Vital Signs

New Media Savants Check the Pulse of Silicon Alley

The worst thing would be for the Web industry to lose sight of the power of the link, under the illusory sway of "digital convergence." One of the most dangerous secondary effects of the media concentrations of late is the steady pushing of the Web towards television, moving us from the engaged pursuits of hypertext to the narcotic allure of images. The Web was supposed to be the antidote to television, and it was the link itself that made that promise conceivable. If we lose interest in the Web's linkages, we'll risk trashing the most extraordinary media revolution of the last century.


MARK TRIBE, founder and executive director of Rhizome.org and founder and chairman of StockObjects.com

In the old media world, artists got day jobs as waiters. Today, they can make twice as much and get access to great equipment in the bargain. So there's a lot of cross-pollination between the art world and Silicon Alley. This is especially important for artists who use new media in their work. Most of the net.artists I know in New York have high-paying day jobs at places like Razorfish that help them support the high cost of living in this city. And organizations that support net.art, like Rhizome.org, are starting to get strong financial support from Silicon Alley companies. The IT revolution is also helping artists who work with traditional media like painting by creating new online markets for their work (Artnet.com is a good example of this).

Ask not what technology can do for artists; ask what artists can do for technology. Historically, artists have always been leading adopters of emerging technologies, from photography to the Web. Unlike engineers and entrepreneurs, who tend to use new technologies in obvious ways, artists tend to use them in ways that were never intended. In the process, artists find new applications and approaches that trickle up to science and industry. More importantly, artists help us understand the meanings of new technologies and their impact on our lives.


J.J. GIFFORD, programmer at Funny Garbage at a leading interactive-media design studio

Today's programmers spend much of their time tracking bugs caused by subtle mistakes encouraged by the arcane syntax and structures common in today's most popular languages. Somebody someday will design a language whose truly simple but powerful syntax actually helps programmers avoid such mistakes so they can spend their time not chasing bugs but focusing on system architecture and well-designed feature sets. Development cycles will be radically shorter, more amenable to actual user feedback, and software will be genuinely easier to use.


J.C. HERZ, video game columnist for The New York Times

There are a lot of talented game designers who would rather make bad movies than great games. They're jealous [of Hollywood], because they just get to play with busty virtual characters, whereas film directors get to screw aspiring starlets. They need to get over it. They're making more money than the Hollywood box office. They're creating the most powerful art form of the 21st century. And they have the best toys.


NICHOLAS BUTTERWORTH, president and CEO of MTVi

The Internet has once again leveled the playing field, in the same way that the advent of inexpensive, easily accessible musical instruments fueled the growth of rock and roll in the '50s and '60s. Later, in the '70s and '80s, cheap home-recording equipment empowered a new generation of musicians to create the music they wanted on their own terms.

I see the Internet as the next and greatest leap in that continuing trend toward empowering both musicians and listeners because it puts more power to create at more people's fingertips. If I started a new band tomorrow, we would have to get a computer before we could afford a van.

The next coolest thing for music is wireless technology—it's going to make digital music ubiquitous in daily life. Digital audio is going mobile through handheld devices, cell phones, and other new technologies. We can deliver event-based data such as concert times and up-to-the-minute music news wirelessly. Wireless rules.

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