■ "VisitorsStudio "
    VisitorsStudio (UK)


    Can you come out and play with me?

    Grand Prize for this year, the online platform VisitorsStudio, is not a complete newcomer to the netart scene -- it's been running as a live visual-sonic collaboratory for a few years now. As a playground, it offers many
    degrees of freedom within what appears at first to be a restrictive environment. But, isn't it true that all play-places have limits? Your mother would never let you go off just anywhere and play, but she would certainly approve of VisitorsStudio. The limits of VisitorsStudio lie primarily in the intriguing area of file sizes (more on that shortly). The interface is intuitive and straight forward, and without a steep learning curve, anyone can playfully create works in no time.

    The most obvious elements of digital mash-up play are the text, the image (still and moving), and the sound. Participants in VisitorsStudio may gather these elements themselves and using a rich set of live controls make compelling live mixes. There is an existing database of files to work with, or, you can prepare your own media library to upload and play with. This is where each sound, image, or video file is limited to a 200kb maximum size -- you will be surprised at what can be done -- the result is absolute proof that great things come in small packages.

    VisitorsStudio is available for special performances and makes an ideal platform for educators in all settings who wish to stimulate imaginations with real interactive digital art -- its not simulated and its not eye-candy. As a collaborative tool, it does not aggressively take the foreground in the process, but rather works as a solid and supportive background element for seamless play.

    Of course, the best way to enjoy a jam session is with a heavy-duty sound system and a 72-inch plasma screen or a video projector hooked to your laptop. You will be the resident visual-sonic artist. But intimate small-screen solo play is also very satisfying. The best feature, however, is the possibility for live remote playmates to jump in or just watch. Invite your friends half-way around the world to join you in a jam session!

    Technically, VisitorsStudio needs only an internet connection and a browser running the latest version of the Flash plugin. And, hey, if we ask, maybe they will port a Wii controller to VisitorsStudio! Wouldn't that be fun? Let's play.!

    One of the Honorable Mentions for the 2009 netart award is SiTO's gridcosm project which, if there ever was a primordial interactive play-place online, this is it. Gridcosm was initiated by Ed Stasny way back in 1997 as an outgrowth of SiTO's live online image mash-up collaborations. That's in the PreCambrian era of internet time! It even has its own Wikipedia entry! But gridcosm clearly tapped into something fundamental -- with a fresh and accessible interface design; solid back-end code; and exuding a rare social sensibility of precisely what it means to collaborate online -- there are hundreds of contributors. A dozen years later, the collaborative space is continuously full with a vibrant and evolving palette of personalities and plenty evidence of creative juice spilling out onto the screen. The acronym SiTO originally came from OTIS (Operational Term is Stimulate) which was the motto of the nascent online artists collective back in 1994 or so. So, kudos to gridcosm for sheer staying power and what looks to be a lively future. How many layers does an artwork need to have for it to be classified as cosmologically significant? Visit gridcosm and discover the answer to this profound question! It's an open project for anyone to jump into -- as are all the SiTO collaborative projects -- so, check it out!

    Both of these projects stand as examples of what social networking can be -- a pleasant and energized alternative to the proliferation of insidious Web 2.0 platforms that just want your attention, and nothing else, at any cost. No advertising, no spam, just a cool place to play, just ask your mother.

    John Hopkins