sa Sound Arts vol.2

XEBEC SoundCulture Membership Magazine


World-Art Web: The Existence of the Individual within the WWW

SAKAKIBARA Ken-Ichi, computer music researcher at NTT Basic Research Laboratories, considers the Internet and its influence on artistic activities.

Stories about the WWW(World-Wide Web) and the Internet have recently become a common sight on television and in magazines with most focusing on the usefulness of computer networks as methods of collecting and transmitting information. In reports on the Great Hanshin Earthquake, there was so much said about their usefulness and possibility as to be a slight overestimation. The WWW was originally designed with the aim of making a variety of information from the Internet directed at scientists, who were not computer or network specialists, readily obtainable. Without having to remember complex commands, it is possible to easily access information by using Hypertext. The information includes not only texts, but also still pictures, animation, and sound, and it is possible to post or play back anything in these unified environments with only the click of a mouse.

Along with the popularization of today's computers and GUIs (Graphical User Interface), such as MS-Windows or Macintosh, the number of information users on the Internet in Japan has been increasing rapidly through the GUI environment of the WWW. The increase in and wider array of users as well as the increase in the quantity of information have led to diversification. Now, more than ever, a wide variety of information, from individual interests to public pronouncements by the government, is being dispersed throughout the world. Services to find the content and location of the information one desires, or order things such as udon noodles are available. It is possible to get information in any field, and even when limited to the arts, the list ranges from movies and music to art and dance. The amount of information increases with each passing day and there is no end in sight.

The main reason for the rapid rise in popularity of the WWW is not so much the ease with which information can be obtained, but rather, the ease with which it can be transmitted. With only a computer terminal connected to the Internet and software, it is possible for anyone to send whatever they like out into the world. To draw a picture, it isn't necessary to be a professional artist, it can be sent out to the people of the world over the WWW. On the other hand, within this sea of overflowing information, artwork that deserves to be seen carries a heavy burden from the instant it appears. High- speed retrieval through the waves of such a high-volume of information leads to a decreased attentiveness in regard to the works encountered. One is often troubled by the modern danger of our information society: not valuing the quality of an artwork enough. Art, as well as music, unavoidably suffers a loss in quality by appearing on a network, and artwork created for the sole purpose of being posted on the network is not uncommon. This, consequently, exposes it to the danger of being overlooked because of such easy access.

From the outside world, the ability to get a hold of so much information has an unmistakably powerful effect on the ways in which people identify themselves; for example, where they perceive themselves to be in time and space. Before the act of creation, the self must already be identified, but in this way, outside information becomes essentially useless in the creative process. The instant something is communicated to the viewer by a work of art occurs under extremely personal circumstances. In this way, the excess of information might be said to be rendering art powerless. Within this flood of information, a renewed awareness has been created among artists as to the importance of how to maintain uniqueness. Further, it is necessary to find an imaginative way of presenting artwork as a communication between a unique individual and the outside world, all the more so when information transmission is so simple and the process ends with the mere delivery of information. Another reason for the popularity of the WWW differs from networks of the past which used the medium as a device for information storage. This lies in the fact that people are so clearly present on the other end of the line, and just as the name suggests, there is always sure to be a spider at the center of the web.

SAKAKIBARA Ken-Ichi Composer/Mathematician
Information Science Research Laboratory, NTT Basic Research Laboratories

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