Artists (and more recently art institutions) have always been quick to take advantage of new media and technologies. The artistic community's broad acceptance of the Internet as a creative and informative medium overlooks the inherent weaknesses of this untested technology, however in a different time this was true of other now well established media. Media and tools that are taken for granted in this era were once fantastic developments, such as the industrial processes of arc welding and oxy-acetylene welding invented in 1892 and 1895 respectively, which artists have since utilised to full effect for competitive edge as well as for creative output1. The majority of such technological developments were made independent of concerns for possible artistic uses; they were developed for industrial or commercial applications. Artistic practice requires change, and technological developments of any kind such as improved materials, improved processes, or even completely unrelated industrial applications for mass production are inevitably experimented with by artists.
This thesis will show that the Internet is a mostly untested technology which has still to prove its ability to archivally withstand the tests of time. However, it must be acknowledged that it is the benefits to the global artistic community that have allowed this new medium to push forward to the level of acceptance it has achieved to date. The Internet has proven itself a flexible and interesting new artistic medium in its own right, so it will be shown that artists have taken it well beyond a straightforward tool for communication.
This thesis investigates the current state of the Internet with regard to the international artistic community. This introduction provides the reader with a historical background to the Internet's development. Chapter 1 - Internet Art looks at how artists are using this unique medium to create completely new kinds of artwork. The second chapter on Institutions gives a broad overview of how artistic institutions are availing of this new opportunity, and how it is opening up a new global arena of opportunities for artists. This leads to a discussion in Chapter 3 on digital weakness which investigates the flip side of the Internet by showing the inherent archival fragility of this untested medium. It examines how some organisations are rallying to meet this challenge, and suggests that artists should be made fully aware of the limitations of present Internet based digital artwork.