The Texture of the Post-Internet Era
MIZUNO Masanori (interface studies)

The discourse on the Post-Internet era is shortly summarized in "Within Post-Internet, Part I"*1 by Louis DOULAS.

The expression "Post-Internet art" was coined by Marisa OLSON, an artist, critic and curator who first used it in an interview in 2008.*2 OLSON claimed that "there doesn't seem to be a need to distinguish, any more, whether technology was used in making the work - after all, everything is a technology, and everyone uses technology to do everything," and referred to people who are starting to make (what she calls) "Post-Internet art." What is important is "to address the impacts of the Internet on culture at large, and this can be done well on networks but can and should also exist offline." This comment reflects a way of thinking in which the distinction between online and offline is invalid when it comes to the Internet's broad influence on all humans.

DOULAS then introduces New York-based critic Gene McHUGH. With financial assistance from the Andy Warhol Foundation, McHUGH ran a blog named after OLSON's phrase, "Post Internet," between December 2009 and September 2010.*3 DOULAS cites an entry on that blog in which McHUGH calls the Internet "less a novelty and more a banality."*4 He finally closes his summary with a comment on Artie VIERKANT's 2010 essay "The Image Object Post-Internet".*5

In regard to "Post-Internet," VIERKANT discusses the roles of ubiquitous authorship, the development of attention as currency, a collapse of physical space in networked culture, and the infinite reproducibility and mutability of digital materials.

DOULAS sums up these various thoughts in the "Post-Internet" discourse in order to suggest that, regardless of the discordances between them, they provide a new definition of art in the continuously transforming Internet society. DOULAS himself concludes, "Post-Internet then, is not a category, but a condition."

Now does this mean that "Post-Internet" is an attribute given to artworks that correspond with our present living conditions? Maybe it is not necessarily limited to works of art, but refers to the present age as such. Post-Internet describes the era in which we live, where reality and the Internet exist without a clear distinction between online and offline. That is why developing an awareness of this intricate situation will be elemental for discussing the future direction of the Internet and art.

As a hint for interpreting the art of the Post-Internet era, we may refer to "Internet aware art" as propounded by net artist Guthrie LONERGAN. This term, as LONERGAN himself commented later, is "partially a sarcastic joke, because everyone is supposedly quite aware of the Internet (but the art is not yet)."*6 However what LONERGAN was really trying to say is that the Internet has facilitated the emergence of "objects that aren't objects." He deliberately focuses on offline items such as T-shirts, books, texts and other things that are unrelated to the Internet, with the intention to demonstrate that these no longer exist in the same way as in the pre-Internet days.*7 Artist Tom MOODY responded to this with the following statement, turning the meaning of LONERGAN's upside down. "A blog over many years could be like a novel but it isn't a novel or reads like one - it's a new creature."*8 In order to understand their argumentation, the chimeric quality of images created by a computer - being at once media and tools - as pointed out by "Interface Aesthetics" advocate Søren POLD may be a relevant idea.*9

In short, while we could only talk about things and occurrences as "objects being objects" or "images being images" before the advent of computers and the Internet, such "A is A" reasoning made way for LONERGAN's "objects that aren't objects" (in the physical world), and VIERKANT's "image objects that are at once objects and images," suggesting a development of variedly amalgamating relationships and elements that up to that point were considered as contradictory. Based on this, we can understand art of the Post-Internet era as dealing with a world full of previously unthinkable combinations of elements.

So we have used the phrase "Post-Internet," but this doesn't mean that the Internet is a matter of the past. Nevertheless, as OLSON and McHUGH point out, it is gradually turning into something that isn't so special anymore. Regardless of the fact that Internet-based activity is different from real life, we ignore such things and understand the Internet as an extension of "reality," as we have gotten used to the routine of tweeting and making friends. In this process, however, humans are being transformed into objects other than humans by way of online activity and identity, just like the Internet gives birth to something chimeric as "objects that aren't objects." This also means a change in human-centered thinking. Activities and identities such as 140-character tweets on Twitter, or the "pseudo-synchronization" on Nico Nico Douga, are only realized through a combination of human individuals and the Internet. From an anthropocentric scheme of the world, a different world in which humans and Internet coexist without either being discernibly in the center has begun to emerge. In this world, humans are humans, but at the same time they are about to transform into something other than humans. What exactly that "other" is remains to be seen, and this is why we need to cut into the process of familiarization with the Internet, and signal de-human-centric thinking and the generation of "objects that aren't objects," in order to identify the new texture that is coming to life in a different form. From that new texture, we then have to take a new look at the reality of the "Post-Internet" world of mixed real and networked existence.

[Internet Art Future]–Reality in Post Internet Era