“The List-serv-empyre-softskinned Space” presented by Ferro


Session Title:

  • Contemporary Cultural Heritage - e-discourse in Online Networked Communities: Structure, Timing, Tone, and Affect

Presentation Title:

  • The List-serv-empyre-softskinned Space




  • In this panel artist and managing moderator, Renate Ferro, discusses the history and relevance of the listserv platform, -empyre- soft-skinned space, which emerged in art and technology networks in 2002. Originally conceived as an open networked community -empyresoft- skinned space includes nearly 2000 new media artists, curators, theorists, producers, and others who participate in monthly discussions via an email listserv. The online discussions facilitate global perspectives on critical topics revolving around networked media. As it enters its fourteenth year, -empyre- soft-skinned space continues to be a platform dedicated to the plurality of global perspectives encompassing Australia, North America, greater Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Originally designed and implemented by Melinda Rackham and coded to exist in the VRML and Java world of VNET, -empyre- beta version was launched at ISEA 2000 in Nagoya, Japan. It was envisioned as a utopic collective meant to foster discussions where many points of view could be heard. The listserv is currently archived online by the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia), and its website is hosted by the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art in the Cornell University Library.

    While the over-arching design continues to foster an open-community based network of participants who share their discourse through educational, commercial and independent venues, there is an intrinsic and cumbersome organic life span to –empyre-’s existence. The ebb and flow of the written daily posts sometimes come on fast and furiously while at other times the pacing is slow or even silent. Though the intension was always to strike a tone of informality to allow for intellectually and culturally diverse participants, realistically over the years, generations of subscribers have posted a blend of styles from casual conversations to at times lengthy treatises designed for conference formats. While the archive of topics has mirrored the evolution of new media practices and technology, the less than ideal physical logistics that are required for it to remain active remains a constant curatorial challenge.

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