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The Rise of Internet Art Communities

Everyone knows at this point that the big social networks have huge problems. I keep hearing that the hand crafted, strange and human early web died. As someone who has existed online inside these small communities the entire time, I want to dig deeper.

First, a quote summary from The Rise and Fall of Internet Art Communities.

The Past
Artists forged communities in the spirit of collaboration and learning. Offbeat chat rooms and eccentric niche websites reigned. You could be away from the internet and “away statuses” were a kind of personal branding. Visiting early personal sites felt like stopping by someone’s house. The internet presented a breadth of opportunity for all kinds of artists-- often of marginalized identities or with artistic interests unrecognized by institutions. A young, vibrant culture, lively and often uncouth. People wanted in-depth comments and feedback, with constructive criticism.

The Present
If in the early days, we “surfed” the internet, today we are submerged in it. The experience of the internet shifted away from the wacky and creative. Big tech shepherded the vast number of online users onto a handful of sleek websites. Today, sharing art on social media is like running on a treadmill forever. The algorithm decides you’re not interesting, and will not show your posts to your followers. Algorithms steer us back to similar content in echo chambers that inhibit both critical and creative thinking. Most social-media platforms don’t reward the extra time and effort. It’s about posting bite-sized content as frequently as possible. The quality of conversation is disappearing on the big social-media platforms. They aren’t a space for productive feedback. There are more people to connect with than ever, and yet less room for the exploration and creativity that cultivates strong artistic communities.

How do you make a now-sweeping internet feel smaller? The collaborative, creative culture that the early web fostered is bound for a revival. Users will have to carve out new communities in an increasingly monopolized cyberspace.


It is unnecessarily difficult to be yourself on today's big platforms. Being silly in your own space is incredibly important. The primary goal of these platforms is ad revenue, and it's easy to think you must play that game to be viable. My perspective is that even if this were true, it is more valuable not to compromise to their assumptions.

Human connection happens in spite of today's large social platforms, not in debt to them. For now, some interaction there makes sense, but it can't be the center of life online. Small custom communities are not as uncommon or difficult as it may seem. Maybe I'm biased because being involved in a few and building some of my own has kept me from scouring the net for others; maybe there's fewer than I think.

An extremely short list of some cool places:

We are not on a linear path of progress. The web isn't built by some Other People. You can't assume it will be fixed or that social networks will correct themselves. Life on the internet is like everywhere else-- agency is absolutely required. None of these platforms are trying to do anything in particular more than they are trying to make crazy money. You can say you're co-opting them, subverting or whatever, but that doesn't make me want to join your Facebook group.

Today's social networks can be fun to interact with as a grotesque curiosity, and obviously such a large place also has many interesting people on it and I like keeping up with them. But I can't take a platform serious that doesn't care about the empowerment of users more than accumulating wealth. Do your friends listen to you or do they want you to watch some ads? How much time do we have in our lives to fuck around with these bullshit companies? If you're looking for something you feel is missing, I'd like to say that building it is possible, and fun.

Pls message me if you want to share a cool community, or anything else.

Joel Cook April 2019. This article still in progress.