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The Rise and Fall of Internet Art Communities (artsy.net)
104 points by hardmaru 64 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

As soon as you introduce any kind of an algorithm that favors activity, it's no longer a community. It's a dopamine cash cow waiting for people to naturally fall off because they lose interest. There might be other factors, but this is definitely high on the list.

The same goes for many other modern "communities". Everything is robotized. Configured to feed you with stuff rather than incentivize discovery and a sense of curiosity.

Of course, it's sad that old school forums are literally non-existent. vBulletin, phpBB, IPB -- these are the real internet forums. These days, people want flashy colors, but most importantly, everything handed to them on a golden platter. Albeit, this is likely an issue with concentration and attention span.

A vicious cycle.

Old school forums are far from non-existent. They are simply not money makers, and typically focused on specialized topics. They still exist in large numbers.

One of the biggest shifts that has hurt the visibility of forums these days is not in everything becoming gamified with internet points, or "robotized" with preference-oriented content.

IMO it's actually our societal inability to pay attention to one topic for more than a few minutes at a time. We've become so well trained by the constant drip feed of randomized content, and the chase-the-rabbit research methodology of wikipedia, that when you encounter a forum in your search results, you probably didn't even consciously realize it because you skimmed it for the content you were looking for and moved on.

I'd posit that it's also centralization that played a big role; with aggregating services like Facebook, Reddit etc summarizing the most interesting content coming from other sites, there's no longer a need to go to the source or to the specialized environment.

Which is exactly what at least Facebook's goal has always been - keep people on Facebook. They're pushing content creators to publish their full content on their platform, so people don't need to click through and leave Facebook.

Before, if you had an interest you'd use a search engine and end up on one of many - or just the one - forum. Nowadays you find a relevant subreddit for that and stick to it. You get a lot more passers by, no hassle to create an account for it (because you already have one), a unified interface, and a much wider audience and content creators than you would ever have on your own forums.

Specialized forums certainly still exist, but according to my perception, the activity on many of them has decreased A LOT compared to 10-15 years ago.

People spend much more time on FB, Instagram et al.

Reddit is an interesting hybrid. it does allow for specialized communities, but still engages in the "content feeding" mentioned above.

In forums, deep discussions can/could go on for weeks on the same topic. This completely impossible in today's main platforms.

Hackernews is just as guilty of this!

Few people read submissions older than a day or two, and a miniscule amount of them comment. Because no-one is going to answer anyway. That's my biggest gripe with this community.

I've developed a bad habit over the years: just reading the comments. Articles are always so structured and long winded, it often feels like you get the entire gist of the link from a headline and the comment discussion. Trying to change that by reading more of the headlines (at least skimming or reading sections), but it costs more time.

This is worse here where many frequent front page domains behave distastefully toward their users (paywalls, clickbait, Ads on top, bottom, right, inline, and in popovers...). Luckily, originals sources to poor articles are often posted in the comments too.

Agree, although there are still many incredibly active forums around, but I do feel the golden age of them has passed. I started my career on forums, modifying them, moving eventually on to more general web work. It makes me a little sad to think this is pretty much the only "forum" I post in, but even HN is algorithmically-biased :)

I feel the same. Is like the net turned out to induce too big changes on the present society, which is based on artificial scarcity and gate-keepers. So $they try, successfully until now, to reverse this by turning the net into TV. It works great because the largest part of the population has no idea how it was before and they are at the first stages of building an immunity.

Overall is the Gutenberg press reloaded. First publish bibles in the local languages, then publish anything, like for example Leibniz, outside the usual channels (academia say), then limit the spreading of knowledge via laws and trade over boundaries. Much faster than before, but not so fast so that one individual, say, would witness both the Gutenberg press and a major effect like the USA.

Very interesting that you mention TV, because this had been exactly my thinking process lately. It's starting to look like the goal is to fully commercialise the Web which leaves many (most) with no choice but to follow suit.

Yes, I'm sure many people think like this. Let me get back to the Gutenberg=Net analogy. I take as relevant history points (rounded numbers)

- 1450 Gutenberg - 1970 Arpanet

- 1500 Luther - 1990 Berners-Lee

- 1700 Leibniz - 2010 Open Access, Open Science

- 1800 USA - x, major event towards the freedom of the internet

If we count in decades, suppose both processes as exponential and we take Gutenberg - Arpanet as the 0 point, then we see

2^t_internet = 5^t_gutenberg

which suggests that the major event x would be at about 4.6 decades after the Arpanet. :)

Obscure notation. what I wanted is:

t_internet - t_arpanet = 2^p

t_history - t_gutenberg = 5^p

where t_internet is in the range [t_arpanet, 210] (in decades) and t_history is in the range [t_gutenberg, t_arpanet] (in decades).

Therefore, if a historic event related to the printing press occured at t_history time (in decades) then the equivalent event related to the net occured at t_internet (in decades), given by te formula:

t_internet = t_arpanet + (t_history - t_gutenberg)^0,43067

where 0,43067 = (ln 2)/(ln 5).

