It is of course a truism, often repeated, that the Internet has been the basis for a revolution in (remote) interpersonal communications, collaboration and data sharing. It is probably safe to say that there would be very few of the Free/Libre and Open Source (FLOSS) projects that exist today without the collaboration technologies the Internet supports. One of the many effects of the powerful tools FLOSS has put in to the hands of creative people is that it has potentially made them more independent. No longer are they reliant on specialists with access to expensive software and hardware to carry out aspects of their projects for them. Their limitations are now time and knowledge, not the lack of access. It is in fact precisely this issue that the Digital Artists’ Handbook seeks to address, by providing authoritative information to guide practitioners in to new fields of endeavour.
The downside of this independence is that many artists find themselves more isolated, working alone at home rather than interacting with others at shared studios or where shared resources were previously found.
The Internet, being fundamentally a communications medium, offers potential solutions to this isolation, but the solutions themselves have, to date, largely dictated that collaboration happens in new ways, shaped by the technology. For some, the thousands of FLOSS coders for example, the tools have made possible projects that would otherwise be virtually inconceivable, but for other artists looking to enhance their existing practice with new digital methods the situation is perhaps more double-edged.
It maybe be useful to step back for a moment and consider what we mean when we talk about working, or collaborating with others. For a start it could be divided in to five broad types of collaboration: