From MozillaWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

The following is blue-sky thinking about a possible Mozilla-related program according to my personal framework for strategic grantmaking.

  • Problem: The Mozilla project wants to promote the use of open web technologies (e.g., HTML5 and Canvas) for advanced graphical applications such as digital art, but creative individuals working with online media are still generally wedded to proprietary or non-web-native technologies (e.g., Flash or Java).
  • Entrepreneurial partner: TBD.
  • Internal champion(s): TBD.
  • Short-term goal: Get more people creating art using open web technologies.
  • Long-term vision: Use open source technologies and practices to help spark a new wave of artists and artistic movements rooted in the values, communities, and technologies of the open web.
  • Strategy and analysis: TBD.
  • Activities: Activities under this program might include:
    • support of the Processing for the Web project to migrate the Processing language and environment to the open web
    • support for efforts to create new open web applications for online collaboration by artists
    • sponsorship of commissions, competitions, challenges, workshops, and other events to promote creation of artworks using open web technologies.
  • Funding: TBD, but likely would be relatively small in comparison to other programs.
  • Other partners: TBD
    • institutions (e.g., museums, private foundations) supporting artists working in digital media


The idea for a program relating to the arts is an outgrowth of the informal (and unfunded) Processing for the Web initiative created as part of the Mozilla Education project. Many artists use Processing as a tool in creating their work. The availability of a native web version would allow many of those works to be migrated to the web, and might interest artists in creating more works specifically leveraging the technologies, culture, and practices of the open web.

Further reading

Art on the web doesn't exist in isolation, but rather is part of larger art movements that exist as part of (and at times in opposition to) the overall contemporary art world. The following is a list of information resources relevant to understanding what's going on in these scenes.


  • Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton is a lively introduction to the contemporary art world and the people and institutions within it; it's a good place to start if you're a novice. New media art was and is in some ways a reaction against the existing contemporary art world, just as free software and open source were a reaction against the world of proprietary software. But understanding that world is key, just as understanding the proprietary software world is key to understanding how FOSS evolved. (A review of the book in The Nation gives a good summary of its themes.)
  • New Media Art by Mark Tribe and Reena Jana (also available as a (CC-licensed) wiki). Tribe was the original founder of the new media art web site/community Rhizome (see below). The introduction is worth reading in full; the other parts of the book are descriptions of and links to particular art works and projects discussed in the introduction.
  • Internet Art by Rachel Greene is a survey of art based on Internet techologies (email, the web, etc.) from the mid-1990s to circa 2004. Greene is a former director of Rhizome.
  • Digital Art by Christiane Paul is a survey of digital art from the 1980s to circa 2007. The book is part of the same "World of Art" series as Internet Art, with a wider scope.
  • MediaArtHistories, edited by Oliver Grau, is a collection of essays that attempt to place digital and new media art in historical context.

Online resources:

  • Rhizome is a leading hub for artists, innovators, students and arts professionals, "dedicated to the creation, presentation, preservation, and critique of emerging artistic practices that engage technology". Originally founded by Mark Tribe in the late 1990s as an independent site, it is now operated under the auspices of the New Museum. Rhizome publishes a weekly email newsletter that's a good low-volume way to keep up with developments, trends, and significant projects.
  • Media Art Net is a collection of essays on the field, including a useful overview of media art.
  • we make money not art is a blog by Belgian writer Régine Debatty on the "intersection between art, design and technology".

Selected articles:

  • Ten Dreams of Technology by Steve Dietz (2002). Describes ten themes associated with the intersection of art and technology (e.g., human/machine symbiosis, emergent behavior, immersive environments, etc.) and links to art works touching on each theme. It's useful in identifying concerns that are relatively unique to digital art and go beyond typical concerns of contemporary art in general.
  • Interview with Casey Reas and Ben Fry by Daniel Shiffman (2009). Great background on the history and evolution of Processing.
  • Q + A with Jon Ippolito and John Bell on Open Source Art. A discussion of how open source values and practices can inform artistic practice. Ippolito and Bell are two of the people responsible for The Pool, an online site for artists somwhat analogous to open source sites like,, and others.
  • Opening the Source of Art by John Bell. More on The Pool and related projects. "Since interpreting art is not nearly as straightforward as interpreting code, retroactively 'commenting' an artwork is problematic at best. What is needed in the arts are systems that remove the need to reverse-engineer an artwork by preserving not just the artifacts that go into its construction, but also the ideas, methods, and thought processes of the people involved in making the artwork."

Selected examples of artists working with open tools:

  • White Glove Tracking by Evan Roth and Ben Engebreth. "On May 4th, 2007, we asked internet users to help isolate Michael Jackson's white glove in all 10,060 frames of his nationally televised landmark performance of Billy Jean. 72 hours later 125,000 gloves had been located. ... Just as the data was gathered collectively it is our hope that it will be visualized collectively."
  • Shiftspace. "... an open source browser plugin for collaboratively annotating, editing and shifting the web." Implemented as a Firefox extension.
  • Real Costs. "...a Firefox plug-in that inserts emissions data into travel related e-commerce websites."
  • Learning to Love You More. "Participants accept an assignment, complete it by following the simple but specific instructions, send in the required report (photograph, text, video, etc), and see their work posted on-line."
  • Graffiti Research Lab. "Dedicated to outfitting graffiti artists with open source technologies for urban communication" Projects using lasers and other technologies for graffiti-like works.
  • net.flag by Mark Napier. "Net.flag is a flag for the Internet. ... The visitor to net.flag not only views the flag but can change it in a moment to reflect their own nationalist, political, apolitical or territorial agenda."
  • Artzilla. "... dedicated to the development of experimental browser software. ... We collect and exhibit creative works, share code and tutorials (, and publish news from the scene." As the name implies, concentrates on works embodied as Firefox extensions.

Sample exhibitions:

University programs: