Contemporary internet art that aims to engage people in 'interactivity' must make do with forms of response that originate from keyboards and mice. Screen interfaces, which so closely resemble the tools used by many in their daily work, can however be teased in various unusual ways. As a site for atypical communication, Icontext may exercise the popular imagination about the forms of collaborative cybernetics. Or perhaps it will seem a repository of garbled discourse--a mounting collection of odd data. At least this art is "client pull technology": you can still decide for yourself.

In a media environment so thoroughly glutted with images and promotional messages, the artist as image-producer faces a public already suffering from attention deficit disorders. Icontext offers the responsibility for image-making and message-making to the participants. Emphasis is placed on the productive (or counterproductive) decisions of the visitors to the site. This casts them in the role of visiting artists, leaving them to produce significant aspects of the "content." Icontext attempts to respect the intelligence of the participant and lays a groundwork for interesting formations of texts and images, connected and created by the public.

Reciprocity has a pivotal function in the potential success of such a collaborative artwork, and indeed of any collaborative endeavor. Presumably the piece will serve as a means of expression, and will defamiliarize some of the tendencies of other software and art.

For some it may be little more than a game without resolution. But the work aspires to a more comprehensive critical role in the theorization of collaborative filtering, the politics of software, and the transformation of language. An effort has been made to curtail the control of the artist/programmer and to achieve a flexibility in the system without leading to a predictable cacophony. Rather than aiding in the production of chaotic visual noise (a rather easy target) this piece wants to represent the humor, ingenuity, and intelligence of some, while at the same time pushing to the background the inevitable technical difficulties and trivial contributions. The system is intended to be self contained, meaning that it will not be monitored, censored, or reorganized other than by the visitors.

Nevertheless, quite probably, a relatively chaotic configuration will prevail in the artwork that emerges. A balance of order and anarchy is difficult to achieve. Still an artistic, experimental vein of creative work--programming, design, conceptualization--is needed to broaden the vocabulary of public interactive systems, and, in so doing, reveal the authoritarian and cynical tone that already predominates.