Curatorial Proposal for the Splinternet

Curatorial Proposal for the Splinternet 

“The Internet” doesn’t exist. The Internet conjures up images of a monster, like some singular presence that looms over and within the world’s computers. As a term, it fails to describe online spaces, how they’re used, and by whom. There are many types of internets and users; they both have physical and immaterial locations and human and non-human components. Instead of pretending that online space is singular and homogenous, a better way to describe the internet is through its poly-ness, as a structure made up of splinter groups.[1] Not The Internet, the polynet.

Splintering online space makes visible the different types of internets – and they’re not friendly to each another. The antagonism of spam and bots doesn’t coalesce with smiling puppies and babies posted all over Facebook. Issues of ownership, as I mentioned in a previous blog post about the cost of purchasing domain names, makes bare the competing interests over what’s presently available online.

An exhibition is necessary to show the physical experience of online spaces in their full range.  In the space of a gallery, spread over the surface of multiple works, the vibrant, lived and used spaces of the internets will become more readily apparent than in a single essay or artwork. The works in this exhibition – consisting of art, material from visual culture, and other loosely defined forms of the ”silly archive” – will take into account how the internets consist of splintered places, information, and things. Online spaces include:

1)    physical and immaterial locations, ex. websites, computers, code, and smart phones, and their online and offline components.

2)    public and private information between individuals, companies, and countries.

3)    human and non-human actors that share space and communicate with each other.

The goal of this exhibition is to remedy the popular conception of a single Internet. Once upon a time, AOL was thought to be the net’s gatekeeper, chat rooms were hangouts for child predators, and anyone who had a personal website knew HTML. These examples from the recent past show that the Internet isn’t indelible; it’s been in the process of changing and splintering for some time. An easy way to see how the internets are changing is by looking at offline behaviors.  Aspects of online life have been absorbed into offline behaviors, creating new social mores about how we deal with time, communication, and language irl. We don’t memorize locations when we can use GPS and we don’t call, we text.  The splintered internet, distributed online and off, provides an exit strategy out of the dull plateau we’ve reached with The Internet and its predominant use for Facebooking, Googling, and emailing.

Writing proposals is what’s called “chicken before the egg” curating. No space, date, or institution as of yet, but those things won’t stop this exhibition from taking place at some point.

[1] Standardization does, of course, exist across the internet. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) regulates IP addresses and domain names.

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  1. […] 2. I’m waiting to make this exhibition happen: Curatorial Proposal for the Splinternet. […]



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