Network Culture – The Third Space


Week 3: February 1 – 7

The third space is defined as a shared electronic space with remote participants connected via the network. We will explore the psychological and conceptual dimensions of the third space, notions of distributed presence, the dissolution of the object, disembodiment, the immaterial, and the intimacy of the telematic embrace. We will discuss third space forms of collective experience via the network through live media, remote location, mobility, transformations of geographical perception in time and space, and how the third space lends itself to artistic realization.


Due next week: February 8


Packer, Randall, Open Source Studio, IEEE Spectrum, 2015
Re-read the section entitled “Collective Narrative.”

Research Critique

Each student will be assigned a work to research and critique from the following list:

Write short 250 word essay about your assigned work, the artist(s). Incorporate the readings (see above), as relevant, into your research post, using at least one quote to support your own research and analysis.

The goal of the research critique is to conduct independent research by reviewing the online documentation of the work, visiting the artist’s Website, and googling any other relevant information about the artist and their work. You will give a presentation of your research in class and we will discuss how it relates to the topic of the week: The Collective Artwork

Here are instructions for the research critique:

  • Create a new post on your blog incorporating relevant hyperlinks, images, video, etc
  • Be sure to reference and quote from the reading to provide context for your critique
  • Apply the “Research” category
  • Apply appropriate tags
  • Add a featured image
  • Post a comment on at least one other research post prior to the following class
  • Be sure your post is formatted correctly, is readable, and that all media and quotes are DISCUSSED in the essay, not just used as introductory material.

Micro-Project #3 – The Telematic Embrace

Following in the exercise in today’s class, everyone will write a short post, including a screenshot of the composite, discussing their experience of the micro-project, and applying it to what we have learned so far about the third space.

Micro-Project #4 – The Collective Body

This micro-project involves the construction of a “collective body” made up of our body parts randomly reassembled and reconfigured into a single composite body, using Flickr as a repository for our images. See Project Description for additional details.



Artworks for Review

Sherry Rabinowitz & Kit Galloway, Hole in Space, 1980

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowiitz, Hole in Space (1980)

Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, founders of the Electronic Café in Santa Monica, California, were among the first artists to begin exploring communications art through satellite technologies. Their seminal work, Hole-in-Space from 1980, represented one of the earliest examples of live, networked media art. They setup two large projection screens: one at Lincoln Center in New York City, the other at Century City in Los Angeles, to connect two live audiences. Conceived as a participatory event (much like the early theatrical Happenings), this unannounced project, setup for three consecutive days, enabled two groups of viewers to see the other live and in real-time across the space of the US, which literally collapsed the distance and experience of the real and the virtual, the local and the remote.

How does this telecommunications piece involve the audience? What is the material of the work? What does it mean to create a site-specific work of art? And in this work, the idea of the performer is completely removed, leaving only the audience as participants in the work: how does this change the relationship between the artist and viewer?

Kit Galloway (b. 1948) and Sherrie Rabinowitz (1950-2013) co-founded the Electronic Café International (ECI), a cafe, networking centre, performance and workshop space and art hub in Santa Monica, California. Until Rabinowitz’s death, they created numerous art works which could be categorized as communication aesthetics, telematic art and digital theatre.

Paul Sermon, Telematic Dreaming (1993)

Paul Sermon, Telematic Dreaming (1993)

Paul Sermon’s Telematic Dreaming was originally produced as a commission for the annual summer exhibition curated by the Finnish Ministry of Culture in Kajaani, with support from Telecom Finland, in June 1992.

Within the third space, two participants lie on beds in remote locations, but together they share a bed in electronic space. Although they are not physically together, there is a strong sense of intimacy and shared presence between the participants. This piece directly questions the sense of intimacy experienced in the third space: the “telematic embrace” of individuals united via the network. When you “touch” another individual in the third space, why do you feel a connection as though you were physically present? Why is there a sense of intimacy in the third space, even though you are remote from the other person(s). Telematic Dreaming asks these questions while looking forward to how we are increasingly engaging with one another and forming relationships in the third space.