I wouldn't classify HN as one of the 'old-school' forums. The community is too large for that.

As I remember forums they are quite a lot smaller than HN and tended to focus around more specific topics. (HN is rather broad).

I do miss the old gaming forums! They're replaced by discord now which is a different way of interacting.

I'm a member of two 'old-school' forums (both built with xenoforo, though), both I've joined 1 and 2 years ago. Both are niche communities and you can find there long-form discussion relevant to the interest of the forums (and then some shitposting, because internet). So old school are still alive, but I can't say how they are evolving.

There's also that story on the front page (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19717717), again about a niche forum (astronomy).

What would be a better name (more broad than “dopamine cash cow”, but more specific than “a vicious cycle”)? Consumerity?

A dopalov cycle.

> As soon as you introduce any kind of an algorithm that favors activity, it's no longer a community.

Humans interactions already feature those, so, no, they don't eliminate the possibility of community or the word would have no meaning in the real world.

If people wanted the community feeling back, they’d go back to old-school forums. They have few content-discovery mechanisms (limited search, no post rankings, no reblog mechanism, chronological post ordering), so your experimental content has the same chance to be seen as the popular stuff, and they have easily-created subcommunities. I’ve seen long-running threads develop their own community feel. Forums were built for that exact purpose; they don’t facilitate content aggregation and sharing like modern platforms.

There’s nothing stopping everyone going back to forums, except that when it comes down to it, people seem to value being able to share/see/rank content easily more than they value a sense of community.

Just my opinion here, but I don’t think our lizard brains are quite so highly evolved.

I don’t compulsively check my phone because I “value” the content. I value what I read in books far more. But my attention span seems to be in free fall and I haven’t picked up a book in months.

I think it is _very_ possible to want something (I.e. a return to old school forums), but not act in a corresponding way.

Social media is digital drugs.

> Social media is digital drugs.

Old-school forums are drugs too, I'm addicted to one myself ;). Mostly for the drama and back-and-forth.

That's conveniently ignoring the various anti-competitive steps that companies like Facebook and Google have used to capture more and more traffic onto their own platforms, diverting it away from smaller independent communities by force, often via EEE-like tactics.

Presenting this as some sort of rational merit-based decision by internet users, is disingenuous at best. Many of us have watched large 'tech companies' destroy our communities through monopolistic tactics.

This idea ignores the levels at which we are manipulated on today's social media platforms. The manipulation is so inherent in the platform that we don't even realize it's happening. This is a different thing from say, a statement like "There's nothing stopping people from going back to riding horses instead of driving cars." Cars didn't manipulate where you went. They just made it easier to get there.

Social media platforms control, manipulate, curate and dictate the destination you arrive at all in an effort to generate clicks and then cash. They are a different thing, playing on our basest instincts and we have to ask ourselves if they actually are net benefits.

I'm sad that Elfwood wasn't mentioned, many now very successful fantasy and science fiction artists were present on Elfwood back before professional artists homepages became the norm. It was a really fascinating community for it's time.

First time I heard of WT and was sad to see it ended in 2016. Was any info ever given as to why? Was unable to find an answer on the site or searching.

The last few comics are about this, although they are somewhat vague. She seems to keep posting on Patreon, though, but only patron-only posts, so I couldn’t tell you what’s in them.

Man, I'd forgotten how much the artstyle of Wasted Talent changed from the first few comics.

I hope stuff's been going well for Jam since she ended the comic.

About 6 years ago, I decided to take a crack at redefining how Art was generated, consumed, and shared : https://vimeo.com/73825583

Thus JuicyCanvas.com was born : https://JuicyCanvas.com -- With a bold Manifesto: https://juicycanvas.com/manifesto/

It was the first social marketplace where visual artists & designers could upload their work to be 'forked' aka 'remixed' by 'remixer' users [1], who then could curate, share, and sell to their friends, fans, and communities.

We managed to attract +500 incredible artists from over 50 Countries who were bold enough to allow their works to have such freedom of re-interpretation.

It was to be the end of 'zombie consumption'..and the beginning of `active consumers` who could finally break free of mass produced art & fashion.

But like all new behaviors/habits, these things take a lot of time to catch on...and time was sadly not our side this time.

Perhaps one day soon, such an idea will rise again...and stick around with more...juice.


It's sort of weird that this article which focuses on community engagement around art production would be posted on artsy, a site targeted toward people addicted to the art world.

I used to run one named ArtGrounds.com between 2005 and 2012. It was one of those small and cozy Internet communities. Three things killed it:

1. I kept twisting knobs to make it grow faster until people got fed up and left.

2. Internet art communities were dying in general.

3. Sketcher, the Java applet I had developed for multi-user real-time collaborative digital painting using pressure sensitive Wacom digitisers — the main draw of the site — was rapidly getting outdated as the Web began to reject Java. HTML5 was still a few years away, making it impossible to implement high-performance graphics apps in the browser. By the time WebGL made the kind of rendering I needed viable in a browser, the site was long gone.

