Leonardo, Volume 32, Issue 5 | Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University
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Digital Salon Essays

  • Hypermedia, Eternal Life, and the Impermanence Agent
    Get at MIT Press

    We look to media as memory, and a place to memorialize, when we have lost. Hypermedia pioneers such as Ted Nelson and Vannevar Bush envisioned the ultimate media within the ultimate archive—with each element in continual flux, and with constant new addition. Dynamism without loss. Instead we have the Web, where “Not Found” is a daily message. Projects such as the Internet Archive and Afterlife dream of fixing this uncomfortable impermanence. Marketeers promise that agents (indentured information servants that may be the humans of About.com or the software of “Ask Jeeves”) will make the Web comfortable through filtering—hiding the impermanence and overwhelming profluence that the Web's dynamism produces. The Impermanence Agent—a programmatic, esthetic, and critical project created by the author, Brion Moss, a.c. chapman, and Duane Whitehurst— operates differently. It begins as a storytelling agent, telling stories of impermanence, stories of preservation, memorial stories. It monitors each user's Web browsing, and starts customizing its storytelling by weaving in images and texts that the user has pulled from the Web. In time, the original stories are lost. New stories, collaboratively created, have taken their place.

Special Section: Synesthesia

Digital Salong Catalog

Artists' Statements


Leonardo, Volume 32, Issue 5

October 1999