Making Online Art Boring and Static

Tuesday, July 08, 2014 - 02:08 PM

The EO1, Electric Objects's flagship product. (Folkert Gorter)

Electric Objects, the small company which aims to “put the Internet on your wall” by creating an internet-connected screen with the ability to display a lot of art has launched a Kickstarter campaign.

The campaign seems like a way to scrounge up some extra money and provide an early sales outlet, since Electric Objects already has $1.7 million in investor funding. But my beef with Electric Objects runs a little deeper.

Their campaign pitch begins like this:

There's more art on the Internet than in every gallery and museum on Earth.

But many of these beautiful objects are trapped. They’re trapped inside of devices like our phones, our tablets, our TVs, our laptops — devices designed for distraction, living between texts, tweets, football games and emails from work.

That’s familiar rhetoric. Though Jake Levine, CEO of Electric Objects, does differ from some digital skeptics since he believes the problem isn’t too much information, but how we deal with that information. But putting art on a screen near a traditional computer rather than on the computer itself isn’t going to free you from the “distraction” your other devices offer from that art. The computer, the smartphone, will still be there with their notifications. Plus, for what it’s worth, the more distracted, frenetic sort of attention to art that Electric Objects’s mission maligns offers a different sort of value, and not necessarily a bad one. I’m far from the first to think so, and arguably a lot of art that’s native to the Internet only works because it defies the sort of attention Electric Objects seem to believe online art should demand.

What Electric Objects is promising doesn’t seem like much more than a fancy, more convenient USB photo frame that has a few community features. Which is to say nothing of its $500 price tag (or $300, if you get in on the Kickstarter). All this makes it seems an attempt to reify online art when it may be better to let it flit quickly and easily from tab to tab.

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. You can subscribe to our podcast here. You can follow our blog here. We’re also on Twitter, and we play Team Fortress 2 more or less constantly, so find us there if you like to communicate via computer games from six years ago.

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