[ISEA97] Paper: Victoria Vesna – Avatars on the World Wide Web: Marketing the ”Descent”


1995 was the year the Internet was opened to commercial use. The NSF officially stepped down and began planning Internet-2, aimed at creating a network whose primary goal would be to facilitate research and education missions of universities in the US. It is envisioned that this network will be 100 to 1000 times faster than the existing Internet. Applications like tele-immersion and digital libraries will change the way people use computers to learn, communicate and collaborate. Although the universities are taking the lead in the initial development and research of this network, this is a collaborative effort between federal government agencies, private corporations and non-profit organizations. This means that it will probably be first accessible and tested in research institutions, then made publically available. Corporations such as IBM that have already invested in this venture are most probably having long term plans for the commercial potential of such a super fast network.

Opening the Internet to the public had meant opening Pandora’s box, and there was no way anyone could even attempt to put a lid on the activities that were increasingly taking place. Conceptualized as having only machines ”talking to each other”, developers would have never guessed that this network of machines would transform itself into a network of humans using the machines. Exponential growth in the number of Internet users, the number of hosts connected to the World Wide Web, and the number of companies establishing a Web presence has created a gold rush mentality among firms and investors. This euphoria is largely fueled by electronic commerce, and many companies are putting significant resources towards figuring out the most effective ways of buying and selling everything from groceries to clothing to movies over the Internet.

  • Victoria Vesna (U.S.A.) is an installation and performance artist working with electronic technology. She has exhibited internationally at a number of shows including the Venice Biennale (86), P.S.1 Museum, NY (89), Long Beach Museum (93), Ernst Museum of Budapest (94), and most recently, at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has moved from performance and video installations,to experimental research that connects networked environ­ments to physical public spaces. She is interested in questioning ways that constructions of physical and ephemeral spaces effect collectively embodied behaviour. Her current collaborative project, Bodies INCorporated, is devised to facilitate exploration into the social psychology of group dynamics, actualized in corporate structure. Victoria is an Associate Professor at the Univerity of California, Santa Barbara, teaching Electronic Intermedia and Computer Image, and has been instrumental in fostering an interdi­ciplinary collaboration between the College of Engineering and Art Studio.

Full text p. 64-67