Screenshot of Chris Bolin's web project "Offline Only", which prompts users to go offline in order to access different contents.

Offline Only

I’ve discovered this minimalist net art piece a couple of years ago and always wanted to write a short blog post about it. Well, better late than never:

Offline Only by Chris Bolin

This project by a software engineer and artist from Denver, uses HTML5 offline web application technology to display different versions of the site, depending if you are currently connected to the internet or not.

From a technical perspective, it’s as simple as this. By defining a set of essential files for download, a web application can be used offline. This way, users can continue working with the application even if they are travelling outside their ISP’s area of coverage. In a standard use case though, the online and offline version of the application would ideally be the same – that’s what this technology was made for. The goal to deliver (almost) seamless experiences to users, independent of their current network connection.

Net art is (not exclusivly but to a broad extent) about discussing the net’s condition: its underlying technologies, its constraints, its cultural and political prerequisites and implications.

By reversing the original intent of HTML’s offline capabilities, the work “Offline Only” qualifies as a piece of media critique. It requires users to turn off their internet connection in order to view the contents of the site. This work requires you to disconnect and focus 100% in order to experience it.

“Offline Only” marked only the beginning of Chris Bolin’s offline work: The Disconnect is a whole offline-only, digital magazine of commentary, fiction, and poetry – which forces visitors to connect from the internet first, in order to experience it.

To me, that’s a wonderful, poetic and challenging net art project.

Of course, I’m not going to spoil what you’ll see, when you go offline…

Offline Only