Bianca's Digital Garden


Search IconIcon to open search

The Rise and Fall of Internet Art Communities - Essay

Last updated Aug 15, 2023

# Information

# Highlights

Before big tech shepherded the vast number of online users onto a handful of sleek websites, there was a scrappier internet—where offbeat chat rooms and eccentric niche websites reigned, and carefully crafted “away statuses” were a kind of personal branding—back when you could be away from the internet. ==Until attention spans became a commodity, the internet was dreamed of as a “bastion for people to direct their own education,”== as Charles Broskoski, co-founder of internet bookmarking site, remembers.

The internet presented a ==breadth of opportunity for all kinds of artists==—often of marginalized identities or with artistic interests unrecognized by institutions.

Before advanced search engines, information floated on databases like a string of scattered islands. ==Communities formed out of necessity to help early users surf the boundless web.==

Unlike the quantifiable interactions that pass for interactivity in 2019, such as “likes” and “reactions,” there was genuine engagement in DeviantArt’s chat rooms and forums. “A culture developed on DeviantArt where comments simply saying things like ‘cool!’ and ‘nice!’ were frowned upon,” Van Baarle explained. “People wanted in-depth comments and feedback, with constructive criticism.” Today, she added, ==the quality of conversation is “disappearing on the big social-media platforms like Instagram.”==

Then, in the 2010s, Instagram capitalized on the mass adoption of smartphones, and Facebook grew into a site larger than any country in the world. And while artists have made their mark on all of the major social-media networks, these new, bigger sites have changed the way we communicate and consume. Algorithms steer us back to similar content in echo chambers that inhibit both critical and creative thinking. Platforms incentivized to keep users scrolling discourage long-looking and render users as passive consumers, rather than active seekers of inspiration. They aren’t a space for productive feedback, either: Art takes on a different tone when it’s surrounded by dog GIFs, political memes, and your cousin’s baby photos.

Cards/context collapse

Van Baarle, who has 1.5 million followers on Instagram, expresses exasperation at the platform. “It’s about posting bite-sized content as frequently as possible,” she said, in order to ==game the algorithms that choose what followers see and reward frequency with more visibility==. She also noted that it is tempting to post simpler artworks to Instagram. “Most social-media platforms don’t reward the extra time and effort that goes into [detailed digital paintings] anymore.”

web3 makes creation REWARDING

Many sites vying for artists’ attention—such as Dribbble, Behance, and ArtStation—are more suited for professional artists building a portfolio of work. While they are valuable tools, ==they don’t leave space for the same kind of learning, open brainstorming, and wild experimentation seen in earlier art communities.== Today’s communities “aren’t quite the same,” Stephens noted. “I was really lucky that there was that platform for me to learn from other designers in a collaborative and safe environment.”

this is what i see in web3, which is very community + project based

Ultimately, today’s internet is full of contradictions. ==There are more people to connect with than ever, and yet less room for the exploration and creativity that cultivates strong artistic communities.==