background image
The first virtual exhibition produced by ZKM in this manner was net_condition that
was published in 1999. 115.000 individuals visited net_condition online.The exhibition
itself generated a good press echo, where it turned out that ? of the persons who wrote
about the net_condition exhibition have researched their information only online and
never visited the real thing.
Who are the users?
In the meantime, the ZKM web site generates 500.000 ­ 750.000 page impressions every
month. 50.000 ­ 60.000 persons visit the web site on a monthly basis that is about the
maximum that can be reached by institutions like the ZKM.
What's critical to understand for virtual museums is that the Internet is first and foremost
a social space that offers room to communicate.Yet, the desire for communication is not
necessarily satisfied by offering a discussion forum, as the ZKM-example shows.When
installing a discussion forum to give users the opportunity to debate new media art online,
the forum was hardly used. It only worked, when the forum was moderated by key persons
such as artists or new media art critics. Instead, other strategies like the daily posting of
global news about new media art or publishing information on new media art projects
online or new virtual museums, works well. Insofar,Thomas Fürstner, Head of the ZKM
Institute for Net Development, is convinced that not those museum web sites that have the
most flashy, leading-edge technology interface will be the winners, but those who are able
to constantly update their content.Transferring competence to the users and offering them
to take control is the key to a successful online presence.
Art as driver of innovation
The track record of R&D projects in the ZKM research units, the Institute for Visual
Media and the Institute for Music and Acoustics at the ZKM, is impressive. Over the last
four years, they generated a whole repository of innovative hard- and software prototypes
supporting artistic expression. Undoubtedly, what artists achieve at the ZKM is fundamental
innovation.This innovation goes far beyond the level of designing hard- and software tools,
but touches a deeper, conceptual level as the following example illustrates:
This makes the palm pilot look old
Today, the idea of walking through a museum with a palm-pilot in your hand that can
deliver personalised, context- and location sensitive information, seems to be leading edge
and innovative. Although there is still a technological challenge to make this work, the basic
concept of this idea was already introduced in the mid-70s. Back then, an artist developed a
computer-based system that would allow to display location-sensitive information. Instead
of a palm-pilot, he used an ordinary computer with monitor and a battery that he pushed
through an empty room in a shopping cart.The room was equipped with a tracking system
and allowed him to receive data on his monitor as he was pushing the cart through the
room. Conceptually, there is no difference to the palm pilot idea.
In the world of new media art, there exist many similar examples of artistic innovation.
Yet, the technology is not in the forefront, but always technology in its social context as
artists try to grasp of what the new media are all about in relation to humans, and what the
possible creative uses could be."Artists are the antennas of the shape of things to come.
They recognise and give form to possibilities, to perceptions, that are not yet common
272
IX TECHNOLOGY