Life Online

Life Online [open source] on Level 7
Life Online

The Life Online Exhibition Space (March 2012 - June 2013)

This exhibition is now closed.

The Life Online exhibition space on the museum's Level 7 examined our relationship with the internet and how it impacts our lives. The temporary exhibition space explored the shifting online world through digital art and interactive elements. The exhibition [open source]: Is the internet you know under threat? was an exploration of the open source nature of the internet and the current threats to net neutrality which could signify the end of this culture.

[open source]: Is the internet you know under threat?

Curated by Sarah Crowther

open: with no restrictions
source: from which something comes or can be obtained

The internet is based on an open culture of sharing and collaboration. The companies who provide access to the internet are proposing to change the way we view and pay for online content. Could this signify the end of the open internet as we know it?

What is open source?

An open source culture means that we are all able to create, consume, collaborate on and share content online. By adding comments to a news story, putting videos on YouTube or even creating a new website, users contribute to the open nature of the World Wide Web. No central authority controls or dominates what goes online and who puts it there. All content is equal.

Watch our video about open source

"Read Aloud"
Ross Phillips, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven read by the museum's audience as part of "Read Aloud", 2012, Ross Phillips.

Ross Phillips focuses on open source culture with "Read Aloud". The piece mirrors the collaborative nature of the open internet and the fact that we can all create, consume, collaborate on and share content online, often making new versions of existing content.

"Read Aloud" will invite visitors to perform a line from a chosen book. The recording is added to other recorded lines and slowly the book takes shape, making a new piece of work from an existing text. Performed books can be enjoyed online and in the gallery from the moment the first line is recorded on video and audio. The artwork mirrors the web, conceived by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, which has been built, shaped and populated by millions around the world.

See the books that've been performed so far:

1 and another
Erin Newell & Phil Bird, 2012

1 and another, 2012, Erin Newell & Phil Bird.

1 and another celebrates the open source spirit of sharing and collaboration as the artists have made the building blocks for their artwork available for you. Design an image online which will be created by visitors to our museum gallery. The online pixels correlate to physical blocks in the gallery where visitors work together to build a physical manifestation of the image, one block at a time, based on its virtual blue-print without the foresight of the overall end result. By working together you will create the artwork – both online and in the physical gallery.

Submit your drawing at

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the principle that everything on the web should be treated equally regardless of the type of content or who produced it. However so much information is flowing over the internet we are running out of space. The companies who provide us access to the internet have proposed that we create a tiered system where some content is paid-for and prioritised. Could this signify the end of the open source nature of the internet?

Watch our video about net neutrality

Live Portrait of Tim Berners-Lee (An Early Warning System)
Thomson & Craighead, 2012

Live Portrait of Tim Berners-Lee (An Early Warning System), 2012, Thomson & Craighead.

Globally-renowned visual artists Thomson and Craighead focus on the threat to net neutrality with their piece Live Portrait of Tim Berners-Lee (an early warning system).

Their piece will be a pixelated portrait of Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the web as an open and shared platform. The portrait will be made out of live webcams updating in real-time on a regular basis. Berners-Lee’s live image will be literally made out of other peoples’ openly available data online from around the world from as far afield as Burkina Faso, Morocco, Mongolia and the Western Sahara. It will remain intact for as long as the internet continues to be free of commercial and political influence, and is open and accessible to all.

System Overload
Networked, 2012

System Overload, 2012, Networked.

System Overload explores the complex realities of net neutrality.

Using dynamic and vibrant animation the artists examine ideas of freedom, control and the flow of information. Networked have created a vivid representation of the challenges faced in keeping the internet a free space. The work uses the language of web culture to present the pros and cons of net neutrality and asks the question: what do you think?



Yorkshire Forward Start JudgeGill Ben Hammersley
Wired magazine
Drew Hemment