Art and the Digital Age by Jean Bennett

How has the digital age affected art?

My textualities presentation focused on how the rise of technology and the internet have affected art culture, and how this has changed our perception of art over time. Is it a good or a bad thing? Here I will outline some of the pros and cons of the affects the internet has on art and try to form some answers to this question. 

Art through the ages has always been a very physical form of expression; ink on paper, paint on canvas, and so on. There was a time when art was very exclusive and could only be seen in its original physical form in a museum or private collection. There were reproductions in the form of printed images in books of course, but these are comparably few, even now, as it is expensive for art historians to publish images to go alongside their critique. Therefore, only essential images are selected. Also, inevitably only a small number of people would see books such as these, mainly scholars. So the scope for art reaching the general public’s awareness in the past has been quite limited.

So how has the introduction of technology and the internet affected art today?

Well, the answer is greatly.

The internet has changed the way we look at art completely, and has opened it up to anyone who wants to view it.
Of course there are pros and cons to this widespread access.


  • Anyone with access to the internet can view images of any artwork they would like to see and learn about in any location they want.
    This takes away the element of exclusivity by facilitating unlimited viewership.
  • This free access leads to a much better system for education in art both at a scholarly level and in peoples personal lives if it so
    interests them. It also allows historians to write online resource which can include as many images as desired because there is no cost
    involved like there would be with print.
  • For modern day artists the internet is a god send as regards gaining profile. And anyone can now be an artist in the sense that you can
    post your own artwork online and let the audience decide if they like it or not. This cuts out the middle man of being selected by people in
    art business as worthy of exhibiting art in high profile places. It is easy to publicise both your own work and persona through websites such
    as Facebook.For example, UCC artist Alan Hurley has used this to great advantage.
  • The internet has brought with it a whole new dimension to art. Digital art is something new and exciting and a major skill and art form in its
    own right. It is very different in the sense that it is not just being reproduced only but is actually made digitally and therefore seeing it on a
    screen is to see it in its intended original state. And there is not one original, as every copy has the same integrity. This is a major departure
    from artworks of the past.


  • While widespread access is a good thing it also has its downsides. When you Google a painting you are confronted with many different reproductions
    of it from many different sources. They are all of different sizes and quality and the colour varies from one to another. A painting was not meant to
    be seen primarily on a screen, and its viewing is technically greatly altered by this.
  • On a similar note, the medium and therefore possibly the impact and interpretation of an art work can be changed by viewing it online.
    For example, a huge installation artwork which is made specifically to be viewed as 3D and impede on our physical space can be seen in an online
    image and we somehow think we have then seen that piece of art.
  • The same goes for texture. When you look at a painting close up it is so different from a screen. You can see every brush stroke and inflection of
    colour; it is quite a different viewing experience.
  • Widespread access to images also means that anyone can alter them. Many satirical images of artworks appear online, and while this in itself can be
    harmless and entertaining and even a form of art, it does pose a few difficulties. It threatens the authorship and authenticity of art works

Overall, it has to be said that the technological advances of recent years and the ever growing prominence and integration of the internet into our daily lives has been a good development for art culture. Yes, there are problematic elements, but at the end of the day a bad reproduction of an art work online does not diminish the original, and at least it can still serve as an informational tool and spark interest and inspiration in our minds. And on an informational level people are much more aware of art exhibitions, festivals, and happenings that are going on both locally and globally. The internet provides this social connection to the art world. It is also clear that if we step back from the issue we will see that the web is not just a go between but actually a form of art in itself – digital images, web design, game designing, in fact every image we see on every web page has been created by someone in the hopes of being visually pleasing and enticing as well as having a useful purpose.Ultimately there is no black and white answer to the question of whether the digital age has had a good or bad affect on art. Art has always been a much debated topic anyway and very opinion based, and the affects the internet has on art are not different; they can seem positive to one person and negative to another. In the words of Leonardo da Vinci “Art is never finished, only abandoned”, and so the internet is just the next step in an ever evolving artistic world.


  • Leahy, Mark. “Private Public Reading: Readers in Digital Literature Installation”. A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.
  • Winder, William. “Writing Machines”. A Companion to Digital Literary Studies, ed. Susan Schreibman and Ray Siemens. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.
  • PBSoffbook. “The Art of Web Design”

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