Chapter 1:
Internet Art
Chapter 2:
Chapter 3:
Digital Weakness
Table of Figures
James Hayes' art website

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The advent of personal computers (starting innocuously with the Apple I in 1976, the Apple II in 1977, and the IBM PC in 19812) ushered in a new direction of artistic experimentation and expression, when it presented the artistic community with a brand new tool. The artistic digital age has moved as fast as the pace of technological development, which is often times pressed forward by the demands of the arts - as evidenced by Industrial Light & Magic's (ILM)3 developments of innovative computer animation and blue screening techniques for film. The advertising community has also pushed the limits of new technology, much to the benefit of the artistic community - the print industry's uptake of digital image printing accelerated the development of the photo quality home printers in existence today. The advertising community's economic support of creative software packages (such as Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe Illustrator) has led to a boom in software competition, which can be said to have directly benefited the digital artistic community. The recent trend towards digital video cameras, editing and distribution supported mostly by Hollywood and the European Broadcasters Union, has accelerated the pace of development in this field, resulting in more affordable high-end editing packages, computers and cameras available to the artistic community. Broadcast quality digital cameras which five years ago cost upwards of Euro 63,500 (IR£50,000), now weigh in at a measly Euro 6,350 (IR£5,000), usually including software. Special effects software packages are admittedly still very expensive, but they are becoming more readily available for artistic use through resource centres such as (in Ireland) Arthouse Multimedia Centre for the Arts, and art colleges.

The science of mathematics, as outlined in James Gleick's Chaos: Making a New Science4, has had a profound effect on encouraging the emerging digital art practice. From John Hubbard's visually beautiful investigation into the chaos of Newton's method, to Benoit Mandelbrot's mother of all fractals "the Mandelbrot set" (see Figure 1) the resulting scientific images spun out of their control into the imagination of the general public - much like the theories they were investigating. All of these scientists made "the great leap forward" only after resorting to a visual output of their calculations (rather than pure numbers) onto the computer screen, which expanded even further with the introduction of colours. As a result the image of these men has changed in the eyes and minds of the general public from that of scientists to philosophers and artists. This is a challenge which self-styled artists have quickly pounced on, to see if they could produce "art" with this number crunching tool which had done so much for those with no such self-conscious artistic goal.

Figure 1      The most famous of all fractals, the Mandelbrot set when "magnified" reveals greater levels of detail including miniature replicas of the entire set, ad infinitum. This set of images was created by James Hayes using The Fractal Microscope, which is an online interactive tool designed by the Education Group at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) for exploring the Mandelbrot set and other fractal patterns.5
by James Hayes
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