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June 8, 2001 Electronic Monasteries

In the current edition of fineArt Forum, editor Nisar Keshvani suggests a dialogue to address a perceived isolationism: 

"The Internet creates new electronic monasteries - where people outside the wall and inside the wall are in worse communication than before there was the Internet." How do we burrow through these Internet walls?

My feeling about the internet wall is that, contrary to MacLuhan, the medium is not (or should not be) the message. We all know by now the message of the internet medium and it's no longer interesting. The message is the message and the medium should serve the idea. If the artistic vision is not well conveyed by technology, a different medium should be used. As technology becomes mainstream, artistic ideas must be inspired by the medium, just as a new musical instrument or a new stone cutting tool allows musicians and sculptors to envision new works. The most successful internet arts are those that are created from scratch for the electronic medium. 

Cultural institutions, such as granting agencies, museums, and performance venues are by nature geared to old, established media. As the internet matures, new media will become mainstream and institutions will eventually catch up. Artists need to push for progress on this front as they always have on others. 

-Dwight Newton