Commissioned Text

Art in the Age of DataFlow

Narrative, Authorship, and Indeterminacy

August 2009

Supported by National Endowment for the Arts

How to write a chapter that ostensibly has no end? Who is the author when anyone can edit? Does dialogue occur on listserves and blogs? How do we make meaning of trends? I look at the emergence of nonlinear narrative (1940-2006), using the mathematical terms scalar, vector and flow as conceptual or visual metaphors that describe structure, transmission, and social patterns. Scalar examines the set, non-linear narratives of hypermedia and the indeterminate narratives of Wikis; vector, the dialogic narratives of listserves and blogs; and artistic visualizations that seek to reveal patterns as flows of information in networked cultures increase.

These modes of representation, and the artists who exemplify them in this chapter, illustrate the transition from linear to non-linear narrative, the emergence of indeterminate notions of authorship and readership, and the problematic nature of communication and representation in open networks. Consideration is given to pioneers of interactive and networked systems, Vannevar Bush and Douglas Engelbart, without whom contemporary hypermedia would not exist.

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