WTF is the Internet?

The Internet is the great masterpiece of human civilization. As an artifact it challenges the pyramid, the aqueduct, the highway, the novel, the newspaper, the nation-state, the Magna Carta, Easter Island, Stonehenge, agriculture, the feature film, the automobile, the telephone, the telegraph, the television, the Chanel suit, the airplane, the pencil, the book, the printing press, the radio, the realist painting, the abstract painting, the Pill, the washing machine, the skyscraper, the elevator, and cooked meat. As an idea it rivals monotheism

Virginia Heffernan

Throughout this quarter we will be exploring and experimenting with Internet art through the lenses of different online cultural niches; each community having different goals and perspectives, each celebrating their own masterpieces, like net.artist Olia Lialina's My Boyfriend Came Back From the War, digital folklore enthusiast Cameron Askin's homage to GeoCities and the CSS Art of cascading stylesheets virtuoso Diana Smith.

Before we dive into any one of these creative corners of the Internet, it's worth taking a moment to zoom way out and possibly consider the Internet itself as one giant work of art, or as Virginia Heffernan put it, "the great masterpiece of human civilization". In her book Magic and Loss, Heffernan considers the Internet itself as a massive work of art. She explores the logic, aesthetics and values of the Internet as a collective cultural whole. The entire book is worth a read, but we'll just be reading the Preface.