Artist Statement: Telematic Dreaming is an installation that was created within the ISDN digital telephone network. Two separate interfaces are located in separate locations, these interfaces in themselves are dynamic installations that function as customized video-conferencing systems. A double bed is located within both locations, one in a blacked out space and the other in an illuminated space. The bed in the light location has a camera situated directly above it, sending a live video image of the bed, and a person (“A”) lying on it, to a video projector located above the other bed in the blacked out location. The live video image is projected down on to the bed with another person (“B”) on it. A second camera, next to the video projector, sends a live video image of the projection of person “A” with person “B” back to a series of monitors that surround the bed and person “A” in the illuminated location. The telepresent image functions like a mirror that reflects one person within another persons reflection.

Telematic Dreaming” deliberately plays with the ambiguous connotations of a bed as a telepresent projection surface. The psychological complexity of the object dissolves the geographical distance and technology involved in the complete ISDN installation. The ability to exist outside of the users own space and time is created by an alarmingly real sense of touch that is enhanced by the context of the bed and caused by an acute shift of senses in the telematic space. The users consciousness within the telepresent body is controlled by a voyeurism of its self. The cause and effect interactions of the body determine its own space and time, by extending this through the ISDN network, the body can travel at the speed of light and locate itself wherever it is interacting. In “Telematic Dreaming” the user exchanges their tactile senses and touch by replacing their hands with their eyes.

Paul Sermon was born in Oxford, England, 1966. Studied BA Hon’s Fine Art degree under Professor Roy Ascott at The University of Wales, from September 1985 to June 1988. Studied a Post-graduate MFA degree at The University of Reading, England, from October 1989 to June 1991. Awarded the Prix Ars Electronica “Golden Nica”, in the category of interactive art, for the hyper media installation “Think about the People now”, in Linz, Austria, September 1991. Produced the ISDN videoconference installation “Telematic Vision” as an Artist in Residence at the Center for Art and Media Technology (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany, from February to November 1993. Received the “Sparkey Award” from the Interactive Media Festival in Los Angeles, for the telepresent video installation “Telematic Dreaming”, June 1994. From 1993 to 1999 worked as Dozent for Media Art at the HGB Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig, Germany. During this time continued to produced further interactive telematic installations including “Telamatic Encounter” in 1996 and “The Tables Turned” in 1997 for the Ars Electronica Centre in Linz, and the ZKM Media Museum in Karlsruhe. From 2000 to 2013 employed as Professor of Creative Technology at the University of Salford, School of Arts & Media. From 1997 to 2001 Guest Professor for Performance and Environment at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria. Since September 2013 employed as Professor of Visual Communication in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Brighton, United Kingdom.

Annie Abrahams, The Big Kiss (2007)

Dutch performance artist Annie Abrahams uses webcam technology to unite participants in a shared electronic space. In this work, the two performers attempt to kiss through the network. Despite physical separation, there is a sense of intimacy and even sexuality in the telematic embrace. We ask the question: are we “alone together,” or are we able to form meaningful and deeply human connections through networked interaction and performance.

This work explores the idea of the “telematic embrace,” a concept discussed by theorist Roy Ascott in terms of qualities of engagement in networked space. Here, cyberperformance artist Annie Abrahams explores the integration of two physical spaces as a stage set for a third space. As the performers combine their telematically connected bodies in the third space, they attempt to reach through the digital divide, to explore a kind of extended human presence across the network. Is this what we experience when we are engaged in a Skype conversation?

Annie Abrahams has a doctoraal (M2) in biology from the University of Utrecht and a MA2 from the Academy of Fine Arts of Arnhem. In her work, using video, performance as well as the internet, she questions the possibilities and the limits of communication in general and more specifically investigates its modes under networked conditions. She is known worldwide for her net art and collective writing experiments and is an internationally regarded pioneer of networked performance art. Abrahams creates situations meant to reveal messy and sloppy sides of human behaviour, to trap reality and so makes that reality available for thought.

Second Front, Grand Theft Avatar (2008)


Second Front, founded in 2006, is the first performance art group in the online virtual world of Second Life. Second Front has performed extensively both in-world and in galleries and museums. Though the artists perform remotely their performances have been shown live in New York, Los Angeles, Moscow, Brussels, Berlin, Vancouver and many other cities.

Grand Theft Avatar is a live performance created in Second Life, a virtual world and multi-user environment. Second Life has its own currency, Lindens, its own laws, rules, and regulations, and essentially uses the third space to create a “second life” for individuals separate and apart from their first life in the real world.

