Net Art is an expansive, hybrid set of artistic practices that overlap with many media and disciplines. Rhizome has defined "net art" as "art that acts on the network, or is acted on by it." The term "net art" has been used more widely by artists than "internet art," which is more commonly used by institutions. The term “net art” is not to be confused with "net.art," which usually evokes a specific mid-90s movement. The informality of the term "net art" is also appropriate not only to the critical use of the web as an artistic medium, but also informal practices such as selfies and Twitter poems.
Running a Circle Clockwise (2015), the earliest iteration of the work when it was presented as aerial photos.
Viewing net art as a process rather than as a fixed object, Annet Dekker considers how this is influenced by and executed through other systems and users. Arguing that these processes and networks are imbued with ambiguity, she suggests that this is strategically used to create suspense, obfuscate existing systems and disrupt power structures. The rapid obsolescence of hard and software, the existence of many net artworks within restricted platforms and the fact that artworks often act as assemblages that change or mutate, make net art a challenging case for conservation.
The term net art can encompass a diverse range of characteristics and online works that are created for or influenced by the internet. In this way, internet art does not necessarily include photographs or videos of physical artworks posted online, but instead refers to artworks that play on the technology of the internet and its characteristics. As a result, these works are inherently dependent on the internet’s technological infrastructure and the problems that come with it, foremost it’s changeability. Changeability can mean not only changes exerted by the artist on the work but can also take into account external dependencies, such as applications, databases, libraries etc. on which a work relies to function. In other words, where change could cause loss or obsolescence. Yet these preservation obstacles can be difficult to address due to the proprietary nature of many external dependencies and a lack of knowledge on what is best preservation practice concerning these types of works. Thus, as part of LIMA’s ongoing Infrastructure for Sustainable Digital Art project, several internet artworks are being investigated with the goal of building knowledge around their preservation.