That era of web development was a frustrating time for me. Java in the browser was abandoned without offering a full replacement for its number crunching, graphics and media capabilities. My strong suite was the kind of software you typically write in C/C++ and the web ecosystem just wasn't able to do that kind of thing at the time. I basically sat there and wanted WASM and WebGL and all these other rich web technologies to exist, but they just didn't.

Not sure if anyone else remembers it as fondly, but one of my all time favorite online Art experiences was Ryder Ripps' Dump.fm. Just infinite scrolling chat. With endless streams of animated gifs. Artists would "riff" on each other's works in real time. It felt like a Global Party of the Mind. And perhaps a terrific group therapy session at the same time ;)

One community that always amaze me with its resilience is Newgrounds. It has been around since 1995 and even survived the death of flash.

It's still active, in terms of new content being uploaded to it?

I spent a lot of time there around 2006-08 (I think). There was a lot of good content, but finding it wasn't easy.

It is. There's also more than games (for a little while now). They have an audio/music section and a visual art section.

I think I was there when the visual art section opened, but I never spent much time there.

It got a new surge of popularity with Tumblr cracking down on adult content.

Interesting, but it doesn't mention hell.com and the many related sites. Lots of seizure-inducing flash. I see that https://medialounge.org/ is still there, but I don't have flashplayer installed.

> <meta http-equiv="content-type" name="medialounge - metamash mediation" content="There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite. The possibilities of the art of combination are not infinite, but they tend to be frightful. It is a constant interplay of ideas, a collection of story synopses that work better than novels ever could. Ideas are thrown away as quickly as they arrive. An incomplete, but not false, image of the universe, I am a mistake, a ghost" >

The demoscene has its ups and downs but is active and vibrant as ever.

There was something amazing about having your cracked key generator adored with art from the scene.

I expected ASCII and ANSI art to be mentioned. But well, that was at least partly the pre-internet era.

I thought Tumblr's 'adult content' ban was due to the Apple appstore refusing to host the app? If not why would Tumblr ever make that decision? There were so many other ways to approach it - shadow banning for example.

Tumblr's adult content ban was likely a last-ditch effort by Tumblr, encouraged by owner Verizon, to salvage some business value out a hectic social (re-)blogging site that seemed like a questionable fit even for the previous buyer Yahoo.

Verizon embarked on an ambitious effort to be a force in online content and display ads, so that they'd produce worthwhile content that would contribute to them running a bigger and more successful ad network. They bought AOL and its magazines to make it happen, and a few years later they acquired the content arm of Yahoo when Yahoo pivoted to an investment holding company.

Porn blogs were a big and visible part of Tumblr, but Tumblr's unwillingness to use coarse filtering meant that they were poorly policed. Porn blogs were overwhelmingly run by bots and hosted stolen content, they'd spam-follow unrelated accounts to game search engines, and they'd generally be a nuisance in every way, despite attracting a fair amount of viewers. The Apple App Store fiasco gave a convenient pretext to roll out the coarse filter to whack porn blogs and make the site more palatable for advertisers, but the collateral damage also affected erotica, art, sex-positive communities, and various LGBTQ communities. Meanwhile, ads on Tumblr have gotten a slight bit more frequent since the Yahoo days, but hardly any more relevant or less low-rent.

> I thought Tumblr's 'adult content' ban was due to the Apple appstore refusing to host the app?

No - that ban was because of child pornography, not adult content. Tumblr were apparently working on the adult content ban well before that happened; consensus being that it's likely to avoid problems with SESTA-FOSTA[1].

[1] http://digg.com/2018/tumblr-explicit-adult-content-policy-ba...

Tumblr is dead anyway for me because of their faulty and illegal GDPR support.

Care to elaborate?

Their opt out of marketing tracking box has been a meme because you have to manually click hundreds of checkboxes in a very small window on every pageload to not be tracked, accidentally closing the box or hitting accept once will enable all of them, each one you untick increases your load time as it fakes a progress counter to "opt you out", if you choose to opt out they'll re-prompt you every time you load the page

Additional bonus is that you'll need adblock disabled and third party cookies enabled and all tracking protection turned off to opt out.

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You cannot turn off Facebook tracking for example.

This is in violation of GDPR because it is not possible to access essential functionality without tracking.

This illegal implementation is even worse than before because it now forces me to explicitly agree with the tracking.

It essentially means that I could not access Tumblr anymore.

It essentially means that I could not access Tumblr anymore.

But that's actually okay, no? I mean, you can make a decision what's more important to you...

Yes, this is not my tragedy.

Capitalism is inherently incompatible with how art (and culture in general) works. This is quite funny to me; the US "soft power" of the 20th century was based on the fundamental acceptance of differentiation (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differentiation_(sociology)) and thus won agains the authorititarian left; now by ignoring this we are just destroying ourselves.

I hate this timeline.

PS: A Discourse forum would make for a great platform IMHO.

Mark Zuckerberg ruined the internet

Internet users ruined the internet. Mark is a facilitator, sure.

Gosh those days. Tripod, angelfire, and geocities... young people wont understand it today

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