From the project Website for Grand Theft Avatar : Second Front robs the Linden Treasury acting as the “currency liberation army.” In a live performance at the San Francisco Art Institute as part of the “From Cinema to Machinima” panel, they impersonated the members of the panel, walked in on Patty Hearst (1970s terrorist and daughter of newspaper mogul Randolph Hearst), the receptionist, grabbed the loot and freed it. In a final act of desperation, they rode H-bombs, Slim Pickens style (Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr. Strangelove) into the sunset.

Since the graphical antics of the earlier Palace multi-user environment, Second Life has set the stage for performance events that create nearly believable worlds. While still in the realm of simple animation, Second Life provides a multi-user environment for dramatic action, character development, unusual gestural movement, spoken lines, sound effects, and lavish set design. In Grand Theft Avatar, the Second Front company of avatar-actors sabotages Second Life’s monetary system, by robbing the “Linden Treasury” of virtual dollars, the currency actually used commercially by those who inhabit the space. This work is an example of artistically critiquing game structure, in which artists stage counter-narrative that undermines more traditional game structure, while at the same time, commenting on the social and political nature of game strategies. Grand Theft Avatar is a critical challenge to Second Life, questioning the authenticity of its currency, rules, and “lifestyle.”

Second Life is an online virtual world, developed by Linden Lab , based in San Francisco, and launched on June 23, 2003. By 2013 Second Life had approximately 1 million regular users, according to Linden Lab, which own Second Life. In many ways, Second Life is similar to MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games); however, Linden Lab is emphatic that their creation is not a game: “There is no manufactured conflict, no set objective”.

Second life is a world inhabit by an online community of participants who build their own spaces, sell their goods, stage performances, meet up with friends, and travel around this third space environment. For many, Second Life really is their second life, it is a seductive world that people inhabit to reinvent themselves, create identities, and engage in bizarre interactions with an assortment of odd characters. In Second Life you can fly, run faster then the wind, and create anything you can imagine. It is a utopic environment where you can test your fantasies, realize dreams, but in many cases, lose yourself in the loss of reality.

Introduction to the Third Space

How does the third space environment collapse distance, join the local and remote, and activate new kinds of social experiences via the network?

Here is a definition:

The third space represents the fusion of the physical (first space) and the remote (second space) into a third space that can be inhabited by remote users simultaneously or asynchronously.

Name different ways that we engage everyday in the third space. How has inhabiting the third space changed our everyday reality? How has it altered our perception of space and distance? And how has it changed our social relationships?

The third space fundamentally represents the fusion of the physical (first space) and the virtual (second space) into a space that can be inhabited by remote users simultaneously or asynchronously. The hybrid notion of blurring the real and the virtual is expanded in the third space through distributed presence, in which the participants of the third space are in remote physical spaces. Essentially, we are referring to a shared electronic space, in which interaction takes place in space between the real and the virtual. As you can see, the third space extends the notion of the real and the virtual by creating a new kind of hybrid space that allows remote participants to interact both with the work, and with each other.

The third space is not a new concept: speaking on a telephone is a third space experience, or perhaps “phone space,” in which participants are joined together electronically from remote locations for purposes of communication. Watching a movie is not a third space experience, because all of the viewers are watching from the same physical space. However, Adobe Connect is a third space environment, as we use the shared space of the interface to interact, view one another, chat, and give presentations: all while remotely distributed. The third space does not need to be live, it can be realized and experienced asynchronously, such as a Web-based discussion forum or even email and texting, however, the experienced of exchange and participation is heightened when the interaction is live and in real-time.

For our study of the third space, we begin by holding our class in the third space in order to engage in what I like to refer to as a “visceral experience of the virtual.” Perhaps the best way to understand the concept of the third space is to learn, work, and create in this distributed space. Although we are all remotely “jacked” into the network (to coin a term from cyberpunk writer William Gibson), we can inhabit this space together, talk, exchange ideas, smile, laugh, and conduct a class that is nearly the same as one held in the physical space. While we are not physically present, we are in fact *together* in the third space. As the world becomes increasingly networked and digital, this is the reality of the future, and the future is here.

Third Space Constructions

Posted by Ros Farzana on Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Micro-Project #3

Micro-Project #3: Telematic Embrace