[NetBehaviour] net.art as on-line activism by Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga.

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Sun Nov 12 15:31:56 CET 2006

NeMe: The Work of Artists in a Databased Society:
net.art as on-line activism by Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga.

Over the last ten years, the Internet has embedded itself in the daily 
lives of a vast number of people. As a new telecommunication technology, 
it allows the common individual to engage in a cybernetic system that is 
globally networked. Today, however, a race goes on to establish the 
social dynamics of the Internet as a public arena. Will cyberspace 
become a highly monitored and regionalized control space or will the 
Internet retain its radical potential for independent endeavors and 
ideological exchange? The political implications of the Internet as a 
social network present rich issues for creative and critical cultural 

The nature of the Internet as a network of connected computers to 
exchange information engenders a sense of liberty and freedom in the 
individual. Early in its development, mainframe teams established 
host-to-host protocols such as Telnet and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) 
that decentralized computer networking between independent users from 
the main frame.1 As the network grew it evolved into a new, democratic 
public sphere of communication via a globally expansive routing system 
and a vast array of on-line applications, amongst them electronic mail, 
and the world wide web.2 The individual was able to interface with an 
enlarged public, and a new dialogical space emerged.

Given the numerous forms of exchange possible via the Internet, on-line 
activity parallels Nancy Faser’s re-articulation of Jürgen Habermas’s 
public sphere as put forth in his 1962 book, The Structural 
Transformation of the Public Sphere. Habermas presents the public sphere 
as a bourgeois arena for exchange where citizens may discuss common 
affairs, a model based in the old town hall. In the essay, “Rethinking 
the Public Sphere” (1993), Nancy Fraser updates and expands the 
Habermasian public sphere beyond institutionalized public forums to 
include the market place and the domestic space (specifically in 
relation to domestic violence). Whereas, Habermas places market 
relations and domestic issues within the private sector, Fraser argues 
that, in doing so, these arenas of human interaction are restricted from 
“legitimate public contestation.”3 Fraser’s re-articulation expands the 
public sphere beyond the bourgeois domain to a space that is “open and 
accessible to all.” As the Internet becomes increasingly commonplace and 
interweaves itself into general daily life in such forms as list serves, 
chat rooms, gaming communities, a host of multi-user domains it springs 
to life a multiplicity of publics by Fraser’s definition.


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