tour of the Canadian countryside.

Stock Market Skirt, (1990- ), the work Nancy Paterson discusses for Networked Projects, consists of a velvet party dress displayed on a dressmaker's mannequin, installed beside computer monitors. On the monitors, continuously updated stock prices control movement of the skirt. In her words:

"PERL scripts (running under Linux) extract and analyze stock prices from online stock market quote pages on the internet. These values are sent to a program which determines whether to raise or lower the hemline via a stepper motor and a system of cables, weights and pulleys attached to the underside of the skirt. When the stock price rises, the hemline is raised; when the stock price falls, the hemline is lowered."

To beegin her Networked Projects Essay, she writes that:

"In the early 1990's, I began working with laserdisc technology and custom-designed microcontrollers to develop interactive projects such as Bicycle TV, The Machine in the Garden, and The Meadow. As this technology became more commonplace in the mid 90's, my interest turned to Internet-based installations; the technology had evolved significantly since I first went online in 1982.

Stock Market Skirt, a project which I began to work on in 1995, was actually conceived long before the technology was available to realize it. The concept of controlling the length of a woman's dress by referencing stock market quotes in real time could only be put into practice as the Internet evolved to supply data which I could access."

Fred Truck:
Independent Work: 1985 to 1995

I owa-based artist Fred Truck works in digital, animated 3-D photography and computer arts, as well sculpture, artists books, and graphics designed on a computer. His works range from the 1980 Performance Bank -- created on an Osborne I computer with dBase II and graphics and animations software -- to the animated character Mr. Milk Bottle. They also include the artist's software, ArtEngine which compares visual objects and the words that describe them and then uses congruences between the two objects to create a third visual object. In his words:

"ArtEngine, a piece of artificial intelligence software that used logic to create a synthesis, was my major work during this time period. I began it in 1986, and finished it in 1991. At the same time, I wrote essays concerning the Engine which appeared in ACEN's electronic publication, Art Com Magazine, so there was some overlap.1,2,3 But the software remained mine from inception to execution."

In his essay for Projects, Truck sets forth his independent artwork from approximately 1985 to 1995, including how his work with artificial intelligence software led to 3D graphics, his VR work with Leonardo da Vinci's Flying Machine, the Analog Engine, which evolved from the ArtEngine, and Bottega, a digital realization of an artist’s workshop.

Analog Engine Sculpture Although much of Fred Truck's work as an individual artist is not precisely networked, its inclusion in Networked Projects in the Formative Years of the Internet is important because of its parallel with his core role in Art Com Electronic Network (ACEN) and relatedly, the importance of arts-centered networks in the creation of the digital arts. For instance, Fred was a central participant in the ACEN "Software as Art" topic, where in addition to his ArtEngine, discussions centered on other works by individual artists, such as Robert Edgar's Memory Theatre, Judy Malloy's generative hypertext its name was Penelope, Jim Rosenberg's spatial hypertext, Joe Rosen's physical computing works, and Abbe Don's HyperCard-based We Make Memories.


Marcello Aitiani: Nave di Luce (Ship of Light)

Olivier Auber: Poietic Generator Interview with Olivier Auber

Serge Guilbaut, Joni Low, and Pan Wendt: Hank Bull: Connexion

Anna Couey and Judy Malloy:
The Arts Wire Interactive Art Conference

Robert Edgar: Memory Theatre One

Heidi Grundmann:
Art Telecommunication:
in retrospect

Tom Klinkowstein:
Early Telematic Works:
Interview with Tom Klinkowstein

Nancy Paterson:
Stock Market Skirt

Fred Truck:
Independent Work: 1985 to 1995