Internet Art and Agency
: The Social Lives of Online Artworks

  • Karin De Wild

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    During the 1990s, artists started to explore the possibilities of the World Wide Web. This thesis investigates online artworks by studying their agency. Why do people interact with them, as if they are alive? How do they mobilise people, or make them share visions and ideas? Based on research in largely untapped archives, it presents an in-depth examination of several case studies, exploring the artwork’s ability to have the power to act in a variety of social settings. Through studying the life trajectory of the artwork, it also offers insights in how these dynamic entities undergo changes over time and across cultures. Grounded in theoretical literature on the agency of art, this research offers an innovative way of understanding Internet art and it contributes to wider conversations about the agency of art and artefacts.

    Case studies include:

    Mouchette (Martine Neddam), ‘Mouchette’ (1996-present). Web project ( Collection of Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam).

    Shu Lea Cheang, ‘Brandon’ (1998-1999). Web project
    ( Collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York).

    Lynn Hershman Leeson, ‘Agent Ruby’ (1998-2002). Web project ( Collection of SFMOMA (San Francisco).
    Date of Award2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Dundee
    SupervisorSarah Cook (Supervisor) & Wendy Moncur (Supervisor)


    • Material culture
    • Art history
    • Internet art
    • Alfred Gell
    • Agency
    • Agent-Based Modelling
    • Museum
    • Heritage
    • Digital
    • Curation
    • Web archive
    • Anthropology
    • Preservation

    Cite this

    Internet Art and Agency: The Social Lives of Online Artworks
    De Wild, K. (Author). 2019

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy